ever since i got my hands on heston blumenthal’s cookbook (the fat duck cookbook), i’ve wanted to eat at one of his restaurants. (the book itself is amazing and to date, the most spectacular cookbook i’ve ever read cover to cover. in addition to his exacting and beautifully photographed recipes, he’s got a brilliantly illustrated section on his biography and then another hefty section about the science of food. it’s a book which i think very well communicates the mind of the man. whenever i find myself in conversation with someone else about cookbooks, this is the one that i always recommend. )
digression aside, about a month ago, i found myself in london with some spare time. so, i rung up heston’s latest restaurant, dinner by heston blumenthal, located inside the newly renovated mandarin oriental hotel in knightsbridge, and managed to get a table for a late lunch. i had a very lovely seat with a rainy but green view of hyde park.
i had a rather good feeling about things when the bread arrived. i mean if the place serves you butter that is so richly yellow that it almost looks orange tinted, that’s most certainly an indicator of the chef’s meticulous selection of fine quality ingredients.
the menu, available for your viewing pleasure online, playfully indicates the historical provenance of a dish. for example, hay smoked mackerel is said to be inspired by a british recipe from 1730. a very affordable set lunch menu is also offered — 3 courses for £28 with 2 selections per course. figuring that dining at heston’s restaurant might be a once in a lifetime opportunity, i decided to throw caution to the wind and ask the staff about the signature dishes. here’s what i was told:
- for appetizers, the signatures are the meat fruit, roast marrowbone and the salamagundy.
- for the mains: the roast turbot, the black foot pork chop, the powdered duck, and the beef royal.
- for the desserts: the tipsy cake, the brown bread ice cream, and taffety tart.
i wonder if i would have gotten a different list, had i asked a different person?
for the 1st course, i selected the meat fruit — a rather amazing dish that i cannot rave enough about. i’m ordinarily not a fan of pate, but i would go for this one any day. meat fruit is a highly refined chicken liver parfait made to resemble a tangerine. there’s some sort of gelatinous skin enveloping the fruit — the skin tastes like oranges. the pate / parfait itself is smooth in texture, not at all lumpy, and the flavour is perfectly balanced — intense without being overly so. slices of grilled bread are served alongside the meat fruit.
for my main, i selected the roasted turbot — mostly because the “cockle ketchup” accompaniment intrigued me. that green stuff in the picture below is the ketchup, and it really does taste like ketchup, except it’s got pieces of shelled cockle in it. the turbot is perfectly cooked, although i almost wish, they could have given me more of that delicious cockle ketchup to go with it.
and at last, dessert! when i walked into the restaurant, i spied the partially open kitchen showcasing roasted pineapples, hanging much the way roast duck hangs in chinatown. the roast pineapples accompany the tipsy cake dessert and they tasted every bit as good as they looked — soft, fruity and caramelized. they really were the perfect pairing with the tipsy cake, which in turn is a cross between a brioche and an ooey gooey glazed donut, soft and warm from the oven. the tipsy cake — is highly refined comfort food at its best. and i’m very glad that i ordered it.
the restaurant throws in a bit of earl grey ganache with a caraway shortbread at the end — a great combination of flavours that reminds you before you leave, how exciting, innovative and precise the mind of heston blumenthal is.
my bill came to £90 (without alcohol) for one person, and i, a very happy diner, signed away with flourish. it probably ranks amongst the best meals, i’ve ever had.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
Mon-Sat: 12-2:30pm; 6:30-10:30pm
Tel:+44(0)20 7201 3833