Leave your notions of dinner behind and get ready for a truly exceptional culinary experience.
Food is more than sustenance; It’s a culmination of passion, technique, creativity, love and history. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal not only captures this, it manages to take all of these elements to a new height, creating a totally unique dining experience.
Located in central London, on the doorstep of Hyde Park and just steps away from Knightsbridge station is the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. This grand setting is home to one of London’s most revered restaurants, owned by World-celebrated Chef, Heston Blumenthal, and run by Executive Chef, Ashley Palmer-Watts.
The restaurant, menu and interior has been inspired by Heston’s interest and knowledge of 15th and 16th-century cookery. Using natural materials such as wood, leather and iron, the design and decor references historic craftsmanship whilst simultaneously creating a chic and contemporary feel. There is a distinct lack of pretentiousness in the restaurant. I was greeted warmly and genuinely by all staff and was truly impressed with the enthusiasm and energy of the wait staff throughout the evening.
Sat by the window, I was greeted with expansive views of Hyde park, and a partial view of the glass-walled kitchen, which boasts a unique spit-roast pulley system, which is modelled after an original used in the royal court.
From the moment we sat, it was obvious that the utmost care had been taken with the smallest of details. Each menu on the table is wrapped in a thin cardboard sleeve. When removed and undone, the back of each sleeve revealed a novel fact relating to dining in the 15th and 16th centuries. Each menu item also references a date. On the back of the menu, an origin of each dish is provided. These date as far back as c.1390, from The Forme of Cury The Master Cooks of King Richard II, and range through the 15th to 19th centuries finishing with a single dish inspired from a 1940s book, Good Fish Dishes by Ambrose Heath.
Leaving any preconceptions at the door, I decided to try dishes with an open mind.
First up was the Meat Fruit (c. 1500). The signature starter on the menu, the meat fruit is a mandarin, created from chicken liver parfait and served with grilled bread. I’d seen photos, but they had not prepared me for just how like the piece of fruit the dish in front of me looked, mottled and shaped to perfection. The parfait was delicious; Smooth and decadently creamy.
We also tried the Savoury Porridge (c. 1660), which was prepared with parsley, fennel, garlic, girolles and topped with frogs legs; the Earl Grey Tea cured Salmon (c. 1730) served on a lemon salad with gentleman’s relish, wood sorrel and smoked roe; and Frumenty (c. 1390) which was grilled octopus, served on a smoked sea broth with picked pulse and lovage.
Each of the starters was absolutely delicious and offered a new experience of each core element. The Earl Grey Tea cured Salmon was a personal favourite. It looked beautiful, and the flavours were so delicate and balanced, culminating in harmonic morsels.
For a main I decided to leave the comfort zone behind and try the Powdered Duck Breast (c. 1670) served with smoked confit fennel, spiced blood pudding and umbles.
This dish was a little rich for me, especially the blood pudding. The umbles served with the dish was crumbed duck hearts and, having not tried heart before, I was pleasantly surprised. The dish was well presented, and the duck was cooked very well. I was glad to have tried it but given the option I would have chosen something lighter and more to my personal preference.
Having left just enough room for dessert we were brought the restaurant’s famous Tipsy Cake (c. 1810), served with spit-roasted pineapple. This is the most popular dessert on the menu and it was not hard to see why. Reminiscent of childhood bread and butter pudding, the cake was moist and sweet and just dense enough to be comforting without being too heavy.
We also tried small portions of the Brown Bread Ice Cream (c. 1830), served on salted butter caramel, pear and malted yeast syrup, and the tarte of strawberries (c. 1560) which was macerated strawberries, with orange blossom cream, chamomile and strawberry sorbet.
The brown bread ice cream was a curious taste. The ice cream was savoury, and tasted like toasted brown bread, yet when combined with the salted caramel base, the flavours combined and balanced to create this delicious blend of savoury, salty and sweet. In contrast, the tarte of strawberries was fruity, light and refreshing.
Following dessert, I opted for a silver needle tea. As we were waiting for the tea, a trolley was wheeled to our table and we were offered a post-dessert ice-cream. The ice-cream was created at the table using liquid nitrogen. It was all explained by the waiter as he churned the cream, and then scooped into a hand-made cone and dipped in toppings of our choice. About to burst, we were also brought a final treat of Earl Grey Tea infused chocolate ganache which we only managed a taste of as we sipped our tea. It was, like everything else, delicious.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is something else. Despite the name, it’s so much more than dinner. It’s an education and an experience. Throughout the night, every single member of staff I dealt with impressed me with their friendliness, knowledge, and professionalism. Dinner is a restaurant created with and managed with passion and love. It’s evident in everything about the place, from the details in the decor to the treatment by the staff and ultimately, to the food on your plate.
With starters averaging £17.50, mains averaging £36 and desserts for £13.50, you’re looking at spending £60 per person for a three-course meal without wine. I would recommend budgeting at least £80-£100 per person for the night, if drinking.