Heston Blumenthal’s Knightsbridge barnstormer has brought unparalleled kudos to the Mandarin Oriental hotel, and there’s almost universal applause for his inspired interpretation of Britain’s culinary past. On offer is a cornucopia of entertaining fare reinvented with help from head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts. The now-iconic meat fruit is droll and delicious (‘Heston at his mad, magical best’), but other historically charged inventions are equally stunning: a take on frumenty (c.1390) involves octopus, sea broth, pickled dulse seaweed and lovage, powdered duck breast is a triumph of soft, sweet flesh ‘blasted out of the sky’ by smoked fennel, and turbot is sublimely cooked with cockles and bitter chicory leaves. After that, boozy tipsy cake invariably wins the day. On the downside, the interior isn’t to everyone’s taste – all brown furnishings, kitchen views and impersonal, ‘cloned’ staff, with floor-to-ceiling windows and distant sightings of the great outdoors, observes one visitor. Even so, supremely orchestrated service seldom misses a trick, likewise the stupendous big-name wine list.
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