I’m writing this while eating a Chinese buffet in Rotherhithe, a complete contrast, but the thrill of occasionally eating unnatural and detrimental comfort food is too good.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal opened in 2011 and is an investigation into 600 years of Britain’s culinary heritage. It is also a restaurant I’d wanted to try since moving to London two years ago, partly because of it’s accreditation in the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, but also because of the glamourous hype of its unique signature dishes. The iconic culinary meat fruit had been regularly appearing on my Twitter and Instagram feeds, and always slightly annoyed me because I hadn’t tried it. Dinner’s menu apparently took immense research, with Blumenthal and Head Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts spending hours in the British Library reading up on 20th Century cook books and manuscripts to find lost recipes and bring them back to 21st Century life.
My visit to Dinner followed the World’s 50 Best Restaurants Awards at the Guildhall (S.Pellegrino & Acqua Panna are the sponsors and are a client of my work). The most perfect choice in London. Why? Because Dinner had that night achieved seventh spot – the highest of any British restaurant. Warmly greeted by Palmer-Watts: two colleagues, four journalists and I embarked on a splendid evening of gastronomic triumph. The journalists were all food writers so their understanding of good food was the perfect match for Dinner. Journalists included: Tony Turnbull, Food Editor at The Times, Barney Desmazery, Food Editor at BBC Good Food, Natalie Hardwick, Senior Writer at BBC Good Food and Anucyia Victor, writer for Mail Online.
Dinner is obviously still pulling the crowds – it was packed out restaurant on a Monday night. The magnificent restaurant, overlooking Hyde Park is built into the Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge. Our expert sommelier and S.Pellegrino colleague Neil Philips began the meal by pairing wines with S.Pellegrino and Acqua Panna, something that none of us had experienced before, but something that everyone felt worthwhile. A rather interesting tasting: water, wine and food.
And to dinner….
A lot of ‘umming and ahing’ was going on at the table because of the marvelous options such as lobster & cucumber soup and meat fruit. I went for meat fruit (c.1500) – THE signature dish of Dinner. A remarkable choice that is a play on an old English technique of making one food look like another. I was served a very sexy and glossy mandarin on a wooden board, complete with indented peel. But when sliced into, it was a charmingly soft chicken liver parfait. The softest and tastiest I’ve eaten. The orange peel was a thin layer of a zingy citrus gel, complimenting the parfait perfectly. Wow and yum!
For main, on the waiter’s guidance, I opted for Spiced Pigeon (c.1780). I nearly ordered steak, but he recommended finding good steak in London was easy, “try something different” was the advice. I agreed and thanked the kind man. The pigeon was outstanding: perfectly pink, velvety and melted away in my mouth. The spice was a traditional English spicing of star anise, cinnamon and so forth, something similar to what you’d find in mulled wine. Accompanied by artichoke and one fantastic rich ale sauce, the dish was faultless.
For dessert I had to choose THE signature pudding: Tipsy Cake (c.1810). Charred on a £70,000 roasting spit for up to four hours while smothered in smoking syrup every ten minutes, this was a pud like no other. It was served with syrup-infused brioche, cooking cream and pineapple caramel. Jealous fellow dinners wouldn’t stop dipping their spoons into my tipsy cake, I was silently angered by this, but completely understood, it was a beaut!
Everyone left very full and delighted by the imaginative and inspirational food provided by Dinner. You can expect to pay around £100 per head if sharing a bottle of cheaper wine. My final note is, save up and book!
Find out more: http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/
In a nutshell..
Value For Money: 8