The critics are raving about Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the Willy Wonka-style chef behind the pioneering Fat Duck restaurant. We showcase its astonishing back-to-the-future signature dishes.
The signature dish at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal – the chef’s new restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental London, his first since he opened The Fat Duck 16 years ago – has already emerged. “Meat Fruit” appears on the menu of starters and consists of what appears to be a perfectly ripe mandarin with a plump peel and green leaves. But when a knife slices easily into the orange, what is revealed is in fact a soft chicken liver parfait. It is typical Heston in its surprise and and has been applauded in almost all reviews since the restaurant opened.
Most famous for pioneering what he terms “molecular gastronomy” at The Fat Duck in Berkshire (often awarded the title of Best Restaurant in the World), Dinner goes back to the future in its cuisine. Blumenthal and head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts worked with food historians and the British Library to devise a menu that details the date when each dish was originally conceived. Standouts include: Salamagundy, circa 1720 (chicken oysters, bone marrow and horseradish cream); Savoury Porridge, circa 1660 (cod cheeks, pickled beetroot, garlic and fennel); Rice and Flesh, circa 1390 (saffron, calf tail and red wine); and Cod in Cider, circa 1940 (chard and fired mussels).
Served in a room that overlooks Hyde Park (designer Adam Tihany insisted on raising the floor and ceiling so that all diners and even some of the kitchen staff have the view), Dinner is a lesson in what makes a great restaurant – inventive cooking coupled with impeccable service and complementary surroundings. Not that creating restaurants is what Blumenthal considers to be his business. Of his 18 months of academic research in to the history of gastronomy for Dinner, the chef quips: “To be honest, I would rather just study food than open restaurants.”
Why did Heston Blumenthal name his new restaurant Dinner?
“Finding a restaurant name is never easy, I am still not 100% sure where the name for The Fat Duck came from to this day. For the new restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, I wanted to find a name that encapsulated the concept, which has a strong focus on dishes inspired by historic British gastronomy, but was also a bit of fun. There has always been confusion in the UK over the names of our midday and evening meals and their origins, so researching this, I discovered the word dinner comes from the old 13th century French word disner, (pronounced dee-nay), which initially stood for breakfast, and developed to the main meal of the day.
The evolution of the word over the centuries was due to the changing social, political and economic developments and even technological innovation. The main meal of the day – dinner, was originally eaten in the middle of the day because it became too dark to do anything once the sun went down. Then during the 1700s when people could afford to buy candles, dinner was pushed back from noon to between three and five o’clock, with supper occurring by candlelight much later. During the Victorian era, dinner became still later because of gaslights and a growing middle class, who began to entertain more. The confusion continues and by the middle of the 19th century the wealthier few would dine late and have a midday lunch, creating the concept of afternoon tea as a snack and social affair to sustain them until dinner. Those working in factories during the industrial revolution would carry a “lunch” to work with them having their main meal at 5pm after the factory closed, yet still in more rural areas the main meal of the day was at midday and is still referred to as dinner and the evening meal as tea. To this day, depending where you are in the British Isles, it still means the main formal meal of the day, served either at ‘lunch’ or ‘supper’ time depending. This delightful ambivalence persists in our quirky, illogical language when we think of the verb to dine (which we can do at any time of the day, from mid-morning onwards). Anyway, it just seemed quite entertaining and typically British in both history and language play, so for me it was an obvious choice and if nothing else, I hope it's at least easy to remember.”
“This contemporary stainless steel pulley is modeled after an original 16th century pulley system designed for the British Royal Court’s kitchens. Custom designed, the gears and crank resemble the craftsmanship of an oversized watch, mechanically rotating a spit in an open-fire rotisserie.”
- Tihany Design
What do London’s leading food critics make of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal?
“The best food I've had in two years.”
- Mark Hix, restaurateur and food writer for The Independent
“Dinner reclaims and reinvents our own cooking heritage, reinvigorating the tired and ordinary orthodoxies of traditional British cooking. The result is nothing short of astonishing.”
