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Dinner by Heston Blumenthal - 2 Michelin stars

Rating: 95.
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Restaurants and their signature dishes, there are many examples. Famous ones are Paul Bocuse's 'Soupe aux truffes noires V.G.E.', Frederic Anton's 'La Pomme', Thomas Keller's 'Oysters and Pearls', Massimo Bottura's 'Oops, I dropped the lemon tart', Gordon Ramsay's 'Lobster Ravioli', Pascal Barbot's 'Tarte au foie gras, champignons et agrumes'; the list goes on and on. We have all heard about these iconic dishes or seen photographs at one time or another. In a way the leader of the pack is Heston Blumenthal's, or Ashley Palmer-Watts' for that matter, Meat Fruit, served at Dinner in London. Basically it's a chicken liver and foie gras parfait disguised as a mandarin. This dish instantly made a huge impact when Dinner opened in January 2011 and it hasn't been out of the spotlight since. It is probably the only dish to have its own hashtag: #meatfruit.

Anyway, Dinner. It has already been three years since the opening. Besides getting a Michelin star in its first year and a second star in 2013, Dinner was the highest new entry in the 2012 World's 50 Best Restaurants List, entering at number 9. It rose another two spots to number 7 in 2013.

My last visit to Dinner was in December 2011, so a return-visit was long overdue. Dinner is open for lunch and dinner 7 days a week. The restaurant offers an a la carte menu with a large selection of starters, mains and desserts, all historically inspired modern British dishes. From Monday till Friday Dinner offers a set lunch menu (3 courses £38). I had dinner at Dinner with my husband on Thursday 5 December 2013.

To start there was, yes, you've guessed right, the meat fruit and it was as gorgeous as ever. A beautifully shaped 'mandarin' with the smoothest and lightest chicken liver and foie gras parfait, covered in a thin layer of mandarin jelly and served with toasted sourdough. To get a perfect layer of mandarin jelly that resembles the skin of a real mandarin, the parfait is frozen first and then dipped twice in a mandarin jelly.
The smoothness of the parfait gives it an incredible silky mouthfeel and the tangerine jelly has the perfect touch of tanginess and a wonderful long aftertaste.

Next was Frumenty - Grilled octopus, smoked sea broth, pickled dulse and lovage (the origins of this dish date back to the late 1300s). Superb, tender octopus, cooked sous-vide and then finished on a plancha, giving the the octopus a wonderful, smoky, char-grilled touch. Equally good was a complex-tasting smoked mussel broth, pickled dulse (a type of seaweed), thin slices of pickled buddha's hand, a lovage puree and some samphire and spelt for extra texture. A visually stunning dish with incredibly dynamic flavours. Loved the intensity of the lovage puree, which, once blended into the mussel broth, added a touch of meatiness. Great balance of salty and bitter flavours; the fruity bitters of the budhha's hand in particular delivered a nice contrast to the rich octopus. 

My main course was a generous dish of four identical pieces of soft and very flavoursome pork belly with perfectly scored skin, complemented by a classic Robert sauce, a pork stock based sauce flavoured with onions and mustard. The sauce had a nice syrupy consistency, a touch of sticky sweetness and a nice mustard kick right at the end. Also on the plate was freshly shaved white truffle, baby turnips and a sublime mixture of spelt and ham hock, covered with a thin layer of lardo and sprinkled with small pieces of pork crackling. Hidden underneath the spelt and ham hock mixture was a intensely flavoured sauce, made with the pork cooking juices. A amazingly rich and powerful, but stellar dish (order a light starter!).

Dessert - Taffety tart. A version of this dessert will occasionally feature on the tasting menu at the Fat Duck in Bray. The Fat Duck's version is often rectangularly shaped and served with a blackcurrant sorbet. This one was a perfectly cut 'slice' of taffety tart consisting of the following layers: a crispy vanilla biscuit base: two layers of apple jelly, one light with fresh apple flavours, the other one more intense with a nutty caramel finish: a wafer-thin Arlette biscuit topped with impressively piped dots of rose cream: finally another Arlette biscuit, this one covered with crystallised fennel seeds, rose petals and chopped almonds. With the taffety tart came vanilla ice cream and candied fennel. Great interplay of flavours; there's pleasant sweetness, there's tartness, there's saltiness, there's a nice floral note from the rose petals and a hint of liquorice from the fennel. A magnificent dessert with an extraordinary level of complexity and utterly delicious too.

Dinner is a very impressive operation. The restaurant has about 120 covers, so the kitchen may produce up to 170 meals in one service. Quantity does not come at the expense of quality however. Quite the contrary: at Dinner the name of the game is very much attention to detail and precision. There is no room for guess work and they use all the equipment and techniques they need to achieve the precision they are looking for. Probes and water baths abound! And it pays off. Not only have they managed to retain the quality level I experienced in 2011, they have raised the bar substantially. The complexity and finesse you will experience may depend on the individual dish (even the best steak and chips is just that) but the dishes in my meal were truly outstanding. They do not have to rely on expensive ingredients either: the belly pork is a perfect example of elevating a humble cut to an haute cuisine dish. Dinner is in a category of its own.

Posted 21-03-2014


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