Archive | August, 2011

Review: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

9 Aug

‘I want to sit in the lounge.’ This was the first requirement of one of my Dinner acquaintances and the reason for our group arriving, or at least planning to arrive, half an hour early. Unfortunately the Mandarin’s lounge is not all that, and drinks weren’t forthcoming, so having scored early minus points, we decided to draw a line under the pre-lunch experience and moved on (drink-free) to the object of our Knightsbridge trip. Namely, Dinner. Well, lunch anyway.

The restaurant is simple: dark brown and cream, with an impressive kitchen, fully visible and encased in glass through which you can see rows of pineapples being slowly roasted on the rotisserie and a surprisingly calm front line of chefs. The menu held no surprises, as we had all done our internet research, and of course at least two of us were bound to have the restaurant’s first signature dish, the meat fruit. As a signature dish, the meat fruit more than fulfilled its premise. The appearance of a tangerine, the taste of the smoothest parfait of chicken liver and foie gras that you could ever hope to come across and the skin of a mandarin, so fine that you almost couldn’t separate its texture in your mouth, but which added a minute and perfectly weighed fruity tang. I, with my roast marrowbone – which was incidentally, more than satisfactort, with well balanced flavours and just enough anchovy to give it a gentle kick – suffered severe food envy.

Meat fruit


Eating starters, and on our second bottle of wine, all five of us were more than content, but the service score was still suffering. We had been sat without a drinks list and not approached with one before asking. In a restaurant where the average spend per person is around £100, I don’t think it is too much to ask for the waiting staff to be diligent enough to think of drinks before we do.

We drank Billecart Salmon Brut (New Zealand), Albarino (Rias Baixas) and Sancerre first of all and were brought a Cape Mentelle Cabernet Sauvignon just in time for our red necessitating mains, which encompassed powdered duck, spiced pigeon, and two great hunks of meat – a rib-eye for one and a wing for two. The duck was probably the best of the dishes, ‘powdered’ meaning that the leg was a coated with spices including fennel and star anise, and providing a burst of pungency that begged for savouring. The pigeon was impossibly soft and smelt amazing in ale and spices, whilst the great quantities of steak with chips (not triple-cooked. The potatoes aren’t ready until September) were nicely fat-laden and rich in the taste of pure, bloody, carnivorous meat, although the rib-eye was slightly over-cooked. The sides deserve a mention, not least because the chef among us declared the pommes puree to be the best thing he’d eaten at the table. Exquisitely seasoned and emitting surprisingly strong flavours, the carrots were so good that you almost didn’t want to share them with the mainstays, instead enjoying the multiplicity of flavours within each meat-free mouthful.

Tipsy cake


Feeling spoilt for choice and sure that any preference would cause consequent regrets and inedible green-eyed monsters, we made the wise decision to get five desserts to share as pudding tapas. Feasting on chocolate bar, brown bread ice cream, tipsy cake, lemon suet pudding and taffety tart, the verdict was more or less unanimous that the ice cream and chocolate bar were the standouts in a competitive crowd. I couldn’t find the time or words to accurately and tangibly describe how truly great the brown bread ice cream was. Served atop crunchy salted butter caramel, it had savoury tinges of brown bread and salt that assimilated perfectly into the sweetness of the ice cream and the sugar, with a clashing and fusion that demonstrated complete understanding by one of the other.

Unfortunately, the same could certainly not be said of the £15 liqueur coffees that two of us ordered post-dessert. Triple layered in naff glasses, the booze stayed firmly at the bottom, the coffee somewhere in the middle and the cream managed to marble its way through the whole beverage infecting it with a tepid and lukewarm flavour.

Leaving suitably drunk and full of good food and wine, we argued over whether or not Dinner would or should be awarded a Michelin star. I would say not yet, but a cranking up of the service and a few serious floater coffee training sessions later, and it ought to be rearing to go.