If you love food and you’re visiting London, you must go to at least one fine dining restaurant. And if you have to choose just one, go with Dinner by Heston in Knightsbridge for a true foodie experience.
Dave and I have visited Dinner by Heston twice now and each time has been an out-of-this-world experience. The service is impeccable and you can have up to four people waiting on you during your visit. The hostess will escort you to your table, the sommelier will give you detailed information on all the wines on offer, the waiter will take your order and make sure you’re happy with everything, and then there’s normally a fourth person running around to do anything the other three might have forgotten.
Not that they’re likely to forget anything. Our waiter had an in-depth memory and was able to recall the way each dish has been prepared and cooked, what it’s been influenced by and the flavours you can expect to experience when you eat each dish. Better yet, you could tell that he shared the same passion Dave and I have for food.
I would make the most of the waiter’s knowledge if you dine at Dinner by Heston and quiz them thoroughly if you visit because it’s good to understand how much effort has gone into preparing what’s on your plate.
And if you’re lucky enough to sit close to the kitchen like we were, you can see the chefs at work through the thick, sound proofed floor to ceiling windows. It looks like organised chaos, with each chef in charge of a separate work station, grilling meat, cooking it in a wood fire stove, chopping and preparing the food or in some cases, basting the pineapples in a caramel-like syrup on a giant rotisserie to prepare them for the delicious tipsy cakes.
Dinner by Heston is different from Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant. At the Fat Duck, the food is similar to what you’ll see on his TV show – scientific gastronomy where each dish you eat has been made to wow you with its dry ice, whacky presentation and strange tastes. At Dinner by Heston, the food is based on old English cuisine which has been well-researched and then adapted with a modern twist.
For example, for Dave’s entrée he had frog’s legs porridge. Now this might sound disgusting, but it’s served with smoked beetroot, garlic, parsley and fennel and is based on a recipe from 1660 when often people would eat savoury porridge because it’s hearty and would fill them up.
Dave’s porridge wasn’t thick and gluggy but instead the grains were fine, almost with a risotto consistency, and the frog’s legs were fried like croquettes.
I opted for Heston’s meat fruit for my starter, which is my favourite dish of his. It looks impressive on the plate because it comes served as a mandarin – very fitting considering Dinner by Heston is housed in the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge. The mandarin’s casing is made from gelatine orange and when you cut into it you uncover the fois gras that makes up the inside of the ‘fruit’. The orange flavour is a perfect match with the rich fois gras and it melts in your mouth. It’s making me hungry again right now just thinking about it.
For main course, Dave had the special which was veal served with asparagus. Asparagus is in season at the moment and so it was fresh and soft in the middle. The veal was served breaded yet was very tender and not chewy or dry at all.
When eating out, I always like to order something that I’d never be able to cook at home. At Dinner by Heston, this is just about everything on the menu.
I once hosted a dinner party with my girlfriends and made a recipe from the Heston at Home cookbook. I cooked the fish pie and it took me more than five hours. Five hours for a fish pie! And that was without the fancy seaside design that it was meant to be served with, made from breadcrumbs as sand and a chemical that creates a froth like substance to imitate the ocean. It was well worth it though; it was better than any fish pie I think I’ve ever tasted and my friends were very impressed.
So anyway, at Dinner by Heston, I thought I’d go for a meat dish that I wouldn’t be able to cook, and so I chose the pigeon. It was served with ale and artichokes and looked like a pretty picture on my plate. The meat is tender and served medium rare. I never knew pigeon could be so delightful. I’ve had it before at other restaurants and it was full of bones but this time there wasn’t a bone in sight.
To finish the meal, I had the famous tipsy cake that is made fresh when you order it. This means you have to request it at the beginning of the evening when you arrive, so that it’s ready for you in time. You have to try this dish if you visit Dinner by Heston, as it’s the signature dessert dish inspired by a recipe from 1810.
Using the spit-roast pineapple for the cake’s core, the outer cake is light and fluffy and its warmth fills your mouth.
Dave also went for the tipsy cake, but my father-in-law, who we were dining with, opted to have the quaking pudding and my mother-in-law had a selection of British cheeses.
Everyone always goes on about the tipsy cake (like I just did) but the quaking pudding is a close contender. It’s a small and wobbly pudding, not unlike a crème caramel texture, and has a honey flavour with a dash of lime and pear. Delightful.
The British cheeses were ok but certainly not the pick of the bunch as there was nothing there that excited me. I definitely think it’s the cakes and puddings that are Dinner by Heston’s forte.
The total bill wasn’t cheap – more than £550 for the four of us. That included three aperitifs, followed by two bottles of wine. My aperitif was a vintage glass of Moët et Chandon and it was £15 which I think was very reasonable. My father-in-law chose an expensive bottle of pinot noir at £105 but the house red is tasty and only £35 a bottle, a good substitute if you don’t want to spend too much. Needless to say this was the second bottle of wine that we ordered!
All in all, Dinner by Heston is difficult to fault.
From the moment you walk in you can tell it’s going to be a very special experience and it certainly lives up to the high expectations you may have.