Dinner By Heston Blumenthal has gone from strength to strength since opening its doors in 2011.
This 2 Michelin star award winning restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge lands at #5 on the The World’s 50 Best Restaurant List this year. That is two spots higher than last year and a lot higher than the Fat Duck, the more theatrical sister restaurant situated in the village of Bray (which ranks at #47 if you were wondering).
Headed up by Dorset chef Ashley Palmer-Watts, Dinner by Heston is quite an unique take on historic British gastronomy. Heston has tried to recreate British culinary history at Dinner with recipes dating back all the way to the 1300’s, given an 21st century makeover. Brought to life with contemporary ingredients and Heston’s signature cooking techniques, this menu is all about taking diners on a journey through the rich culinary history that exists in Britain.
This carefully orchestrated ‘angle’ is evident through out the dining experience. The menu being a good case in point – it lists the decade that the inspiration for the dish comes from along with a list of the cookbooks that have been used to populate the menu. The menu also had tid bits of insightful information on the sleeve! I really like the concept and the execution – it makes you think about the food in front of you.
I wasn’t however the biggest fan of the interiors – I understand that it’s been conceived to be subtle and contemporary but it lacked ambience for me. You walk through the crowded bar before you hit the massive dining room which although was packed when Seb and I visited, just lacked atmosphere. The fact that Dinner is situated in a hotel becomes obvious when you see the dining room – it’s very plain. The only thing that stood out to me in that room was the wall decorations in the shape of antique jelly moulds and the view of the buzzing kitchen through the glass walls.
With a great view of the kitchen, we started off with some bread and some wine. I have always said this and will say it again – the bread that is served up is a sign of the food at any restaurant and judging by that barometer, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal passed with flying colours – the bread was warm and the butter was great.
I opted for the Frumenty (c.1390) on the recommendation of our wonderful waitress. The grilled octopus, pickled dulse and lovage on a bed of smoked sea broth was an absolutely brilliant starter. Yes, there were a lot of flavours going on there but it surprisingly worked really well together. The slight crunch from the lovage and the flavours of the sea in the broth really made this octopus dish work.
The highlight of our evening however was one of the signature dishes at Dinner By Heston – the Savoury Porridge circa. 1660. Delicate frog’s legs, served with girolles mushroom, garlic and hints of fennel. This dish was absolutely stunning – the tender frog meat with just the right amount of crunch, the different textures and flavours of green to contrast the meat and the hints of garlic and mushroom were all just perfect. Definitely my favourite dish on this menu.
After those stunning starters, I was looking forward to our mains even more. It was a slightly longer wait for the mains than I had anticipated but we at least had some great wine to keep us going. Speaking of wine, the wine list at Dinner by Heston is massive – you could easily spend a few hours just reading through it. My suggestion would be to ask the sommelier for suggestions – she was brilliant and helped us pick a bottle that I wouldn’t have ever ordered in a million years but matched the dishes perfectly and tasted great!
Seb ordered the Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) and I went for the Spiced Pigeon (c.1780) and we couldn’t wait to stick in when they arrived!
Both dishes looked simple but are an explosion of flavours in you mouth. It’s what you would expect from a Heston Blumenthal restaurant – wonderfully odd combination of flavours that surprise you but still work really well together. My pigeon was cooked just right and the artichokes and ale added great depth to this dish without going overboard. Same with the duck, perfectly cooked meat with a complexity of flavours that you wouldn’t expect from a dish that should be in theory, pretty simple.
My favourite part was pouring that wonderfully thick ale sauce on my pigeon – so satisfying! I was impressed with how much flavour was packed into that ale sauce. Both dishes come highly recommended.
The first thing I noticed when I walked into Dinner By Heston was the pineapple being spit roasted in the kitchen and I was immediately intrigued! One of the signature dishes at Dinner is the Tipsy Cake (c. 1810), Heston’s take on an old British recipe which is a slice of spit roast pineapple basted in alcohol and served up with a rum soaked cream filled brioche. This dish on it’s own warrants a visit – it was absolutely stunning!
Hot, creamy and boozy, it’s the epitome of decadence. The crispy top layer of the brioche hides a creamy moist center which is absolutely divine and combined with slightly caramelized pineapple which cuts through the sweetness of the brioche; this dish just works.
We finished off our wonderful meal with a simple but absolutely stunning Chocolate Ganache pot. Infused with orange blossom and served with a caraway biscuit, it was different to any chocolate ganache I have ever had. You can’t go wrong with chocolate and orange. The stand out element of this dish for me however, was the caraway biscuit – the fennel flavouring works really well with the chocolate and completes this dish perfectly.
I absolutely love Heston’s take on British culinary history. Every dish that was plated out was enough reason to convince me why it deserves 2 Michelin stars and a place on the list of the Top 50 restaurants in the world. Don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the dishes here – it may look simple but the dishes here are carefully planned and cleverly constructed behind the scenes to give you an explosion of flavours.
There is a slight mismatch between the Heston you see on television and the food that actually gets served up in his restaurants (Dinner being a good case in point) but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. If you are expecting table theatrics and showy dishes on a bed of dry ice, Dinner By Heston Blumenthal is probably not for you – it couldn’t be any more different! Dinner is all about bold dishes that leaves you wanting more and I cannot wait to come back.