Have you ever heard of Meat Fruit? Well I certainly hadn't until last week, when two lovely girlfriends and I decided to treat ourselves to a pre-Christmas slap up lunch at Heston Blumenthal's latest restaurant, 'Dinner', at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge. It was a lunch to remember. Oh, and that picture above of what looks like an unsuspecting mandarin, is in fact meat fruit, and is the most delicious, melt-in-the-mouth chicken liver parfait you'll ever encounter.
If you're expecting something along the lines of The Fat Duck, then think again. The concept of 'Dinner' is all about historically-inspired British dishes. Each dish dates back to its approximate origins, and is recreated using original techniques, although updated to appeal to 21st century palates.
There is an extensive wine list and where this may usually fill some diners (me included) with fear about pushing the bill over the limit, it was very refreshing to discover the perfectly quaffable house white was a more than reasonable £20 a bottle. Which of course meant we could order at least one each.
For starters, we couldn't resist trying the Meat Fruit (c.1500) chicken liver parfait, and also the Hay Smoked Mackerel (c.1730) served with lemon salad, Gentleman's relish & olive oil. For our main course, we enjoyed a variety of dishes including Hereford Fillet Steak (c.1830) with mushroom ketchup, red wine juice & triple-cooked chips (not sure if triple-cooked chips, or chips full-stop existed in the 1800's, but who cares, they were delicious), Cod in Cider (c.1940) served with chard & fired mussels, and Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) a smoked duck confit with fennel & umbles. Umbles is apparently offal, in this case duck hearts, and is where the expression umble (now humble) pie derives from. So not only is dining at 'Dinner' tasty, but fascinating and educational too.
For pudding, we tried the Tipsy Cake (c.1810) which is a delectable spit roast pineapple cake which needs to be ordered in advance. You can even see the pineapples lined up on the spit roast in the open plan kitchen. We also had the Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830) with salted butter caramel & malted yeast syrup. Heaven in a scoop. And if one pudding wasn't enough, they gave us little complimentary chocolate orange mousses with homemade cardamom shortbread - a sort of end of meal amuse bouche, which went very well with a glass of Vin du Pud, I hasten to add.
The three of us thoroughly enjoyed our lunch at 'Dinner' and by the time we left, it was almost time for dinner itself! The atmosphere was relaxed with impeccable service and not at all intimidating. The restaurant is stylishly decorated with dark wood, elegant lighting, a well-stocked glass wine 'cellar' and a load of fun, illuminated jelly moulds adorning the walls. If you can book a table, I highly recommend it, especially for a special occasion. It's not cheap, but then again, not scarily expensive either, and they do a very affordable 3 course set lunch for £32. But I tell you what, it's worth going, just for the meat fruit. Heston, you've done it again!
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Mandarin Oriental Hotel
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
020 7201 3833