Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Knightsbridge
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, SW1X 7LA
020 7201 3833/http://www.dinnerbyheston.co.uk
I’m unashamed to say that I’m a fan of Heston Blumenthal. Taking influences from food technologist Harold McGee and alongside Catalan genius Ferran Adria he created a modernist movement in gastronomy that has revolutionised how we think about food. I love the Fat Duck and the way it combines a very English seaside sensibility with the most rigorous level of 3 Michelin star gastronomy. Heston’s other Bray outlet, the pub The Hind’s Head, was where he first started investigating British gastro history but it is at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal -in the Mandarin Oriental hotel on Hyde Park together with chef Ashley Palmer-Watts-that this interest is given its fullest expression.The two chefs worked with food historians at Hampton Court Palace and raided the British Library and 14th century cookbooks for ideas and out of their research created Dinner.
I’ve been to Dinner a couple of times since it opened in 2011 and even remember the room when it was a French restaurant called Foliage- a rather bland space with some good French cooking. For its reincarnation Dinner was given a thorough makeover by designer Adam Tihany with floor-to-ceiling glass walls and a unique pulley system made by Swiss watchmakers Ebel modelled after a version used by the royal court that rotates the spit over an open-fire. It’s a confident and powerful dining room that looks as good as the day that it opened. Her Ladyship and I scanned the menu whilst downing a glass of a very elegant Louis Roederer Blanc de Blanc 2009 (£26)-it’s 100% Chardonnay with almond and honeysuckle notes.First up was a dish of Roast Scallops (c.1830) with a cucumber ketchup, roasted cucumber, bergamot & borage. The scallops were perfectly seared yet still light and fluffy on the inside-the exciting element was the ketchup, a blend of sweetness and acidity which was the perfect foil for the bonny bivalves.My dish of Frumenty ( ) has a medieval heritage and here brought together tender tentacles of grilled octopus, with a tangy smoked sea broth, pickled dulse, lovage & spelt (£19.75). This was a perfect winter starter and a masterclass in the art of savoury flavour combinations.Cod in Cider ( ) was served with chard & flamed mussels (£34.00). The cider sauce brought out the sweetness of the fish with the mussels adding a poignant twist to the narrative.Roast Halibut (c.1830) with a cockle ketchup and leaf chicory was another trip to the seaside with the mussel stock based ketchup giving an intense blast of the sea. I loved this dish.Heston’s much copied Triple cooked chips (£6.50) have almost become a cliché. They are still great-über-crisp exteriors with a fluffy inside-a bit like me really-but I think he needs to move on. I want quintuple cooked chips…Tipsy Cake ( ) came with a mini-plank of delicious spit-roast caramelised pineapple (£14.50). The Tipsy Cake itself was a brioche soaked in brandy and sugar. This dish is iconic!As a final gesture the kitchen sent out a caraway tuile biscuit with a chocolate ganache flavoured with Earl Grey tea and orange blossom. In a sense the dish summed up the restaurant-refined and elegant with a sexy British twist, a bit like an Aston Martin on a plate. I’m full of admiration for Heston. He and Fergus Henderson from St. John have put British food on the map internationally and we should thank them for it.