Once upon a time, we went to eat at Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck restaurant in Bray. The legendary tasting menu blew our heads off – we were so overwhelmed by the meal on every level (speeded along by the addition of matching each psychedelic course to a wine, yikes) that we had to go and lie down on Bray village green afterwards, groaning. Passers-by stared. The meal was an unforgettable experience, and neither me nor my husband have ever quite been the same since. It was like being dragged into the strange world of Alice in Wonderland and having your head turned inside out along with all your preconceptions of food and flavour.
So – now to Dinner, Heston’s new-ish restaurant tucked away in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in London. It’s very different to the Fat Duck – much less of the chilled country vibe, it simply oozes urban adult sophistication from every pore. Think dark woods, leather and glass, gleaming temptingly underneath tasteful lighting. It doesn’t suffer at all from that fustiness which befalls some restaurants located in hotels. A meal here was just what we needed as an antidote to becoming parents last year. We wanted somewhere that was so adult that we wouldn’t remember what a child was by the end of the meal. Ha! (only slightly joking)
Admittedly the meal we had here was several months ago, but it is still most definitely worth mentioning and showing you. Heston has chosen to get inspiration from ancient cookbooks – some as old as 14th century – so your meal is like a journey through history, taking in some truly otherworldly flavours. You can shut your eyes and try to imagine yourself in some ancient royal court, feasting on the unusual flavours in front of you. There are some very weirdly delicious flavour combinations that make you scratch your head and think for a bit, and others that are comforting and familiar. Dinner doesn’t do a tasting menu in the style of the Fat Duck, but no matter – you leave full, content and happy, with historical flavours dancing on your tongue. No need for a lie-down in Hyde Park, either.
The legendary ‘Meat Fruit’ (c.13th – 15th century). It’s a fruit, right?
Not so fast. ‘Tis an orange in appearance but contains the most delicious meat pate, and the citrus ‘peel’ is a tangy fruit jelly, contrasting brilliantly with the richness of the filling. Clever, huh?
Salamagundy (1720 The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary by John Nott) – chicken oysters, salsify, marrow bone and horseradish cream. Super tender chicken, some very interesting smoky flavours.
Some excellent breads:
Powdered Duck Breast with smoked confit fennel and umbles (c.1670 The Queene-like Closet or Rich Cabinet by Hannah Wolley): the meat was almost a tad too rare, but delicious nonetheless, and all the flavours on the plate just swam together effortlessly.
Spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes (c.1780 The Ladies’ Assistant and Complete System of Cookery by Charlotte Mason) – super tender pigeon with smoky spices, marrying cleverly with artichoke – who would have thought?
Fries: Heston’s famous triple-cooked ones, delicious!
Buttered carrots with caraway: INSANELY good
Brown bread ice cream (c.1830 – A New System of Domestic Cookery by Maria Eliza Rundell) – the ice cream was strangely unsweetened and wasn’t quite the bombshell dessert we were expecting. But still pretty good.
Tipsy cake with spit roast pineapple (1810 The English cookery book by J.H. Walsh). Quite literally one of the most delicious things I have ever put in my mouth – the hot, buttery, sugar-encrusted brioche was simply heavenly, and went magically with the caramelly pineapple. Oof!
A lovely free addition – a chocolate pot with a caraway biscuit. Not that we needed it, but clearly the waiter thought we needed to kill a bit more time before we returned to the land of babycare!
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
The Mandarin Oriental Hotel
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA