Saturday, May 28, 2011

london eats: dinner by heston blumenthal

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X7LA
Tel: +44(0)20 7201 3833

When I told a few of my friends about my impending trip to London, most of the conversations ended up being somewhat like this...

Me: I'm stopping by London for a couple of days on the way to Paris.

Friend: Oh! Cool! Are you going to Fat Duck???????

Me: No....

Friend: Why not?! That's like the best restaurant in the world. Everyone goes or at least tries to visit when they're in London!

Me: Erm... it didn't cross my mind? And... no time???

Friend: Oh... 

Now the funny thing is since when did Fat Duck become synonymous with London? It isn't even there! But then of course I'm just being stupid and finding excuses for my "missing out" on a visit. There really just wasn't enough time since I was planning a full eating schedule in London and frankly, it just wasn't high up on my list of 'must-tries'.

What tickled my fancy however, was another restaurant that was lauded as the most anticipated restaurant opening of 2011. When the restaurant started to take reservations, bookings started pouring in and if you wanted a table for dinner, the next table would only be available 6 months later. R & I had given up on getting a table but after some random attempts, we took the first available slot that came up and incidentally, we kicked off our London leg at Dinner by Heston.

Ashley Palmer-Watts who was Executive Head Chef at the Fat Duck since 2008 helms the reins of the kitchen at Dinner. The theatrics and all the molecular gastronomy stuff that Heston has become so famous for aren't found at Dinner. What one would find is an updated version of a brief walk through Britain's culinary history. For example, the Meat Fruit is a chicken liver parfait encased in a mandarin jelly based on a recipe that dates back to 1500. Dinner has tweaked its appearance to make it look like a mandarin fruit and added the mandarin jelly to add another dimension to the taste of the parfait. 

Meat Fruit (c. 1500)
Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread

People say we eat with our eyes first so good looking food always looks appetising. What Dinner has done is make good looking food taste fabulous. I'll have to say that the food was on the whole, quite excellent. People who have said for years that London is not known for good food should swallow their words for good because this first meal set me up for so many good meals to follow in the days I was in London. 

Anyways, I enjoyed every dish; some more than others. The Meat Fruit which is probably Dinner's most famous dish was delicious. I couldn't stop taking pictures when the dish hit the table because the dish looked so pretty. The chicken liver parfait was smooth, creamy and tasty. The jelly was effective in cutting through the richness of the parfait and it just paired so perfectly with the nice crusty bread. The crispy veal sweetbreads, crunchy vegetables, the yolk from the poached egg combined with the broth in the Broth of Lamb was extremely flavourful and rich, yet clean at the same time. My favourite of the appetisers was the Savoury Porridge which has been compared by many to Heston's famous Snail Porridge. The sweetness and acidity of the pickled beetroots paired well with the grains and parsley butter. I almost wanted to order another serving before I got reminded about the other dishes that were coming.

Meat Fruit (c.1500)
Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread

Broth of Lamb (c.1730)
Slow Cooked Hen's Egg, Celery, Radish, Turnip and Sweetbreads

 Savoury Porridge (c.1660)
Cod Cheeks, Pickled Beetroot, Garlic and Fennel 

The mains we had were both executed well but they failed to excite me as much as the appetisers had. When the Powdered Duck arrived at the table, R & I were astonished at the size of those duck legs. Cured in salt and presented with a shiny glaze, I felt that the dish didn't live up to how the dish looked. Though cooked well, it just wasn't as flavourful as the Spiced Pigeon. The pigeon was cooked sous-vide and had a perfect done-ness as a result. The meat was also finished to get a nice crisp on the skin and paired well with the earthy artichokes.

Powdered Duck (c.1670)
Smoked Fennel and Potato Puree

  Spiced Pigeon (c.1780)
Ale and Artichokes 

Dessert was another highlight of the meal. In fact, I would say that the Tipsy Cake was one of the best desserts I had during the whole holiday. We had to order this dish at the beginning because they only make it to order and it takes time for it to cook. The alcohol infused brioche was moist and had a custard-like texture. The sweetness was nicely offset by the slight sourness from the pineapple which had been spit roasted and caramelised. The Brown Bread Ice Cream was delicious too but I didn't really take fancy to the yeast syrup which was drizzled over the ice cream. The flavours of savoury and sweet in one dessert was nonetheless interesting and each component paired well with one another.

 Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
Spit Roast Pineapple

 Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830)
Salted Butter Caramel Malted Yeast Syrup

 Earl Grey White Chocolate Ganache & Cardamom Biscuit 

Lunch ended on a perfect note after the complimentary Earl Grey White Chocolate Ganache and Cardamom Biscuit and some lovely Lemongrass and Ginger Tea. To top off the lunch, service was extremely friendly, professional and attentive and we left extremely satisfied.

Dinner by Heston has definitely lived up to its hype in my books and it's definitely made a great impression because I still think about the food I had there more than 1 month on. I highly recommend that you pay a visit if you're planning a visit to London and book well in advance. 

I wish there was a restaurant like this closer back home. That way, I don't have to keep thinking about when I'll get to visit London again.


  1. Well done! Nice review. Food looks great. Keep it up!