Miscellany and detritus, from the writer of Is This Mutton?com

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Sublime dining at Dinner by Heston

A new entry in the Gail Top Ten Restaurants is Dinner by Heston - straight in at number two. Quite surprising when you consider that I am no lover of molecular dining. But this isn't Heston Blumenthal's normal gig. I've been to the Fat Duck, his Michelin two starred restaurant at Bray, and while the tasting menu is a fascinating experience, I will not, on Death Row, ask for smokey bacon ice-cream or snail porridge as my final repast.

What's different about Dinner, his new venture at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London, is that he has lovingly recreated old English recipes; giving thrilling twists to some and simply enhancing others, while using the best produce.

What makes the restaurant so special is the combination of wonderful food with a beautiful room; a fantastic view of Hyde Park, and the most passionate and knowledgeable staff I've ever encountered.

So many fine dining restaurants are spoilt for me by pretentious legions of snooty waiters. At Le Gavroche, for example, you have a whole flotilla of people serving you: someone for the bread, the water, the wine, the food. Woe betide you if you ask the bread waiter for water. Meanwhile, at the other scale, there are restaurants where you are left languishing. Where, for example, the next course arrives before the plates have been cleared away. None of that at Dinner.

For starters, I should have chosen what's quickly become the star of the menu -Meat Fruit (left), circa 1500, which contains mandarin and chicken liver parfait. How stunning it looks (and tastes, I was assured) - this mandarin shaped feast of smooth parfait. Instead I chose marrowbone, circa 1720, accompanied by parsley, anchovy and mace and pickled vegetables (right).

I was evidently so carried away with the main course I forgot to photograph it! I had a recipe dating from 1830 of roast turbot with cockle ketchup and chicory. And chips. Because here you are allowed to have chips and it's not a disgrace: also butter. I was recently at another place where the waiter snootily informed me they didn't provide butter "for health reasons." Unbelievably pompous given that a lot of people (myself included) only indulge in butter when we're in a restaurant.

Anyway, I digress. For pudding it had to be the baked lemon suet pudding, circa 1630, (left), with lemon, caramel and Jersey cream. To be honest, this was the most disappointing course. I remembered suet puddings from childhood being quite light. This had more the texture of pastry than sponge. I wished I'd perhaps had tipsy cake or summer tart instead.

With pudding we had a delicious rosebud tea. Instead of the usual menu of dessert wines and coffees, we were offered a tea menu. It reminded me of the challenge on The Apprentice where they had to source camomile flower tea and were offered a crate of it for £900. To the credit of the Dinner waitress, she explained that the most expensive tea was quite smokey and a definitely acquired taste. Such honesty is rare in the pursuit of filthy lucre. The rose tea, fat with rosebuds, was wonderfully delicate, and they refill the pot with hot water as many times as you like.

So - Dinner with Heston. So good I will go back with J, very soon. Or as soon as we can get a reservation. It  is booked solid for months.

Gail's Top 10 Restaurants (with links to my blog where I reviewed them)
1. Gidleigh Park, Devon
2. Dinner by Heston
3. Scott's
4. Caldesi in Campagna, Bray
5. TheWolseley
6. Le Manoir aux Quat' Saisons
7. The Orrery
8. Benares
9. Hix Oyster & Chop House
10. E4


Caroline said...

DIDN'T PROVIDE BUTTER FOR HEALTH REASONS???? Preposterous, absolutely preposterous. Am appalled. Dinner by Heston sounds very interesting though. Will add it to my ever expanding list of 'restaurants I must visit before I die'!

Sharon J said...

Oh, you obviously dine at some very fine restaurants. I'm sure this was all very nice and I wouldn't mind experiencing it once, but nothing beats a plate of fish n' chips with mushy peas, as far as I'm concerned :)

TechnoBabe said...

This was fun for me to read your lovely review and see the pictures you provide. I live too far from there and wouldn't have enough money to try out this interesting place. I have been to England one time several years ago. Just because we can understand each other without learning another language, habits and interests are different there and so much fun to learn over here. The turbot sounds like it would be wonderful and the rose tea looks relaxing and delicious.

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