My wife Nikki and I spent a long weekend in London in January 2013 and we decided to splurge on a dining experience. After seeing many TV shows with Heston Blumenthal we decided on lunch at “Dinner by Heston Blumental”. I made the reservation online and I also got a call from the restaurant a few days before to reconfirm. We took the tube to Knightsbridge station and about 5 min later we arrived at the Mandarin Hotel at noon. After a short wait at the bar, we were assigned a table close to the window, with an idyllic view of a snow covered Hyde Park. We can’t quite recall if our waiter introduced himself but we did get a menu at once and were offered an aperitif. The menu was quite extensive and we decided to throw caution to the wind and ordered “a la carte” and not the set lunch menu that seemed to be a bit on the boring side.
There was lots of good stuff to choose from on the menu but I ended up ordering one of the signature dishes “Meat fruit” as a starter and my wife, Nikki, decided to have Salamugundy. For the main dish I decided to have Battalia Pye and Nikki went for Roast Black Foot Collar of Pork. Although we hadn’t thought about dessert yet, we were informed that the signature dessert “tipsy cake” took a while to prepare so best to order in advance. Which we did. While we were waiting for the starter to arrive we got some fresh bread and butter which hit the mark as we were getting hungry.
It didn’t take that long before the starter was served and the meat fruit was a little piece of food art. I have to admit that I knew what was coming – when I did a search online (and on Instagram) there were lots of photos out there. It was served on a wooden platter and it looked like a small tangerine with a slice of toast on the side. The tangerine was just an “illusion” – once I cut into it the core was revealed and I could go ahead and taste the chicken liver and foie gras parfait. I like my foie gras and chicken liver so I enjoyed the taste of this smooth paste combined with the large rustic piece of bread. The bread seemed to have been fried just on the pan and it was just right as it shouldn’t be too crispy.
Nikki’s Salamugundy looked like a bit of a mess on the plate but was prepared using chicken oysters, marrow bone and horseradish cream. I have to admit that I was not aware that chicken oysters could be the most tender part on the bird but apparently this is the case. Nikki especially enjoyed the horseradish cream vinaigrette. She commented that although first look may give the impression of a run of the mill green salad, the contents and combination stood out with every mouthful. Crunchy fresh leaves and marrow that made you wish you were in the comfort of your own home to properly tackle it.
Before the main dish we got the wine that we had ordered by the glass so it seemed like the waiters had full control even if there were several people involved. The wine was a Chianti Classico if I’m not mistaken and was well paired with both our meals – rounded and fullbodied but not too heavy. My Battalia pye was served as a sort of pie and it contained pigeon, devilled kidneys and lamb tongue. Once it was served the waiter poured a lovely rich lamb sauce on top of it and left the rest on the table. Once I tasted it I poured the rest over the pie as it tasted amazing! It must have been boiled for hours with a good stock. The pie was delicious and again it was a beautiful looking dish with the pie dough being wrapped around the contents in a perfect circle. The tiny bones of the pigeon were sticking up from the dish and were juicy and the other pieces of meat were also tasty. It might sound a bit weird but one of the best tastes was from the small caramelized onions.
Nikki had the Roast Black Foot Collar of Pork and she also found the portion to be a bit large. But she also enjoyed the layers of pork meat – which made it easy to differentiate and was almost like slicing through a layered cake. She also got the best ever caramelized onions and turnip.
The portions of main dish were a bit on the large side but even if we were full, there was still room for dessert. To round off the meal, we waited in anticipation for our tipsy cake – one of the signature desserts. We had to order it when we ordered the rest of the meal as it is made fresh and takes a while to prepare. The cake was served in a small pot with a slice of fried pineapple on the side. The tipsy cake was a pudding (a British staple) and served warm, sweet and oozing of a sort of custard. It almost resembled buns but once we sank our spoons into it, the texture and taste said otherwise. I was not crazy about the pineapple but the pudding was great. The tipsy cake is sharing size but I do believe Nikki would have gladly devoured the lot on her own if I had taken my eyes off it for too long. Although we were both stuffed already we managed to leave little trace of anything ever having occupied the desert pot.
With our bellies near bursting and matching grins, we also got some sort of tea infused chocolate mousse and it was weird to taste the combination of dark chocolate with the hints of tea. And together with some strong espresso it was the perfect end to the meal. On the way out we got to look into the open kitchen were the large staff of chefs were preparing all sorts of delicious dishes. We stumbled out of the Mandarin hotel full, slightly tipsy (only from the the cake of course) and very content. This was a lovely dining experience and I hope to return one day to taste more of the great dishes that Heston has on the menu. Check out the restaurant homepage on http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/ and remember to book in advance if you want to check it out.
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