Dinner? Lunch? Lunch at dinner? Dinner for lunch? Lunchdinner, dinnerlunch, I know – DUNCH! or LINNER? Either way, the aesthetic humour of this wordplay is never going to stop amusing me. The culprit of such high-brow and sophisticated humour is none other than Willy Wonka, the mad scientist, Mr. Heston Blumenthal. Dinner is his latest opening, stunningly located in the Mandarin Oriental hotel, with huge windows overlooking Hyde Park and serving historical British cuisine. I can hear most of you laugh in the background – surely historical British food is a rhetorical joke isn’t it? I certainly used to think so until watching Hestons tv programme Feast in which he would dig deep in the barrel of long-ago, fishing out weird and wonderful, and mostly forgotten dishes from the last 1000 years. You’d be surprised at how experimental we were long before molecular gastronomy exploded over our plates.
The menu is full of dishes that make you laugh, but also every dish contains a date pertaining to its place in history. Only problem is that we wanted everything on the menu. From meat fruit to rice and flesh, powdered duck to tipsy cake. Oh this was going to be a hard decision to make – even harder when all we wanted to do was stare out of the window at Hyde Park in all its autumnal glory, a seductiveand mesmerising distraction, but it was truly head chef Ashley-Palmer Watts’ food that was magic all the way through.
Roast Marrowbone (c. 1720) parsley, anchovy and mace, pickled vegetables. I didn’t need to look any further on the starters having located this just begging me to order it. Bone marrow – one of the finest delicacies from a cow, even though it was goat bone marrow I had grown up eating. This beauty here had a ton of bone marrow with a crispy parsley crust and little niblets of anchovy for a surge of salty goodness, the mace being a very subtle tingle. The vegetables were just groupies – the marrow didn’t need anything or anyone!
Powdered duck (c. 1670), smoked confit fennel and umbles. The answer to your first question is: powdered is an olde English term for ‘brined’. In this case, the duck is brined in a salt and spice liquor before being cooked. The answer to your second question has its origins in a very well known idiom, ‘Eat humble pie’. Umbles are the offal of the animal – the heart, liver, kidney etc, and umble pie was, as the name suggests, a pie of umbles. Over time, the similarity of umbles and humble gave rise to the term that we now use to suggest having to act apologetically, a loss of face. Anyway, what can I say about the duck other than it was a delicate and tender piece of meat, the powdering effect infusing a gentle spice overtone while the meat itself could not have been any better. But, it was a HUGE portion! Wow! I realised that I was shamefully going to have to leave some in order for my dessert to find a home. This was a treat.
M’s main course of grilled rib-eye mushroom catsup, triple cooked chips and bone marrow fell equally in the culinary hall of fame with the duck. A surprisingly tender piece of meat that has been reared with love and to the highest standards, the rib eye was equally enormous. We had some carrots and caraway, green beans with shallots to accompany our dishes – not because there was a shortage of food, let me assure you, but could you say no to such alluring side dishes?
Tipsy Cake (c. 1810), spit roasted pineapple is a dish that has to be ordered at the start of the meal. When it finally arrives at your table, it looks like clouds gently bubbling away in a pot, the smell of sherry and brandy wafting over the table – the cake itself, incredibly light, fluffy and delicate – needing the punch of the pineapple to make you smile as if in a daze. Baked Lemon Suet Pudding (c. 1630), lemon caramel, jersey cream. I never ever order lemon desserts, and have no idea why I ordered this one, but was so very glad I did! A crunchy pudding case holding a creamy lemon caramel inside, and lemon confit on top. Just as I thought it was getting a bit sharp, I remembered the Jersey cream and I was subsequently kept in my happy place. In case you’re wondering, it’s apple blossom flowers!
Oh dear! Stuffed to the eyeballs, we could barely manage the petit fours of Earl Grey Chocolate Ganache with Caraway Shortbread, but it had to be done and it was good. Very good.
The restaurant is a joy on all levels – from the friendly staff who know everything about the food, to the affable managers, the quaint jelly mould lights to the little slips of trivia Heston imparts to the generous portions of food on your plate. You must go to dinner. For lunch. For dinner. Well, you know what I mean!
Overall experience: 9
Recommend you go: 9