Dinner by Heston has been open for just over a year now and it has taken the London restaurant scene by storm. It is Heston’s third restaurant after his famous triple-Michelined Fat Duck and the quirky gastropub the Hind’s Head. The food at Dinner by Heston is less complex and more affordable than that offered at the Fat Duck, but it has already gained a Michelin star and is listed as the 9th best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino. The restaurant is a stone’s throw away from Kensington tube station in the plush five-star Mandarin Oriental hotel. Head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts has a great pedigree having worked with Heston for 14 years and was head chef of the Fat Duck from 2003-2008. The dining room is opulent but understated with lots of grey and neutral furnishings, the only nod to Blumenthal’s wit are the porcelain jelly moulds that decorate the walls.
Two points of warning before I write about the food. The wine list is extremely top-heavy and you need to look hard for any bottle under £50 – it is disappointing that a more “accessible” restaurant offers very few moderately priced wines. Also, the service is rather slack (whilst I appreciate the benefits of informal service, for £70 a head I expect service of a certain standard) – the staff were clumsy at clearing plates and placing cutlery, we were served by 6 or 7 different waiters and had to wait to be served on a number of occasions whilst staff were standing chatting around the till, this is simply not good enough for a Michelin starred restaurant. Thankfully I found nothing to complain about from the food. Apparently all the dishes are historically British and old Hest (or a flunky more likely) dug them out of dusty old cookbooks and reinvented them. The savoury porridge with frog’s legs (£14.50) smoked beetroot and fennel was fantastic, the delicate frog’s legs came sitting in a risotto-esque porridge base which as lifted by the fresh, clean fennel. Powdered duck breast (£32) was cooked sous-vide ie vacuum packed then cooked in a water bath at low temperature for a long time, the meat was marvellously tender. The “powdered” nomenclature is a bit of a red herring – it is an old-fashioned word to denote curing meat in brine. For dessert we had the tipsy cake (£12) which is based around spit-roast pineapple (they have a special machine to roast pineapples over an open flame which takes a bit of time so you need to order this dish at the start of the meal), this is served on a board with a few slices of the beautiful caramelised pineapple and a moist brioche-based pineapple cake with hints of caramel.
Verdict: Fantastic food but the service is not up to scratch.