Dinner is served

As reviewed on CNTraveller.com
 
To open one of the most talked about restaurants of the year in Bar Boulud is a tasty hotel trump card; to now fanfare in a second is just plain greedy. But the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London certainly has an appetite for good food. When it announced that Heston Blumenthal was opening his first restaurant outside Bray, where he runs the triple-Michelin-starred Fat Duck, you’d have thought from the reaction of foodie circles that the Mandarin had announced the second coming of Christ. And come the first of December, when the reservation lines opened, devotees and hype-buoyed diners called in droves. It’s now booked up until May, by which time the god of gastronomy will be safely back in Bray leaving Dinner in the hands of head chef and his trusted Fat Duck former-deputy,  Ashley Palmer-Watts.
 
When we arrived for lunch at Dinner on Sunday, Heston, it appeared, had taken his divine-decreed day of rest, as Palmer-Watts and his team buzzed around the central show kitchen creating the real star of this show: the food. From his futuristic creations of molecular gastronomy, Heston and Palmer Watts have set the time machine in reverse for this outing. Inspired by research into historic British gastronomy the food takes a tour of the ages with a flip side menu matching each item to its historic source and date.

 

For its historic menu, interiors at Dinner are much more contemporary, with huge windows looking into the stainless steel kitchen and out over the park, leather banked seating and dark wood offset by ivory walls hung with lamp-shades shaped like porcelain jelly moulds. But if you are seated like we were looking in on the kitchen, you’ll be too dazzled by the frenetic preparation to really notice your surroundings.

If you’ve read one thing about Dinner since its opening, it probably mentioned the ‘signature’ Meatfruit (c.1300). Encased – appropriately enough given its location – in mandarin orange jelly to look like the fruit, inside melts seductively creamy chicken liver parfait. The hint of citrus cuts the creaminess to make the concept almost necessary rather than novelty.

Alongside we opt for the Salamagundy (c. 1720), a mouthful of chicken oyster, bone marrow and horseradish cream salad. Chicken oysters are the chef’s secret-pick of the bird – apparently the most flavoursome discs of meat hidden near the thigh, although the salad part of the dish was gobbled up by the horseradish cream – healthy eating wasn’t really on the historic menu.

For the main event, Powdered Duck (c.1670, served with fennel and potato puree) was fortunately referring to the state of the spices it was coated in rather than the duck. A sweet and almost ‘taste of Christmas’ duck glazed in honey, cinnamon, nutmeg and perhaps a hint of all spice could have been cloying if it hadn’t been cut through by the sharpness of the fennel. The potato puree wasn’t helping much being more butter than potato…

Beef Royal (c.1720) was the hit of this round. Seventy-two hour cooked short rib of Angus, with smoked anchovy and onion puree and Ox tongue was a melting medley of rich flavours which left you hungry for more, even if you did have to wait another 72 hours.

Another one that was a long time in the making was the Tispy Cake (c.1850), which takes 30 minutes to prepare so we ordered with our starters. Pineapple spit roasted in a specially installed oven served with a cast-iron pot filled with gooey brioche bun. You’d think that the combination would be overwhelmingly sickly, but it was well worth the effort of its creator and is devilishly divine.

Taffty Tart (c.1660) is described as ‘rose, fennel, lemon and blackcurrant sorbet’. What appeared is one of the most precisely stacked puds I’d ever seen. Super-fine layers of sweet pastry sandwiched rose jelly, fromage blanche and topped with a crumble mixture including fennel seeds for that Heston-twist. The side of intense blackcurrant sorbet was given an extra hit from its vodka-infusion. A head-rush on a plate, and for gastro-geeks: a dish that had actually seen the inside of the Fat Duck. You can see why he’s proud of it.

For most of my fellow diners who have been waiting months to realise their reservation, he is preaching to the converted. Most had already decided they were going to love the food before they have even sat down. But for those doubters: believe the hype, Dinner is every foodie’s heaven.

About these ads

Leave a comment

Filed under beef, Choux Boy, dessert, duck, Heston, Heston Blumenthal, Restaurant Review, restaurants

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s