The main meal of the day, taken either around MIDDAY or in the EVENING.
A formal evening meal, typically one in honour of a person or event.
This is a post on an establishment that could be considered an experience of the highest order, a world-class gem. Food that delights the palate, boisterous on flavour with genteel service to match. But then, when you’re talking about Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, you expect nothing less. Read on for all the culinary delights to follow!
Date Last Visited: 27/11/15 (Melbourne) | January 2014 (London)
Address: Level 3, Crown Melbourne, 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank (Melbourne) | 66 Knightsbridge, Knightsbridge, London (UK)
Recommended Dish(es): marron & cucumber soup, rice & flesh, meat fruit, chicken & lettuce, tipsy cake, brown bread ice cream
Heston has a reputation for being a nutcase, and I mean that in the best possible way. I’ve written enough words on the theatrical masterpiece that is The Fat Duck (link) showcasing his sorcery. The Fat Duck name is as acclaimed as the man himself, but Lunch at The Fat Duck is history. Now? It’s Dinner time.When Dinner by Heston opened its doors five years ago in London, there was understandably much consternation as to what this meant for Heston’s direction as the wizard of The Fat Duck. As it turns out, Dinner has become an institution all by itself.
Rather than manning the pass, Heston serves more of an advisory role at the eponymous restaurant. The man to be seen is Ashley Palmer-Watts, who has worked with Heston at The Fat Duck, and is no stranger to cooking delicious food. Here’s another interesting tidbit about Palmer-Watts – he’s a gun at traditional British cuisine.
I’m serious about that last one. Incredibly, each and every dish on Dinner by Heston’s menu harks back to a historical British dish, sourced from recipe books from as early as the 1300s to the 1800s. 600 years of British cooking, refined and reimagined for the modern kitchen – that is the promise of Dinner. As such, each dish has a circa date next to it, to inform the curious reader just how long ago from which inspiration was drawn.This has clearly worked to great effect – Dinner by Heston’s London outpost gained its first Michelin star within the first year, and currently holds two. It’s Number 7 on San Pellegrino’s Worlds 50 Best List – a higher position than The Fat Duck. You can imagine how many other awards it holds, including Chef of the Year accolades for Palmer-Watts himself. There’s no need to list them all – I already fawn over the restaurant enough as it is.
I was most pleased to be able to dine for the first time at Dinner when I visited London at the end of 2013. Over there, the restaurant is located in the grandiose (and perhaps a little imposing) Mandarin Oriental Hotel. However, dining there was also most regretful – in that I knew I eventually had to return to Sydney. It meant that there would be quite the sizable gap before I could make a revisit. So I thought.
When Heston announced that Dinner by Hesotn would replace The Fat Duck popup at its conclusion in Melbourne’s Crown Casino, I went ballistic. You can bet a trip to Melbourne was quickly organised and executed. It’s not the first time I’ve been guilty of flying just to eat at a restaurant – besides, make a trip out of it!
At Melbourne’s Crown Casino, we can all agree that it’s a very inviting fitout – the plush caramel sofas exude warmth and comfort, with plenty of natural light bouncing around the place. Contrast with the starch stiffness of many a fine diner, I couldn’t be happier about the difference. The Melbourne restaurant seats a fair few people, so nailing a reservation now shouldn’t be a matter of difficulty, despite the restaurant’s calibre and popularity.Having visited Dinner by Heston in both London and Melbourne, the post will cover both experiences. While London is ancient history, its memory burns brightly – such was the quality of the adventure. Indeed, it is the reason why the news of its permanence in Melbourne filled me with mirth. Sure, it ain’t Sydney, but at least it’s in the country now.
The menu for Dinner in Melbourne is very similar to London’s, and this makes sense – while I’m a fan of the locavore movement, Dinner absolutely must be an exception to this in order to maintain appeal, as well as remain true to its British roots. That said, some Australian ingredients do make their way in, so there will be a few surprises. The menu is a la carte, with a tasting option only available if you book the chefs table or private dining room.
