We’re pushing the boat out. We’ve kicked it off it’s trailer (where it’s lay stricken since Bullseye ‘87), pushed it down the road to the station, bundled it onto a train, off the train at Waterloo, onto the tube, up the escalator at Knightsbridge, dragged it across the road (avoiding the Maseratis) and into the opulent lobby of the Mandarin Oriental, where we’ve given it to one of Heston Blumenthal’s sous-chefs, who is going to mince it, chuck it into a candy floss machine and make it into some ship’s biscuit sorbet.
Whilst we wait for our sorbet we decide to have a spot of dinner at Dinner, seeing as it’s MBFBY?’s birthday and all. We are greeted warmly by the FOH who seem to be guarding some sort of floating pear, and are lead to the back corner of the restaurant overlooking the glass-walled kitchens, where we are given a choice of tables (and the merits of each table are explained to us). This is a simple but brilliant way to introduce us to the restaurant. Everywhere should do it. It completely removes the niggling thought that you’ve been given the suckers table because you are too young/old/on crack.
We go for one with the best view of the kitchen. There is a table we weren’t offered with a view of the park AND the kitchen but just after we sat down this prime spot was occupied by Lily Allen and some old man (not her dad, thank Jupiter).
Once you are past the glass-walled wine cellar by the door, the room itself is fairly nondescript but with some nice details, like the lampshades made to look like Victorian jelly moulds. The aforementioned glass-walled kitchen takes center stage. I’m sure the park looks great too but we wouldn’t know because of that bloody Lily Allen.
We sit down and begin to digest the menu. No, silly, it’s not one of MADCAP INSANE SCIENCE COOK (© The Sun) Heston’s edible menus, I think you can only have that at Little Chef. It’s a beautifully presented regular paper menu brimming with intriguing dishes. Each dish has a date (that’s the concept: historically inspired eating). I normally go with my instinct and panic order at the last minute when the waiter comes but a visit to Dinner requires actual deliberation and problem solving. Should I go for the Meat Fruit as everyone’s been banging on about it? Should I try Savory Porridge as it sounds mental? Or should I see how Heston proposes to improve on the ubiquitous scallops (though these ones are roasted and come with cucumber ketchup). The waiter talks us through everything on the menu and expertly answers our many questions. This enhances the experience immeasurably. Before, I was excited. Now I feel like it’s the night before my 10th birthday and I’ve glanced the wheel of a Mag Burner in my parents wardrobe.
In the end Mrs MBFBY? and I decided to share. We order one meat fruit and one roast marrow bone with pickled vegetables. There’s a decent wait to enjoy our drinks and soak it all up, then BANG. They arrive. The meat fruit really is a joy. Chicken liver parfait covered in mandarin which they’ve managed to mottle like real fruit skin, and it had a big green leaf shooting out of the top. It looks like a hyper-real tangerine, and contains the finest, smoothest chicken liver parfait either of us have eaten. Smeared on the sourdough bread, it’s not exactly farmhouse pate on toast. The roast marrow bone is not quite as visually impressive (even though it looks like a weird hot-dog), but packs some ridiculous flavour. It’s like if you collected bacon fat from your grill then condensed it in the core of the sun to produce a light, super concentrated, almost fizzy textured substance with a heavy meat flavour. The pickled veg contrasts nicely and cuts through all that pig. Mrs MBFBY? says it tastes how a butchers shop smells. I ain’t going to argue.
To quote the great philosopher Andy Partridge of XTC, senses working overtime. We need a bit of a break, which we get. Breaks are important when you are dining at this level. You should expect the table for at least 3 hours in an establishment like the Mandarin Oriental. At no point were we rushed (looking at you, Le Caprice), or told we only had the table for limited time. Bravo. Onto the mains. Again, it was a dilemma to choose. Powdered Duck. Black Angus. Spiced Pigeon. Not a list of 5th rate Golden Age superheros, but more awesome sounding dishes from that simple paper menu. We go for spiced pigeon and black foot pork chop. I was going to go for the Angus beef but it turns out it’s not the famous 72-hour-cooked beef, they took that off the menu as they weren’t happy with it according to our ever-dutiful waiter, who also let us order Triple Cooked Chips off-menu.
The pigeon was simply incredible. So tender, and packed with intense notes of cadmium and star anise. This is slow-cooked for two hours, and sort of looks like mini lamp cutlets. A rich ale sauce and earthy artichokes round it off. The pink meat was almost like jelly in the middle. This dish oozes high quality (and lovely meat juices, obvs). It’s all served in a homely semi-rustic jumble. Mrs MBFBY?’s pork chop was “not like any pork chop I’ve had before, Mmmmmmmmm.” That’s all I got out of her. Fair enough. Look at it!
We continue being dragged along behind the wave of hype, splashing down into dessert. We wanted the ‘Tipsy Cake’ (spit roasted pineapple), so we’d already ordered right at the start as it takes a while if you like your tropical fruit put through the rotisserie. This being Heston Blumenthal though, the ‘rotisserie’ is a mega expensive clockwork spit. Probably operated by some steam punks. The tipsy cake is, as you may have guessed by now, rather decent, yah? The pineapple had taken on a gloopy, caramelised quality and the bowl of ‘tipsy cake’ was, pardon my french here, FUCKING AMAZING. BLIMEY. It made my eyes roll into the back of my head like a crystal meth addict. Brown bread ice cream was next. Again, holy smoke. Incredible. When you dip your spoon through the ice cream into the crunchy biscuit base and scoop it into your mouth, on contact with your tongue it delivers the genuine taste of a slice of brown bread. Add that to the jaw-droppingly good salted caramel and you have an instant classic.
I think I’ve said enough now. It was one of the best restaurant experiences I’ve ever had - food as an event. However wanky that sounds, that’s the best way to describe it. Ridiculously exciting dining, engaging, friendly service and an opulent location. Of course there’s the sea of hype which Dinner not only lives up to, it exceeds. A special mention goes to the sommelier for selecting us lovely wine, within our (modest) specified budget, without trying to up-sell us or make us feel embarrassed. We had a robust Diszonoko dry Tokai with the starters and a complex, fruity Chateau Siaurac Bordeux with the mains.
That’s it then. The bill came in at £257 quid for 2, including tip. My Grandad would be SPINNING. Yes it’s bloody expensive, but an experience this special ain’t going to be cheap. Plus, you could come nowhere near this level of pure enjoyment for similar prices in London (not naming names, Alain Ducasse). If you are celebrating, or just want to splurge, I don’t know why you’d want to go anywhere else. We never did get our ship’s biscuit sorbet, though…
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at the Mandarin Oriental
020 7235 2000