Note – photo gallery at the bottom of this post.
The meal that I enjoyed at The Fat Duck in Melbourne in 2015 is still without doubt the best meal I’ve ever had – even when you take into account outings at Sepia, Tetsuya’s, L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Steirereck and Amass. There’s something about the majesty and theatrical nature of Fat Duck experiences that’s simply unparalleled.
There was no real opportunity for K and I to visit the Fat Duck in Bray during our time in England. Time and budget wasn’t on our side. What we could try was a lunch at Dinner by Heston at the Mandarin Oriental hotel in Knightsbridge. Dinner by Heston has now opened up in Melbourne now in place of The Fat Duck of course, so we thought a visit to the original restaurant would be a great way to get a taster of what we could expect from the Melbourne site.
There’s a few different ways that you can choose to have the Dinner by Heston experience – there’s a set lunch menu which K chose, or you can order a la carte as I did to ensure that you get to try some of their signature dishes. If you’re lucky, you can even book the chef’s table for a special tasting menu. On the day that we went, we chose these dishes:
K: Lemon Salad (c.1730) with smoked artichoke, goats curd and beetroot (part of 40 GBP set lunch menu)
Me: Meat Fruit (c. 1500) with mandarin, chicken liver parfait and grilled bread (17.50 GBP)
K: Roast Pollack with Admiral’s sauce (c. 1830) with parsnip puree, shrimps, shallots, brown butter and capers (part of 40 GBP set lunch menu)
Me: Powdered Duck Breast (c. 1670) with smoked confit fennel, smoked beetroot and umbles (36 GBP)
Sides: Carrots and caraway (4.75 GBP) and triple cooked chuips (6 GBP)
K: Marmalade Pudding (c. 1750) with blood orange, Campari, goats milk and lemon thyme ice-cream (part of 40 GBP set lunch menu)
Me: Tipsy Cake (c. 1810) with spit roast pineapple (14.50 GBP)
What do the dates mean next to each dish? Some of you will know that the whole concept behind Dinner by Heston is a celebration of traditional British cuisine, updated of course, to suit Heston’s modern techniques and tastes.
So my entrée of a meat fruit actually stems from an English recipe dating back to 1500, the time of the Tudor dynasty in England. It’s been updated by Heston to feature his signature ‘what you see isn’t what you get’ touch. Here, what looks like a simple mandarin is actually a delicious ball of creamy aerated ball of chicken liver parfait wrapped in a fresh citrus gel.
The same thing applies to all the other dishes – they’re modern interpretations of recipes that have been found by Heston in old housewives household manuals, royal menus, and other cookery books. If you ever wanted to eat your way through decades-worth of A History of English Cooking, Dinner by Heston has you covered.
My food highlight is the meat fruit of course for its moreish liver parfait – rich without being too rich, meaty without being too meaty, and just light enough to justify eating a whole ball of it on thick toast slices. I also loved the Tipsy Cake with its custard-soaked brioche pudding and caramelised pineapple – this is one dish I have to try making at home! If you prefer a lighter dessert, K’s Marmalade Pudding was a perfect light, fresh and palate-cleansing dessert – one perfect for a warm summer’s day.
Beyond the food, Dinner by Heston also offers some fantastic drink options. There’s an extensive wine list of course, but they also mix up some of the amazing infused juices that I first experienced at Fat Duck Melbourne. On this particular day, I had a startlingly spicy chilli-infused orange juice that had the two-fold effect of quenching my thirst while leaving a surprisingly hot chilli afterburn. I’d never really tried chilli and orange as a combination before, but this juice sold me on the combination!
So how has this experience set up our expectations for a future meal at Dinner by Heston Melbourne? If anything, I think we’re probably more excited about the possibility now – not only was the food and drink remarkable in its modernity given its traditional roots, but from all accounts, the Melbourne branch includes some interesting Australian offerings. It’ll be fascinating to see how they can interpret a traditional English menu with Australian ingredients.