Friday, July 19, 2013

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Hola Amigos, I'm back! My apologies about the extended quietness on the blog for the last 4 weeks but you know how it is, there's the holiday and then there's the post-holiday recovery period... I promise I'm not going to bombard you with holiday posts all at once but I must share one of the highlights of my trip with you while it is still super fresh in my mind!

I  have many bucket lists in life, so much so that they need to be categorised according to sins: travel, food, fashion etc. One bucket list item in the food category that I was thrilled to tick off while I was in London was dining at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. 

I've been a massive fan of Heston's ever since I started calling myself a foodie, whenever that was. I find his molecular gastronomy bravado to be entirely amusing and I love his passion for creating instead of simply cooking. If you are unfamiliar with Heston's culinary genius (or madness, depends on which way you look at it) I couldn't recommend Heston's Feasts highly enough.

As everyone knows, his world famous 3 Michelin star rated restaurant Fat Duck is where the great majority of his molecular gastronomy dramas take place. It is at least an hour out of London  and scoring a reservation there isn't an easy task. So due to time constraints of my holiday, making the trip to Fat Duck wasn't an option this time around so I opted for Dinner, which is not to say I settled for something inferior; it's still all Heston Blumenthal after all!

The one Michelin star rated Dinner is currently also sitting at 7th place in the  50 Best Restaurants of the World list. Surprisingly, Fat Duck is only at 33rd position so this rating scale is somewhat puzzling to me. Either way, a Michelin star is a Michelin star and it isn't easy to come by and provided that this was my first time dining at a Michelin star rated restaurant my excitement level was at an all time high. 

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Dinner is located within the delightfully opulent Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, London. The floor to ceiling windows on one side of the dining room provides diners incredible views of Hyde Park across the road. An interesting feature was the full view of the open kitchen and the chefs in action, which I thought to be a great way to break away from the norm of restaurants of this calibre. The majestic high ceilings, ample space between tables and the use of rich, natural materials made the interior one of pure elegance and luxury. Dark wooden tables and rich chocolate brown seating were subtle in design element as to not compete with the surrounding opulence of the hotel and the magnificent view of the park. 


The ambience, food and price point are all much more approachable at Dinner compared to Fat Duck. The focus here is on the food rather than putting on a show with food. But that isn't to say there isn't any show, it wouldn't be a Heston Blumenthal restaurant otherwise! 

The service was one of 5 stars from the start to finish. As we were perusing the menu and needed clarification of certain dishes, all we had to say was "let's ask" for a waiter to miraculously appear at our table within seconds! They must be very good at lip reading from a distance! Similarly, bringing out dishes and clearing the table and serving wine all happened so flawlessly with a certain flair and elegance of a choreographed routine that made you feel like you were most certainly dining at a special place. 



The menu at Dinner is inspired by historic British dinner dishes. Next to each item on the menu was the year that the dish originated from, the oldest dating back to the 14th century. Of course these historic dishes are updated by Heston using the technical wizardry that he is renowned for, which makes the menu at Dinner innovative in an entirely unique way while being mindful of history and tradition.


Delightfully crusty bread with incredibly creamy churned butter that would put any other butter to shame kick started our meal. The wine list was certainly an interesting read. We spotted the most expensive of expensive wines that I have EVER seen on a wine list in my life: £4900 a bottle (a measly AU$8000)!!!!! Needless to say, we settled for something about one hundredth the price!  

I had decided what I was having for my starter and dessert before I had even secured the reservation at Dinner; such is the level of obsession. Starter = Meat Fruit! Could you tell I was just a little excited about getting my hands on this?! 



You might already know that this is not a mandarin with a piece of bread that I was about to tuck into. But incase you've never heard of the Meat Fruit, allow me to explain. 


This is one of Heston's signature moves of one food disguising itself as another. Cased in a mandarin infused jelly peel and looking every bit like a mandarin on the outside is the most amazing chicken liver and foie gras parfait. Get it? Meat + fruit? This little creation looked so beautiful on the outside I almost didn't want to cut it open... almost. But once I did, the rich, creamy, soft and delicious parfait that I spread on the sinfully oily and crusty bread was every bit the life changing moment that I had imagined it to be. The mandarin infused jelly peel added the perfect citrus taste to compliment and cut through the richness of the fois gras and chicken liver. I devoured this enjoying every mouthful better than the previous; such was he perfection of the dish. 

Selecting a main was the most difficult aspect of the dining experience. I had read so many reviews and blogs prior to the night hoping to find a clear cut winning dish out of all the amazing sounding mains (yes, I am that obsessive about making the right decision) but opinions were very much divided. So I decided to get a little adventurous and went for the spiced pigeon with ale and artichoke. 


I've never had pigeon until then and it's not something I've ever thought I wanted to eat either. But I figured that since I'm dining at a place where the chef is so experimental, why not get experimental with my food choices. And if I was ever going to try pigeon, I probably couldn't do it at a place better than this. So how was it? Insert sad face because I wasn't blown away by the dish. I mean, it wasn't bad by any means; the pigeon was tender and very pink (the pinkness didn't bother me at all and I knew to expect this from the reviews I had read) and it had somewhat of a similar texture to quail. The accompanying artichoke was tender and lightly sauced. However, I found the dish somewhat bland as the lightly spiced ale sauce didn't set my taste buds on fire. So let's leave it at I was left a little underwhelmed by the overall dish.


The disappointment of the main was short lived when my dessert arrived at the table. I went for another one of Heston's signature dishes, the Tipsy Cake, and it was another life changing moment. The Tipsy Cake is a fluffy brioche drenched in a brandy cream sauce, accompanied with a slice of glazed and spit roasted pineapple! Holy heavens Heston! The brioche was divine; pillowy soft and light. The brandy cream sauce was mouthwateringly delicious with the right amount of booziness. The spit roasted pineapple was the perfect element to tie the dish together making this one of the best desserts I have had in my life.

So the verdict: I admit, I went to Dinner already convinced that I was going to love everything about this experience. And I did! Yes, the main wasn't anywhere near life changing as the starter and dessert but if I had three life changing moments in one meal I may have exploded. I dined with three friends  but I haven't reviewed each dish that my dining companions had for obvious reason that this could turn into an essay of epic proportions but the general consensus was that starters and desserts were exemplary while none of us died and went to heaven over our mains. One of my dining companions is a vegetarian and I was baffled that there were no vegetarian options in starters and only one in mains. However, the staff reassured that they could easily make up a vegetarian dish based loosely around the meaty dishes on the menu. Personally, if I was a vegetarian, I might think twice before choosing to dine here for this reason. I would still rate the ambiance, service and the overall meal as one of the best dining experiences of my life. A three course dinner, round of cocktails and two shared bottles of wine ended costing each of us just under £100 each, which, as far as Michelin star experiences go is incredible value. The food is innovative and very British, with Heston's unique stamp all over it. Dinner deserves all the accolade it's got and if you love food, this should definitely be on your bucket list. 

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

  1. Oh my gosh, that meat fruit sounds amazing!

    From all the little snippets I've seen it looks like you've had a great time! Looking forward to hearing more and catching up in person sometime soon xx

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  2. Welcome back lovely!!
    I have lots of bucket lists too but my travel one is nearly about to become a book hehe.
    I love Heston's tv show so would love to experience his restaurant one day, great review.
    I hope I get to hear some more stories in real life soon xxx

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  3. Meat fruit would be my pick every time! I've just found a recipe on how to make them. It takes a week... Hmmm... Maybe if I'm feeling particularly inspired one week I'll have a crack. I almost think it might be easier to fly to London instead :)

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