The cost is quite reasonable in general – high 30s for entrees, high 40s/low 50s for mains, and high 20s for dessert. While it can’t be called cheap, the experience is worth every last dollar…or penny. Be sure to read both Melbourne and London sections, as I didn’t include photos of overlapping dishes for the sake of brevity!
Here we go – my lunch experience(s), at Dinner!
The Melbourne Dinner by Heston Experience (27/11/2015)
Bread is de rigueur at Western restaurants and Dinner is no exception. A slice of warm (yes!) sourdough w/house-churned butter is made available for each person, and is consumed far too rapidly – in proportion to how good it tastes. Well-baked crusts, doughy centres, it is, like most good bread, the kind that makes you want to immediately request a second slice.
Trust me, you don’t want to do that. As our waiter warned us, “this, this [bread] will be your downfall”.
The entree of marron & cucumber soup is an example of a dish subject to a slight modification – namely, the inclusion of Australian Marron. The original recipe is circa 1730, but the treatment here is anything but 18th century.
Freshly cured marron rests atop roasted greens & unctuous roe. A thick, vegetal cucumber & sorrel soup is poured around the dish. The crayfish is plump and juicy, and in what is rarely encountered, takes on the briny flavours of its curing liquid, bursting with luxuriant flavour. I got a fair bit of it as well – 3 plump pieces, completely removing any of that “leaf on a plate” stigma attached to fine dining.
The salad supports the marron well with crunch and texture, while the soup is the only green juice I’ll drink 😉
A very strong start; I really can’t fault this dish at all, except perhaps it does get ever so slightly salty towards the end.
My friend’s 355-year old savoury porridge coincidentally continues the green trend, with a risotto-like dish that’s actually not too unlike the snail porridge The Fat Duck is so famous for. It’s somewhat “grassy”, quite garlicky and creamy. Forget eating healthy – this is all about the butter, baby.
The crunch of the pickled beetroot was particularly to my liking, though my love for crunchy, pickled things is well-known. The abalone is chewy, however it tasted a bit too “sea-like”, if you know what I’m getting at.
Between these two starters, I would choose the marron, however the porridge is still a solid choice that would be a delicious dish all by itself.
We ordered two more entrees, Rice & Flesh, and the Meat Fruit. To prevent this post from becoming unwieldy, these dishes are covered in the London section. Trust me, you’ll want to read about these – they’re very interesting, to say the least.
Calling a main chicken cooked w/lettuces probably isn’t the biggest drawcard in securing a diner’s order, it’s no wonder why the recipes these dishes are based off of are historical. While we all had a good laugh at the table, in the end, due to some twist of fate, two out of our group of four ordered it! I didn’t, but after tasting it, I did feel the ever so-slight spark of food FOMO.
While the name is objectionable, the reinvented dish is most certainly unexceptionable. It’s simply really tasty chicken – cooked perfectly (yes, “perfectly” is in use here), a smooth cylinder of delicious meat that’s poached to perfection, with a crispy skin of I-have-no-idea-what-but-its-so-darn-good. There are notes of the sea, which don’t get overpowering due to the sharpness & sweetness of onion. Overall, I almost think of it as a high-end Indian dish, due to the look and the taste.
Seriously delicious, and usurps all other chicken dishes I’ve had this year. “Chicken cooked w/lettuces”, who’d have thought?
My personally-ordered main also goes by the funky name of powdered duck breast, though I’m a little unsure why it’s named as such. Three huge pieces of duck are bathed in ale sauce and generous pieces of grilled artichokes. The result is a sweet & savoury dish that gets somewhat heavy, but packs a full on flavour punch.
The duck itself, as you can see and expect, is perfectly cooked (to the chefs at Dinner, cooking meats perfectly is as natural as breathing), with almost zero greasiness between the skin and the flesh. I would have liked a crispier skin but was okay not receiving it, given that’s a Peking Duck kind of request. It’s hard to complain when the flesh is done so well, which is by far the more difficult task.
