If you are into food, I bet you’ve heard of Heston Blumenthal, one of the most renowned British celeb chefs. Blumenthal owns The Fat Duck, which is among the five 3 Michelin stars restaurants in UK. Couple years after he opened The Fat Duck, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal was created. Dinner, today a 2 Michelin stars restaurant, pays tribute to traditional British cuisine. Blumenthal allegedly spent 12 years researching old recipes and re-inventing those dishes with his team, such persistence indeed amazes me.
It seems like, when pick restaurants in a city one has never been to, we always refer to the Michelin guide in order to give ourselves a good enough reason to try. But to be honest, I care less and less about what Michelin judges say. Many times I just ended up disappointed after dining at Michelin starred restaurants. My impression is that the guide can be really inconsistent from country to country, city to city. For example, Fu He Hui (福和慧), a Michelin starred high end vegetarian restaurant in Shanghai (also on Asia’s 50 Best Restaurants list), alleges that it serves unique, authentic vegetarian Shanghainess cuisine. However, one can easily relate the dishes to existing Chinese traditional meat based dishes, which makes the overall dining experience less interesting and creates an impression that the restaurant is overrated. Sometimes I would ask myself: “ Do these judegs actually understand Chinese food?”
What I am trying to say is, in a world where everyone can be a “food blogger”, where restaurants focus more and more on the presentation instead of the taste itself, we have to be really really critical ourselves (especially be careful with those “Instagrammable” restaurants). At the end of the day, no one understands your taste better than yourself. I only wish that my honest review will help you spend money more wisely.
So, what are my reasons for dining at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal?
- Booking a table is quite easy as a world renowned restaurant
- Hardly any negative review (Western or Chinese)
- Bluementhal’s modern interpretation of historic British dishes makes me curious
- À la carte available, easier to control how much to eat and to spend
Is the food really that good?
The name Dinner sounds very random. In fact, like the dishes served here, the name can also relates to British history:
In the past, the main meal -dinner-was eaten at midday, before it got too dark. But affordable candles and, later, gaslight saw dinner shift. By the mid-1800s people were dining later. People working in the cities were taking a ‘lunch’ to work and having their main meal at 5.00 pm when they got home, while in rural areas the main meal was still taken at midday.— Heston Blumenthal
Even today, depending where you are in the British Isles, ‘dinner’ might be served at lunchtime, suppertime or, indeed, dinnertime!
Maybe Blumenthal wants to deliver the message that people can come and enjoy Dinner (the restaurant) anytime (indeed very easy to get a table here).
Compared to many fine dining restaurants, Dinner by Heston Blumenthal does not have a “pretentious” ambiance at all. Its spacious, bright dining room inside Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park London makes people feel quite relaxed and at ease.
On the table
The origin of this dish dates back to the 1500s, from the Royal Court of King Henry VIII. Meat Fruit is probably the most iconic dish at Dinner. It consists of chicken liver and foie gras parfait enclosed in a jelly shell. Normally the meat fruit is presented in the form of a mandarin, but during Christmas, executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts would replace the mandarin jelly with gel shell infused with red wine, cinnamon, cloves, long pepper and star anise, to create its plum shape. It comes with grilled sourdough bread brushed with herb oil made from olive oil, rosemary, thyme, and garlic.
The chicken liver and foie gras parfait is silky smooth, and creates an interesting contrasting texture with the jelly shell. However, I find the liver parfait a little too rich combining with the abundantly spiced plum shell. I would assume the mandarin version be less cloying, considering its acidity and refreshing fruity taste.
Squab pigeon is cooked to perfection, but unfortunately it still has a slight gamy taste. The sauce made of ale and/or malt has a balanced taste of sweetness and bitterness, which helps counteract the gaminess of squab.
This cod is just blend, I wouldn’t bother describing it… Sorry, totally do not recommend this main.
My parents and I all agree this is the best main dish among the three we ordered, and it’s probably the most delicious pork chop I’ve had. The Iberico pork chop is roasted to pink (perfection), retaining the tenderness and moisture inside. It’s served with Sauce Robert, smoked hispi cabbage and pickled onion, all flavors are perfectly balanced. It tastes much better than it looks!
Last but not least, the dessert. I have to admit this tipsy cake is truly MIND BLOWING, although it does not look fancy at all. This is the type of dessert that will make me say “it’s fxcking good” internally (which happens very rarely).
The golden, soft brioche sits in a mini cast-iron pot. Cooking cream made with Sauternes, brandy, vanilla beans, whipping cream and sugar is applied to the brioche multiple times during the baking process, instead of proving process. This is why you will not find the brioche overloaded with alcohol (tipsy, not drunk, lol).
The tipsy cake comes with pineapple pieces roasted with pineapple caramel, but I think the hot, fluffy brioche already tastes divine by itself.
Back to the question posed in the beginning of the article: is the food really that good? In my opinion, the only mind blowing dish is the tipsy cake. The pork chop is delicious, but I wouldn’t say it’s heavenly good. The rest dishes are either mediocre or not worth mentioning (the cod).
But is Dinner by Heston Blumenthal London worth trying? My answer would be yes. First of all, I believe the dessert alone will make the visit worthy. I also appreciate Blumenthal and his team’s effort in preserving and innovating historic British gastronomy, you can consider dining at Dinner a cultural trip.
Hope this helps.
Read Chinese version here