Already lauded as one of the world’s great restaurants, Dinner by Heston in the Mandarin Oriental in London’s Knightsbridge has been a mecca for Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband, who’ve dined there twice. Only the flu prevented us from making a third visit earlier this year. Luckily, being based in Melbourne, Australia, we have another dining mecca literally on our doorstep. Melbourne is one of the world’s great food cities, so it seemed only fitting for this superstar chef to make this his first restaurant venture outside the UK.

Summer in Melbourne can throw up all kinds of conditions. On the last Saturday before Christmas we braved the elements for the short walk along the banks of the Yarra River from Docklands to the Crown complex. At lunchtime it was nearing 40 degrees celsius and unsurprisingly, the al fresco bars and restaurants abutting the river were deserted. The shortest route is to hug the riverbank but we gave into the furnace-like temperatures and the air-conditioned interiors of the nearby Melbourne Exhibition Centre, arriving on the third floor of Crown towers in reasonable shape. Greedy Girl’s make-up was intact and her outfit not saturated by profuse amounts of perspiration.

Dinner now occupies the spot previously home to The Fat Duck’s antipodean sojourn. Having missed out on a spot to dine there, Greedy Girl was on the pre-booking list for Dinner. She immediately secured the first available table closest to gluttonous husband’s birthday and considered this his main celebration. And so we ventured down the long, dark corridor, infused with fragrances of the forest and a whiff of new leather. It’s a bit more glamorous than new car smell and makes the trek towards the door even more intriguing.

And we were exceedingly happy with what we found.

The food here is, quite simply, brilliant. Match that with very knowledgeable and personable service and an excellent wine list, and this is pretty much fine dining nirvana. We were shown to a crescent-shaped booth hugging the wall. It’s a pleasant aspect; the tree canopies, the river, some of the Melbourne city skyline. Greedy Girl and gluttonous husband were able to sit side-by-side (their much preferred configuration) and be away from the heat that would no doubt be transferring through the windows. Ordering a very nice bottle of Bollinger, we sat, sipped and negotiated.

And negotiation was required. Both previous times in London, gluttonous husband had ordered the restaurant’s extraordinary dessert, Tipsy Cake. Greedy Girl felt it was her turn (notwithstanding the birthday boy’s privileges). Our delightful waiter Eric (from Chicago) stepped in to recommend a brown bread ice-cream. Given Greedy Girl rarely eats ice-cream, gluttonous husband decided it was time to let his hair down and try something new. Such discussions about dessert are necessary where Tipsy Cake is involved, given it’s an hour’s cook.

Sorted. We sat back and awaited our first treats.

Gluttonous husband, who usually has the meat fruit (you can read his opinion of that here) decided it was time to choose something new. He went for roast marrowbone which was served with garlicky snails, anchovy, parsley and mace and a profusion of pickled vegetables on the side. He was a very happy chappy. The richness of the snails in the marrowbone was tempered by the vinegary tang of the vegetables. Scrum-diddly-umptious. Of course, any trip to Dinner is a gastronomic history lesson. This particular recipe hails from The Cook’s and Confectioner’s Dictionary, a 1720 tome written by John Nott.

Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Roast marrowbone

Greedy Girl, who originally had designs on the meat fruit, opted instead for Rice and Flesh, a recipe dating back to 1390 from The Forme of Cury, The Master Cooks of King Richard II. Little tags that enclose one’s napkin on arrival relate a few more historical anecdotes. This book was actually a scroll and thought to be a collection of the earliest British recipes. Cury isn’t a misspelling of ‘curry’. Apparently it’s a middle-English take on the French word ‘cuire’, meaning cookery. Curry, the restaurant reminds us, didn’t actually arrive on British shores for another 450 years. However, curry is actually used in this dish. Go figure!

This exemplifies the restaurant’s Melbourne signature – combining traditional ingredients and recipes with Australian flavours. The dish is a cheesy risotto, cooked al dente, with the rich yellow colour enhanced by saffron. It’s served with curried kangaroo tails, red wine and amaranth (the little leaves you can see dotted on top of the kangaroo). It’s an exceptionally vivid and attractive-looking plate.

Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Rice and flesh

Scooping below the surface of the parmesan-infused rice, you find the red wine sauce which is exceptionally luscious. The slight hit of curry from the kangaroo tails is a welcome combination. This is a serious dish, perhaps not the best choice on a hot lunchtime but Greedy Girl was content to down the lot – except she agreed to leave some behind for gluttonous husband to try. The texture of the rice, a perfect level of firmness, really made the dish.