- Matthew Fort, The Guardian
“If there has been a more flawless and exhilarating restaurant opening in the past decade, I missed it. The best thing of all about Dinner is a quality never before associated with a Michelin deity. It is colossal fun.”
- Matthew Norman, The Daily Telegraph
“Heston Blumenthal’s interpretation of the dishes of merrie old England is a brilliant and original concept. Yet eating at his new restaurant remains an interesting experience, rather than a delicious one.”
- Jan Moir
Hay-smoked mackerel, lemon salad and gentleman's relish, as served at Dinner
Recipe from Heston Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer-Watts
To make the pickled lemons:
chardonnay vinegar 100ml
Amalfi lemons 2
For the mayonnaise:
Dijon mustard 20g
arachide (groundnut) oil 80ml
chardonnay vinegar 10ml
lemon juice 40ml
For the garlic and anchovy sauce:
garlic cloves 75g, peeled and de-germed (take out green sprout)
semi-skimmed milk for blanching the garlic 4 x 300ml
semi-skimmed milk 200ml
Panko breadcrumbs 8g
anchovy fillets 50g
olive oil 40ml
lemon juice 15ml
mayonnaise (see above)
To cure the mackerel:
bergamot zest 20g
lime zest 10g
coriander seeds 10g
black peppercorns 2g
fresh mackerel 2
meadow sweet hay
pickled lemon slices
grelot onions 6, peeled, blanched and cut in half
Bull's Blood leaves 16
endive leaves 8, cut in half
olive oil 25ml
bergamot juice 25ml
The pickled lemons need to be refrigerated for 48 hours before using. To pickle the lemons, in a pan over a gentle heat, mix the water, vinegar and sugar together. When the sugar has dissolved, remove from heat and cool. Thinly slice the lemons, discarding the seeds, and place into the pickling liquid. Place in the fridge for 48 hours.
To make mayonnaise, combine the egg and mustard in a bowl. Gradually incorporate the oil, whisking continually to emulsify. Add the vinegar, salt and lemon juice and mix well. Refrigerate.
To make garlic and anchovy sauce, cover garlic with 300ml milk and add a dash of cold water. Bring slowly to a simmer then drain and rinse garlic under cold running water. Return garlic to pan and repeat process three times.
In a pan, cover the garlic with the 200ml semi-skimmed milk and bring to a simmer. Cook until garlic is very soft and milk has reduced in volume. Remove from heat and pour into a jug. Blitz using a hand blender until smooth, then add breadcrumbs and anchovies and blitz again until smooth. While blitzing, slowly add the oil and lemon juice then pass through a fine sieve.
Weigh garlic and anchovy mix, add 30% of the total weight of mayonnaise, mix well. Refrigerate.
To cure the mackerel, place the sugar, salt, bergamot and lime zest, coriander seeds and peppercorns in a food processor and blitz until finely ground.
Gut and fillet the mackerel. Run the tip of a sharp filleting knife down either side of the pin bones and bloodline in the centre of each fillet and remove this area by pulling it away with fish tweezers.
Spread the bergamot cure on to a tray and place the fish fillets on it, flesh-side down. Cover with clingfilm and refrigerate for 2 hours. Rinse the fillets under cold running water to remove the cure then pat dry with kitchen paper.
Place a layer of hay (available from pet shops) in a fish BBQ clamp and lay the mackerel fillets on top. Cover fillets with more hay and close the clamp.
Do the next step outside! Using a blowtorch or simply placing over a lit BBQ, ignite the hay, then place on a tray and allow the flames to die out. Remove fillets and trim. Place fish in the fridge.
To serve, cut each fillet into four pieces. Spread a tablespoon of the anchovy sauce on each plate and place mackerel on top.
Garnish with the lemon slices, onions, radicchio and bull's blood leaves and endive. Whisk together the oil and bergamot juice and drizzle over dish before serving.