Heston Blumenthal, of Fat Duck fame, had opened a restaurant in central London, rather oddly named Dinner. This is undoubtedly old news to many, but sadly, we had left the UK before we had a chance to try this out and I had just assumed we missed the boat. Amazingly however, we managed to get a dinner reservation on our trip back to UK for the PigPig’s convocation.
Housed in the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, the interior décor of Dinner is surprisingly chilled and laid-back. A lively hubbub in the air gave a more relaxed atmosphere than other more stuffy Michelin starred establishments.
The bread was unremarkable and not warmed, although the butter was actually very good.
It’s also worth just briefly mentioning that the menu is quite interesting; behind each page is a short blurb regarding the history of each dish. Likewise, a little “ribbon” that held the menu closed has more foodie trivia on its inside.
Meat Fruit. Obviously, it doesn't look as if it contains any meat and even upon close scrutiny, looks very much like a mandarin orange. Luckily, we knew someone who has experience as a chef in the Fat Duck and offered a brief insight into this beautiful creation: it has a 60:40 mix of foie gras to chicken liver; a reduction of Marsala wine; mandarin gelee forms the outer shell. Taste wise, it was an incredibly rich liver mousse with a rather sweet background, while the jelly shell helps negate the need for the usual jam/conserve to go with the rich meaty liver. Absolutely exquisite.
Buttered Crab Loaf. The bread was rather unique (weird and odd being other adjectives in my head), more akin to a savoury sponge cake. The crab mixture was complicated, with pickled lemon, herring roe and cucumber, none of them particularly overpowering and melding together into a crabby little mix.
Powdered Duck. The duck breast slices were cooked perfectly pink and tender. We were all a bit confused regarding the powder element but a brief chat with a staff revealed that the term powder actually means brine; the duck was brined in a solution including cinnamon, star anise and ginger. Finely sliced fennel provided a nice aromatic crunch. Small pieces of kidney was actually very nice, slightly chewier from the breast, without being too gamey.
Spiced Pigeon. Slightly on the gamey side, the pigeon had a richer ale-based sauce to go with it. Baby artichokes helped to cut through the richness of the dish. Personally, I thought this dish was very tasty; in fact it is slightly under-seasoned compared to the duck but imperceptible unless you have eaten the duck first, on its own it tastes perfectly fine.
Before desserts were given out, a complimentary pre-dessert was presented; a little cup of chocolate mousse infused with earl grey flavour. It was actually a very nice combination between the rich dense chocolate and the somewhat more delicate tea. The wafer on the other hand wasn't terribly exciting and my attempts to use it to dig out the mousse merely shortened it's length several times.
Tipsy Cake. This signature dish takes 30 minutes to prepare so we actually ordered it with the savouries to help cut down waiting time. The cake in the little pot was light and swimming in a pool of pineapple based jam, which actually was quite light in terms of pineapple flavour. However, on the side were a few pieces of pineapple which had been spit-roasted on a rotisserie.
Quaking Pudding. We had this dish before in Hinds Head and gleefully ordered it again. The dish was deliberately jerked slightly upon presentation to the table to set it wobbling away. It was actually very light on the tongue with a pear and cinnamon aroma, reminding me of a spiced wine. My only complaint is that it should be bigger.
Chocolate Bar. I'm sure I'm missing something to this plate, as it seemed far too ordinary to belong to this menu. To me, it was just a slab of rich chocolate with a rather refreshing ginger ice cream to go with it
Brown Bread Ice Cream. This one tasted rather weird, and not in a good way that one associates with Heston. Perhaps it was the salted butter caramel that threw me off.
Basically, this was a much more straightforward approach to food by the brains behind the molecular gastronomy at the Fat Duck. Yet, I’m sure it is by no means a simple affair and indubitably, much more technique went into the preparation of each dish than we can appreciate. In terms of the end results, in simple terms, the food was overall absolutely delicious.
Best bit: the meat fruit. Quite simply the best tasting foie gras mousse both of us have ever had.
Worst bit: the knowledge that the best starter I’ve had in the past couple of years is 7 timezones away. Malaysia or Singapore just doesn’t really have anything comparable.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Tel: +44(020) 7201 3833