It is one thing to talk about brilliance, it is another to experience it. It is one thing to dream a dream, it is another to dine on it. For me, that is what Heston Blumenthal’s creative dishes are. From the time I learnt of Fat Duck, I threw myself into the indulgence of the graphic captivations of snail porridge. To watch the zany trains of thoughts conjour up Heston’s Feasts and the recreation of historical dishes that once graced the tables of British royal halls, I have yearned to taste the visions of this master chef. I haven’t had the fortune of getting a reservation at Fat Duck yet (I still try on an infrequent basis), but it is much easier to get a table at Heston’s London outpost at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.
Simply named Dinner, the restaurant has full-length windows to allow diners to peer deep into the kitchen, but on this sunny day my seat offered me a gaze of Hyde Park in its serenity. Yes, the warm sunshine was a lovely surprise for a London summer but mind you, it was in fact spotted with constant drizzle most of the time. There was just enough time to gaze onto the peaceful Hyde Park just before thousands of tweeners decended upon the green grass for a concert by Rhianna. Pretty sure that Princess Di whose memorial fountain is located to the left of the picture would have prefered the BBC Proms.
The restaurant is fitted very cleanly, and the most elaborate distractions are the glass cabinets, wine fridges and the window to the kitchen. However, the bar area just before you enter the dining area is dimmed down, a central drinks preparation counter and felt rather closeted. Wait staff were European no less, and we were shuffled into a corner booth for no less than 5 minutes for pre-lunch drinks before we were fussed over to our lunch table. Probably better to allow your guests’ drink orders arrive at their table, and let them enjoy some nibbles which they paid for (and never re-appeared)…
It was rather straight-forward for me to decide on what dishes to order. A browse through my memory banks drew up names familiarsed through re-runs of Heston’s Feasts. Of course, top of the list was meat fruit and tipsy cake. Tafferty tart was rekindled when I viewed the dessert menu later. It would be too easy for a lesser chef to over-complicate the re-interpretation of the ancient recipes, but Heston is no mortal chef. The flavours in each ambitious dish are unique but clean; flavoursome but not overbearing on the palate. Precise cooking called for clockwork equipment, hence the £70,000 clockwork spitroast created by Swiss watchmakers Ebel just to cook pineapples for Tipsy cake.
Dinner has one Michelin star in 2012, and deservedly so. Precision cooking, proper plating up followed by friendly and attentive service allows for a relaxing afternoon with time spent marveling at the creations from the kitchen. After the first forey, this is one place I’d recommend for a boistrous gathering of friends.
Drinks I had at Dinner:
Tio Pepe Palomino Fino: a brilliantly light and fresh sherry that has bright zesty notes and a hint of almond. £8/100mL
Domaine de l’Aimonier Cuvee Henri 2010, Touraine, Loire, France: A Sauvignon Blanc from 30+ year old vines in the Loire Valley. Rich, honeyed scent with tropical fruit flavours of mango and pineapple, with just a hint of vanilla. Nice weight in the mouth, balanced with acidity, long clean finish. £10.50
Shaw & Smith Shiraz 2009, Adelaide Hills, SA, Australia: A medium to full-bodied wine with that intense black purple colour so typical of Australian shiraz. Notes of blackberries, black cherry and crushed black peppercorns. Youthful ripe crushed berry juice of compote intensity, plenty of acidity. Moderate tannin load, that ease up on the long finish. Great for grilled meats. 89/100. £15.50