Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Going to Dinner for Lunch

We never had a chance to eat at a Heston Blumenthal restaurant before so this time in London, we made a reservation for lunch at Dinner by Heston, located at the Mandarin Oriental London just across the street from Harvey Nichols at Knightsbridge.

When the restaurant was first open a few years ago, it was quite an event, with everyone trying to score a table at this classy venue in London's prime district, the first branch by the talented Chef Heston outside of his Berkshire, Michelin-starred flagship restaurant Fat Duck. Nowadays it seems like the frenzy has subsided - we were able to get our lunch reservation a couple weeks in advance on the website, instead of the 6-month waitlist that was commonplace back then.

The modern decor of the dining room was a bit of contrast from the rest of the hotel. Right behind the entrance with the wall of wines stored in the temperature-controlled rooms was the open kitchen on the side and a chef's table overseeing all the kitchen actions, and at the far end is the window overlooking the beautiful Hyde Park. The room was spacious and comfortable, and I love the natural sunlight providing more than adequate lighting for the entire room. We were among the first group of customers to arrive, but soon, the room was filled with the office crowd and out-of-towners, something you would expect given its location.

Most people who visited the restaurant commented the best table belongs to those next to the window with the view of the park, but I beg to differ - the best tables are the one where you could have an unobstructed view of the kitchen, which is where we were seated. Unlike the avant-garde cuisine that Chef Heston serves at The Fat Duck, Dinner celebrated the history and tradition of the long-overlooked British Cuisine - yes, there really is such a thing. Every item on the menu drew on a traditional recipe with details of the origin of every dish and when it first appeared. That included the 3-course set lunch menu, the one we have ordered. Two choices were given for each of the course, and in addition, we ordered a supplementary dish of "Meat Fruit" to share - I figure it's wrong to leave the place without trying their signature and most talked-about dish.

Soon our first course of Meat Fruit arrived, served with a piece of sourdough toast. I have seen it numerous times in pictures but it's still fun to look at as it's presented at our table. It truly looked like a mandarin, but instead it was chicken liver coated with a thin layer of mandarin jelly. Beyond the fancy look, the dish was actually very delicious with punchy foie flavor inside complemented by the sweet taste from the jelly. 

Then we got on with the rest of our set lunch menu. The hay smoked salmon has great firm texture and a mild-smokiness which worked well with the dots of sweet beetroot puree on the plate. The portion was a bit small but overall it's good. My main course of pork belly was just what I expected would look like - the piece of pork belly was served with "pease pudding", prepared with green peas, peas puree and pea shoot. The pork belly has awesome texture and well flavored - having brined for 24 hours then cooked sous vide for 30 hours (at 56C, I was told).

My dessert was the Bohemian Cake, a simple chocolate mousse cake topped with honey tuiles and a mild yuzu icecream. It's simple but tasty. The sommelier recommended this bottle of Gruner for our meal which I thought was decent, with floral aroma, some minerality and then pear and apple on the palate. Service was great, just like other Mandarin Oriental properties we have experienced.

I thought the meal was pretty decent but nothing really stood out, right in the middle of the pack. I was slightly disappointed by the lack of creativity in the dishes - this has more to do with my original expectation, I suppose - but I thought it was somewhat compensated by the precise execution. While it didn't wow us as much as we would like, it's still a few hours well-spent.

Full picture album at https://www.flickr.com/photos/g4gary/sets/72157655296439579

When? June 26 2015
Where? Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London
Menu Highlights? Meat Fruit - Mandarin, Chicken Liver Parfait and Grilled Bread
Drinks? Schloss Gobelsburg "Gobelsburger" Grüner Veltliner 2010
Web: www.dinnerbyheston.com

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