Thursday, 11 August 2011

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Mandarin Oriental Hotel, London, July 2011

Having already been to The Fat Duck, we had high hopes for Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant, Dinner. Situated in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, the exterior was much more extravagant and boastful than that of the Fat Duck, as was the interior which was situated right next to the main bar area of the hotel. The aim of this restaurant is to take historic English recipes and use modern technology and techniques to bring them back to life. This visit was a treat for my dad from his colleagues SJ and ACR, who organised everything. Several of my dad’s other colleagues were invited and we were all seated in a private dining room, with a view of the main dining area.  

The menu was very simple. The first two courses were set starters whilst there were two options for the main course and dessert. Before eating, the waiter served and explained the wine chosen to compliment each course.  Another waiter would explain how the dish linked to English history.

The first course was roast scallops with cucumber ketchup and borage. The scallops had a subtle flavour, which the ketchup did not overpower. The ketchup itself was intriguing, with a rich green appearance and hints of cucumber surfacing from within the slightly dominant acidic flavour. Despite the beautiful flavours, the dish itself was not at all brilliantly presented, as everything seemed rather slapdash.

The next course was ‘Meat Fruit’. This was a piece of chicken liver parfait, perfectly shaped to resemble a mandarin and then coated in a mandarin gel and served with grilled bread. The presentation, unlike the last dish, was amazing. The parfait looked almost exactly like a mandarin. As for the flavours, the parfait was intensely rich and had fresh bursts of citric flavour emerging from the gel at every bite. The parfait was smooth but not slimy and the gel did not feel too gelatinous or too watery. 

The choices of main course were spiced pigeon with ale and artichokes or roast sea bass with cockle ketchup and leaf chicory. The table was rather divided, but my entire family went for the pigeon. The waiter explained that the pigeon had not only been fed on a special diet to make it less gamey, it had also not flown and had been cooked for a very long time, giving it unparalleled tenderness. The pigeon was indeed unbelievably tender, requiring little force to cut through let alone bite into. The flavours that came through of ale and spices were intense but would have complimented the meat much better if it had retained the gamey flavour. I do prefer my pigeon gamey, but this is not to say that this dish was unspectacular.

The choice of dessert was either the chocolate bar with passion fruit jam and ginger ice cream or the tipsy cake with spit roast pineapple. My mum chose the chocolate bar since it was not alcoholic. The chocolate had a perfect bittersweet balance and the biscuit base complimented the sticky jam and smooth ice cream which both had complimentary flavours. However the tipsy cake was worshipped by those who tried it, including SJ and another of my dad’s colleagues ACR. A ramekin was served on a plate with several slices of slightly darkened pineapple. Whilst the pineapple gave the dish an additional acidic flavour, nothing could compare to the brioche cake, which was revered by those who ate it. The syrup at the bottom was soaked up by the brioche, complimenting the spongy texture and the delightful crunch of the sugar coating on top. The brioche itself had little flavour, but the syrup had a strong treacle flavour and the sugar made it even sweeter. This was an ambrosial dessert. 

We finished the meal with a selection of British cheeses, which was finished only by those who still had the stomach. To end the experience we were given a tiny cup of tea mousse, which was far too sweet. All the same, everyone left satisfied.

Food Quality 9/10
Presentation 8/10
Ambience 9/10
Service 9/10
Value For Money 8/10

Overall 43/50

Although not quite the theatre of the Fat Duck and with one dish not presented as attractively as it should, this was still a very good experience, with inventive dishes and buzzing atmosphere, even outside of the private room. 

Author - CT (13)

Photos - DT (40) & LT (15)

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

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