Dinner By Heston Blumenthal. Photo courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.
Dinner By Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
London SW1x 7LA
Food: 4.5 stars
Atmosphere: 4 stars
Service: 4.25 stars
Design & Theatrics: 4.5 stars
Price/Value: 4.25 stars
Overall: 4.3 stars
The Kitchen, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Photo Courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.
The main meal of the day, taken either around midday or in the evening.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
Dinner unfortunately has a lot to live up to: this year it was rated No. 7 Best Restaurant in the World, it has earned two Michelin stars, and was rated 3rd best restaurant in the UK 2015. I went to dinner at Dinner the other night (which, by the way, is really annoying to say), with very high expectations. It’s not the restaurant’s fault, but every critic and journalistic review about this restaurant just gushes about how wonderful it is, so I was feeling dubious about the whole experience. Nothing can live up to its reputation, surely. I remember going to my first Gordon Ramsay restaurant at Claridge’s probably 15 years ago and all I remember about it was that it was a terrible let-down. I don’t remember the food, not the room, not the atmosphere. Just that there was nothing memorable about the experience. So, going to another celebrity-chef restaurant full of accolades and applause left me a little lukewarm.
Chef preparing The Meat Fruit. Photo Courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.
Heston is known for his chemical-food wizardry, creativity and innovation, which made the Fat Duck Best Restaurant in the World in 2005. I read that this restaurant was going to be a very different experience. Where the Fat Duck is an ‘experience’ of theatricality and surprise, Dinner was meant to be somewhere you would want to go back to over and over for a nice meal rather than a once-in-a-lifetime experience. The whole point of Dinner is to re-create old (ancient) British dishes in new, modern and creative ways. Having seen some of Heston’s magic tricks on TV, I was looking forward to some kind of experience (so many restaurants dish out the same dishes over and over that lack any creativity).
Dinner Menu. NHYM 2015.
The menu, as described by Heston on his website is ‘inspired by historic British gastronomy’ with all dishes documented with the year of its origin. From the reviews I had read, there are some signature, ‘cult’ dishes that are a ‘must-try.’ And what’s the point in going to a restaurant without trying it’s world famous dishes. Some friends hadn’t been that impressed and I didn’t know if I was ever going to go to this restaurant again, so might as well try their ‘cult dishes’ or those that have been highly praised. So here’s what made the final list:
Starter: Meat Fruit (c.1500) Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread.
The Meat Fruit. Photo Courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.
Neither myself nor Mr. X are particular fans of chicken liver parfait, but when in Rome… It is one of the ‘Cult Classics’ of this restaurant, so not to be missed. This dish is really a feast for the eyes. His Mandarin look-alike is really quite stunningly perfect as food-behaving-like-other-foods (and very appropriate eating it in the Mandarin Oriental). It is worth ordering just to see the mastery that comes with creating this dish. It is good, but it was never going to completely win us over in terms of taste. But even Mr. X was impressed by the artistry involved in creating the dish.
Frumenty (c.1390) Grilled Octopus, smoked sea broth, pickled dulse & lovage
Frumenty, photo courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015.
The grilled octopus was perfectly cooked and chargrilled, lifting the salty, sea flavours out of the octopus. The ‘lovage’ (some kind of plant) was interesting, but for me it was all about the octopus itself. I skipped the sea broth etc.. which left my palate as I wanted it. Personally, I didn’t need all the extra garnishes.
Roast Iberico Pork Chop (c.1820) Smoked hispi cabbage, confit onion, apple & mean, Robert sauce
The Pork Chop. Photo Courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.
The pork chop was delicious. The quality of the meat immediately stood out. It was really tender and perfectly cooked and seasoned. Again, I didn’t need the added sauces etc… as I thought the meat to be perfect on its own. The smoked cabbage was a nice addition, but didn’t particularly need the confit onion, apple & mead.
Tipsy Cake (c.1810) Spit Roast Pineapple
The Tipsy Cake. Photo Courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.
The Tipsy Cake is another ‘Cult Classic,’ which I couldn’t resist ordering. It was served with spit roast pineapple, rendered sweet and salty on the spit. The doughy, sherry- soaked, sponge cake was full of sweet yet soft flavours, reminding me of my carefree childhood of devouring indulgent cakes in the backyard without the worries of muffin-tops and middle-aged-post-baby-fat.
Ice – Cream Machine
Ice Cream Machine, photo courtesy of the internet. NHYM 2015.
We didn’t manage to try the ice-cream machine, but it looked really fun and gimmicky. Next time…
Unlike many two star Michelin restaurants, there weren’t amuses bouches and palate cleansers in between each dish, which was a pleasant surprise. This makes it easier to come for a quick meal rather than a 3-hour sit-down extravagance. The service was great in that the servers were brilliant, knowledgeable, helpful and enthusiastic. It did mean they were a bit slow at times, but it was made up by our waiter’s charm and expertise. The room is a bit bland, but it is a 5 star hotel so can’t digress too much from the mainstream to please a demanding and varied clientele.
Finally, the food is really, really well executed, researched and cooked. Some of the added flavours were not to my liking, but I just didn’t eat what I didn’t like. I am too old for feeling like I need to eat everything on my plate, even things I don’t like. I am pleased that this restaurant wasn’t a let-down. I would happily go back and have the exact same meal over and over again, which I think was Heston’s intention with this restaurant. Now that I’ve found a good formula of starter-main-dessert, I would find it hard to break away from it. The price is quite similar to very pricey restaurants in London: Chiltern Firehouse/Arts Club etc…so not a deterrent for superior cooking.
Hats off to Heston and his team, helmed by the chef Ashley Palmer-Watts who runs the kitchen. It’s a foodie destination with some theatrics, some excellent cooking, and some flaws, but overall, I was won over and have become a devotee of the Heston-Cult.
Chef preparing the Pineapple of the Tipsy Cake. Photo courtesy of the Internet. NHYM 2015.