Can we get the silly stuff out of the way first, please? Thank you. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the long-awaited new restaurant at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, London, doesn’t just serve dinner – it serves lunch, too. and tea. Our modern word ‘dinner’ comes from the 13th-century French word, ‘disner’, a meal which in fact was eaten at breakfast. So dinner, it seems, is not what I thought it was, and probably not what you thought it was, either. If Heston Blumenthal were not a chef, he could have been a historian, and if not a historian, a philologist, because he loves etymology, just as he loves to put his own spin on food from history. Roman banquets, tudor feasts, and his brilliantly imaginative, controversial recreation of the last meal ‘never eaten’ on the titanic: welcome to Heston’s world.
He is, of course, chef-proprietor of the Fat Duck, the restaurant which in 10 short years transformed itself from cosy Berkshire village bistro into Britain’s holy temple of ‘culinary alchemy’, a term the maestro prefers to the overused, ‘elitist’ molecular gastronomy. (Note to self and all foodies out there: molecular gastronomy is dead – long live culinary alchemy). For years, the Duck has held three Michelin stars and is currently one of only four restaurants in Britain to do so, while in 2005, the prestigious Restaurant Magazine voted it ‘Best Restaurant in the world’. These days, Blumenthal is revered as one of the top three or four chefs around, sitting comfortably alongside Ferran Adrià, Paul Bocuse and Alain Ducasse. And goodness me, if my eyes do not deceive me, isn’t that the great Monsieur Ducasse himself, sitting quietly at a window table at Dinner tonight, rapturously tucking into a dish of spiced pigeon with ale and artichoke?
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal has arrived, in its beautiful home overlooking Hyde Park; not so much a feather in Mandarin Oriental’s cap, but a jewel in its already carat-laden, culinary crown. Blumenthal had long had great respect for the Mandarin Oriental brand, with a special regard for David Nicholls, the Hotel group’s visionary Director of Food & Beverage. ‘Just as long as I could have my own way with everything – I mean, this was never going to look like a typical hotel dining room – it was a deal,’ jokes Blumenthal, not really joking, of course. He was also swayed by the fact that these guys are taking food very, very seriously. (Daniel Boulud’s brilliant Bar Boulud, which opened at Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park a year ago, is a critical and commercial triumph.)
Dinner: not just a feather in
Mandarin Oriental’s cap,
but a jewel in its already carat-laden
Restaurant Critic, Jeremy Wayne
Yes, Dinner has arrived and, even before you have a thing to eat, before the first plume of evanescent liquid nitrogen has puffed like a wisp of cloud past your table and dispersed, you have to say it looks great. Adam Tihany, who has collaborated so joyously with Mandarin Oriental in the past, has done the room, absorbing a history lesson or two from Blumenthal in the process. There’s a fabulous central chandelier in the shape of a Tudor rose, inspired by the Tudor rose in Westminster Abbey, and what looks like exposed brickwork is actually leather, copied from Hampton Court. The walls in the private dining room are modelled on the Houses of Parliament. It’s history all right – high-end history
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