decent british. I have to say, I came to dinner on the heels of a meal at petrus, which I loved very much for its service and food. long story short, I would come to dinner for a meal where you want to show-off, but petrus if you want a good time.
I will go into the dishes bit by bit, but what I felt was that if gordon ramsay runs the wallflowers of the fine dining scene, then heston is the gaudy debutante with the wet skirts. these descriptions are a result of my immersion into regency-themed books, which I love, and which I apologise for.
I felt throughout the meal that I was meant to be impressed and that it was all a bit of a show. I have to say, it would probably work very well for people who don’t often eat out, and want a bit of drama with the glamour, and wanted to be fawned over and constantly impressed with the uniqueness of their meals. dinner really is like one of those churches you visit while you’re overseas and need to say you’ve been, but when you go home you barely remember anything about it.
service was friendly but I felt rather overtly so and supercilious. we got quite a bit of winking – which I think was meant to invite feelings of cosiness or something or the other, but instead it went the other for me. if it is possible to say, their waiters were a bit too french – trying very hard to be flirty and playful. it could just be my impression, but I rather prefer the training given to the waiters at the ramsay restaurants. these comparisons will probably continue seeing as I really have just eaten at petrus.
the dishes at dinner are apparently based on historical recipes from various eras in british history, and you’re given a menu with all these explanations and a wrap with some bit of history. I think it was going for interesting, but I felt rather more condescended to. in any case, bear in mind that there is no set lunch here, which usually gives you a cheaper dining option, and so it makes no difference if you have lunch or dinner here.
we shared two starters: a risotto with calf’s tail and the famed meat fruit. the risotto was fiercely yellow, and topped with pieces of calf’s tail, which was topped with some sort of flower/plant matter. the herbage was a little overpowering and mixed incongruously with the calf tail, though the risotto was plenty tasty. the meat fruit is brilliantly realistic, even with the pock-marked skin you expect of a mandarin, and is essentially a light and airy pate-type mousse packed in an orange jelly skin. it was served with grilled bread – basically toast with butter or olive oil, and was a little rich for me to finish, but I did go through most of it since it was so tasty.
for our mains, I had the cod in cider with mussels, which was light and tasty, but hugely overpriced at about thirty quid for the dish. it was surrounded by a lighter version of hollandaise, and was well-cooked though I wouldn’t have expected otherwise at this price range. the pork chop again was well-cooked and moist, if not terribly special, and came with crackling and some garnishes that I was told was good. it doesn’t come with the famed duck-fat-triple-cooked fries, however, which are only available with the dish-for-two beef steak.
the tipsy cake we were told initially required half an hour’s notice, so we ordered that since it sounded special. what it really is, however, is some brioche floating in a butter-brandy sauce and tasted essentially like a grown-up version of buttery monkey bread. I might actually prefer monkey bread. the grilled pineapple alongside was tasty too, but that’s because it was sweet pineapple and I don’t think that required much skill.
the other dessert was brown bread ice cream on a bed of shortbread on a bed of salted caramel fudge. taken all together, it worked pretty well with the savoury-ish ice cream meshing well with the soft fudge and crisp biscuit. if you didn’t eat it in a particular way though, and the ice cream first touched your tongue, then it would be extremely unappetising, to me anyway. it was savoury and tasted almost like raw bread dough – I almost want to say yuck. taken together though, I really have to say it was a great dessert.
I know this review sounds a bit grouchy, and I sort of am. it was a very expensive lunch, more than twice that of my lunch at petrus and although I have no qualms about paying for food ever, I do believe in enjoying what you pay for. at no point did I think I would have rather been in dinner than in petrus. I think heston might be known for being outlandish and special – but I also think that might be his only calling card.