Next up were main courses. Greedy Girl was again devastated to find Heston’s noted triple-cooked chips missing from the menu. According to our waiter, the restaurant is still trying to source the right type of potato in Australia to be able to fulfill the brief. She had to make do with twice-cooked chips, served on the side of an exceptional piece of black Angus fillet. This was ordered medium rare and topped with a pat of bone marrow. An extraordinary red wine jus and some mushroom ketchup were also served on the side. This is pretty much a perfect piece of meat and a huge serving. One tiny quibble; the mushroom ketchup was seriously cold and a little bit of a shock to the system, but all aspects were very, very tasty. Yum.

Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Fillet of black Angus

Gluttonous husband chose the roast Trumpeter, served with leaf chicory, broccoli tops, clam ketchup and some intense salmon roe. Trumpeter is a form of whiting and caught in Bass Strait – just south of Melbourne. Apparently the fish is delivered to the restaurant by its suppliers with an inordinate amount of speed; If it were any fresher it’d be flailing around on the plate. This was a meaty white fish with a buttery flavour. It was just translucent in the middle, having been cooked in a water bath and finished off in a hot pan. When one caught a pearl of salmon roe, the salty hit bursting in the mouth was sensational. Sigh. Another excellent dish.
Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Roast trumpeter

Sipping our champagne, we kept an eagle eye on other tables and chatted with some of the staff walking the floor; they perfected the knack of being engaging without going over the top. Greedy Girl spied the gentleman controlling the dining floor and commented to gluttonous husband he looked rather familiar. This was Jonno, who’d been transported from London to set up Dinner here after the close of the Fat Duck. We’d met him in London on our previous visits and enjoyed a lovely chat, recalling the very strange oblong-shaped champagne flutes we’d drunk from at the Mandarin Oriental bar before our first visit. Apparently the bar outside the restaurant and Dinner in London are not actually connected. We also had a great catch-up with Eric, our waiter, enjoying not being in a Chicago winter. He seemed amazed we’d found one of his favourite eating spots Longman and Eagle on our last visit. Ah. Good times, great memories. Dining out is a great hobby to have.

And so we came to dessert. There before Greedy Girl was the glory that is tipsy cake.

Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Tipsy cake

We’d been told that, due to the quality of the ingredients sourced here, it was the restaurant’s opinion that the Tipsy Cake in Melbourne was even better than that in London. The base recipe is from around 1810; it’s a brioche pudding infused with brandy, sauternes, sugar, cream and vanilla, topped with a ‘smoked’ syrup and served with a piece of spit-roasted, caramelised pineapple on the side.

Greedy Girl doubts there’s a better non-chocolate dessert in the world. Scratch that – a better dessert, period. Indeed, she’s happy to throw down the gauntlet to any chef who believes they can top this. Heston Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer-Watts have outdone themselves. Yes, it’s sweet but never cloying. If you’re in London or Melbourne (or can get there) get a table immediately and build your menu around having this dessert.

Gluttonous husband took Eric the waiter’s recommendation of the brown bread ice-cream (from a recipe c. 1830) which is made from the restaurant’s rye sourdough. It’s served with salted butter caramel, pear and a malted yeast syrup. A very pretty and refined-looking dish, this fit the bill for gluttonous husband, who is trying to steer clear of items that are overly sweet. He found it refreshing and particularly enjoyed the texture offered by the cubes of pear.

Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Brown bread ice-cream

And so, we thought we were done. We opted not to choose a coffee or any of the myriad teas on offer. While Greedy Girl doesn’t quibble about investing in good food, she’s not enough of an aficionado to warrant spending significant amounts on a hot beverage. The momentary fascination with a 1970s tea from Yunnan in China at $50 a pop was just that – momentary.

As we drained the last of the champagne, a final treat to finish – sumptuous chocolate mousse infused with Earl Grey tea and caraway seed biscuits. A day without chocolate is a day without sunshine. This day shone down upon us with delight.

Dinner by Heston Melbourne

Earl Grey-infused chocolate mousse

A meal here is a real treat. As a rule, the menu is completely a la carte, but the chef’s table in the kitchen (which seats six) and an events space for around 12 people offer a set tasting menu. It’s cooking at the highest level and the historical aspects are a bit of fun. It’s a spoil but by no means the most expensive meal we’ve ever had. Greedy Girl considers it exceptional value for money, especially when you have an appreciation of just what goes into making food like this. Check out a handful of the restaurant’s most celebrated recipes (including tipsy cake) featured on the Financial Times. They’d be a handful for even the most accomplished home cooks. Bravo to the team here; it stands on its own as one of the world’s great dining experiences.
Dinner by Heston Melbourne

A menu with a touch of history

Dinner by Heston

The Foodie World five star rating
Crown complex, Melbourne
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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