There are some names in the world of food that immediately excite and Heston Blumenthal is certainly one of those. The Fat Duck has long been the restaurant that I have most wanted to visit, particularly after seeing some of the media coverage demonstrating the meticulous development work and scientific approaches required to produce their stunning food. However, The Fat Duck is certainly not Heston’s only restaurant and I was very excited about the prospect of going for lunch at his restaurant “Dinner by Heston Blumenthal”, set in the sumptuous luxury of the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge, last weekend. The Head Chef at this Michelin starred restaurant is the supremely talented Ashley Palmer-Watt and between them, Palmer-Watt and Blumenthal focus on what they term “historic British gastronomy”; resulting in some very memorable and unique food combinations. The menu is very well set out with a date given for each dish and a note to explain the source of the recipe that was being used as inspiration.
As we arrived we decided to partake in an aperitif, the offered beverage being the Drappier Carte D’Or Champagne, which was a vibrant, Pinot Noir driven Champagne and was a very pleasant tipple while we made our menu choices.
I ordered the restaurant’s signature starter – the Meat Fruit (origin c. 1500). This was a beautiful faux Mandarin (a clever hat-tip to the name of the hotel), which contained chicken liver and foie gras parfait and served with grilled bread. On cutting into the Mandarin a delicious, creamy and rich interior was revealed. It was a fairly sizeable portion as well, which allowed me to share some of it (not too much, mind!) with my wife who had decided against a starter. A gentleman next to me, who ordered after me, took the seemingly unusual step of ordering a glass of Sauternes to have with his; which on reflection looked like an inspired choice with the sweetness and acidity complimenting the creaminess and fattiness of the pate/foie gras combination. This was truly a memorable dish and is a signature of the restaurant for good reason.
For the main courses, I again ordered well. I ordered the Powdered Duck Breast served with smoked confit fennel and umbles (origin c. 1670). The presentation was beautiful, with the elements stacked to give it an impressive height, with the umbles providing a nice colour contrast. The meat was, as you would expect, absolutely perfectly cooked and it came with an intensely reduced sauce that you could pour over the duck to add to the flavour-fest.
To accompany this dish I ordered a glass of 2009 Nuits-St-Georges Vieilles Vignes Burgundy. This was a sublime wine; very young but had absolutely loads of black cherry fruit on the palate and a surprisingly long finish. For such a young wine, I was impressed with the finesse and structure in this wine. It was a perfect pairing for the duck and the rich sauce.
My wife’s main course was Roasted Turbot with Leaf Chicory, sea purslane and cockle ketchup (origin c. 1830). Again the dish was extremely attractively presented, with an impressive piece of turbot in the middle of the plate and an array of herbs and leaves around the edge, all with their own distinctive flavours. The fish was sumptuous and almost fell apart as you put your fork into it. Absolutely lovely.
For pudding, my wife and I took rather differing, but predictable paths. My wife ordered the Bohemian Cake (origin c. 1890), which was a delicious chocolate and citrus cake served with a London summertime honey ice cream placed neatly on a bed of crumbs. As you can see from the picture the pudding oozed class and style was exactly what my wife (who has a very sweet tooth) was after.
I, however, went for a selection of British cheeses served with oat cakes, runner bean chutney and cider apples. The selection was very well made, from creamy sheeps’ cheese through to blue cheeses it was a perfect little spectrum of the best kinds of British cheese, reminding us of our prowess in this field. The runner bean chutney was unconventional, but extremely tasty. To compliment this I, naturally, reached for the port; a Noval 20 year old Tawny Port from Duoro to be precise. This was lovely, it was sweet and heady but with a slightly nutty aftertaste.
Overall, as you will be able to guess, I was certainly not disappointed by my first trip to one of Heston’s restaurants – I cannot recommend it highly enough. Now, all I need to do is start saving up for that trip to the Fat Duck…