Monday, April 23, 2012
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Every once in a while a restaurant comes along that actually lives up to the hype. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is such a restaurant. Located in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in London, Dinner had food bloggers and critics scrambling to get a reservation for months when the restaurant was first opened last year. I've never been into crowds, or following trends, so I've waited until April to get a reservation and review this, normal, everyday Heston restaurant.
Dinner's approach is a very unique and interesting one; all the dishes have been sourced from the annals of history. For instance, looking at the menu you will see the name of the dish and to the right of that you'll notice a year, i.e. Savoury Porridge (c. 1660). The idea is that this restaurant is a celebration of various dishes from various years throughout history. And it's done brilliantly.
After entering the Mandarin Oriental and scooting passed Daniel Boulud's Bar Boulud, reviewed last year, we were kindly guided by one of the hotel's servant boys, (not sure what he actually did) to Dinner and were seated in the bar as we were, as usual, early. And I'm supremely happy we were early. Because this gave us a chance to have a couple of cocktails. But not just any cocktails, two of the best cocktails this foodie has ever had: a Thai Martini with Galangal and Lemongrass and a French cocktail made with Champagne, Chambord and other girlie things that I didn't write down. But it was hugely enjoyable. My wife and I both took note of how polite the staff were and how extremely conscious of making every detail perfect they were. It bordered on OCD, if there is such a thing, but was marvelous to observe.
When seated by wife and I were acting like little school kids. We haven't been to a Heston restaurant since The Hinds Head way back in 2010 and we were looking forward to getting stuck-in to some amazing food that only Heston is capable of creating. If you doubt that, visit one of his restaurants, read some of his books and you might understand what I mean. Heston is to food what Leonardo was to, well everything else. He takes things to the limits, obsessively tests every aspect of food to scientifically, and ruthlessly understand how to make it the best it can be.
This was observable in our first dishes: a Roast Marrowbone (c. 1720) with Snails, Parsley, Anchovy & Mace with Pickled Vegetables and Salamugundy (c. 1720) Chicken Oysters, Salsify, Marrow Bone & Horseradish Cream. Both dishes exposed what all of these ingredients can do when put together in perfect harmony. Where else can you get a large piece of Bone Marrow with Snails? Damn, it was satisfying!
A few sips of our young claret later and we were biting into: Hereford Ribeye (c. 1830) with Mushroom Ketchup & Triple Cooked Chips and Fillet of Aberdeen Angus (c. 1830) with Mushroom Ketchup & Triple Cooked Chips. On the side we had Buttered Carrots with Caraway.
I have been known to use hyperbole and been accused of exaggerating my posts sometimes. It's true, I do. It makes for an interesting read. But, dear readers, I can assure you that those steaks, although not as good as some, were truly Earth shattering. And to top them with Bone Marrow is extremely creative and decadent.
After sharing my images of Dinner on Facebook a friend of mine commented on a photo of the Carrots, "What, no Bone Marrow in this?" And it was then that I realized how extraordinary Dinner by Heston really is. He's taken simple ingredients and Hestonized them into grand, uber-luxurious dishes that nobody but Heston would take the time, or spend the money to do. Dinner is not an expensive restaurant. Well, not when compared to other restaurants in London. It's just a fantastic, approachable restaurant that anyone can go to and get a taste of why Heston is one of the best chefs of his generation.