The Real Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
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. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe 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.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMeat Fruit.
This plump little sphere of charade makes me very, very happy.
See?
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal(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.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalFor our main courses, he ordered powdered duck breast with smoked confit fennel & umbles. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
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.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMy roast Ibérico pork chop with spelt, ham hock & Robert sauce was… massive. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe 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.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalAs 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.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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.

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe toppings to choose from were chocolate coated anise seeds, freeze dried raspberries, chocolate hazelnut crunch and popping candy. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMy date chose freeze dried raspberries & popping candy, which I sampled and posed with whilst mine was being churned.

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalDinner by Heston Blumenthal 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.Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

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. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
I left happy, sugar high and a little food drunk.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalI 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!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Yesterday I met the lovely Katie for some lunch at Dinner.
We’ve both been dying to try Dinner and as she just popped over from Ireland, we decided to finally go.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner is Heston Blumenthal’s Knightsbridge creation that sits snuggly in the Mandarin Oriental with views of Hyde Park. It doesn’t mimic the theatrical experience that is The Fat Duck, it instead has been established as a separate, bold entity with whispers of Fat Duck whimsy.

Dinner is an ode to British history, serving dishes inspired by recipes from centuries ago. The interior boasts dark woods and leather and is lit by large open windows overlooking Hyde Park. It’s very masculine with hints of femininity from porcelain wall sconces in the shape of antique jelly moulds and small bouquets of flowers.

The minimalist design forces focus on the dishes themselves, a blank canvas in which to frame the art, but the ambiance could’ve been greatly enhanced by live piano or some form of music.Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal After being seated in the middle of the restaurant, the lovely maître d’ offered a window side table that had since become available. We now had the perfect view of both Hyde Park and the restaurant. Our waitress arrived soon after to introduce us to the menu, which has the sources of origin for each dish listed on the back.

She was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly passionate as she took us through the menu, a small detail that really adds to the experience. We debated over dishes and asked countless questions, trying to decide how to narrow down our choices. We eventually decided on the three things we’ve heard most about: Meat Fruit, Triple Cooked Chips and Tipsy Cake.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Whilst we waited, a board of bread and granite slab of butter was served.
The rustic, traditional start to a historically inspired British meal.
But this wasn’t your normal slab of Lurpak.
A beautiful, deep yellow hunk of unpasteurized butter sprinkled with sea salt sat before us.
You may find this an irrelevant detail, but I hail from a country that has made unpasteurized products illegal in most states.
And I tend to find that anything illegal seems to taste just that much better.

We munched our bread slathered in heavenly, forbidden spread and picked apart the decor, wishing Heston would walk through the wine cave entrance and pull up a chair. We watched the horse guards ride past, an unintentional injection of historic Britain.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

And then it arrived.
The famous Meat Fruit.
A perfect sphere, imitating a mandarin with a shiny, dimpled peel and green stem. The motivation behind this dish dating back to the c.1500 is from the old English habit of making one food appear as another.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

When sliced open, the supposed citrus reveals itself to be a creamy, smooth parfait of chicken liver and foie gras surrounded by a gel of mandarin. The flavour was incredible and meaty with an orangey kick, which although was very decadent, was also somehow light. The toasted bread added a nice crunch, and was quickly offered to be replaced as we finished our slice.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

We then tasted the triple cooked chips.
I have heard so much about these, that I was thoroughly disappointed upon my first bite.
You’d think being triple cooked would render it crispy and crunchy with just the right softness in the middle. Instead, they were all around rather chewy. And I can’t say I’m one for chewy chips. The flavour was good, a great saltiness that wasn’t overpowering and went well with the mushroom ketchup. But, I’m one for texture and this didn’t quite work for me.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Then came the Tipsy Cake, another of Dinner’s signature dishes.
This must be ordered well in advance to allow time for the gradual alcoholic basting.
A miniature cast iron pot contained the rum soaked, cream filled brioche. Upon first bite, all I could taste was pure decadence. Hot, creamy, vanilla and rum filled brioche with a crispy top melted in my mouth. We immediately decided we would like to wake up to this each morning.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal The sweet bites are accompanied with spit roasted pineapple which creates a caramelised exterior and a sharp but sweet fruity centre. This cuts the sweetness of the brioche, but still allows a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Food Porn Alert.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

