In 2010, news of a London opening by Heston was greeted with enthusiasm and plenty waited with bated breath for the actual date. The date was finally announced for 31st January and there was a flurry of emails and tweets during the week before reservation lines opened. You'll have to be hibernating under a rock not to notice what was happening.
Barely a few minutes into the day reservations opened and all I could see was a steady stream of tweets with people announcing their successful reservations and echoes of others bemoaning if the system crashed.
At 11.30am was when I finally decided to send an email to friends to see if anyone was interested. To my surprise, there was quick action from an otherwise usually laid back group my friends are and in a blink of an eye, I found myself with a lunch booking.
On a rainy Sunday afternoon, I found myself walking up the stairs of the Mandarin Oriental and into Dinner by Heston. I have to say that it's not exactly visible as there were no prominent signs and not surprising to see some lost souls wandering around.
As we had a 2.15pm lunch booking, the better day of lunch service was over and the kitchen should be slowly winding down. It will be interesting to see if service and standard remains consistent.
Unlike Mimi's of Meemalee's Kitchen's experience, our waiter thankfully offered us a choice of still, sparkling or tap without making us feel guilty or pressured in getting tap.
After some negotiations around the table on our choices, typical of the foodies in us who wants to try everything, we made our selections. I think there have been numerous mentions on the rather unusual menu and its centuries old inspirations and source; hence I won't be adding my pennies worth here. Straight onto the food it is.
Meat Fruit (c.1500)
Mandarin, Chicken Liver Parfait and Grilled Bread £12.50
This has been raved and described about by so many that it could stretch as long as to the moon and back. It certainly deserves all the accolades and gushes of compliments. The most beautiful light creamy texture possible, I have never had chicken liver parfait tasted this mind blowingly good. Being served with the aesthetic of a mandarin could only add to its uniqueness.
Roast Marrowbone (c.1720)
Parsley, Anchovy and Mace, Pickled Vegetables £14.00
I actually ordered this as my entree and while it was good, there was nothing special about it. The condiments did nothing to enhance the flavours; in fact it felt like nothing was given to enjoy the marrowbone with. Sort of like having butter but nothing to eat or enjoy its full potential with.
Broth of Lamb (c.1730)
Slow Cooked Hen's Egg, Celery, Radish, Turnip and Sweetbreads £12.50
The broth was clean, light and well balanced. It was perfect to relish the savouriness of the sweetbreads. The creaminess of the yolk slipping into the broth was enjoyed very much so as well by my friend.
Savoury Porridge (c.1660)
Cod Cheeks, Pickled Beetroot, Garlic and Fennel £14.50
This was commented to be an underwhelming dish by the friend who ordered this.
Spiced Pigeon (c.1780)
Ale and Artichokes £32.00
This was pigeon meat that was slow cooked and looks quite rare. It’s pink/redness definitely greets you as you stare at it on the plate. It was a risk that pays off, quite delectable indeed. I think the entire party actually agreed that this was the best out of all the mains.
Black Foot Pork Chop (c.1860)
Pointy cabbage, Robert Sauce £28.00
It was a good pork chop but unmemorable.
Beef Royal (c.1720)
72 hours Slow Cooked Short Rib of Angus, Smoked Anchovy and Onion Puree, Ox Tongue £28.00
The beef royal had the most depth in terms of flavours out of all the mains we had. It was well executed and I enjoyed it immensely but no fireworks.
Sirloin of Black Angus (c.1830)
Mushroom Ketchup, Red Wine Juice and Triple Cooked Chips £30.00
Another non-fireworks but well executed dish. The mushroom ketchup was an eye opener and one of the highlights of the entire dish.
Another round of negotiations was happening at the table with the dessert choices. Problem with leaving a much recommended dish to someone else means that you look on with regret if yours isn't as good while the lucky person gets to enjoy the whole thing. The rest of us at the table weren’t going to make the same mistake again after the meat fruit and we ordered two Tipsy Cakes and another Meat Fruit.
We were hugely disappointed when told that the meat fruit was all sold out and the next batch made for dinner service is not ready.
Tipsy Cake (c.1810)
Spit Roast Pineapple £10.00
The cake has a texture akin to a light puffy brioche with touches of cream/custard running through it. The pineapple had an altogether different texture after its unique cooking method which gave it a sticky almost syrupy caramelisation but not quite. I love pineapples but the combination of both while not an outright clash was not incredible either.
My feeling at the end of it was, what's the fuss?
Taffety Tart (c.1660)
Rose, Fennel, Lemon and Blackcurrant Sorbet £8.50
Beautiful presentation and the tart on its own had a very nice zing but by itself would not have made a satisfying dessert. Paired with the sorbet, it became a double whammy of tartness that was too much. In fact, too much tartness which resulted in a lack of the sweet tooth or rich dessert satisfaction. It almost feels like you didn't have dessert to complete the meal.
Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1830)
Salted Butter Caramel Malted Yeast Syrup £8.00
Put salted butter caramel in any menu and it becomes incredibly hard for me to resist. So as we could not have the meat fruit, we ordered an additional dessert which was the brown bread ice cream.
The ice cream just tasted peculiar, it takes a bit of focus to taste the brown bread in tiny doses but scoop a bit more and it just leaves a weird aftertaste.
Bread is meant to evoke a wholesome feel and its texture plays as important a part as its taste. With the ice cream, it lacked the texture; maybe some bits of actual bread in it to chew would be better and possibly could do with a bit more sweetness too.
None of us liked this.
Chocolate Bar (c.1730)
Passion Fruit Jam and Ginger Ice Cream £8.50
The ginger ice cream could do with more ginger as it lacks that punch. Chocolate bar did not evoke the same excitement as the one I had at Tom Aikens.
We were served an amuse bouche right at the end of our meal which was a White chocolate and earl grey ganache with olive oil and caraway seed biscuit on the side.
This is to-die for. Absolutely wonderful, the earl grey features and shines so prominently here and blends so well with the White chocolate. Silky smooth consistency that had the right touch of sweetness and aroma. I could have ten of these. This steals the show from all the desserts that we tried and it's not even part of the menu.
The environment and ambience was relaxed and welcoming, our waiter was great and we were there for a good many hours all relaxed.
The food wasn't bad, I would say that it was good in quality and well executed but when you add the name Heston to it coupled with the prices charged, we ended up feeling deflated.
We agreed without any hesitation that the meat fruit is one of those dishes that you must try and I can come back anytime for it. You can skip all those desserts and head straight for the White chocolate and earl grey ganache.
Will I come back again? Only for the meat fruit and amuse bouche!
Dinner by Heston, 66 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7www.dinnerbyheston.com