Overall, this is a huge portion for a main, and definitely would make short work the appetite of a smaller person. It’s very rich, even for me – expect to schedule your post-meal activities accordingly to digest this one!
Funny how I was just talking about how sizable mains are, yet the four of us collectively decided to split an extra main – the king-of-the-hill, at that. This is the rib of black angus for 2, an 800gm behemoth (of which 120g is bone) of a steak which no ordinary mortal is meant to conquer. Whilst I was thinking this, the waiter gleefully told us that Dinner’s barista demolished this steak in less than 20min, all by himself. Well then, I shouldn’t feel bad about having 1 & 1/4 mains then, right?
The British know how to cook steak; coupling this with Australia’s top-notch beef and you’ve got a recipe to please all but the most demanding of meat-eaters. All beef at Dinner are aged a minimum of 28 days, allowing flavours to mature and intensify. The result? A tender, toothsome steak you could demolish without any sauces, butters or salt at all.
Not that you’d want to do that, given how good the provided mushroom ketchup is. It’s strong, smoky, and the mushrooms chewy. It’s like a BBQ sauce on steroids, except it’s all legal here. Spread it profusely, spread it generously, just drink it all.
Oh, and there’s also the chips to talk about. Unfortunately, they aren’t Heston’s famous triple-cooked duck fat chips, as the staff are still trying to find the right type of potato in Australia that provides the required texture. Apparently, they have gone through 28 types and counting. I didn’t even know there were that many kinds of potato!
Doesn’t matter, these are still darn fine fries – thick-cut, crunchy and full of starchy goodness. If you haven’t received the message yet – leave the diet at home, please!
You don’t have to try this if your appetite doesn’t allow. Firedoor (link) does a better steak, if we have to compare. There are other, better mains to be had. However, know that you won’t regret ordering a steak at Dinner.
If Dinner were to have a signature dessert, this would be it. The tipsy cake has swooned many a restaurant reviewer, and this blogger is no exception. All four of us ordered it, which, while seemingly uncharacteristic in terms of our sharing spirit, was in retrospect a most apt decision.
You don’t want to share the tipsy cake. Yes, it is absolutely as good as they say it is.
Fresh, buttery and hot brioche straight out of the oven, a sauternes custard sauce rich in creaminess, sweetness and just that little bit of naughty alcohol, smoked caster sugar syrup and spit-roasted pineapple. A popular Victorian-era dessert, it easily scores a victory in my books. No doubt, it’s a heavy dish as you could tell from the description, but the acidity of the pineapple artfully balances out a great deal of the heaviness. Besides, you know a dessert is good when it’s heavy and yet, you can’t help but take the next bite.
I cleaned it all up.
Dinner offers 2 cheese boards, for $20 (4 cheeses) and $30 (seven). Don’t sweat, the picture above isn’t the actual board – that would truly be value. Instead, that’s the selection to choose from – trust Heston to be a tease offering 7 choices out of 8 cheeses. Seriously, I couldn’t help but chortle at my friends deciding which cheese to exclude.
I never intended to order cheese, so I didn’t actually eat much of it – two of my friends decided to split this one. That said, it’s cheese – and that’s going to be as good as Dinner’s suppliers will get. Given Australia’s rich history with quality fromage, I doubt this would be an order gone wrong – for the cheese lovers.
As a finisher to the meal, we receive an Earl Grey-infused chocolate ganache, paired with a caraway biscuit. For a post-dessert dessert, it’s curiously full-bodied, and perhaps almost too rich for its purpose. That said, it’s still very delicious – the chocolate is quite bitter and dark, and for once, the Earl Grey tea takes a prominent position on the flavour palatte. After a year of “tea-infused” dishes being a bit of a letdown, this is a refreshing change.