As we had shared a clear enthusiasm for Chef Blumenthal’s genius, the waitress very kindly offered to take us on a tour of the kitchen.
The bustling kitchen whirred as I stood mesmerised by the prep line.
I spotted the Pineapple Spit Roast in the corner and blurted out a request to see it up close and personal. The waitress kindly obliged my child-like desire and led us through the maze of a kitchen.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal IMG_8Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 749 Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

It was all I could do to not skip through the kitchen with excitement, surrounded by brilliant chefs and stunning plates of food.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

We stared at the glistening fruits rotating next to the fire.
The chefs constantly coat them in a glaze to create their beautifully caramelised exterior.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

After a quick pose as a Dinner chef, and an excited hello to head chef Ashely Palmer-Watts, we headed to the Meat Fruit cave.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Here, the frozen spheres of chicken liver & foie gras parfait are dipped into a mandarin gelatine which solidifies instantly from the cold.

IMG_87Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 62Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

I took a little video so you can see the mandarin dunk.

After harassing the chefs, we were led down a hallway to the pastry kitchen.
Rows of chocolate ganache cups sat waiting to finish off lunches.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Tipsy Cakes sat cooling on wire racks, ready to deliver bliss to some unsuspecting diner. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal And Bohemian Cakes were given their finishing touches. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Thank you again to all the chefs for allowing us to slip through your kitchen during a busy service. We really appreciated it and the fantastic meal you served!

As we left the kitchen we spotted the Ice Cream Trolley.
One of Heston’s theatrical features which serves liquid nitrogen ice cream table-side topped with a selection of Heston-esque treats such as popping candy or freeze dried fruit. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

We were too full to taste it, so I posed as Ice Cream maker instead.
Next time I’ll be all over this.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

On the way back to the table I noticed a room for private meetings guarded by a pretty intimidating knocker. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Sadly the room was occupied, but I am considering investing in this bad boy to deter any unwanted visitors. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal We went back to our tables, giddy with excitement from our behind the scenes tour.
A last little indulgence arrived, presumably served to soften the blow of the bill.
Luckily we had only shared a couple treats and the bill was bearable with or without the ganache.
But we wouldn’t have given up the ganache.
It was a deliciously smooth, silky chocolate infused with Earl Grey served with a caraway  biscuit.
A last little decadent kiss goodbye.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Overall, the dishes were phenomenal and definitely crave-worthy.
The staff was incredibly gracious, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about where they work. Besides the unimpressive chips and my water glass being empty a few times, I cannot fault the experience.

This would be a lovely place for a special occasion or an impressive date.
I would definitely recommend giving this place a try and you can book here.

Bar Boulud

French Chef Daniel Boulud – say it with me, dan-yell boo-loo – decided to give his name to another restaurant and opened Bar Boulud in London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel in 2010.

Reviews ranted and raved about his dishes, but I never got around to trying it.
In fact, the first time I ever tasted one of Boulud’s dishes was two years later at Taste of London 2012.
You may recall me raving about a certain perfect hot dog here.
Well, this bad boy belonged to Mr. Boulud himself.

A year later, I was surprised with sunflowers and taken to Bar Boulud for a celebration over a perfect hot dog. The restaurant was completely booked and buzzing with men sipping whisky in designer suits and elegant women dining dressed to the nines

Bar Boulud Bar Boulud Bar Boulud Bar Boulud We quickly decided that this was going to be a filthy celebration of maximum caloric intake. A mandatory order of the Tunisienne Hot Dog was made. A spicy lamb merguez served on a brioche bun with mint yoghurt and pepper stew.
The Tunisienne had great flavour from the mint yoghurt with a little bit of kick from the pepper stew, but was missing that snap that completes the perfect hot dog.
Bar Boulud

Bar Boulud Bar Boulud

A little bit let down, we moved on to bigger and better things.
Burgers.
From a selection of New York Grilled Beef Burgers we ordered the Piggie and the “BB”, as well as a mountain of frites.

