EAT - DRINK - BE MERRY
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal November 2013
Exec chef Ashley Palmer Watts
My fear in visiting Dinner was that old Heston was getting his chemistry set out again and having a play but this time in the swish surroundings of Knightsbridge's Mandarin Oriental Hotel. The reality is somewhat different and rather than looking to new techniques and messing about with our heads the menu is almost scarily old fashioned. The theme is very much the dining traditions of Britain through the ages with each of the dishes on the menu accompanied by a date and brief description of their context. Again this can be a bit unsettling for the diner as we have no understanding of what Salamagundy or Meat Fruit should taste like, so it's a bit like the Fat Duck in that you're totally in the hands of the chef and rely solely on his interpretations of the dishes on offer.
As you would expect the food is first class, well, they've got two Michelin stars and at the prices they charge it could scarcely be anything less. For starters I had Rice and Flesh c1390, I couldn't resist the title, a creamy saffron rice with intensely meaty calf's tail and red wine reduction, deep and well balanced. She had Salamugundy c1720 simply selected on the interesting name, a concoction of chicken oysters, bone marrow and salsify with horseradish, a sort of oyster dish without the oysters, really nicely thought through. We also shared the Meat Fruit c1500, I really don't think you could come to Dinner and not have it, the most perfect looking mandarin presented with a slice of toast, but cut into it and it's a chicken liver and fois gras parfait, a real beauty but I'm glad we shared it as I think the portion size might be too big and rich for one.
Mains were Roast Halibut c1830 for Her, really well cooked with an interesting cockle ketchup and I had Spiced Pigeon c1780 with artichokes presented like little pigeon legs, again thoughtful cooking, well judged and balanced.
The Tipsy Cake c1810 I had for dessert was a serious pud, a vanilla sponge, drenched in rum was really rich and sweet but served with flame grilled pineapple, juicy and acidic showed real class. She went for the Chocolate Bar c1700 with passion fruit jam and ginger ice cream, properly intense chocolate lifted by the cold spiced ice cream and passion fruit, a masterpiece.
So inevitably there's a downside and as you can imagine it's the cost and the potential limitations of the menu. The restaurant has been open for about two years now and is doing great trade, tables are turned in this massive dining room, they get people through the door and naturally enough for this kind of establishment up sell you on everything, silly prices for cocktails and coffee and there's simply no need for it. The service was a bit too formal for my liking and not quite as attentive as it should have been. Is it me or do these fancy places become extremely lax in bringing you water when you've only asked for tap?
Also the theme of the restaurant is great but I can't help thinking it must be a bit limiting keeping strictly to these historical dishes and I note that in the two years it's been open the menu hasn't changed a great deal but then neither has the Fat Duck's, so it all feels a bit like Heston's greatest hits which is very much the opposite of the innovation we expect from him.
Nonetheless it's still a stellar restaurant, worthy of its stars and long may it reign as this is cooking of the very first order.
Lunch for two, glass of Champagne and a martini, bottle of Dolcetto and coffee £275 inc service.