Alright, alright. I’ll tell you about Dinner.
If you follow me on Instagram @Alessandra_LDN, you’ll know I promised a post from my fabulously romantic, surprise date at Dinner.
Now the title of this post doesn’t suggest I’ve been to a fake dinner by Chef Blumenthal. It refers to my lovely lunchtime visit with Ireland’s sweetest, Miss Katie Larmour. Both desperate to dine in the restaurant, but not able to plump for the full menu, we savoured every morsel of the meat fruit & tipsy cake on our visit last year.
This, however, was the real deal.
I put on my favourite lacy black dress and black heels before being whisked away to an unknown destination.
Now, I absolutely love surprises. Giving a surprise is one of my favourite things to do. Receiving them is equally enjoyable, but I always figure them out. I either convince (bully) the surpriser into telling me, or work like a detective to put together the clues. My date, however, threw so many curveballs to bury the tracks that I was left completely in the dark with a nervous excitement in my stomach. (Or was that hunger?)
You may know from my Fat Duck post that I am completely inspired and maybe even a little obsessed with Chef Heston Blumenthal’s food. The reinvention of Britain’s historic gastronomic past by Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer-Watts has been something I’ve longed to experience since before the doors opened.
As I was lead towards the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I blurted out ‘are going to Dinner!?’ To which I received a smirk and the sarcastic response, ‘of course we’re going to dinner.’
The rest was a blur of giggling excitement until the bread arrived.
Warm sourdough and brown bread with a salty, creamy slab of butter brought me back to earth as I rambled on about the restaurant, the guests in the dining room and the impeccable service.
For our first course, he ordered the savoury porridge of frogs legs with smoked beetroot, garlic and fennel. The meat was tender and paired beautifully with the savoury porridge, flavoured with parsley and cumin. The beetroot, one smoked and one pickled, each had such strong, uniquely different flavours it was hard to believe they were both the same vegetable. It was a stunning dish, both in presentation and execution, but nothing compares to my mandatory order.
This plump little sphere of charade makes me very, very happy.
(sorry about photo quality, strange lighting and discreet snapping with iPhone)
I won’t go on too much, as I know I’ve detailed it in the previous post, but the mandarin mocking meat fruit is an absolute must! (say that three times fast)
The mandarin gel encapsulates a decadently smooth chicken liver & foie gras parfait which is to be slathered on warm, crunchy grilled bread. I can safely say I would happily eat this for any meal of the day.
For our main courses, he ordered powdered duck breast with smoked confit fennel & umbles.
The meat had been sous vide and was rendered perfectly tender. Duck is rarely my first choice, but this was a great dish and fennel was an excellent accompaniment.
My roast Ibérico pork chop with spelt, ham hock & Robert sauce was… massive. The flavours were deep and rich and although the meat was a little tough, it was still an excellent dish. I managed to get through most of the pork, even with an accompanying order of triple cooked chips and mashed potatoes as sides.
I know you’re wondering why the two types of potato as sides, but the charming server convinced me that mashed potato dipped fries were delicious. As I didn’t enjoy the much talked about chips on my previous visit, I hesitantly gave them another chance. I’m still not a triple cooked convert, but these were decidedly better than their chewy predecessors and mash dipped chips could become a ‘thing’.
(a very weird ‘thing’)
Enough about spuds, it’s time to get tipsy.
Another of Dinner’s signature dishes, tipsy cake arrives in a darling little cast iron pot. The rum soaked, cream filled brioche is a heavenly mouthful when paired with spit roasted pineapple.
As you may have noticed, there are only five segments in the cake. This is either a very cruel game or a very crucial way to sum up your dinner date. Good luck with that one.
As our final dessert (don’t give me that look, we shared the tipsy cake), we ordered ice cream. Like most things involved with Mr. Blumenthal, ice cream is not just ice cream.
Instead, it is table side, liquid nitrogen ice cream!
As the custom-made liquid nitrogen ice cream trolley rolled its way towards us, I wiggled with the excitement of a small child upon hearing the ice cream van enter the neighbourhood.
Our lovely, very knowledgeable server talked us through the process whilst putting up with my paparazzi-like barrage of photo snapping. I gave up trying to capture the magic and took a little video to show you.
The creamy, vanilla bean ice cream is then scooped into sugared filo dough cones before we were asked to choose our toppings.
The toppings to choose from were chocolate coated anise seeds, freeze dried raspberries, chocolate hazelnut crunch and popping candy. My date chose freeze dried raspberries & popping candy, which I sampled and posed with whilst mine was being churned.
As it turned out to be an extremely difficult decision, when I finally settled on chocolate hazelnut & popping candy, the lovely server filled my plate with freeze dried raspberries and chocolate anise seeds for me to dip my ice cream into as I went. Another incredible touch of service leaving me grinning ear to ear as I dipped and licked my greedy way through the rest of my cone.
As if we hadn’t indulged enough, an earl grey infused chocolate ganache with a delicate caraway biscuit arrived as a chocolatey kiss goodbye. The perfect end to such an amazing evening.
I left happy, sugar high and a little food drunk.
I cannot recommend Dinner by Heston Blumenthal enough. It is the perfect venue for a special occasion with very special food.
Oh, and a safe bet for a very impressive date!