Saturday, 24 September 2011

Restaurant Review - Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

I know that it's been all whinge and moan around here recently - packing and moving and ow-my-shoulders-hurting - but today we gave ourselves a massive treat which made all the moving house hassle totally worth it. We went for lunch at Heston Blumenthal's Dinner. The most expensive meal we've ever had (other than the wedding, when there were 75 other people there after all). And 100% worth it. It was incredible! Amazing! I don't have enough exclamation marks. I hereby hand you over to my resident restaurant critic, Mr Greedy Gusto (of the brilliant blog Wine At Mine) for an in-depth analysis and our furtive phone photos...



A big hello again from Greedy Gusto! It's good to be back at the keyboard. And I've got a lot to tell you about after our visit to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal today. We booked the table 7 weeks ago, and it's not too difficult to get a reservation - just go to the website on the first day of the month before you want your table, and book online. So for example, if you want to book a table in November, be on the website at 9am on 1st October.


Before we get on to the food (and plenty of photos), first a word about the restaurant itself. It's situated in the swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel on Knightsbridge in central London, just opposite Harvey Nichols and down the road from Harrods (but don't hold that against it).


Upon arrival at the hotel, we were escorted by a member of staff from the hotel entrance to the Dinner reception desk, by a second member of staff from the reception desk to the restaurant entrance, and by a third member of staff from the restaurant entrance to our table. And each time they asked how our day was going. It was a friendly and attentive start to the "occasion" (this wasn't just a meal...), though would I rather have found my own way to the restaurant entrance and knocked a few pounds off the bill?


Throughout the meal we received the same level of service, with knowledgeable waiters frequently proffering information, such as the history of a dish, the source of the meat, or the fact that Heston always has tea at the end of a meal.




For starters we chose the Meat Fruit and the Roast Scallops. And before we can even begin discussing the taste of the food, we have to mention the visual experience. Every dish was served up as treat to the eyes as well as the mouth. In particular the Meat Fruit (seen in the top photo), which is chicken liver parfait surrounded by a mandarin jelly, was served to exactly resemble a mandarin. It was uncanny to put your spoon through the "skin" only to find that it was a soft mandarin sauce, which really tasted like mandarins, covering a smooth and creamy parfait. The grilled bread provided a perfect contrast to the rest of the dish, adding a crunch against the smoothness and a grilled charcoal edge against the creaminess.


The Roast Scallops were perfect, and I've never had them served on cucumber before, but it really worked. So far Heston, good job!




We then chose the Hereford Ribeye and the Spiced Pigeon for main course. I have to insert that the attentive service temporarily broke down at this point, as there was a long wait between the starters and the main course (45 minutes?). We didn't mind too much, as it gave us time to soak up the atmosphere, but by the end of the wait we were getting a bit restless.


Nevertheless.. the ribeye was cooked perfectly (I'm going to stop saying that everything was cooked perfectly. Of course it was. Just assume from now on that everything is cooked perfectly, and I'll stick to the interesting bits). Perhaps even nicer than the steak were the triple cooked chips on the side. They were absolutely chiptastic. And dipped in the mushroom ketchup or soaked in the red wine juice, they were even better.




The Spiced Pigeon with Ale and Artichokes was beautifully tender, but neither Mrs Dine at Mine or Greedy Gusto could taste the spiciness or the ale. It tasted good, but not as interesting as the menu promised. And at £33, this is about the most expensive main course on the menu, yet next time I would choose something else. (I say "next time" - I'll obviously have to win the lottery before we go again).




Finally, the puddings. First up is the chocolate bar, which has a passion fruit jam in it and is served with a ginger ice cream. This, along with the spiced pigeon, was the other dish that slightly disappointed. The chocolate bar just didn't hit exactly the right note of sweetness and chocolatiness; and you really had to push hard with your spoon to break the biscuit base. The ginger ice cream tasted nice, but was more like a sorbet than an ice cream. I would have preferred something creamier to balance against the rich chocolate.





However, perhaps the chocolate bar only suffered in our eyes because it was sharing the table with the Tipsy Cake. Which. Was. Delicious. Full stop.


The Tipsy Cake was, in both the refined eyes of Mrs Dine at Mine and the greedy eyes of myself, the *DISH OF THE DAY*. The cake itself is a brioche, which has a sweet sauternes and brandy sauce over it, and served with a piece of spit roast pineapple. The whole dish just worked so well. I was thinking how to describe it, and the best I can come up with is that it tasted like your favourite school pudding, made ten times tastier because Heston Blumenthal has designed it.




When you're ordering your starters and mains at the beginning of the meal, the waiter will ask if you want to order a Tipsy Cake as well, as they take up to 45 minutes to prepare. So do! From the restaurant you can see into the kitchen, and you can see the pineapples roasting on spikes in the corner, rather like a kebab shop.



Ok, I'd better not finish a review of Dinner by Heston with a kebab shop simile, which doesn't befit the culinary greatness of the restaurant.

The total damage for the two of us, with two glasses of wine each (it was only lunchtime) was £176 including service. So for most of us, this isn't an everyday restaurant (£176 could probably buy ten visits to Pizza Express with their 2 for 1 vouchers). There were some diners for whom the cost clearly wasn't an issue, and who looked like they'd just popped in for a bite of lunch. One table was a family with three young children. Honestly - that is an expensive family outing. But a lot of diners were young couples like us, clearly enjoying a special occasion.

The location is swanky but not stuffy. The food is inventive but not ridiculous. In summary, Dinner by Heston is magnificent.


P.S. you'll notice I haven't commented on the wine. A) there was no room to review it here, and B) you'll find the review soon on the WineAtMine blog. See you there.

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