Dinner by Heston Blumenthal opened in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, opposite Harrods, two years ago. Despite its relatively short life it was recently added to the prestigious list of restaurants with two Michelin stars and, at number 7, was the highest new entry in the Pellegrino World’s Best Restaurants list. Despite this, it is still surprisingly accessible - particularly if you go for a mid-week lunch sitting.
Executive Head Chef Ashley-Palmer Watts runs the show, as well as continuing to oversee recipe development at the legendary Fat Duck. For years, he has been a leading advocate of using our gastronomic past to develop cutting-edge British cuisine, rather than losing this important body of knowledge forever. Dinner is the result of that work.
The restaurant itself is bright and airy, with floor to ceiling windows overlooking Hyde Park. You also get to see the chefs working their magic with just a glazed wall separating the diners from their hosts. One of the more intriguing aspects of the uber-smart kitchen is the mechanical spit with its unique pulley system, inspired by one that originally appeared in the Royal Courts.
In terms of the food, you don’t get the same theatre associated with dishes from its 3-starred sister, but you will find superbly cooked cuisine inspired by the very best historical recipes. The menu comes with a reference list of the books that led to each creation, such as the strawberry tart inspired by the fantastically named “Book of Cookrye Very Necessary for all such as Delight therin” from 1591. We had the fixed price lunch menu (£38 for three courses): vibrant dressed snails with the intriguingly named “salty fingers”, unctuous 36 hr pork belly with smoked cabbage and a millionaire tart with crystallised chocolate. If you want to go a la carte you will also find many of the classics from other Blumenthal establishments such as meat fruit and nitrogen poached ice cream made at the table.
The food was superb, as you’d expect, the setting is beautiful and the service was surprisingly informal – we were served by an unfortunately upbeat Australian, who still believed they were going to win the Ashes – all hallmarks of a great restaurant.
Dinner is definitely a place to try if you want to sample some of the best cooking around, you love classic British cuisine and you are struggling to find “powdered duck breast” at your favourite gastropub…