One of the highlights of my London trip a couple of months ago is my dinner at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Listed as No.7 on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants 2015 coupled with Heston’s status as a celebrity chef, it isn’t surprising that bookings at this 2 Michelin-starred restaurant is almost always full months ahead. I booked our table 2 months before my trip and could only get a 9pm slot for dinner during the 10 days I was in London.
Opened in 2011, the dishes served here are inspired by the British historic gastronomic past, using ancient recipes that are adapted for the modern palate. Together with Executive Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and food historians, Heston Blumenthal created a menu that’s won lots of accolades.
DL and I were pretty much excited at the prospect of dining on dishes that are revivals and modernisation of traditional British recipes, some going back to the 16th century. We took the tube to Knightsbridge and were happy to find out that the Mandarin Oriental, where the restaurant is housed, was just right next to the Underground station.
We arrived in good time. It was early summer so it was still quite bright when we found ourselves at the doorstep of Mandarin Oriental at about 8.30pm. At the restaurant reception, after checking our booking, we were briskly ushered into the waiting lounge where a bar stood in the centre. We had drinks and tidbits on a tired-looking sofa while waiting for our table. For a 2 Michelin star outfit and listed as the 7th best restaurant in the world, I really had expected something a bit more elegant.
Although touted as a fine-dine restaurant, the tables were placed quite close together and it’s rather noisy too. Certainly not the can-hear-a-pin-drop kinda atmosphere here. The glass-windowed kitchen fronted the dining hall so guests can actually watch the chefs at work. On a late week night, the restaurant was really busy. After about 15 minutes, the wait staff finally came by our table to take our order.
Chefs at work, as seen from the glass wall of the kitchen
Service was friendly and professional, although our desserts took a pretty long time to come, later on in the evening.
My starter was the iconic Meat Fruit (c.1500 – this means the recipe was from circa 1500) (£17.50). It’s a ball of soft velvety smooth chicken pate encased by citrus gel moulded to look like a mandarin. I was quite amused when the helpful wait staff cautioned me that the entire mandarin can be eaten except for the stalk and the leaves. Well, I wished Heston had made the stalk and leaves to be edible – that would have been the perfect meat fruit!
Served on a wooden board with a piece of crusty toast by the side, the Meat Fruit looked so incredibly realistic, like a real mandarin. That’s Heston’s molecular gastronomy magic at work.
Taste-wise, it was faultless – the citrusy tangy gel-skin combined perfectly with the smooth chicken liver parfait and when eaten with the crusty toast, it was divine. This was my favourite item.
DL’s starter of Frumenty (c.1390) (£17.50) was a delicious concoction of grilled octopus, smoked sea broth, pickled dulse & lovage. While this was not as impressively presented as my starter, Frumenty was really tasty.
The briny umami smoked sea broth was perfect with the tender succulent octopus (no sign of chewiness at all).
DL chose Roast Iberico Pork Chop (c.1820) (£36) served with pointy cabbage, onions & Robert sauce for his mains. As Iberico pork goes, it’s already tasty by virtue of its breed.
According to DL, the pork chop was executed well, deliciously tender and juicy. For its price, it could certainly have been a bigger portion.
My Cod in Cider (c.1940) (£30) served with chard, onions and smoked artichokes was probably a wrong choice on my part. While the cod was fresh and flaky, the accompanying bland buttery sauce did nothing for me. Although this has been raved as a unique Heston dish, personally I didn’t quite like the slight bitter bite of the cider on fish.
We waited a good 40 minutes for our desserts, after one reminder. Of course, their signature Tipsy Cake was a must-order item, according to the wait staff who attended to us when we were contemplating the menu options.
So, Tipsy Cake it was, for me (c.1810) (£14.00). It’s basically a brandy syrup-infused brioche served with caramelised pineapple on the side. I read somewhere that the roasting pit cost a whopping £70,000!
Personally I felt the Tipsy Cake was over-rated. Probably because I’m Malaysian and to us, pineapples are so commonly available. And that’s probably the reason why I fail to see much excitement in a slice of roasted pineapple. While it was pillowy and fluffy, the boozy brioche was cloyingly sweet.
DL’s Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830) (£12) with salted butter caramel, pear and malted yeast syrup fared much better. I tried some of it and loved the clever combo of sweet and savoury tastes and crunchy textures.
So that was my dinner experience in one of most celebrated restaurants in the world. Dinner by Heston was not cheap. Together with a bowl of baked Jersey Royals (these were so good!), our dinner for 2 came to £170. While not every dish was awe-inspiring, it was nevertheless a good dining experience.
These Jersey Royal potatoes were scrumptious!
Chocolate and biscuit to round off the meal
And if you think our dinner at 9pm was late, there were even later diners – a couple came and was seated at the next table at 10.45pm although the restaurant’s official dinner time was until 10.30pm.
By the way, kids below 4 years of age are not welcome. I wish the “finer” restaurants here would impose such a ruling too.
So, do go and have a Heston experience if you are in London. While the menu is not very extensive, there are quite a number of other dishes that should be worth trying. Remember to book way ahead and I heard the lunch sets there are pretty good too.
*All photos were taken discreetly with my iPhone6
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
London SW1X 7LA