Tuesday, 6 November 2012

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal


At Lavan Style, our passion for food runs deep. We grew up in Hong Kong, a city of serious foodies with insatiable appetites to try new and exciting flavours and dishes. Even the name, Hong Kong, meaning Fragrant Harbour in Chinese, is testament to the food culture prevalent in the city that never sleeps. Meals were occasions and events in themselves; opportunities to spend time with loved ones while sharing food and stories with each other. While I admit that I prioritise the quality of the company over that of the food and surroundings, it is exciting dishes served in atmospheric surroundings that take “a meal” up a notch to “an experience”. Sure, some people say Food is just nourishment and a source of fuel; but when you add a dash of knowledge (culinary skill) and a pinch of creativity (flavour pairing and food presentation), you get a beautifully executed dish that not only heightens your five senses but also creates the feeling of real fulfilment from a meal. We love bold flavours, experimental cooking and artistic presentations. Cooking is an art as well as a science and no one epitomises this view better than the playful chef who served us bacon and egg ice cream when we visited the Fat Duck in 2006. Which is why we want to dedicate our first post on restaurants to the one that has captured our hearts and imagination since it opened in 2011 and it remains our favourite restaurant in London—Dinner by Heston Blumenthal.

What we like:
The Food— We are massive fans of Heston. A self taught chef, Heston has an experimental yet scientific approach to cooking. If you have read his cookbook, Heston at Home, or watched any of his Channel 4 programs, you will know that Heston is a chef that uses Science Lab equipment to cook and MRI scans to test how the brain reacts to tastes and how food reacts to cooking processes. This precision and mastery is reflected in his dishes at Dinner. The concept of Dinner is to revive British dishes from culinary history. Here are our favourites—

The Must Haves:

Meat Fruit

13th-15th Century
This is by far the most famous dish from Dinner; we order it every time go and they serve a thousand of these a week! It is presented as a Mandarin--the outer layer is mandarin gelatine dipped in nitrous oxide. The skin dimples (like a mandarin) when it is thawed. The filling is the silkiest foie gras chicken liver parfait we’ve ever had. Order extra toast to go with it!

Frumenty
Voted as Dinner's Standout Dish this year at San Pelligrino's top 50 restaurants of the world list. The smokey flavour, the bite from the grain and the tender octopus, make this the best Octopus we've ever had. 

Triple Cooked Fries

Heston invented the triple cooking process for the humble chip to make it golden and glorious, we’ve never had fries better anywhere else. We have made them once at home, following his recipe in his cookbook and found that despite the long cooking process, it was completely worth the effort. The potatoes are boiled then frozen, fried then frozen and then fried again. The end result is a crispy exterior with a soft-as-cloud interior. Whatever you order for main course, order fries to go with it!

1859 The English cookery book by J.H. Walsh
No matter how full we get from the preceding courses, we find room for tipsy cake. A soft brioche is served in a mini Staub pot, drenched in a sweet boozy sauce and accompanied by a small slab of pineapple, spit roasted to perfection. At one point, they had upped the alcohol percentage of the sauce, making it, true to its name, a tipsy cake. They have since revised this, but it remains one of our favourite deserts of all time.

Nitro Ice Cream Trolley

This used to be only served at the chef’s table, now it’s available for everyone. Watching the server churn fresh ice cream in an electric mixer filled with dry ice always makes us feel like kids in front of an ice cream truck. Our favourite topping is apple flavoured popping candy!

We also recommend:
Salamugundy—Chicken oysters, salsify, marrow bone & horseradish cream
Spiced Pigeon
Black Foot Pork chop
The pork chop has a subtle aniseed flavour and a bit smokey. A thin layer of skin that's a little fatty is browned perfectly. Pork scratching and barley offer texture and bite while the baby onions compliment the pork with its sweetness.
Rice and Flesh

The vibe— Although situated at the Mandarin Hotel in Knightsbridge, Dinner is not a stuffy pretentious restaurant. There is a grandiose air to the room-- the high ceilings and a view of Hyde Park (lovely during lunch in the spring/summer months) that is offset by tastefully simple d├ęcor. This is a restaurant that does casual elegance perfectly. You will feel equally comfortable dining here in jeans and a T-shirt as you would in your little black dress. There is often a palpable anticipation amongst diners, eagerly awaiting their next course, which is encouraged by the open view of the kitchen, showing the hustle and bustle of chefs at their stations.

Best for Lunch/Dinner?—Both! Lunch is obviously more laid back and sometimes preferable if you are greedy foodies like us, and order of dishes to try. As mentioned before, lunch at Dinner during Spring and Summer can be particularly enjoyable as the restaurant boasts a nice view of Hyde Park. That being said, we have had many great dinner experiences there with cocktails.

Booking advice-- As with all top restaurants in London, it is crucial to book ahead. If you want to dine there on weekends, book at least a month ahead. Even weekday dinners, book at least a week or 2 ahead to avoid disappointment. The restaurant takes bookings up to 2 months in advance. You can either make bookings on their website http://www.dinnerbyheston.com/ or call them on +44 (0)20 7201 3833.

Tasting Menu at the Chef’s Table—We have had the pleasure of experiencing it twice, once for lunch and the other for dinner. The chef’s table is for a maximum of 6 guests and overlooks the service counter at the kitchen. There are 9 courses for the dinner tasting menu and 6 for the lunch. Every dish served is accompanied by a description of its origins. The wine pairing we had with dinner was exquisite, especially the 2003 Castelnau de Suduiraut that was served with the Meat Fruit. While it is pricey, it is in our opinion, one of the best chef’s tables in London. You will get to taste dishes that are not available on the normal menu, for example the scrumptious Beef Royal (available on the dinner tasting menu). Also you will get a closer look at the legion of chefs in the kitchen. Look through the window on the left to watch them make meat fruit and look out for the whole pineapples being spit roasted at the far right corner of the kitchen!
Lobster and cucumber soup
Roast Marrowbone - Snails, parsley, anchovy, mace & pickled vegetables
Powdered Duck Breast (c1670 The Queen-like Closet or Rich Cabinet by Hannah Wolley) Smoked confit fennel & umbles
Nettle Porridge (c1660 - The Whole Body of Cookery Dissected by William Rablisha) Roast cod palette, smoked beetroot, garlic. parsley & fennel
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon

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