Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Dinner by Heston

It was my 3rd wedding anniversary last week, and in keeping with our tradition of gorging ourselves sick & going into debt to celebrate, we went to Dinner by Heston!

We had made these reservations maybe two months in advance? At least a month, and at that time we were left with only one timeslot on a Wednesday - 9:30 pm. Yipes! So, definitely book well in advance, considering at one month we were just skirting in at the eleventh hour...or rather, the ninth hour. So, clearly this place is still popular a little over two years on from it's opening. Good sign! I expected no less from Heston Blumenthal's cheaper and more central restaurant, as the Fat Duck is significantly more pricey and is certainly out of the way - unless you happen to live in Bray. I do wonder if there are any plans for more London openings, I haven't heard any rumors - but I think given how congested Dinner is still after two years, the audience is there.

About the audience, though...We had a couple next to us that were the UK equivalent of these obnoxious SNL characters. Of course we didn't have any direct interactions with them, but the woman cussed solidly through the meal, only breaking up the monotony of her "this is so f'ing good" and "taste this shit" by accosting her boyfriend for not talking to her. After awhile they started arguing about whether or not she was cheating on him. It was really an unexpected conversation to eavesdrop in on at a top tier restaurant, I expected to hear...I don't know, political discussion or stock tips, not the background chatter of a Gregg's. On the plus side, a woman sitting across from me looked like Arianna Huffington! I'm sure it wasn't, but still, that's a classy look to be dining alongside.

We ordered the starter that everyone loves, the Meat Fruit.

The coolest thing about Dinner is that it is all dishes from Olden Tymes, and apparently back then it was quite the trend to make food look like different food. I'm all for it, personally. So, you might see where this is going - especially if you already know about this dish...

That's right, the inside is pate - specifically, chicken liver and foie gras parfait. I've never eaten pate before, I always felt that soft meat spread sounded kind of...dreadful, but turns out it is actually quite nice! The outside is a mandarin jelly, which blends really well with the meaty and 'dark' taste of the pate. Liver tastes a bit metallic to me, very 'earthy' and incredibly rich, but the mandarin cuts through it and livens the whole thing up a bit. It was a massive portion for as rich as it was, and I struggled to finish my half. Additional bread was offered up until the pate was all gone, which was much appreciated as it was so rich I used quite a bit of bread.

I also used a lot of bread as an excuse to eat more of the delicious butter that was served alongside it. Apparently unpasteurized -or at least less so- and only slightly salted, it reminded me of butter I had tried a few times as a kid that had been hand churned or shaken up in a little Mason jar. Yes, I come from a state with Amish people, why do you ask?

My husband had the Earl Gray Tea cured Salmon, and liked it, but felt a bit disappointed in the softness of the earl gray flavor - he said it might as well be citrus. He wished he had gone for a slightly more esoteric dish. I didn't try any because I'm not that into salmon, and I was struggling to finish my meat fruit as it was.

Onto the main courses, I had the Black Foot Pork Chop, and my husband had the Spiced Pigeon.

Hope you weren't spoiled by the meat fruit photos, which were halfway decent. Sorry for the false hope! The pork chop was massive, bone-in, and served pink. Absolutely delicious - definitely the best pork chop I've ever had - probably about 5x the size, as well. The fat was soft and delicately tasty, and the flesh was tender and really porky. A great combination. The side of spelt, hamhock, and turnips tasted mostly of pork, but had an interesting blend of textures - basically all textures. The Robert sauce, which is a brown mustard base, was perfect with the pork - gently pungent from the mustard but softened up and meatier-tasting, kind of like an au jus.

I can't really comment on this one, as I didn't have a taste - but my husband certainly seemed to enjoy the pigeon.

By this time I was quite full, and disappointingly felt that my very own dessert was impossible. Luckily, we had ordered the Tipsy Cake at the start of the meal and I had just enough room for half of it.

I messed about with the levels on this one to get it bright enough to see, the pineapple wasn't actually that lurid. The Tipsy Cake is a brioche soaked in rum and cream - which turns the brioche into basically solid-state rum & vanilla cream. The pineapple was really good too, but if you've had roasted pineapple it isn't going to be a mind-blower. The tartness cuts away the brioche very nicely, though.

All in all, we were quite happy with our meal at Dinner. The service was attentive, friendly, and considerate, with just a tiny couple hiccups.

For instance, we ordered a side of fries and didn't receive the mushroom ketchup whereas the couple next to us did alongside their steak and fries. We also didn't receive the final ganache that I had read about in reviews, which it seemed every other table was enjoying. To be fair, I do think that might've had to do with the kitchen closing, as we were one of the last bookings. Still, it was a bit of a shame to see other tables tucking into their last sweet delivered alongside the bill. I'm sure had I mentioned it at the time they would've brought one out, had they been able to, but I was pretty full and I don't like to complain. Just an observation, too niggling to bring up in person or to even consider for more than a minute. It wouldn't stop me from going back, but I think I'd specifically request the ganache next time, haha. The bread, banter, and water refills were very solid, so obviously it was just a small mistake in the grand scheme of things.

I think the price at Dinner is comparable to a three course meal & drinks at most popular London restaurants, really - it isn't as grand or unreachable as might be assumed. For our meal of two starters, two mains, a dessert and two glasses of wine & water it was around the £140 mark. We would've been fine to split a starter (if it were the meat fruit, that is) and we were certainly fine to split a dessert. I'd recommend it for a special occasion, especially if you're looking for a reason to get dressed up.

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