On the potato episode of How to cook like Heston the wonderfully geeky chef Heston Blumenthal demonstrated how the home cook could prepare his ‘triple cooked chips’. It looked reasonably straightforward but still seemed like a few hoops to jump through, just for a chip.

Last night at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the restaurant that roared into ninth place on the San Pellegrino list of the world’s top restaurants, Greedy Girl was served triple cooked chips as part of her main. There are only three letters fit to describe them – OMG.

It was like crunching down on hot Pringles. When gluttonous husband asked if he could share, the answer was a curt ‘no’. Yeah … that didn’t last – and neither did the chips.

‘Dinner’ opened at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge just over a year ago – the chef’s first foray outside his home base of Bray’s Fat Duck which, for a time, was anointed the best restaurant in the world. Not open long enough to feature in last year’s restaurant rankings, the list released in late April this year had it nine with a bullet. At the risk of sounding like a gushing fan, Greedy Girl easily understands why.

The menu shows Blumenthal is not only inspired by science in the creation of his gourmet fantasies, but also by British culinary heritage. Unlike most of the restaurants at the top of the rankings lists, Dinner does not offer a tasting menu – just the bog-standard starter, main and dessert. But what is most fascinating is that the dishes all come with a serving of history.

Gluttonous husband asked for the wait staff’s recommendations for all three courses. He began with ‘Meat Fruit’ a dish circa 1500 although the menu states it may have been around as early as the 1300s. It’s a classic trotted out in various guises right through the foodie world – pate, brioche and fruit. In this case, it’s the smoothest chicken liver parfait you’ve ever tried, rolled in a mandarin gel that mimicked the skin of the fruit to just give a pop of sweetness. It was served with a grilled piece of buttery brioche. When that looked in danger of running out before the pate was finished, the highly-attentive wait staff were at gluttonous husband’s elbow (a position usually requiring danger money) asking if he would like another slice.

Greedy Girl opted for ‘Buttered Crab Loaf’ c. 1714. Wow. A promise to share with gluttonous husband was close to being revoked. Flaked crab meat was dotted with tiny cubes of cucumber and pickled lemon, topped with herring roe that gave the dish the occasional salty burst. It was served on a slick of a slightly curried reduction and an oblong of fried bread. This wasn’t the place to be to avoid carbs.

For the mains, gluttonous husband chose a special, which apparently was from the 17th century, ‘Beef Royale’ – our Spanish waiter patiently explained the dish was mooted to have been created for the coronation of King James II – I couldn’t remember my British history all that well (the champagne having well and truly kicked in) so I couldn’t remember if his majesty met a sorry end but, if he dined on beef royale, at least he would have enjoyed a full belly.

The beef was cooked for 48 hours and served ‘pink’ – as pink as you can still be after 48 hours in the pot and served with a morel sauce, baby carrots and tiny roasted onions. Small croutons on top of the beef gave it texture and the lot was topped by a slurp of beef jus.

Greedy Girl also had meat. Her fillet of Aberdeen Angus (c. 1830) was a recipe from Mistress Meg Dodds’ The Cook and Housewife’s Manual. Bless her little starched bonnet. This was served with the triple cooked chips (drool) and a mushroom ketchup. A little trivia note presented along with the menu informed us that ketchup was not an American invention. Evidence of the earlest ketchups was found in London in the early 18th century. So … take that!

We set the champagne aside, in its weird oblong flutes (tip – don’t try to take a sip from the broad side of the glass) for a glass of red to match the meat. An exceedingly friendly sommelier recommended a shiraz from the Adelaide Hills – she obviously didn’t pick our accents. We’d travelled too far to sip an Australian red. Gluttonous husband had a Portuguese shiraz while Greedy Girl relished a glass of Bordeaux.

All too soon, it was time for dessert – and the one misstep of the evening in Greedy Girl’s estimation. Gluttonous husband had the house recommendation of Tipsy Cake (c. 1810) while Greedy Girl chose Chocolate Bar, from the 1730 ‘Complete Practical Cook’ by Charles Carter.

Let me dispense with the chocolate first. A glossy, dark chocolate ganache sat atop a slick of passionfruit jam on a crumbly base, with ginger ice cream on the side. It looked superb and the first forkful offered a lovely bitter flavour. In the chocolate episode of Heston’s how to show, he cooked a chocolate ganache tart, also with passionfruit, which gluttonous husband made at home. I didn’t hugely enjoy the combination then and I didn’t last night either. I couldn’t finish the plate.
But I could have easily finished gluttonous husband’s Tipsy Cake. Now, THIS was a British pudding. Taking half an hour to cook, the combination of sauternes, brandy, cream soaked into a brioche style pudding was amazingly rich and yet not heavy. It was served with a caramelised slice of spit-roasted pineapple – which again was just too sweet and even gluttonous husband had to draw a line under that one.

We’d been warned before arrival at 6.30pm that further guests would be laying siege to our table by 8.30. That didn’t eventuate, although the holding bar was full as we left around 9pm, groaning under our own bloated bellies. The damage, apart from the trans fats heading for Greedy Girl’s liver, was around A$400 for three substantial courses, champagne and wine. An absolute bargain.

We’d happily go back to try a host of other dishes but, alas, the chances of fluking a table at this hottest of hot spots is seriously doubtful. Greedy Girl would be happy to jump through some more hoops but perhaps that will have to be next trip.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1
Dinner By Heston Blumenthal - Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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