When we first head of Dinner by Heston, our first thought was Dinner for Hedonists. Never has there been a more perfect match than that between Blumenthal — the culinary whizz renowned for snail porridge, Little Chef makeovers and other such tricks in the kitchen — and us, renowned for our insatiable appetite for all things eclectic and exciting. So it was with great relief when we finally snagged a table at his (relatively) new venture within the sophisticated confines of London‘s Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park. Honestly, we were beginning to question our pulling power after months of harassing phonecalls on the reservations line only to be met by a resilient, no-nonsense approach on the other end. We were quite put out.
But now we were finally here, hungry and with high expectations in a sleek, Adam Tihany-designed space. The focus is very much around the kitchen, framed within a glass box that’s more akin to Ramsay than Blumenthal; inside the box is where the magic happens, a stainless steel fortress manned by a crack team of culinary geniuses. The dining room itself, meanwhile, is characterised by glass, lots of it: first in the floor-to-ceiling windows that run along one side of the restaurant and reveal sweeping views of a very green Hyde Park beyond: and secondly by dazzling walls that house the restaurant’s impressive wine collection. Light creams and dark woods abound throughout, making for a clean, crisp space indeed: clearly, Blumenthal doesn’t want Tihany to distract too much from the menus in diners’ hands, and quite rightly so.
And what a menu it is: bound by a strip of paper that details a foodie fact from times gone by, dishes detailed on a crisp, several-times-folded piece of paper are dated with their year or origin and some hark back hundreds of years. We opted for the oldest starter available, rice and flesh from c.1390: made up of saffron, calf tail and red wine, it was a rich, hearty introduction to Blumenthal’s concept. The second starter, savoury porridge from c.1660, was less successful and paled in comparison to the first. Then came mains: first, black foot pork chop with pointy cabbage and sauce Robert from c.1860; next, powdered duck with smoked fennel and potato purée from c.1670. Again, the second was overshadowed by the much more flavoursome first; the pork was tasty, sweet and tangy, whilst the powdered duck was much more subtle than the meaty, gamey flavour we were expecting.
Dessert was decadent, to say the least; taffety tart from c.1660 made with apple, rose, fennel and blackcurrant sorbet, and brown bread ice-cream from c.1830 served with salted butter caramel and malted yeast syrup. In this instance it was the second plate that prevailed, with a truly extraordinary taste that offered up something savoury as sweet. Somehow, it worked.
There’s no denying that there’s mastery behind the menu here: this is an art form, and like art, opinion will always be divided. We’re just happy we managed to snag tickets to the show. A must-eat if ever there was one.
Buy Hg2 London here