Believe the hype. Run, don’t walk to try and score yourself a table at the amazing Dinner, Heston Blumenthal’s latest offering. The restaurant is on the first floor of the Mandarin Oriental hotel, just upstairs from the excellent Bar Boulud, making the hotel somewhat of a food lovers paradise. Entry to the restaurant is through a glass fronted wine cellar and then once inside the dining area is huge with soaring ceilings, picture windows facing out to Hyde Park and a glass fronted kitchen delivering the ultimate in food porn theatre. Every detail has been finely thought through from the jelly mould light fittings, to the tudor rose ceiling decorations and the huge mechanical clock mechanism that turns the spit in the kitchen.
The menu is concise but overwhelming, there are only eight starters, nine mains and six desserts but it is almost impossible not to want everything on there. The dishes just sound so intriguing. There is meat fruit, rice and flesh, powdered duck and taffety tart. All are dishes I have never experienced before but each is sourced from historical recipe books and references. Each dish displays a figure next to it “(c 1820)” which represents the period the recipe was sourced from, rather than as some diners have thought, the amount of calories in the food.
The menu may be historical in its inspiration but the execution is thoroughly modern. This is food which boggles and beguiles in Willy Wonka style. The meat fruit (£12.50) appears to be a genuine mandarin until cutting into the skin, which turns out to be soft and supple mandarin jelly, reveals a ball of incredibly rich and creamy chicken liver parfait. Salamugundy (£15) is an almost overwhelming riot of flavour and textures, a riff on a warm salad it features chicken oysters, bone marrow and smears of horse radish. Both provide rare openings for a meal that sets you up for ringing expectations for whats to come.
Wing rib of black angus
The mains are more traditional but just as tasty. A wing rib of black angus (£64 for two people) is served as a slab of sliced meat with a charred crust and a perfect pink flesh achieved through the modern wonder of sous vide cooking. It is oustanding, seriously beefy meat. Served with a jug of red wine juice, a mushroom ketchup which is more like a mushroom gravy and Heston’s famous fluffy, triple cooked chips, the dish is more than adequate to feed three people rather than the prescribed two. Black foot pork chop (£28) is again cooked to a state of sous vide perfection and the tender meat is teamed with soft swirls of cabbage which have soaked up all the goodness from the meat juices.
Black foot pork chop
However despite all the culinary fireworks that have occurred already, the high point of the meal is clearly the dessert. Set to become a modern classic, the Tipsy cake (£10) features a brioche bun served almost like a lemon pudding but flavoured instead with sweet and sticky juices from a spit roasted pineapple. Part of the pineapple also accompanies the bun and the whole combination is incredibly gooily gratifying.
The chocolate bar (£8.50) is sleek, modern and a chocoholics dream with a dark chocolate covering revealing light layers of fluffy chocolate inside tempered with passion fruit jam and ginger ice-cream. The most visually stunning of the desserts, the taffety tart (£8.50) is a confection of absolute patisserie precision. Super thin layers of pastry balance on puffs of fromage blanc and are enlivened by an intense scoop of blackcurrant sorbet.
Drinks are pricey, which is not surprising given the five star hotel setting. There is an extensive cocktail list to kick off a meal in style and stand warned that the Mayfair Martinis (£18) are delicious but pack quite an alcoholic punch. The wine list itself features some interesting wines, all from good producers and stylistically diverse. The knowledgeable sommelier recommended a bottle of fantastic Portugese wine for £45 which we enjoyed so much we ended up ordering a second bottle as well.
The chocolate bar
To finish the meal there is a final tiny cup of silky smooth earl gray flavoured ganache served with a crumbly stick of shortbread. It is a clever nod to Britain’s tea drinking heritage which is underlined by the separate tea menu featuring Jing teas which is also brought to our table by our well trained waiter. Throughout our meal the service from all the staff was perfect. This is a crack team and all of them seem enthusiastic and genuinely thrilled to be working at Dinner.
Earl Grey ganache
As the restaurant only opened this week, Heston himself was wandering around in chefs whites although he was mainly chatting to diners and left most of the cooking to his brigade. He even came and chatted to our table of four girls and left us with a major case of chef-crush. The brigade is headed by Ashley Palmer-Watts who will actually be wearing the head chef clogs at the restaurant once the initial launch period is over. As a veteran of the Fat Duck kitchen he is a safe pair of hands to head the operation. Whether he is physically there or not, Heston’s genius touch is all over Dinner. I know I sound like I have been drinking the kool-aid but really the food is revolutionary. Dinner is the most genuinely exciting and innovative restaurant opening since I have lived in London. Get there as quickly as you can.
Details: Dinner by Heston, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge SW1X 7LA (Ph 020 7201 3833) Tube: Knightsbridge
Damage: Budget Breaking. Our meal came to £100 a head but that did include cocktails and wine. There is a very reasonable set price lunch menu during the week which is £28 for three courses.
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my review of Heston’s pub, The Hind’s Head in Bray or my review of Bar Boulud which is also in the Mandarin Oriental.