Our highly anticipated visit to Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Knightsbridge, London, was not quite the experience we expected! We were excitedly catching the tube towards the restaurant when it was announced over the loudspeaker that we could not alight at Knightsbridge due to an unexpected power outage. We turned to each other, aghast that we might be terribly late for our lunch booking and be turned away, left with stomachs that had not yet been united with the much-anticipated much-lauded meat fruit, for which Heston is so famous for.
We were not yet completely defeated so we decided we would get off the train at Hyde Park then hotfoot it to the Mandarin Oriental Hotel (where the restaurant is located) and try not to look too dishevelled when we got to the five-star venue. The train doors opened and off we sped, like we’d just heard the starting gun of some Olympic race (more like heard the sound of my meat fruit and nitro ice cream singing our names) and arrived at the restaurant, of course looking like I’d just stepped out of a very expensive car after some last minute smoothing down of stray strands of hair. I tried my best to channel a “healthy cherubic glow” rather than a “just ran a mile odour”.
A bevy of very polite, very proper staff greeted us at the doorway and informed us very apologetically that the whole of Knightsbridge (which included the restaurant, Harrods, and Harvey Nichols) were completely without electricity, but we were more than welcome to come in for a drink. As we were seated, the slow feeling of realisation then devastation was creeping over me – don’t tell me I’ve travelled all this way by plane, then tube, then fast trot in high heel boots (a tad ouchie) to go home without my MEAT FRUIT! (Obsessed? Me? Noooo…) I was about to lose my mind and tear the beautifully typeset menu into a million pieces when the maitre d’ appeared at the side of our table and once again apologised over and over, tried (quite successfully) to cheer us up and gain our trust by noting that we were all fellow Aussies (he was from Canberra), and revealed to us that although the kitchen could not cook anything today a selection of cold starters and desserts were going to be served…and that everything was ON THE HOUSE. Everything. How about my meat fruit? I piped up. That can be arranged, he says. (Inner Hulk, be still.)
What was to follow was just pure decadence, we ended up being served three starters and four desserts. The meat fruit certainly lived up to my expectations. It arrived, this gorgeous and perfectly formed mandarin perched on its wooden board that revealed a silken, creamily smooth foie gras centre when cut. The combination of the citrus-flavoured jelly that constituted the “skin” of the mandarin with the buttery foie gras heart was just perfect. We then chose to have the charmingly named Taffety Tart and Bohemian Cake, both headily sweet concoctions that left us in a happy stupor, only then to be plied with two more bonus desserts, the winner of which was most definitely the Tipsy Cake. This was brought to our table in a flourish and proud announcement that a sole working oven had been discovered within the hotel and they had managed to prepare a few Tipsy Cakes, one of which was being bestowed upon us. I was really disappointed to be so full by this point because I only managed to eat a tiny portion of the devilishly divine brioche steeped in a delicious sauce infused with brandy and vanilla, accompanied by a perfectly roasted portion of pineapple. Superb indeed. I was either going to ascend into gustatory heaven or fall into a highly contented sugar coma.
Near devastation was replaced by a feeling that Jinn and I call a “food dream” where the food you just consumed fills you with a heady feeling of delight, memories of how the delicious dishes looked and tasted float around your head, and things that are a little bit funny cause you to laugh for a little bit too long.
They eventually ran out of food to appease us with but we really couldn’t have eaten a single bite more. It was a very strange sensation leaving the place without paying the bill, it felt almost a bit criminal if not for the perpetually-lovely staff smiling at us and wishing us “Good day”! Well, let’s just say, this was not your average free lunch. And, not to worry, hungry to see what the full Heston experience had to offer we were back just a few little days later…