The crunchy caraway biscuit is almost like crackling in texture. I didn’t think too much of it – my focus was all on the ganache. I also didn’t quite see how the biscuit pairs with the chocolate, but I’m never going to say no to a texturally satisfying crunch!
You can probably tell I loved the Dinner by Heston experience, and that’s probably all you need to read in a conclusion. For full concluding remarks (including that of London’s Dinner), please skip to the end of the post.
The London Dinner by Heston Experience (2014)Dinner in London is a classic hotel restaurant, in this case, The Mandarin Oriental.
On entry, you are greeted by a pineapple (tipsy cake reference?) and a subdued sign informing you’re about to enter. This belies the quality of the experience we were about to receive on our first encounter with Dinner.Dare I say it, the interior of the Melbourne restaurant outshines Dinner in London? I’m all for Melbourne’s plush sofas, though the comfortable leather seats at London’s Dinner is nothing short of fully satisfactory. Service is much the same as it is at Melbourne – effusive, cordial, albeit with a little less banter. That’s what I love about Australian service – the staff aren’t afraid to joke around a bit. Anything to be less stiff. Oddly enough, bread actually incurs an additional charge on the bill when ordered. Even more odd, this practice wasn’t reflected at Melbourne’s dinner, only in London.
Weird, yes. However, Melburnians need not worry – bread is free flowing down here!
Trust the British to infuse Earl Grey of all teas into their food, such is the case with the Earl Grey tea cured salmon. It’s a punchy hit of the ocean, with briny bombs of salmon enticing the palate while the acidulated lemon salad keeps the powerful forces of sea in check.
Colour me educated when I find out that gentleman’s relish refers to a “highly seasoned anchovy paste”. I can’t remember tasting it, but then again this wasn’t my entree, and I must have missed it in tasting.
In Melbourne, this dish is changed up with ocean trout instead of salmon, and whilst I haven’t had it, similar results are sure to be the outcome. Worth a try!
A boldly named rice & flesh dish is similarly complemented with bold hues of yellow and what appears to be bugs on the dish. Relax folks, it’s calf tail.
I was a big fan of this dish in general – flavours are unashamedly alcoholic and rich in saffron-infused savouriness, with the calf tails tender and the rice al dente for some serious textural contrast. The rice was perhaps even too al dente, to the point where the friend who ordered the dish couldn’t find it in himself to like the dish.
But that just means more for me 😉
At Melbourne, this dish switches the calf tail for kangaroo tail, which is a move I believe simultaneously honours the British recipe, while incorporating a little bit of our culture into the food. Bravo!
Unlike many famous restaurants out there, Dinner is known not really for just one signature dish, but for a entire panacea of high quality British cooking. However, inserted casually into this blog post is perhaps Dinner’s one shot at anything resembling a trademark dish. The meat fruit.
What hits the table ostensibly resembles a shiny mandarin. Heck, it’s even furnished with the fruit’s (inedible!) green stalk and leaves. However, breaking the skin – which is actually a bloody convincing mandarin jelly – will reveal a wholesome, perfectly-smooth chicken liver parfait. You might think it rich but no – it’s flavourful, supple, and elegant.
And yet, it’s “just” pate. But don’t be fooled, it would be most remiss of you not to order this if you haven’t tried it at least once. It might end up being too rich, but you’d kick yourself if you didn’t get it. There’s a reason why it’s a signature dish.
Besides, you know one thing that never gets old? The reaction on your friend’s faces when you reveal to them the true nature of this dish.
It’s classic 😀
In Melbourne, this dish remains exactly the same – I’ll toast to that!
In Melbourne, you could get the 800gm Angus ribeye as a single portion (fillet of black angus) for roughly half the price. That’s what I did at London’s dinner, except of course, being in London, I was treated to a Hereford ribeye, a breed of cattle originating from Herefordshire.
