{Post last updated on 7th June, 2011}
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is Heston’s first London restaurant. We had our Chinese New Year Eve’s meal there, before any restaurant critics wrote their review. We decided to do so solely based on Heston‘s reputation (as the chef of Fat Duck, the 3 Michelin starred restaurant, one of the top 3 restaurants in the world), and that of the Mandarin Oriental. We then went back twice more to try out the menu and shared our experience with friends!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Beef Royal at Dinner By Heston
Meat Fruit (c.13th to 15th century) was my favourite starter as it was fun and playful. We were happy to see the mandarin as in Chinese, it has the same pronunciation as ‘gold’ which is what we like having for Chinese New Year! What looked like a perfect mandarin was actually a chicken liver parfait enclosed in a thin layer of mandarin ‘gel’. The parfait was smooth and it was perfect with the subtle mandarin gel. What you see is not what you eat is also the signature of Fat Duck. Does that mean Dinner is a twin of Fat Duck?

Meat Fruit at Dinner by Heston
Not quite.
The dishes at Dinner have much stronger historical references than those of Fat Duck. They were so proud of their source of inspiration, that they actually told you at the back of their menu where they got the idea from for each dish and from what time period the dish is from. For example, Salamagundy (photo below) was based on a recipe found in the Cook’s and confectioner’s Dictionary by John Nott, 1723. The chicken oysters were tender and the bone marrow was so smooth that I could not tell I was eating bone marrow at all.

Salamugundy at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
We had Beef Royal as a main course. (2nd photo from top) We can never know how Patrick Lamb made his in 1716 but mine was very tender, thanks to 72 hour of slow cooking. (Yes, 3 days!) . The ox tongue was a nice surprise. In fact, it stole the show. I was very impressed by the Black Foot Pork Chop. It was the thickest pork chop we have ever seen! And still perfectly cooked all the way through. The meat was succulent and the fat tasted amazing too. How did they do it? The Robert Sauce was based on Careme’s residency in London in 1816. We want the recipe!

Black Foot Pork Chop at Dinner by Heston
The restaurant took up the space of what was once a knackered bar and my favourite place for afternoon tea in London! It has been completely redecorated with interesting details, like the lights in the same of jelly moulds. With full confidence in their cooking skills, they show off their chefs by putting them in a kitchen behind glass. Upon arrival, diners are greeted by the impressive sight of a glass wine cellar.

Show kitchens at Dinner by Heston
Wine cellar and reception at Dinner by Heston
One of the key design features was described by their website as ‘a contemporary stainless steel pulley system modeled on a 16th century design for the Royal British Court’s kitchens, the gears and cranks of which resemble the craftsmanship of an oversized watch, mechanically rotating a spit over an open fire.’ It is fascinating how Heston loves taking cues from dining and cooking methods of the past. In 500 years time, will the chefs of the future model a restaurant based around 21st century doner kebab machine?

The ‘gears and cranks’ turned out to be an elegant piece of art, jointly created with famous Swiss luxury watch maker Ebel. On the day we went, it was spit roasting pineapple, which was served with Tipsy Cake (c. 1810)


Spilt roast pineapple at Dinner by Heston
Tipsy cake at Dinner by Heston
The amazing thing is that Dinner actually made me reconsider the way I think about food, and food influences. I’ve always compared any food to the Chinese food I grew up with.  In the desserts there were 3 items that were very reminiscent of typical Hong Kong cafe food. The top of the Tipsy Cake tasted just like the top of a Hong Kong cafe chan bao (餐包) and the Ginger ice cream of Chocolate Bar (photo below, c.1730) tasted like a Hong Kong dish of ginger milk curd ( 薑汁撞奶).

Chocolate bar at Dinner by Heston
In addition, the Earl Grey and White chocolate ganache (photo below) tasted like a Hong Kong milk tea (港式奶茶), albeit the best milk  tea I’ve ever tasted.  I always thought of them of Western dishes that were adapted to meet the Chinese palate, but at Dinner, I was confronted by the fact that their recipes were modelled on historical recipes and yet they tasted like the food that we get in Hong Kong. Did the Hong Kong food evolve away from its Western origins, or did western food evolve away from their origins only for the recipes to be rediscovered. Or did 2 cuisines evolve similar tasting recipes just by chance?

