Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.
So, I was meant to be heading back to America tomorrow. But the past three months in London have heralded so many amazing opportunities for my career. A few days before I was scheduled to leave, another opportunity popped up which just seemed to serendipitous to pass up….. more on this in a month or two, as it becomes more concrete.
Husni and I went out to celebrate everything. Before coming to the UK, I’d been planning on visiting the Fat Duck, Heston Blumenthal’s famous restaurant out in Bray. But recently, the World’s 50 Best restaurant list was released for 2014. Fat Duck came in at No. 47, and just revealed that they are packing up and moving to Melbourne, only a few months after I made that exact journey in reverse.
But Dinner By Heston, the Mandarin Oriental-housed restaurant in Knightsbridge, ranked in at No. 5. Surprisingly, I’ve never been to a Top Ten restaurant. Even Blue Hill at Stone Barns (which I personally would have placed in the top ten) was much further down the list. Dinner By Heston is perhaps his most interesting restaurant, as the recipes are all adapted from historic British cookbooks or manuscripts, making your dining experience a trip through 16th-19th Century British cooking. The menu lists the decade each recipe comes from, and the back of the menu provides a list of cookbook sources for the recipes. So move aside Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston is calling.
I was seated facing into the kitchen, so I could watch the magic happen.
If you ever watched Heston’s Feasts, you might remember the medieval episode, where he created a bowl of fruit made out of meat. Dinner by Heston recreates some of the dishes he made on his show – and the meat fruit is one of their signature dishes.
I had to try it. A small globe of chicken liver and foie gras parfait, encased in a citrus- mandarin gelatine skin – everything down to the texture is perfect. For your unaware consumer, it IS a mandarin, until your knife slides straight through the creamy, velvety interior. Deliciously sweet and light on the offal-y taste, this general avoider of liver ate every bite.
Next up was the Nettle Porridge. The oats were the least prominent part of the dish, with the nettle providing a fresh hedgerow flavour and a brilliant shade of green. Pockets of flavour throughout stunned with pieces of girolles mushrooms, garlic and shaved fennel – topped with two beautifully moist, sweet and tender frogs legs, crumbed with just enough crunch.
We had had some beautiful french wine to celebrate, and we had stopped in for a drink (plum and rose cocktail) at Bar Boulud before dinner. So by this point we couldn’t tell whether it was the food making us ecstatic or the fancy wine… But as soon as the mains came out, there was a scurry of swapping forks and looking up at each other in amazement as we tasted each component of our dishes.
I had the Pigeon, pink, tender, with a lightly salted skin, ale and grilled artichokes. Husni had the Roast Iberico Pork chop, with a fragrant apple sauce spiced with mead, rich and earthy smoked hispi cabbage, confit onion and Robert sauce.
Both were stunning. Plating, service and food impeccable, things were only to get better with the arrival of dessert. We had pre-ordered their other signature dish, the Tipsy Cake. You need to order this at the beginning of the meal, as it takes roughly 40 minutes to make. Circa 1810, this recipe is a classic British baked dessert – a sponge or brioche, soaked in alcohol. Heston’s is in a sticky sweet vanilla and rum sauce, served with slices of spit-roasted pineapple basted in an apple caramel sauce. Warm, crunchy on the outside with a pillowy interior, it was the perfect finish.
So Cheers to another while in London! Let’s see what else you have to throw at me!