In recent times, Angus cattle have become more prominent, due to Angus cattle’s potential to yield a greater level of marbling and richness. As we know, this is what essentially gives meat an inherent flavour. It’s no surprise that Herefords are outnumbered by Angus nearly 2-to-1. However, there’s still something to be said of cooking a classic Hereford – the meat is still of excellent intrinsic quality, and there are those who would prefer meat from a grass-fed cow.
Not that this novice blogger has anything to say about the intricacies of cow genotypes – just enjoy the slab of meat you’re served, whether it’s in London or Melbourne. Besides, you get that same delicious mushroom ketchup, and that alone is worth considering going moo moo for this dish.
One last thing – remember the Melbourne potato situation? Not a problem here – and thus you get Heston’s full-fledged triple-cooked chips. Let me tell you, they are something. Crunchy to the brink of a fault, as fluffy on the inside as the lovechild of the softest pillow and puffiest marshmallow, these are quite possibly the best chips I’ve ever had. Chips, not fries – let the distinction be made.
If you’re at the London Dinner and don’t intend on ordering steak, please, please order the chips as a side. Thank me later.
While a very well-presented dish, I can’t comment too much on the slow-cooked pork belly as I didn’t have a taste of this. However, can we all just agree that it looks ravishingly tasty?
Yeah, I regretted not trying some while I had the chance. Fortunately, I’ll rectify this with my next visit to Dinner in Melbourne!
While the tipsy cake is where it’s at in ultimate dessert indulgence, the brown bread ice cream serves those who are seeking something a little bit lighter and more refreshing – on the lips as well as the hips.
The ice cream itself tastes strongly of burnt butter and salted caramel, which is already a winner in my books. However, the kicker is the brown bread “pudding” the ice cream sits on. Buttery and bready, you could almost imagine a warm version of this dessert and enjoy it in colder climes.
It’s not as “remarkable” a dessert as say, the Tipsy cake. Nor is it theatrical like the desserts at The Fat Duck. However it’s absolutely delicious, and for what it’s worth, photographs excellently. Worth ordering!
Like in Melbourne, the finisher of Earl Grey-infused chocolate ganache comes on punchy and strong. The caraway biscuit is longer and has a different colour, but it serves its overall goal of delivering a crunchy texture to the dish. As usual, if you like your chocolate dark and full-on, this is where it’s at.Dinner by Heston is a remarkable restaurant. There are many cooking tropes it borrows from The Fat Duck – flavour contrasts, clever use of acidity, and a little – just a little bit of fancy on the plate.
However, bold, daring flavours, generous portions, a more accessible menu all come together make it a fully-fledged, mature establishment in its own right. With all this said, its biggest trick up its sleeve is still its laziest ace of all – virtually none of the recipes are original. Dinner is in a way the best showcasing of historical, traditional British cuisine we’ll ever get. I would never have thought twice of it, but clearly, with a little bit of tweaking and being subject to modern processes, ye old food is most definitely the new black.
Not that I’m accusing Dinner, Heston or Palmer-Watts of being lazy – if the food was that easy to copy, Dinner would hardly be special. However, it occupies a coveted spot in almost all foodies’ bucket-lists, and is one of the few restaurants that rightly deserve it.
Life’s too short to eat sh*t food, have your next meal at Dinner by Heston.
This post is based on two independently paid visits to Dinner By Heston – once in Melbourne, once in London
Over the moon like me, or not impressed at all? Let me know your thoughts on Dinner by Heston in the comments below!
- Some of the tastiest food you will ever get to enjoy
- Who’d have thought a reinvention of historical British food would taste so good?
- Not having to fly to London
- It’s not in Sydney
- The portioning of some dishes result in an overly rich experience
- Some dishes are a bit heavy-handed with seasoning
- Being a Heston Restaurant, you’re left pining for a little bit of that Fat Duck magic
I have a new scoring system! Read all about it here.
Most important takeaway – three separate scores for food, service and ambiance to give the final score. The new system is not compatible with any score given prior to 11/11/2014.
F8 | S4 | A3