30 July 2014

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Ice cream while you wait at Dinner


Heston Blumenthal - Heston_Blumenthal.jpgHeston Blumenthal’s hotly anticipated Mayfair restaurant, Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental, will feature a Victorian-style ice cream trolley that makes ice cream for diners on the spot, the chef’s right-hand man has revealed.

Ashley Palmer-Watts, who has developed Dinner’s concept and menus with Heston for the past two years, and who will head up the kitchen when it opens its doors on 31 January, expects the machine to be a ‘real showstopper’.

‘We wanted to make something that looked like it existed [in the past] but didn’t,’ he explained. ‘So we created a machine with a wheel – a bit like an old-fashioned sewing machine – you pour in the liquid nitrogen and turn the wheel and it makes ice cream then and there. We decided to do flavours that people really, really want to eat, so we’re offering things like soft caramel, and praline, and serving them in cones.’

Dinner will by no means attempt to recreate The Fat Duck for a London crowd. Instead, Heston and his team have set their sights on a refined British brasserie with no dress code and a relaxed feel.

‘Everyone’s expecting snail porridge and bacon-and-egg ice cream,’ said Heston. ‘We will continue to do an element of that – we found a load of savoury porridge recipes such as cheese and onion porridge – but at The Fat Duck, there are 45 covers and 50 chefs, and at the Mandarin Oriental there will be 45 chefs catering for 200 people.’

The menus for Heston’s latest venture are being finalised and will change four times a year. They will take inspiration from British recipes from the 1300s onwards, but the chef was quick to point out that he won’t be trying to create replicas of dishes from history.

‘It’s not a theme restaurant,’ he said. ‘Parts of the dishes are inspired by historical recipes and cooking techniques but they use thoroughly modern methods.’

So if not snail porridge, then what? Diners can expect hay-smoked mackerel with Tudor-style lemon salad, rib of beef with bone-marrow sauce and mushroom ketchup (a condiment that became popular in the 19th century), cod in cider, and what could become the restaurant’s signature dish, Ryse of flesh (a medieval rice and meat dish). Afternoon tea is also in the pipeline in time for Dinner’s opening, with a tasting menu and a chef’s table planned for later in the year. The set lunch menu will be priced at £25, while a three-course à la carte dinner will come to £55.

Heston admitted the launch of Dinner is both ‘exciting’ and ‘nerve-clenching’.

‘I’ve been working on this for the best part of two years,’ he explained. ‘Ash and I worked on the menu together. I’m like a big kid and I think anything’s possible, whereas Ash is more practical, so our two approaches dovetail perfectly.’

The chef also confirmed plans to take Dinner to other outposts of the Mandarin Oriental hotel chain in the future.

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