Monday, November 18, 2013

Dinner? Yes Please!

We were recently taken to Heston Blumenthal's restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, Dinner. Fancy! It was a hugely absorbitant treat which had long been brewing. The babysitter was booked, the outfits pressed, and off we went with my in-laws, on a Friday jolly. We had all perused the menu online, pondered our orderings, done a little research and generally psyched ourselves up. Restaurants in hotels can be a bit odd in my opinion, a bit airless and lacking in character (but always done up to the nines by an interior designer). However, on arrival we were pleasantly surprised. Reflecting the concept, dimming the wall-lights were massive milky shades based on old jelly moulds - very Mrs Beeton. Simple and effective.

The pure pleasure of being really well treated it noteable here. The waiters are perfectly attentive and explain everything, including the rotisserie roasting pineapples groaning and turning on heavy-duty iron machinery. It looks more like something you might loose a limb to in the industrial revolution. The very visible kitchen is like as beehive, full of activity and calm and order. Very very ordered.


To start, I had a simply served roast marrow with snails and anchovies. The accompanying pickles were so lightly preserved they still had a fantastic fresh crunch and life, and the cauliflower was cured with a little turmeric, a perfect twist to the tale. Served on an alabaster piece of bone it was simple and effective. The other main event in the starters was of course the meat fruit for which Dinner is famous: a pate encased in a mandarin gelatin case. It was so believable you could easily have slung the single fruit into the christmas centre-piece! And once bust open, the most delicate and slightly boozy parfait emerges. This dish is full of theatre but backed up with flavour.

Main courses were just the right size. I was fearful of a big lunch, as it often renders one entirely useless for the afternoon ahead (and sometimes even the next day). But these plates were just right. We had the Cod in cider with mussels and chard. The latter was firm and al-dente, if a leaf can be that. Seasoning was really perfect. A dollop of over-buttered silky mash was the perfect side order here. There was also Hereford ribeye, just the way you want it (which came with a deep spiced mushroom ketchup); chicken cooked with lettuce which was a plain and well constructed affair (a breast served in a tube, perhaps cooked in a sous-vide?) garnished with leaves; and hallibut which came with a few different seaweeds, always a favourite with me. Each dish was effective. The purpose of Dinner is to recreate old recipes. As we none of us know much about medieval foods it is hard to say whether Heston succeeds. However, he certainly makes beautiful, gentle and thoughtful food.

The puddings were all exciting. Biased, I definitely thought mine was the best: Taffety tart which was a perfect little sandwich of bursting flavours. The fennel and liquid aniseed nestled naturally amoung the frosted rose petals, brittle pastries and soft ice cream. The actual apple element with a set layer more like a membrillo which was spiced and rich. Coffees were strong (just what you need after this sensory marathon) and came with near-liquid ganache pots, such was the ratio of cream and chocolate.

Once I have recovered my waistline (and the in-laws bank balance) I would love a return to Dinner. It was everything we wanted it to be: the perfect balance of theatre, excellence and luxury.

2 comments:

  1. Very artistic stuff, a far way away from Hog Roasts, but that doesn't mean I can 't appreciate the more refined dishes as above.

    I see you're based in Brixton...we are hog roast caterers in London. We'd be all too glad to cater an outdoor party for you someday should you plan one, Rosie. Thanks for the post.

    Kind regards,

    David.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Very artistic stuff, a far way away from Hog Roasts, but that doesn't mean I can 't appreciate the more refined dishes as above.

    I see you're based in Brixton...we are hog roast caterers in London.. We'd be all too glad to cater an outdoor party for you someday should you plan one, Rosie. Thanks for the post.

    Kind regards,

    David.

    ReplyDelete