Dinner at Dinner (Heston Blumenthal – Mandarin Oriental, London)

Dinner at Dinner. Where do I start? The executive summary reads – This is easily one of the best Dinners I have ever had.

Many of you will remember the ‘Heston’s Medieval Feast’ TV programme that was shown in the UK and featuring the ‘Meat Fruit Bowl’. The basic premise was to look back in history and take inspiration from the past to create modern dishes based on a historic recipe. This was the idea for Dinner, and Heston
Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer-Watts (of The Fat Duck) together created an interesting and delicious menu with this theme in mind.

The restaurant is smart, with impeccable service, as you would expect at a 2 Michelin Star restaurant right beside Hyde Park in Knightsbridge, but with little quirky antique gastronomic artifacts such as jelly trifle moulds for lamp shades!

We sat down as a 3 at a corner table in the smart but relaxed restaurant and opened the a la carte menu that was ready and waiting in front of us. There is no tasting menu but the a la carte provides a number of choices that you’ll struggle to choose from and want to share/try everything. There were 8 starter options and 10 main course choices.

The Head Waiter introduced himself and explained the menu in full. He also pointed out that the signature ‘Tipsy cake’ pudding needs to be booked early as it take 40 mins to bake so we made this clear when ordering our starters and mains. He also pointed out 3-4 iconic dishes that are more popular that we might want to consider.

‘Rice and Flesh’ (c.1390)

I had a starter called ‘Rice and Flesh’ which takes inspiration from a dish that goes back to the 1300s. It was also one of the most accomplished and delicate saffron risottos I have eaten. The rice was very al dente which had a very satisfying bite but was perfectly cooked, not too hard or too soft, but just right (Ok Goldilocks!).  Going through and thinking about each dish, and by the end of the meal, it’s very clear how the chefs are extremely technically talented and each element of every dish was treated carefully and cooked to perfection. It’s therefore not surprising Heston also did a series and book called ‘In Search of Perfection’!

On top of the risotto was 5 pieces of calf tail which were incredibly tender, slow cooked in a rich and thick red wine reduction jus. With a nice piece of brown bread and salted unpasteurised butter I had held back on the side it was a really wonderful starter and set the scene well for the next course.

‘Meat Fruit’ (c.1500)

The iconic ‘Meat Fruit’ starter which features on the Fantastic Feasts TV programme with Heston is basically a creamy and infinitely smooth chicken liver parfait enclosed in a very realistic looking mandarin jelly and accompanied with grilled bread. The parfait is rich and delicious but I don’t want to know/see how much butter went into the parfait mix!

‘Salamagundy’ (c.1720)

The ‘Salamagundy’ dish which was also recommended by the waiter was a salad of crispy (on the outside – very soft and tender on the inside) chicken oysters, with lightly charred salsify, marrowbone  and horseradish cream. A very well balanced and delicious dish.

‘Powdered Duck Breast’ (c.1850)

For the main course I chose the duck breast. I was very tempted by both the roast Halibut or a Ribeye steak but as one of the other diners with me fancied the steak I thought I would go for something I don’t often choose.

It did not disappoint. The perfectly cooked duck breast was like butter with the fat and skin rendered down just enough to add flavour – slightly crispy but in no way dry. The duck could well have been cooked sous vide (controlled water bath) due to the even pink-ness throughout and was served attractively in two neat strips. The braised and grilled red cabbage was a delight and went very well with the pickled cherries contrast against the slight ‘gamey’ duck. There was also a small amount of pan fried duck liver on the plate which again added another level of flavour. On the menu this reads ‘spiced umbles’ meaning edible entrails but I can assure you it was anything but unpleasant. A rich, thick duck jus accompanied and brought the dish together was served in a miniature white jug on the side to be added to taste by the diner.

‘Spiced Pigeon’ (c.1780)

Perfectly Pink Pigeon! The skin was aesthetically browned having been roasted but the breast remained very pink throughout and utterly tender and delicate in both texture and flavour. It was served quite simply with roasted artichokes but we also had a couple of sides to share – smooth buttery mash potato and shredded brussel sprouts with smoked bacon. Rumours have it Heston uses a ratio as much as 50:50 of butter to potato but I don’t care, it was delicious – plus the portion was fairly small! Just go to the gym in the morning!

‘Hereford Ribeye’ (c.1830)

A simple dish – the best steak cut (in my opinion) charred on the outside and medium rare to rare on the inside. The beef is dry aged for a minimum of 21 days and cooked over wood and charcoal embers. Again, a faultless dish – succulent and tender and served with crispy triple cooked chips and ‘mushroom ketchup’. I’m coming back for you next time.

Wine

The wine we had with the meal was recommended by the waiter and had depth and was balanced. It went very well with the red meats and game/poultry we ordered as well as the meat fruit. It was a Syrah from Chile 2013 and priced at around £50.

‘Sambocade’ (c.1390)

The ‘Sambocade’ is a cheesecake made from Goat’s milk, so it has a subtle goats cheese flavour in the background and had an apple and elderflower coulis in the centre. Smoked and candied walnuts provided a nice crunchy texture change for balance.

‘Tipsy Cake’ (c.1810)

I am a massive sticky toffee pudding fan. If it’s on a menu I will nearly always have it. But I am going to say this….the Tipsy Cake is the best pudding I have ever had. A popular Victorian pudding, it consists of soft, freshly cooked brioche sponge and is baked in a cast iron pot with lots of syrup made from sugar, brandy and sweet French wine (Sauternes). It is in no way overpowering with alcohol but it is there in the background. I would describe the pudding as a cross between the best doughnut you’ve ever had, an amazing treacle sponge pudding and a light brioche bread and butter pudding. It’s very moreish and served with a roasted pineapple strip – which by the way you see cooking on vertical rotisserie spits as you walk in to the restaurant! The way the pineapple is roasted intensifies the flavour through caramelisation of the natural sugars.

The whole experience was fantastic and if I could afford it I would go back once a month. The ingredients are some of the best, cooked by technically brilliant and well trained chefs and served by polite, professional and attentive waiting staff. 10/10.

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