Bar Boulud The award winning Pigge is a beef patty topped with bbq pulled pork, green chili, mayonnaise, bibb lettuce, red cabbage slaw and melted cheddar on a bun.
I must start by saying this little Piggie made me go wee wee wee all the way home. I couldn’t stop talking about the perfection of this burger and wish we had stopped our order here.
The texture from the cheddar melted on top of the top of the bun is what I would like to call the cherry on top. Beneath this cheesy bun lay perfect pulled pork, crunchy red cabbage slaw, crisp bibb lettuce, spicy chilli mayo and a smoky, succulent beef patty cooked to perfection.
Bar Boulud Bar Boulud This little piggie didn’t stand a chance. Bar Boulud

Then we came to the BB.
A luxurious, if not gluttonous, combination of beef patty, foie gras, red wine braised short ribs, truffle frisée, horseradish mayonnaise and confit tomato on a black onion seed bun.
Although the generous serving of foie was creamy and added a nice, rich texture to the burger, there’s nothing else about this burger I enjoyed.
The beef patty was overcooked, truffle was overpowering of both the horseradish mayonnaise and confit tomato and the braised short ribs seemed unnecessary.
Each ingredient should enhance and complement the dish, yet this burger felt more like what can we throw on here to make it more extravagant.
I was incredibly disappointed and wished that this little piggie had ended on the Piggie.
Our lovely waiter took the burger off our bill which left me slightly less bitter before ordering dessert.

Bar Boulud Bar Boulud Ah dessert.
Recovering from the bitter end of our meal, we over ordered on dessert.
First, the theatrical Coupe Peppermint suggested by the waiter.
Flourless sponge with hot chocolate sauce and mint-chocolate ice cream.
The chocolate disc on top was melted by a hot chocolate sauce poured over the top. This caved into the mint-chocolate ice cream below which had the flavour of fresh mint, rather then that fake, spearminty flavour.
As a result of the hot chocolate, it all became a sort of soupy, minty mush. And the described flourless sponge was apparently one bite-full hiding at the bottom which I wasn’t quick enough to taste.
Overall, although the presentation was exciting, the flavours and textures were not.

Bar Boulud Bar Boulud IMG_8070 IMG_8072 Bar Boulud Next to try was an assortment of macarons.
Now I must warn you, the macaron happens to be my favourite sweet treat and over the years I have become a bit of a macaron master through extensive taste testing research. This frequently results in over-analysation of these finicky confections and I’m often left disappointed.
Hesitantly, we ordered the assortment of macarons: chocolate lime, hazelnut and passionfruit.
Have you ever smelled a citronella scented mosquito candle?
If so, you’ll know exactly what this chocolate lime macaron tasted of. I can safely say both mosquitos and I will be staying far away from it.
The hazelnut macaron didn’t have the perfect texture, but had a nice, if not muted, flavour of hazelnut.
To save the day/plate, the passionfruit macaron had good texture and a lovely, strong passionfruit flavour.
Overall, I’d give a 1 1/2 out of 3.
Bar Boulud To finish on a sweet note, the Birmane.
Fresh mango julienne, saffron crumble, mango orange mousse and a blood orange sorbet.
The presentation was simple but beautiful in a small glass. The mousse was creamy and sweet and contrasted perfectly with the cold, sour sorbet. I only found one piece of saffron biscuit, but enjoyed the snap of saffron. The pieces of juicy blood orange and strips of mango added a great texture and overall I really loved the dessert.

Bar Boulud The food at Bar Boulud was good and I’m assuming that a one off mistake was made. The service was great with knowledgable, friendly staff that were attentive and happy to  rectify the burger mishap.

You can book a romantic date or caloric massacre here and I’d thoroughly recommend making a reservation as this place fills up quickly.