Earl grey tea with white chocolate ganache at Dinner by Heston
I always judge a restaurant by its teapot, i.e. how they serve my beloved fresh mint tea, to be precise. The teapot at Dinner had a curious spring at the sprout to stop tea leaves from floating out. The waiter told us that it was just big enough for a cup so that the tea would not be brewing for too long. (However, he did say that did not apply to fresh mint tea. I think he was very proud of the teapot) I like the attention to details and this was better than how served fresh mint tea at Fat Duck. I found the latter a bit too fanciful, serving it in a Chinese tea set, which was totally unnecessary.

Fresh mint tea at Dinner by Heston
lovely details at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
The service at Dinner was immaculate. All the staff were very attentive, and asked us if we wanted anything, so we asked if we could meet Heston. He came over to say hello, and we were tongue-tied and giddy like school girls, but he took it all in good grace and even posed with us for a photo.  On the way out the head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts said hello to us.

Dining area at Dinner by Heston
PS: The tasting menu is not available until 6 – 8 weeks time. To try as many dishes as possible, we kind of created our own tasting menu by sharing the dishes. (Our Chinese side kicked in again!)

Gerald’s last words:
I love the name of this restaurant. My parents first language wasn’t English, so all the English I learnt was from school. For a number of years I’ve been told off for using dinner to mean lunch. My friends claimed that dinner is what is also known as supper, and that lunch should not be referred to as dinner. I always used lunch and dinner interchangeably. My justification was the fact that at school the dinner ladies fed me lunch at what must have been dinner time or lunch. According to Heston, ‘The etymology of the word ‘dinner’ gave rise to the name of the restaurant and encapsulates this research into our much celebrated British culinary history. Originating from the 13th century French word disner (pronounced dee-nay), dinner originally stood for breakfast and developed into the main meal of the day. The rise of social and economic changes, including technical innovations such as gaslight and electricity, allowed for the main meal of the day to be pushed back from being eaten in the middle of the day to much later for those who could afford it. To this day, dinner still means the main formal meal of the day, served at either lunch or supper, depending on where you are in the British Isles.’

So in summary: Great food that actually made us think, unlimited free breead, meeting culinary superstars, and faultless service made for a meal that we will remember for a very very long time.

Winky’s last words:
Dinner is definitely a restaurant I would like to go back, in fact any time! There are so many curious dishes I have yet to try! Like the Roast Scallops (c.1820), Powdered Duck (c. 1670), Wing Rib of Black Angus for 2 (c.1830), Cod in Cider (c.1940) and Taffety Tart (c.1660). The atmosphere was relaxing for a restaurant in a 5 star hotel and it was less formal than Fat Duck. The dining experience was fun and cheerful. (Did I mention I really like the cocktails?)

By the end of the meal, I have forgiven Heston for bringing us the disappointing steak, ale & kombu pie, coriander and rose salt and average Vanilla mayonnaise through Waitrose.

Entrance at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston second and third round!!!
As we said before, Dinner by Heston is a great place to meet up with friends and so we did. We went back twice and we pretty much tried out the whole menu!! It is great to see that 2 new desserts were added just for summer! Here is our latest review:

Starters
Roast Scallops at Dinner by Hestson
Roast Scallops, c.1820 (photo above)
Following the Spanish/German E.Coli problem, one of our fellow diners asked the waiter where the cucumber was sourced to make the cucumber ketchup. Spain was the answer. Actually the cucumber was cooked so it did not matter. The presentation of this dish was specially ‘architectural’. The specially prepared cucumber had an extraordinary texture- firm and moist but not waterly or mashy like you would expect from cooked cucumber. It paired up well with the scallops, which were fresh and well seasoned.

Hay Smoked Macherel at Dinner by Heston
Hay Smoked Macherel, c.1730
It did not have the texture of normal smoked mackerel at all. In fact, it was more like lightly cured one or even mackerel sashimi. Very refreshing.

