Thursday 29 December 2011

Lunch at 'Dinner' by Heston Blumenthal

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

Wednesday 21 December 2011

The Candlelight Club

Have you been to The Candlelight Club? If not, then you should. It's a perfect way to step back in time and lose yourself in the spirit of the 1920's. The Candlelight Club is a clandestine cocktail bar which is held regularly at a secret speakeasy style location, the venue only being revealed a few days before the event. And as the name suggests, the entire event is predominantly lit just by candlelight.

A few friends and I ventured to The Candlelight Club last week for a wonderful, festive evening. All dressed to the nines in our 1920's garb, a flurry of pearls, feathers, black ties and vintage fur stoles. The Candlelight Club is renown for its bespoke cocktails mixed by guest mixologists. For this special Christmas evening, we enjoyed Cherry Christmas, Mince Flip and Figgy Pudding cocktails, served by handsome barmen donning Christmas hats, adding perfectly to the festive ambience. 

Guests arrived thick and fast and soon the place was alive with a vast array of people in great outfits dressed as gangsters, molls and dandies, all chatting and drinking merrily. Gentlemen in trilby hats and ladies in flapper dresses danced wildly to the Charleston, enjoying music from the excellent jazz band and resident DJ, MC Fruity with his impressive collection of vintage vinyl. There was a brilliant tap dancer who took the stage by storm with her fast tapping moves. And once everyone had worked up an appetite, it was time to enjoy a slap-up Christmas dinner - roast turkey with all the trimmings.

We had a thoroughly fun evening and as The Candlelight Club hold regular events, I've got an inkling I may be going again. They're hosting a splendid ragtime bash on New Year's Eve, but alas, it's already sold out.


The Candlelight Club
Twitter: @ClubCandlelight 
Secret London location Tickets: £15

Sunday 11 December 2011

Too Much Is Never Enough

For dinner with a twist and a gangster element, a friend and I went to check out Too Much Is Never Enough at 123 Bethnal Green Road last week. The twist being that dinner is served in a Grade II listed shop, and each course takes place on a different floor. The gangster element is that this building used to be the secret hub of an illegal gun operation hidden behind the shop front 'Moderne Buckles'. The owner, Guner Salih and his partner in crime, Andrew Meekey, were jailed in 2006 for supplying firearms to the underground criminal fraternity. Cripes! 

The Disappearing Dining Club come up with all sorts of fun and intriguing dinner party ideas, including Dinner & Dancing on the first Saturday of every month. 123 Bethnal Green Road is now a four floor fashion and gift emporium specialising in kitsch, curious and creative wares, all made by young, up and coming British artists and designers. 

'Too Much Is Never Enough' is the perfect collaboration of both.

On arrival in the main shop, we were greeted with a Grey Goose Le Fizz cocktail, then taken up the winding staircase (complete with an upside down Christmas tree adorned with guns as a nod to the previous owners) to Menswear on the second floor.  It was dimly lit and felt like a proper old men's club, filled with random memorabilia including old photographs and signage from 'Moderne Buckles'.

We drank spiced rum punch from bone china teacups and helped ourselves to potted meats, pates, terrines and pickles on toasted sourdough, and soaked up the ambience. The dinner is staggered to allow all guests to arrive gradually throughout the evening, so as to avoid it getting too crowded, which worked really well as it didn't feel at all cramped and you could enjoy the evening at your own pace.

Once we had finished our starters in Menswear, it was time to amble down to Ladieswear which was decorated like a boudoir full of vintage erotica, antique nudes and elegant clothes. A candlelit table dominated the centre of the room where diners helped themselves to delicious hearty stews, winter salads and rustic bread, all washed down with some very fine wine.

Our final course took place in the Bunker Cafe in the basement which was a brilliant room complete with a cocktail bar. This cafe is a permanent feature of the shop and somewhere I will certainly return to once Too Much Is Never Enough has served it's final splendid meal. We enjoyed warm mince pies with a tot of rum, hot doughnuts, rum truffles and British cheeses. And a smashing last cocktail for the road!

After dinner, diners are welcome to stay until midnight for more drinks from the bar and dance to music by the resident DJ. And not forgetting that as you're dining in a shop, everything is for sale, so shopping whilst you dine, although no obligation, is very tempting indeed, especially as diners are entitled to 10% off all purchases on the night.

I thoroughly enjoyed Too Much Is Never Enough and if you can get tickets before it finishes on 22nd December, then I highly recommend it. Perfect, unusual dining fun for a chilly, winter's evening! Meanwhile, do check out The Disappearing Dining Club for news on their other unusual dinners. And get down to 123 Bethnal Green Road for all your quirky Christmas shopping needs.

Too Much Is Never Enough
123 Bethnal Green Road
E2 7DG
@Dining Club @123BGR  The Disappearing Dining Club
Until 22nd Dec £50 for 3 course dinner & 4 lovely drinks
For bookings call: 07432833039
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