Test Drives

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal restaurantIt must be emotionally draining to open a restaurant burdened with the high expectations that Dinner by Heston has had, and certainly Blumenthal and head chef Ashley Palmer Watts looked both exhausted and elated when we dined there on opening week. As well they might - for this restaurant has clearly been a labour of love for the pair of them. The attention to detail, from the historical influences of the dishes to the custom-made cutlery is amazing.

The centrepiece of the dining room is the glass-encased kitchen (this is the only kitchen you can see - there are more behind the scenes) giving diners all the benefit of seeing the industry and hard work going into the dishes without the attendant noise, heat or smells. As you enter, you’ll see the massive spit roast, where pineapples for the restaurant’s star dessert dish Tipsy Cake are slowly turning. Apparently the table immediately to the right as you enter the restaurant is the one you’re most likely to see celebrities on. We were more drawn to the fantastic private dining room which has one glass wall looking out on the rest of the restaurant and is where you can order more dishes inspired by the Channel 4 programme Heston’s Feasts.

We were invited to try the restaurant on day four of the restaurant’s opening which, because we weren’t burdened with the bill at the end, meant we felt more able to try additional dishes and give you the benefit of our slightly broader testing of the menu. Clearly we weren’t the first to ask for three starters - our waiter suggested we share the Meat Fruit first and then follow that with our other starters.

The Meat Fruit first made its appearance during Heston's Medieval Feast on Channel 4 and is an ideal introduction to the world of Heston for anyone who hasn't made it to The Fat Duck. This astonishing looking dish looks for the world like a perfect mandarin, but is stuffed with intensely-flavoured chicken-liver parfait which goes perfectly with the citrus jelly skin. It's the first must-order item on the menu so we urge you not to miss it. We also have to make mention of the fantastic bread that arrived at this point - the warm white sourdough was gorgeous, matched with excellent slightly-salted organic butter (Hot Dinners recoils when unsalted butter is served with bread).

Next up was Salamagundy - a dish of chicken oysters with creamy slivers of bone marrow, salad leaves and horseradish cream which offered up a heavenly curried scent as it hit the table. Who could fail to adore any dish featuring the best bits of the chicken? Rice and flesh was more of a slow-burner than love at first bite - studded with tiny bits of calf tail meat, this was more of a savoury saffron rice pudding than the risotto it’s been described by other reviewers. Make sure you dive straight in with the extra spoon provided to get every bit of the red wine sauce that it comes with as that helps bring all the flavours together.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Meat FruitWe honestly weren’t going to go for either the fish or vegetarian courses when such meaty delights were on offer, but it’s worth knowing that many of the dishes on the menu can be adapted for vegetarian - even the rice and flesh dish can be altered to feature artichokes rather than quail. It was a given we’d be ordering the Beef Royal, short rib of beef which had been slow cooked for 72 hours. And it was as delicious as billed - the meat meltingly tender, and the richness of the dish cut through by the accompanying anchovy and onion sauce.

The sirloin of Black Angus, served with marrow topped with japanese breadcrumbs, was similarly good and one of the best cooked and seasoned steaks we've had in ages. It's also an opportunity to try Heston's famous triple cooked chips - perfect for dipping in the fabulous rich mushroom ketchup it came with.  We would have happily scooped up the remains of this in a tub and taken with us if we’d been clever enough to come prepared.

For desserts we once again pigged out and chose three - Taffety Tart which came with the most deeply flavoured blackcurrant sorbet we’ve ever tried, gorgeous yeasty, biscuity Brown Bread Ice Cream which was served with Salted Butter Caramel and Malted Yeast Syrup.

But the star of the show was the Tipsy Cake - which you're recommended to order at the beginning of the meal as it takes 40 minutes to prepare.  This comprised of fabulous fluffy boozy buns baked in a minature cast iron pot and accompanied with the spit roast pineapple and was the kind of dessert we’d rebook a table for in a heartbeat.

We did finish the meal with a cheese course, but sadly this was the one off note of the meal with our cheese frankly too cold too enjoy. So we’d recommend sticking with the desserts.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Tipsy CakeAs for service - ours was pitch-perfect. Waiters were friendly and funny and there wasn’t a hint of opening week nerves. Everyone was clearly delighted to finally have the public in through the doors and while Heston may be worrying about expectations being too high, he and Ashley can’t be too upset at the rave reviews they’re getting.

Yes, it’s going to be an expensive meal out - but you can rein your bill in by going for one of the many keenly priced wines by the glass which are as low as £6.50. And although there’s plenty of punchily priced bottles on the list, we did spot a couple priced in the twenties.

Our opinion? This is London’s biggest restaurant opening of the year, so save up, get yourself a table and prepare to be thoroughly entertained.

Dinner by Heston reviewed
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