Roast Marrowbone at Dinner by Heston
Roast Marrowbone, c1720.
It was delicate and full of flavour. A littlel too oily though.

Rice and Flesh at Dinner by Heston
Rice and Flesh, c.1390
This saffron, calf tail and red wine risotto was only average. Gerald, the risotto king, was a little disappointed.

Savoury Porridge at Dinner by Heston
Savoury Porridge, c. 1660
It tasted a little similar to Heston’s famous snail porridge we tried at Fat Duck. The cod was a little salty for my liking but had a nice crust.

All time best starter:
Out of all the starters we have tried, meat fruit is definitely the one and only must have!!

Main courses
Wing Rib of Black Angus at Dinner by Heston
Wing Rib of Black Angus, c.1830 (photo above)
That was devine!!
This was a dish designed for sharing. We had it twice and it was equally remarkable. I never had beef fat before that tasted so good!! I did not even feel guilty eating fat at all as together with the meat, it just tasted perfect- succulent and juicy. It came with mushroom ketchup and red wine juice but I personally like it without any sauce as it was just that delicious!

Triple cooked chips at Dinner by Heston
The triple cooked chips came with the rib and could not be ordered separately as a side dish. It was fantastic- crispy on the inside, light and fluffy inside. Yum!

Spiced Pigeon at Dinner by Heston
Spiced Pigeon, c.1780
The pigeon was meaty and amazingly tender. It was like I was eating duck, not pigeon! Though £33 for 5 small pieces of meat? I do not think it was worth it at all. I would rather pay £3 more share the wing rib with someone!

Cod in Cider at Dinner by Heston
Cod in Cider, c. 1940
Unlike other dishes, this cod was cooked following a relatively ‘modern’ recipe, with chard and frid mussels. To be honest, it was nothing spectacular at all. It was well-cooked but that was it.

All time best main course:
I could not decide between the Black Foot Pork Chop or the Wing Rib. I guess if you have someone to share the dish with you- go for the rib!!

Desserts
Summer tart at Dinner by Heston
Summer Tart, c.1720 (photo above)
It was refreshing!

Brown bread ice-cream at Dinner by Heston
Originally known as Brown Bread Ice-cream, it is now called Malted Barley Ice-cream. Apparently, following a number of complaints, the recipe was revised. I tried BOTH versions. Nope, I still do not like it!! Though I have to be fair and report that most of my other friends who tried it actually loved it!

Baked Lemon Suet Pudding at Dinner by Heston
Baked Lemon Suet Pudding at Dinner by Heston
Baked Lemon Suet Pudding, c.1630 (photos above)
My Jewish friend A was delighted the suet used was made from beef. It was beautifully presented with a hint of summer colour. Though I was not too impressed by the pudding. It was very sweet!!!

Lychee Frozen Ice at Dinner by Heston
Lychee Frozen Ice
This was a dish created specially for summer with no reference to any old recipe. On the day we went, it was very hot so this was my ideal choice. Sadly, I only got to have a spoonful as 5 friends of mine who came with me decided to do a ‘revolving table’ tasting. We had one spoonsful of dessert and moved to the next person’s seat to try others’. They all had a great time tasting new desserts but all I wanted was to enjoy my lychee dessert!! I was impressed that the lychee was fresh, unlike in Chinese restaurants where they usually served you with super sweet tinned ones. It was a sorbet with very fine grains- smooth and refreshing. I actually would like to have all of it by myself. (yes, no sharing!) But I guess that was the price I had to pay for great company!!

All time best dessert:
Lychee Frozen Ice! My friend Michael said it was as good as a lick on the arse. He later clarified that he was referring to the ‘being licked’ sensation. (!!!)

Dinner by Heston was open is open for booking for the next 3 months, every 1st of each month. Its terrace will open on 10th June 2011- no booking, just first come, first served. The Maitre D’ told me that it will have the same menu. If you failed to make a booking before, just show up to try your luck!

A view from the Window (photo below)
View from Dinner by Heston

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
£200 for 2, incl. alcohol and service charge
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
Address: 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
T el:020 7201 3833
* Review specially created by Winky and Gerald

 


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