When you head towards Knightsbride, the first thing you’ll see is “National History Museum” where the frightening T-Rex skeleton will send shivers down your spine. Following the museum, you’ll be greeted by the luxurious shopping mall Harrods. As even its green shopper bags are enough to change the way the shoppers behave, Harrods will give you the chills of the cold wind of capitalism if you have an opportunity to see its “luxury washrooms”.
In order to ease away this tension of the city life, you have to go on walking a bit more. You’ll be welcomed by the spacious tranquility of Hyde Park. And if you want to complement this spectacular view with a fine dinner, “Dinner by Heston Blumenthal” would be a fine choice.
A Self-Taught Chef
Almost a hairless head, rather large eyes, distinctive style of eyeglasses with black frames and a cloud of steam vaporizing in front of him…
Anyone who’s interested in the gastronomy world could guess I’m talking about the master of molecular gastronomy, Heston Blumenthal.
Heston Blumenthal has not received any training about cooking. He earned his living as a debt-collector in his youth. But later on, with the money he earned from that job, he collected information on gastronomy by reading about it and travelling France. Eventually he bought a 450-year old bar in Bray, an hour away from London and transformed it into a restaurant called “The Fat Duck”.
The inexperienced chef exploded the oven in the second day of work and spent the rest of his day with a bag of frozen beans strapped onto his head. He didn’t have any imagine receiving any Michelin stars at that stage. Later on, the chef was impressed by the book titled “On Food and Cooking: The Science and Lore of the Kitchen” and contacted with its writer Harold McGee. This became the major inspiration for the chef to put the chemistry knowledge into use in his kitchen. Following the Michelin stars it was awarded with in 1999, 2001 and 2004, The Fat Duck won the first place in the list of The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. It still continues to spearhead the molecular gastronomy with its experimental menu created with help of things like liquid nitrogen, citric acid, vacuum machine and silica gel, which some people might find a bit fanciful.
Inspired by the Classical British Recipes
Opened in 2011 by the self-taught chef, “Dinner by Heston Blumenthal” is located in Mandarin Oriental Hotel, a 125-year-old building at Knightsbridge with a façade constructed of red-bricks, which turns into a spectacular show once the sun shines over the building. As the restaurant won two Michelin stars in a short time, it was also listed fifth on “The World’s Fifty Best Restaurants” last year.
The head chef of the restaurant is Ashley-Palmer Watts who joined the Fat Duck 15 years ago and proved to be skilled chef in a short time.
The customers are first welcomed by the sexy huge purple-lit pineapple painting. The first thing that attracted our attention when we stepped in the restaurant was the kitchen with glass walls like an aquarium. You can watch all the hustle-bustle of the staff trying to put the last touch on the dishes if you can resist the spectacular view from the humongous windows overlooking Hyde Park.
The ceiling looks outstanding with the elegant lighting instead of the bulging lights that look like a cake pan. The little orange cushions were placed randomly to create a warm atmosphere in the restaurant where mostly the lighter colors are used in its design.
I didn’t witness any of the young chefs giving a pause to take a look at the customers, they were like cooking on a stage. The only things that can get across to the dozens of onlookers are professionalism and respect they showed for their job. We can say the same thing about the serving staff. Every one of them knows his/her job and is careful enough to calculate the inches between them and the customers.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has a different concept from the Fat Duck. The menu is more basic and consists of dishes inspired from the 15th, 16th and 17th centuries of England. Among the dishes which are basically the reworked versions of the long-established culinary culture, the source of inspiration is sometimes a certain mixture of spices and other times, it’s the style of presentation. The time a dish dates back to is attached to the name of the dish on the menu. As you flip over the menu, you can find some information about the book that the original recipe was published in.
Following the warm and fresh breads, we started the meal with meat fruit, one of the signature dishes of the restaurant. There we had a slice of bread and a mandarin on a plate! But of course, this cannot be an ordinary mandarin in a restaurant with a name featuring Heston Blumenthal. The mandarin is actually a ball of chicken liver and foie gras covered with mandarin jello. Served with a slice of grilled whole-grain oat bread, we were supposed to eat the mandarin spreading it over the bread. It had a fine presentation which was prepared with ultimate care.
The second dish of the starters was roast scallops. Made with Cucumber ketchup, roasted cucumber, bergamot & borage, it tasted as great as it looked.
I ordered powdered duck breast from the main courses. Its taste was enough to put a smile on my face. Although its presentation was far behind the one I ate at “Eleven Madison Park”, the fourth best restaurant in the world, I can say its taste was much superior to it.
Following that, the spiced pigeon from “the Chef’s Table” was not more successful than the pigeon dishes I tried before, although it was enriched by the flavors of Ale and artichokes.
Right after the pigeon, we had roasted pork chop, which was made from the famous black-hooved Jamon Iberico pig which only feeds on grass and served with smoked hispi cabbage, confit onion, apple & mead and Robert sauce. I found its taste average. It was a weak dish for the fifth best restaurant compared to the other Iberico pork chops I previously ate at restaurants in Bavaria, which were not this famous.
Our dessert session started with another signature dish of the restaurant: tipsy cake! As we could witness its preparation through the glass wall of the kitchen, first the pineapples were peeled and exposed to heat on a rotation spit like döner kebab. The fruits were pierced with the help of a knife like a screw while the chef constantly brushed it with caramel sauce. It was served with brioche in an iron pot, brushed with sweet wine and a brandy mixture. As it was crusty on the outside, the pineapple slices were incredibly juicy on the inside. Although it includes a great amount of sugar, I definitely recommend you to have a try at it.
The following dessert was chocolate bar. Served with a piece of cake made from truffles and vanilla ice-cream shaped like an egg, it looked great on the plate as it tasted delicious on our palates.
For those who wants a bit of “abra cadabra”, there are ice cream trolleys on which a jug of vanilla cream is poured into a contraption filled with liquid nitrogen. After a rather smoky preparation, the mixture turns into ice cream which is served in little ice cream cones.
As for the wine pairing, I can say the Bordeaux coupage was a successful accompaniment for the whole meal.
After the meal, we took a tour in the kitchen, guided by the Sous Chef Gareth Evans and the Chef Matthew O’Connor who guides 15 people on cooking and preparing the meals almost like an orchestra conductor. While drinking our digestives at the Chef’s Table, we had the opportunity to have a conversation about the Aegean and the Greek cuisine. The Head Chef Ashley Palmer Watts was unfortunately not present at the restaurant that day. He had gone to Melbourne with Blumenthal. Maybe you might have heard it, the Fat Duck had moved to Melbourne taking all its staff and even the kitchenware for a six months period. After six months, a part of the restaurant will return to its original place and the staying staff will continue to work under the name “Dinner by Heston Blumenthal”.
As for this latest trend among the restaurants where they move to a different place for a limited time and show off their skills, I look forward to the participation of the chef of Noma, Rene Redzepi in this movement. The star of the Nordic cuisine, Redzepi is planning to cook for his gourmet fans at Mandarin Oriental Tokyo in the next season. It certainly is a must to visit the restaurant and see what he can do with the Japanese ingredients.
When I evaluate the five best restaurants that I will have visited with the last one, El Celler de Can Rocca in September, I think most of them don’t deserve their places on the list. Of course, I tasted some impressive dishes in all of them. Maybe if I could bring them all together, I would create the greatest menu in the world.
I still have that enthusiasm to find that restaurant which successfully achieve perfection with its every detail, so I’ll keep on chasing the flavors…
Bon appétit and enjoy the taste of life…
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
+44(0)20 7201 3833