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|Address:||Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA|
|Tel:||020 7201 3833|
|Price: £74.00||Wine: £35.00||Champagne: £75.00|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm 6.30-10.30pm|
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There is little that I can say about Dinner by Heston Blumenthal that has not already been said many times more eloquently before. The bloggersphere is awash with praise and whole swathes of Amazonian rain forests have been desecrated to make the news- and magazine- paper onto which further adulation has been heaped. The restaurant deserves every word of praise. It is fabulous.
For those of you who want to know more, read on. If, however, you simply want to know whether it justifies the hype and is worth giving up your first born to secure a table, the answer is yes. Read no further.
For those still reading…
We arrived late for our already late booking, due to being caught in a kettle. This wasn’t some domestic appliance related incident, but rather that our perambulation down Piccadilly was blocked by the boys and girls in blue. It seems that a group of youths fancied a cup of tea in Fortnum & Masons. A fine choice; except that they preferred not to pay. Given their avowed anarchic tendencies, perhaps they adhered to the view that all proper tea is theft. The rozzers were out in force to help show them the error of their ways.
Arriving very late was a mere trifle to the charming front of house staff. Our coats were soon whisked away (an interesting aside here: most places have a sign saying that no responsibility for loss is accepted. Here, the envelope containing your coat check informs you that no responsibility will be taken if the article is valuable. Presumably, if it was a cheap coat, they would cough-up if nicked?). We were then shown through the bar (resplendent with absinth fountain) to the main event.
The room itself is impressive. You approach it by walking through a glass wine cellar and emerge into a light, high-ceilinged, airy space, with enormous chandeliers and an immense clock. On closer inspection, this is dial less and instead is the mechanism for an impressive looking spit, upon which turn pineapples.
Having only booked three months in advance, and for the uber trendy time of 10.30 p.m., we were not at all surprised that we didn’t get a seat by the open kitchen, instead being given pride of place next to a serving station. And service is good. Friendly, helpful, informative (the latter a prerequisite given the fare on offer), if a little quirky at times (how many times do you get food served before the wine? No, no, no – wrong. I digress).
For readers of a website like this, you’d have had to have been living on Mars not to have heard of Meat Fruit. A chicken liver mousse, coated in a mandarin jelly, presented as a mandarin and dating from 1500. I can report that it was every bit as good as reports (and expectation).
But here’s the rub: this was the only Hestonesque dish on the menu. It looked like a mandarin, but tasted of the most perfect chicken mousse. And mandarin. Sure there are odd ingredients (chicken oysters) and odd names (Salamagundy – well, that’s the chicken oysters actually) but, other than Meat Fruit, everything was what it seemed. Steak was steak (and came with chips) and rice was rice (and came in what, by any other name, was a risotto).
But where was the twist, the snail in the porridge?
Actually, that is the twist. This isn’t the Fat Duck. It isn’t even Fat Duck Light. It is a British restaurant serving British food. It is a culinary education. It is a V-sign to French: think that you invented confit duck? Think again: from 1630, I give you Powdered Duck. It is confit. It is a British recipe. At the same time as the French were in Dover pleading for help from the British against the Dutch, it seems that they were also nicking our recipe books (The Queen-like Closet by Hannah Wolley if you must know). Put that in your Gauloise and smoke it Frenchies.
To the hordes of septics who come to London, eat at Angus Steak Houses and Yeah Olde Fishie and Chippie Shoppe before moaning about that we can’t cook, I give you Turkey Pudding; a dish created nearly fifty years before the civil war that created your grating country. And in return, you gave us McDonalds and KFC. Gee; thanks.
The dishes themselves are great. The Salamagundy was fantastic: chicken oysters are my favourite part of the bird, and came with both a light horseradish cream and bone marrow. Two mighty big ticks. On to mains and still excellent: the spicy pigeon was gorgeous – just the right side of pink and just the right spicing, and the pork chop succulent and itself a little pink. Lovely. To finish, we had the tipsy cake with the roasted pineapples. Like the dishes that had gone before, absolutely top notch: a modern classic in the making (from 1810).
Forget the names on the dishes, this is what we commonly think of as French food, and isn’t. It is British. And it’s taken an earnest young man with odd glasses who just wants to make us dinner to show us how rich our culinary heritage truly is.