11 May 2011

Dinner by Heston Blummental

Dinner at Heston is located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel
I've never been to the Fat Duck but have friends who have and who regularly regale tales of the gastronomic delights they encountered, along with woes about the astronomically hefty wine bill.   So expectations were set high when I headed to Dinner by Heston a couple of week's ago with the AB to celebrate his birthday.
I'm not sure what I was expecting in terms of its interior, but considering Heston's food is all about evoking the multi-sensory pleasures of eating, it was a bit of a let down.  Yes, it's pretty smart looking and contemporary, but so is every other hotel restaurant by a Michelin starred chef.  The point is Heston isn't just any chef and if it was Gordon, Michel or any of the others I probably wouldn't have given it another thought.

Alas I'm no Kevin McCloud and this isn't the Grand Designs blog, so I'll get back to the food.  The food is flawlessly cooked, but it just didn't set our hearts racing.  There's none of the playful mad-capped cookery you expect from a chef who brought us snail porridge and fish and chip flavoured ice-cream.  That's not to say Dinner is gimmick free NB.  I'm not advocating that gimmicky food for shock sake is a good thing.

The menu at Dinner is inspired by 'historic British gastronomy'.  Heston and his head chef Andy Palmer Watt's have dreamt up a menu that resurrects lost and forgotten recipes for modern palates, and on the menu there are references from what period the dish is from, along with the name of the cookbook it was conceived from.

Meat Fruit

There's the signature Meat Fruit  (£12.50) c.1500, a ball of Chicken parfait covered in an orange coloured jelly and topped with a green stalk and leaf, so it resembles a mandarin.  Served with sour dough bread the parfait was deep in flavour, light and creamy.  It was an absolute joy to eat.

Savoury Porridge

The Savoury Porridge (£14.50) c.1660 was an interesting combination of textures and flavours.  Toxic green in colour it included flaky pieces of cod cheek, served with a helping of tart pickled beetroot, parsley and fennel.  I didn't dislike it, but would probably not order it again.

Sirloin of Black Angus

Mains were good, but wouldn't look out of place on a good gastro pub menu.  The AB's Sirloin of Black Angus (£30.00) c.1830 was a juicy mouthwatering cut of meat.  It was served solo topped with  a moreish topping of bone marrow and breadcrumbs, and a side of mushroom ketchup and  HB's famed triple cooked chips.

Triple cooked chips, mushroom ketchup and gravy

Equally excellent was the juicy and full of flavour Black Foot Pork Chop (£28.00) c.1860.   This was served on a bed of 'Pointy cabbage' with  a  'Robert sauce', a slightly sickly sweet mustard and bacon based jus.

Blackfoot pork chop

For dessert we shared a Tipsy Cake (£10.00) c.1810, a dessert which intrigued us because it has to be pre-order at the beginning of the meal.   The cake made of two elements: spit roasted pineapple drizzled in syrup and served with a buttery and warm brioche was simply scrumptious - if I had a bit of foresight I would have probably have told the AB to order his own.

Tipsy 'birthday' cake

Verdict: Despite news that Dinner is fully booked for the next three months, there were a few empty tables at the restaurant reserved perhaps for walk-ins from guests staying in the hotel.  The results of which gave the it an unfortunate transient hotel - airport eatery atmosphere, which is a shame as the food is excellent and is far better than I've eaten in any airport!

If you're expecting to be bowled over by bizarre flavour combinations, you'll be disappointed.   There are hints of Heston, but these are down played in thoughtful and understated twists and  in gems like Meat Fruit so come compared for a culinary history lesson rather than a gastronomic adventure.

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