Heston's new restaurant served the best food I've had in two years
Mark Hix reviews the gastronomic delights on offer at Dinner
Thursday 03 February 2011
There's been more buzz about Dinner, Heston Blumenthal's first restaurant in London, than for any other I can remember for at least two years. And there's a good reason – when the man who gave us snail porridge and whose restaurants have been voted best in the world does something new, people want to know about it.
I was invited to previews but went the second night after it opened this week. And I'm very glad I waited. It was the best meal I've had for at least two years.
The first thing that strikes you when you walk in through the Mandarin Oriental hotel, where Dinner takes up some of the first floor with views to Hyde Park, is that the dining room looks quite smart and traditional. But the sight of lampshades in the shape of jelly moulds and a giant roasting spit driven by a clockwork mechanism tells you this is no ordinary restaurant.
Then there is the food and, to start, a dish that was genuinely astonishing. It's described on the menu under starters as "meat fruit", which doesn't sound great.
On the outside it looks like a perfect mandarin with textured and brightly coloured peel, as well as a stalk and green leaves. But put your knife in and everything changes. The orange is full of chicken liver mousse with the most fantastic flavour and soft texture.
I'm not into gimmicky food but this is the only big trick on the menu and when it tastes that good it's difficult to complain. I had pig's ears with onions on toast, which was delicious and, for dessert, a dish that typifies the historical approach Heston is taking with his new restaurant. On the menu it's called Chocolate Bar (c. 1730). You turn over the menu to find where the inspiration for the dishes came from – in this case from The Complete Practical Cook by Charles Carter, published almost 300 years ago. It had a delightfully silky finish and came with passion fruit jam and ginger ice cream.
Other dishes include spit-roast quail from a recipe from A Boke of Cookrye (1591) and Tipsy Cake, which is from 1810 and comes with a piece of pineapple cooked on that clockwork spit.
I'm not sure how many diners cared how "old" their dinner was but Heston is adept at adding an element of fun – and he does it here very differently from The Fat Duck at Bray in Berkshire.
Mark Hix is a restaurateur and food writer for 'The Independent'
The 'Dinner' menu
Meat Fruit (c.1500)
Mandarin, Chicken Liver Parfait and Grilled Bread £12.50
Savoury Porridge (c.1660)
Cod Cheeks, Pickled Beetroot, Garlic and Fennel £14.50
Beef Royal (c.1720)
72-Hours Slow-Cooked Short Rib of Angus, Smoked Anchovy and Onion Puree, Ox Tongue £28
Spiced Pigeon (c.1780)
Ale and Artichokes £32
Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
Spit Roast Pineapple £10
Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830)
Salted Butter Caramel Malted Yeast Syrup £8
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