Hype is a funny old thing. You sometimes go to a restaurant so full of expectation almost nothing would match the fantastical standards you’ve built up in your mind. On other occasions, such is the hubbub around a place that you’ve become almost numb to it – in fact you swing the other way and begin to fear the worst. People are idiots; surely if something has been so widely praised it’s a load of rubbish? ‘Look at the pop charts!’, ‘Don’t Panic!’. My visit today was erring toward the latter of these two emotions.
In the company of Andy (signs his emails Andrew) and Lindsey, today I lunched at Dinner. I’ve never eaten at any of Heston’s places, not even the Popham Little Chef, but I’ve been interested in the man for some years – around the time I got serious about food I had a crack at his Spag Bol from ‘Perfection’ (Very good but worth the 12 hour cooking time and fiddly preparations vs the standard Humpage family recipe? Debatable). Since then and my move to London, the appeal has lessened somewhat. Whilst the Fat Duck tasting menu is right up amongst my dream dinners, the chef’s move to Channel 4 and Waitrose-based ubiquity has altered my once reverent opinion of the man.
The dining room was certainly up to the task of dissuading doubts – raised up and overlooking Hyde Park, surprisingly light and spacious. It was classy. My Fig Martini was a lovely drink and the opening salvo of brown bread faultless, with butter almost the colour of egg yolk.
Hype reared it’s two-faced head again at menu time. In the relatively short time this place has been open, several of the dishes have already passed into gasto-folklore. The Meat Fruit. The Tipsy Cake. Your hero at this juncture brace himself, staring right over the precipice of disappointment, and ordered them both.
Haha. Hahahahaha. It’s amazing when a plate of food makes you laugh. Not because it’s clever. Not because it looks EXACTLY like an orange, but it isn’t. But because it’s really bloody tasty. Because you know, in the world right at that moment, you’re in the top 1% – top fractions of a percent – of people who are eating the nicest thing going. And I don’t even really like chicken liver parfait that much. So yeah, by this point, about 1 mouthful into Dinner, all that bollocks waffle about hype above completed smashed to pieces. A plate of food like a good book, as you see you’re nearing the end you’re genuinely sad. 3 of the four of us had this (the other was a veggie) and the sighs of delight, and board scraping for tit-bits was universal.
To my knowledge there isn’t really a signature main in the same way there are starters and desserts, and the dish I was most drawn to (after the obligatory discussion with the restaurant staff) was the spiced pigeon. Served with ‘Ale & artichokes’, it was not a million miles from the divine duck I enjoyed on Tuesday. Big on taste, there was no fault I could pick with it. Fries, obscenely good slow-butter cooked carrots with caraway and green beans with shallots formed sides for the table. In all dishes the standards of my starter were maintained.
You have to order this when you arrive. Quite a big deal for me that, picking dessert before even nibbling on your first course. We agreed a sort of quadruple swapping session, but I was very much ‘Tipsy Cake’ owner. All the same emotions as the meat fruit, repeated (and I feel the same about pineapple as I do chicken liver parfait). The fruit is spit roast, giving it a wonderful caramelized element and what is basically a really fancy iced bun is easily one of the best desserts I’ve eaten. As we roated around variously Brown Bread Ice Cream, Taffety Tart and Bohemian Cake I longed to be back with my iron pot of sponge swimming in boozy syrup goodness. You can see all four desserts – as they are eaten – at the bottom of the blog.
I popped of to go to the toilet (I didn’t want anyone to see my tears of joy/anger at having to share the Tipsy Cake – which was thoroughly my initiative) and upon my return found yet more treats. A mini pot of earl grey chocolate granache, with a caraway shortbread stick alongside. Don’t need no more descriptions. ‘Was really good’ covers it.
Hang on a moment, what’s this?
Oh sure. Why doesn’t some delightfully mannered chap push round a cart and turn vanilla custard into ice cream – using liquid nitrogen – at the table. This was the element one would most associate with the chef who gives his name to the restaurant. A choice of four toppings on your cone – I went apple popping candy and freeze dried raspberry. Yes yes. Ridiculously good. Move along.
Then to finish we took a digestif. I must say that even though I was being treated to lunch, the prices on this after dinner drinks menu made me flinch. My hosts gave the OK and I finished one of the finest meals of my life – almost certainly the best dinner I’ve had this year – with a simply sublime single malt. Seriously smooth but with loads of depth and the good type of craziness on the palate. Mega. I’ve been saying mega quite a lot recently.
I’ve also not mentioned the wine – two French bottles, a floral white to start and a spicy red with mains. Both were exquisite but my memory is too full of weird meaty oranges and five spongey segments to recall the regions, let alone the labels.
So Dinner. Like everyone else has said, do yourself a favour and go. I’m still deliriously happy just typing up all this nonsense now, five days later.