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.