Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

There’s little else that can be said about Heston Blumenthal, other than he’s the man who in one lifetime has created snail porridge, the hidden orange Waitrose Christmas Pudding, and reconstructed Hansel and Gretel’s sweet house. With this place in food history, he can forgiven for rarely turning up to actually cook in his kitchen and for swanning off to Australia along with his fat duck for the last 6 months. Everyone is familiar with his brand of cooking and with his beaming bald head plastered on an increasing number of goods in our shopping aisles, which is probably why getting a seat in one of his restaurants is like trying to recreate one of his dishes at home. But, now that Dinner has been open for 4 years and there are hotter seats in town, the long waiting lists have eased off and you can get your arse on a seat within a month.

The dining room has views across Hyde Park, but take away the chef’s name above the door and the open window looking onto the rotisserie pineapples, and it is just another 5-star hotel’s dining room, catering for the moneyed elite– undisruptive, firmly masculine and a little bland. What lifts it is the mix of excited tourists, foodies and businessmen all enjoying their food together- snaps for Instagram, nods of appreciation, and million pound handshakes- all under the same roof. This all gives it a far livelier atmosphere than most other high end restaurants. The staff also help, as they made it feel like a special occasion despite it being a lunchtime, and were expertly versed on the dishes– something I can’t imagine is easy given hundreds of years of British cooking history has influenced the food.

The first thing you’ll notice is the lack of gasps coming from the neighbouring tables and looking around, whilst still beautiful, there is no real spectacle in the presentation of any of the dishes. There’s no gimmicks here, none of the sparks we’ve seen on his TV show or heard about at The Fat Duck. Instead, the menu came across as surprisingly simple. No long list of ingredients or techniques, no words you have to google the pronunciation of before ordering . Instead it was classic British ingredients cooked to the highest standard.

The Meat Fruit is the billboard dish here and is worthy of the hype. It quite simply is a perfect, smooth and rich chicken liver parfait, lifted by the fresh hit from the mandarin jelly that it has been dipped in to give it the look. Roast Marrowbone was another stunning dish with a deep earthy flavour from the snails and a creamy richness from the marrow, which is cut through by pickled vegetables. Not the easiest dish to eat, but a bloody tasty one. Savoury Porridge with crispy frogs legs had a vibrant green colour and an incredible fresh herby flavour.  IMG_9362

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For mains the a Spiced Pigeon was beautifully pink and had a great flavour coming through from the blend of ale and spices. Hereford Ribeye was again perfectly cooked and had the original mushroom ketchup, something every young chef on Great British Menu seems eager to try their hand at these days. Unable to resist the urge, we shared Tipsy Cake which is an absolute must have. The pineapples which have been slowly caramelising on the incredibly elaborate spit roast are added to a warm buttery brioche that has been soaked in brandy- it is the most indulgent dessert I have ever tasted.

The meal was without the theatre I had expected, but the thought that has gone into these dishes, and the skill in their execution, makes up for the lack of drama. I almost feel it is a better dinner if you take the thought of Heston out of it. Go there expecting magic and you’ll be disappointed, go expecting the best British cooking in the world, and you’ll leave delighted.

9.5/10 (££££)

Mandarin Oriental Hotel, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

Dinner By Heston Blumenthal - Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Bar Boulud

Last time I was here too many White Cosmopolitans meant that the only thing to remind me of what I’d eaten were the stains on my shirt the next morning. Tonight I arrived in a slightly more sober state, determined to at least get past the starters before the drink got to work. I was immediately struck by the effortless class and charm of the restaurant, something alcohol had dulled my appreciation of last time around. The dining room has been cleverly designed so that it is split into several sections giving it a more intimate feel.

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The previous night I’d eaten at Balthazar, a grand brasserie that has tried incredibly hard to create a certain French mood and feeling. Bar Boulud has perfected this with ease and has the feel of a restaurant that has been running for years. That being said, there is still is something about it though that does make you feel like you are eating in an international chain of hotels, which of course you are given its location in the basement of the Mandarin Oriental. It just feels like a restaurant that is built for wealthy travellers who need somewhere comfortable and familiar to dine in. Everything here has a certain ease and grace to it, and reading between the lines on the menu, it is basically the best room-service menu you could wish for.

To start we shared the Degustation De Charcuterie (£18), which is made up a selection of pâtés, terrines and sliced meats. They were all perfectly enjoyable, but each lacked a distinctive flavour of its own. There was no obvious difference in taste between the Pork Head terrine and the Moroccan spiced one. The sliced Serrano ham again was fine, but wasn’t one I will remember. What will stick with me was the incredibly powerful French mustard, which was a real sinus cleaner and perhaps a little strong for the meats.

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We also shared two of the sausages for £18. The Tunisienne is a spicy lamb merguez served with a mint tabouleh and a couscous and pepper stew. This was a bit of a let down both in its size and taste. There really wasn’t much spice and the couscous was average. The other sausage was the ‘Morteau’, made from smoked-cumin spiced sausage and served on a bed of lentils. Again the size of the portion was a little disappointing, but this one tasted much better, mainly because the lentils had been soaked it a porky jus.

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For main I couldn’t resist the burger. The BB (£20) stood out from its rather long description- a beef patty, foie gras, red wine braised short ribs truffle, frisée horseradish mayonnaise confit tomato and a black onion seed bun. If ever there was a way to make a burger sound a lot more complicated than it actually was. With a side of fries (£5) this is an expensive burger. But it sure as hell was tasty. The patty was packed with flavour and perfectly cooked. A burger connoisseur might complain that the bun didn’t hold its shape, but tonight I was in the mood for something sloppy. There wasn’t enough of the foie gras though, as always seems to be the case in dishes where it makes a cameo appearance. And the horseradish mayo was lost in all that meaty juice. The side of fries were as good as you could wish for, really crispy and you got plenty for that fiver.

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My partner had the Piggie burger(£14), made up of a beef patty, bbq pulled pork, green chili mayonnaise and red cabbage slaw. It tastes as good as it sounds. Again with a side of fries for a fiver it creeps up towards the limit of what I’m willing to pay for a burger, but I’d say this trumps the B&L burger for £20. It’s definitely worth coming back for.

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With a White Cosmopolitan (£13.25) each to finish things off the bill came to £70 a head, which seemed a lot for some cold meats and a burger. Admittedly we did drink a bottle of the house white each, but what did catch my eye was the £4.10 for each bottle of soda water (we were drinking spritzers). We managed to spend nearly £35 on soda water alone! Overall it isn’t a restaurant I’d go to for the French food, but if I was in Knightsbridge and didn’t want to glam myself up and needed some simple comfort food like a good old burger, then this would be top of my list.

Food: 7.5/10

Service: 7/10

Value: 6.5/10

Atmosphere: 8/10

Overall: 7.5/10

Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA

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