If you like your Michelin-star restaurants with a healthy dose of drama and more attention to detail (and to you) than you’ve ever experienced before, go to Dinner by Heston. It’s the real deal.
To celebrate 7 (long, hard) years together, Alex and I booked a table at Dinner by Heston, which is situated in the equally swanky Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge. There isn’t a dress code as such for the restaurant but I’d recommend making a bit of an effort so you don’t feel out of place in the hotel next to gold-gilded walls, spiral staircases, and priceless art. Some of this may be an exaggeration, but you get the vibe.
The restaurant is pretty spacious with lots of glass and mirrors. You can see through to the kitchen and watch hanging pineapples roast above busy work stations. Mostly the tables are pretty private but there are a few of those awful double couple settings where you feel like you’re having dinner with strangers. We were seated in one of those but luckily our semi-early reservation meant it was just us.
As soon as we walked in the maître d’ was on us, asking how we were and if it was a special occasion. I mentioned that it was our anniversary and that we were very excited etc etc. He told us a little about the restaurant and the idea that each dish is inspired by a meal that would have been eaten many moons ago, updated with one of Mr Blumenthal’s quirky techniques, of course. If nothing else, you will feel very well-informed at Dinner by Heston, which I love; the whole pomp and performance and story of it all is right up my street.
Once we’d chosen our wine – the sommelier helped, and decanted our bottle, putting it to one side and stealthily topping us up as soon as we’d had a few sips – we poured over the menu, which is a real treat just to read. There’s quite a few weird and wonderful ingredients on there but a small army of staff, dedicated to you, are hovering closeby and full of answers and information.
To start, I chose the Meat Fruit (c.1500) which is essentially a chicken liver parfait inside a mandarin. I knew it was one of the most popular dishes and I’d seen it on Instagram looking as cool as hell! Alex went for a saffron, calf tail and red wine risotto-type thing, also known as Rice & Flesh (), which in all honesty sounded the best taste-wise, which should probably be a key influencer when picking food but I’m a dickhead food blogger. My glorified pâté was incredible. Smooth and velvety yet substantial and meaty inside with a slightly orange-y exterior that tasted glossy (is that even a thing?). The bread it was served with was perfectly crunchy too. Initially, I was presented with just one slice but good god that was not enough for all of the Meat Fruit on my board, and just as I was thinking that and ready to finish the last bite of bread, a waiter appeared from nowhere and set down another slice. The service was truly magical. Alex’s was really tasty too – thick, creamy and really flavoursome with lovely lumps of meat in every other bite – and the kind of dish I’d want to have for a main.
For my main course, I had to go duck. I would have gone pork, but Alex insists that that’s his ‘thing’ in schmancy restaurants. Yeah. His ‘thing’. The Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) was perfectly cooked – it’s actually done in a water bath – and bright pink inside with a crisp, salty skin. It came with smoked confit fennel and a smoked beetroot smudge. The beetroot was the real star of the show and went perfectly with the duck. I think they must mix up the bits it comes with because I’ve seen varying arrangements of the same dish throughout the seasons in other restaurant reviews. Alex’s Roast Iberico Pork Chop () tasted exactly as it looked – hearty and unctuous. The portion sizes are plentiful, not pretty and fussy and Michelin-starry, and there’s no need for lots of sides. We just got some mashed potato to share and I can report it was suitably decadent.
We didn’t really have any room left but we hadn’t come this far to not see what kind of dessert you could get for £13,50. I opted for Sambocade () and my sweet-toothed partner chose Brown Bread Ice Cream (c.1390). Again, I was insanely jealous of his choice: it came with salted butter caramel on a circle of BREAD! My goat’s milk cheesecake stood its ground though. It was like eating a lighter, fluffier chunk of actual cheese with the slightest sweetness provided by elderflower and the delicious poached pear and candied walnuts.
Have you ever been so stuffed that the last half glass of red wine seems too much? I hadn’t until Dinner by Heston. We forced it down, lovely though it was, and asked for the bill, while I went to inspect the bathrooms. I can confirm – posh. When I returned there was another surprise waiting. Because I’d mentioned our anniversary when we arrived, they’d whipped up a little chocolatey treat for each of us with a chocolate ‘Happy Anniversary’ doodled on the plates. Never have I been so pleased, yet so sick at the sight of more food. I ate it all of course, to be polite…
Dinner by Heston was potentially my most memorable restaurant experience. The food was really different but not in a weird way; it was so delicious, just presented in a clever way. The staff really made it: they were so friendly and knowledgeable and made me feel like a real VIP. This is however not the kind of place you’ll go every month or even every couple of months. Starters cost approx £20 each and mains are between £28-42, so save your pennies! The wine we had was somewhere around £40. It was entirely worth it though and we had the best time – definitely book a table (well in advance!), if you’ve got something special to celebrate too.