“Dinner at Dinner”
*Giles MacDonogh is a prize-winning author, artist, wine writer and translator. His books range in subject matter from Nazi Germany to French gastronomy passing by Austrian wine. He is the Chairman of the German Jury at the Decanter International Wine Awards.He lives with his family in London.
I hung up my restaurant reviewer’s hat before the emergence of the “autodidact Bloomers” at the Fat Duck in Bray and I have never eaten there. Until recently I had not tried his London embassy, Dinner, either. I went to the latter for the first time on 30 October as a guest of The Wine Club, a new venture which brings the recommendations of three top London sommeliers directly to your door for as little as £50 for a case of six.
I felt a little pang of nostalgia entering the Hyde Park Hotel that night. I remember when Marco Pierre White moved in there in his bid to get a third Michelin rosette. We got on well in those days and I witnessed him stocking up on art works and refining the dishes in his repertoire, and then the great day came when all his work paid off, and he became the first native chef to win his three stars. Soon after he moved on to the Piccadilly Hotel and “lost the plot.”
For a while the dining room upstairs was called Foliage, but I never really got the measure of that, meanwhile the historic Hyde Park had become the Mandarin Oriental. It was in the Foliage, so to speak, that I sat next to the late Alan Whicker at a press lunch and found him excellent company even if he had developed a distinct animus against the travel journalist Victoria Mather.
These memories came flooding back as I went through the lobby of the hotel, which was teeming: no austerity here, I thought. I was instantly put at ease by a glass of Krug Grande Cuvée while I talked to Danny Kaljee and the other men behind the club. We were in a private room but could see the dining room through the glass. It was also incredibly busy.
Like Marco’s menu, Bloomers’ comes with dates next to the dishes, but they are a bit more ancient than Marco’s were: they represent an historical dish that Bloomers has reworked before putting it on the menu. One of the club’s sommeliers (who is also the sommelier at Dinner), João Pires talked us through the menu. We ate ‘Earl Grey Tea Smoked Salmon’ which had been perked up with a sauce of ‘lemon, gentleman’s relish, wood sorrel and smoked roe’. Again I wondered why we had to know the mechanics, but it was an impressive and unusual combination. The wine that went with it was a 2012 Soave Classic from Tamellini in the Veneto (£78 for six), a lovely fresh spirited wine and “just the ticket” for the salmon.
It worked less well with the chef’s ‘meat fruit’: a chicken liver and foie gras parfait that appears ravishingly in the form of a mandarin orange, and apparently dates back to the time of Henry VII. It is a very impressive creation, and very light with just enough tang from the mock-peel upholstery to stop the mousse from cloying. It needed a more aromatic wine, I thought: a dry Muscat or Gewürztraminer.
Next came a Spiced Pigeon with ale and artichokes. I didn’t like this dish so much. I wanted the skin of the almost raw pigeon to be firmer, crunchy even. It came with chips, carrots and a lovely purée of potatoes, saturated in butter à la Robuchon (but perhaps with a mite too much salt). The wine for this was a 2007 Morey Saint Denis Vieilles Vignes from the Domaine Lignier. It was very sour cherry-like and immensely long and linear, I was impressed but I missed some of the opulence I like from the generally, spicy, velvetty Côte de Nuits.
Next came the famous Tipsy Cake (1810) with spit-roast pineapple. The cake was a sort of brioche that had been basted and re-basted with cream and cognac while the pineapple had also turned on a spit and been subjected to various embellishments. I had to say that had I not known I would have been unaware of how elaborate the dish was. We had an excellent sauternes with it: a 2007 Castelnau de Suduiraut – the second wine of the estate – which “set it off to a tee.”
After that I felt quite stuffed, and savoured a glass of vintage armagnac before I waddled back to the tube.
This time I think I managed to stay awake.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal,
Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park
66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA
(According to their latest advice posted on their website ,they are now taking reservations for up to 6 months in advance
for the Chefs Table and Private Dining Room.)
If you would like to make a reservation, please contact their private dining team on +44 (0)20 7201 3844
Monday to Friday between 09:00 and 18:00
Monday – Sunday
12:00pm – 2:30pm
6:30pm – 10:30pm