Sunday, 27 February 2011
The biggest restaurant opening of 2011 will undoubtedly remain 'Dinner - by Heston Blumenthal'. The sheer volume of reviews and write-ups about his latest venture are unlikely to be rivalled by any other restaurant opening this year and perhaps even next year. The man has achieved the kind of cult-status that Gordon Ramsay ('The Big Sweary One') could only have hoped to achieve. Bloggers, critics and journos alike have gushed about the virtues of Heston's new offering to the London restaurant scene... so much so that writing my own write up feels a tad pointless and maybe even a little repetitive. But ever the sceptical Capricorn that I am, when I hear everyone praising something excessively in unison, it just makes me more determined to see for myself if all the hype is indeed to be believed.First of all let me point out that whilst the restaurant was opened by Heston Blumenthal, it is actually Ashley Palmer-Watts who is the Chef at the helm of this operation at The Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Hyde Park. Ashley and his team are continuing Heston's fantastic work but in a much toned down version minus all the mind-scrambling trickery and special effects and instead, with the help of a bonafide food Historian, reviving the dishes of centuries-old Britain.Dishes can sound a bit alien to most with 'Rice and Flesh', 'Meat Fruit' and 'Salamagundy' featuring as starters; but have faith because everyone knows that whatever Heston gets behind, tends to be very magical indeed. 'Meat Fruit' has been causing quite a sensation among those who have dined here. A seemingly normal looking mandarin orange on a wooden board accompanied by slices of toasted bread, conceals a flavoursome centre of chicken liver pate enriched with foie gras and encased in a delicate mandarin jelly cutting beautifully through the rich fattiness of the pate itself. A perfect example of point and counterpoint at its finest and a wonderful dish that I could quite happily eat over and over again. 'Salamagundy', a simple salad of soft chicken oysters with quivvering slivers of bone marrow amid roasted salsify and mixed leaves was an interesting combination that worked well although couldn't possibly outshine the meat fruit of the final starter of 'Rice and Flesh'. Gory as it sounds, 'Rice and Flesh' is little more than a Risotto Milanese, buttery rich in it's ocre saffron glory, studded with meat chunks of veal tail with perfectly al-dente rice and the most perfect version of this dish that I have ever had the good fortune to taste. A definite addition to the menu of my final meal on earth.Main courses, whilst retaining the highly skilled execution and ingredient combinations you would expect of such a kitchen, didn't enthrall me in quite the same capacity as the starters. That is not to say that the dishes were not fantastic, because au contraire, they absolutely were but they were more along the lines of exemplary seasonal cooking rather than the wow-factor style that Heston is known for. And this is perhaps something that should be explained; 'Dinner by Heston Blumenthal' is not supposed to be anything like 'Fat Duck' and you should remember that when eating here, so as to avoid any potential disappointment. Our main courses of 'Powdered duck with fennel and jus' and 'Black foot pork chop with cabbage' were both very good, although whilst the duck was 'lifted' by its pairing with the fennel, my companion did leave rather a lot on her plate and when quizzed about the matter the words "fiddly" and "lacklustre" were mentioned. Not my own opinion, you understand but duck legs are not for everyone and the cooking method can impact on the smell and flavour of the duck in a way that is not to everyone's taste. However full marks for my pork chop that was cooked to perfection with a rich jus that lifted the gentle flavour of the meat beautifully.The wonderful pineapple spit-roast in the kitchen is a thing of beauty, so much so that I simply had to get into the kitchen myself to photograph them in all their rum-drenched glory. Making up part of the delightfully indulgent 'Tipsy cake', I ordered a nice glass of Hungarian Tokaji dessert wine and enjoyed every last buttery mouthful of the delicious sugar crusted bread-like cake, in it's own mini cast-iron dish accompanied by the exquisite and perfectly caramelised wedge of roasted pineapple. Another dish I would happily include on the menu for my final meal on earth.A final complimentary dish is brought to the table; a dainty little tea cup and saucer filled with an Earl Grey and white chocolate ganache accompanied by a finger sized caraway seed shortbread biscuit. What a splendidly unctuous combination, the perfect way to end such a lovely meal... even if you do have to 'waddle' out of the restaurant like a pregnant woman.
Posted by Sabrina Ghayour at 05:45