Since its long awaited opening in January 2011, Heston Blumenthal's restaurant Dinner has earned a huge media attention. Perhaps it deserves the honor of being named as the world's best restaurant. It's my personal estimation, however, and we still have to wait for the list of the World's 50 Best Restaurants 2012.
Before going any further, I would like to tell or perhaps to remind that Heston Blumenthal is linked with the restaurant The Fat Duck, which is among the current leaders of the World's 50 Best Restaurants, British culinary TV shows and Heston Blumenthal's Waitrose Hidden Orange Christmas Pudding - so heavenly delicious that it has been sold even on eBay for equally astronomic price. Well, what can you say? Heston Blumenthal is a culinary genius!
The concept of Heston Blumenthal's Dinner is derived from his own culinary TV show "Medieval Feast"*. The restaurant features modern interpretations of traditional and historic English recipes, which are cooked using the most advanced food preparation techniques.
The restaurant is housed in an impressive building of Mandarin Oriental Hotel and boasts one of the best views onto Hyde Park. Glancing through its large windows on passing by horse carriages in the park gives a strange sensation of being thrown many centuries back into the history. Black and kingly medieval styled chandeliers adorn its high ceiling and the restaurant's menu indicates the origin and the year of creation of each its recipe.
A huge glass-cased clock-work doesn't solely count minutes and hours but controls pineapples roasting on spits upon open fire as well. The same approach is used for roasting meat, which sometimes can take up to 72 hours.
A glass wall shields not only the Swiss-made wonder mechanism but also the ultra modern open plan kitchen, set in the very centre of the restaurant - a merging point of the 21st century England and that of the 16th -18th century.
A table at Dinner should certainly be booked well in advance and even then it may prove to be nerve-tingling - are we going to get it or not?
We did get it though, and therefore I can now invite you to 2 and a half hours exploration of the traditional English cuisine.
The meal started with a sip of Kir Royal served in a gilded glass with a blackberry floating inside and, as if by magic, rising and sinking up and down. A wine list is like a solid book there, yet as to choice of wine for every dish, it's still better to rely upon personnel's suggestions.
Even bread and butter tastes like magic and you would like to savor some more of it, yet there comes the first course - "Meat Fruit", the recipe of which dates back to the year 1500. What is it? In the Middle Ages, fresh fruit and vegetables were believed to spread diseases and therefore meat was used to imitate fruit. In this case, it's a liver parfait enclosed in tangerine jelly, while its color and shape resembles a genuine tangerine. Everything on your plate is edible, except a real tangerine steam and leaf. Meat Fruit is served on a wooden board along with toasts and has a rich yet tender taste. You wouldn't be able to find any fault about this culinary marvel and it's exactly what Heston has intended to achieve, experimenting for months to attain perfection.
Than follows Broth of Lamb (recipe of 1730), which contains a slow cooked egg. It seems like a normal hard-boiled egg, yet it dissolves upon touch. The broth boasts a phenomenal bouquet of flavors where you can distinguish the tiniest nuances, up to the taste of bone-glue. It contains also celery, radish, turnip and sweetbread fritters. Surely, it takes the very best ingredients to cook something like this!
Salamugundy (1720) is a dish of chicken oysters. Oysters are two small, oval pieces of meat on the back of poultry near the thigh. They are served with bone marrow and horseradish cream salad.
Main course starts with Spiced Pigeon (1780). It's a slow cooked pigeon, divided and served with traditional ale and artichokes. It offers a unique taste combination and the meat is so tender that it literally melts in your mouth.
Black Foot Pork Chop from 1860 is a pork chop with a bone. Black Foot is very rare pig bread that almost became extinct and is currently being renewed in England. Roasted in a wood oven medium rare (which is quite unusual), it is served with gravy and pointy cabbage - a very uncommon cabbage variety.
As a side dish, you can choose triple-cocked chips. They are made of carefully selected potatoes, slowly cooked, vacuumed and finally turned into fries. Each slice is crunchy, mealy and has a perfect color, and, like in a flaky paste, reveals a layered texture of a potato.
For the dessert, we selected Tipsy Cake pudding - crunchy on outside and melting like caramel inside, it goes with the above mentioned "clock-roasted" pineapple. Did they grow pineapples in England, you may wonder, but then you should remember that pineapples were brought to British Isles by seafarers and grown at manor house in botanical garden type hothouses.
I have a whim for asking lots of questions and this was not an exception, yet I have to admit that they knew all the answers! Heston Blumenthal has created a perfect place for savoring and exploring the secrets of cuisine.
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge,
020 7201 3833
*By the way, the lamprey cooking episode was filmed in Latvia. Caught by Heston himself, they were cooked according to a medieval recipe at the restaurant Vincents in Riga.
Keywords: restaurant, London