Friday, March 11, 2011

Dinner by Heston: Worth the hype?

Dinner by Hestons

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.

Dinner by Hestons

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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
Black Foot Pork Chop (c.1860)
Pointy cabbage, Robert Sauce £28.00

It was a good pork chop but unmemorable.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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?

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons
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.

Dinner by Hestons

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.

Dinner by Hestons

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 7

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal on Urbanspoon


  1. I love that you tried to order another meat fruit for dessert!

    Thank you for mentioning my blog and interesting to see that you were similarly underwhelmed.

    Just by looking at the photos from the many reviews around, what goes out from the kitchen isn't consistent which is possibly the issue.

  2. Very good review Kay and interesting to hear a slightly different opinion on Heston. I heard it's booked out until June so I will just believe your review and not be sad about this :)

  3. As a meat person through and through, I am more interested in the pigeon as it's rather difficult to get it right as it does get old quickly. Seems like Heston's leaned towards the pink side. Interesting take on the amuse bouche, could almost taste it after reading your writeup. Mmm...

  4. Wow it sounds like a total let down! I know everyone was clamouring over each other to get a booking, but I didn't as I was going to be away. Not sure if I'd be that keen to go!

  5. Diner in crime: The meat fruit was just amazing! One of the few dishes that achieved the je ne sais quoi status. It makes all other dishes (starters, mains and dessert) look ordinary (in the case of dessert very underwhelming with the exception of the after dessert freebie). It struck the right combination of that liver pate taste balanced with aromatic earthiness, and finished with that sporadic fruity freshness from the faux citric skin. A work of culinary art and a great achievement.
    Probably why everything else was just... blah.
    There were touches of brilliance in the other dishes, for example the mushroom ketchup with the steak and the yolk of the egg sipping into the broth on one of the starter.
    The other notable highlight was the post-dessert treat. The author said enough about it to give this dish the deserved honour.
    Ambience wise - the location next to Hyde park, large windows with wooden and clean interiors surrounding the floor to ceiling glass-ring-fenced kitchen adds a touch of comfortable modern class. Wait staff were sufficiently helpful though had to be reminded to fill up our glasses with water.
    The wine list is rather expensive - few bottles were under £30 (one was £29) most were well above. The French white muscat (£45) that we ordered was a great addition to our meal and was enjoyed by everyone (mellow fruity on the nose, refreshing on the palate and has a nice lightly citric yet floral finish).
    Overall a good dinning experience with definitely grand higlights followed by mediocre although well executed dips. Thankfully the ending was rather memorable. The earl grey ganache was amazing!
    Now I just need to find another person to take with me on my second booking of Hestons (I'd got a bit too enthusiastic and made two bookings when it first took bookings) - though this time I know exactly what to get.

  6. Mimi - It seems so but paying those prices, I don't want to be on the bad end of the inconsistencies.

    Ute - Thanks, and I don't think there is any urgency to try it out.

    London Chow - I was definitely quite impressed with the pigeon.

    Catty - Definitely try the meat fruit but don't need to clamour to grab a reservation. Hope you're recovering well.

    Trey - At least second time round, the entree is sorted. Maybe you can try some other mains and dessert, might fare better. =)

  7. Oh no, what a shame that so many dishes weren't memorable. I'd love to visit The Fat Duck one day *crosses fingers*!


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