DINING OWL AWARDS: 3rd – for standout dishes; 5th – serving staff; 5th – ambience; 3rd – sommelier; 4th – for repeat visits; 5th – for family occasions
When I visited: Various times from 2011-2016
Location: London, near Hyde Park
Team: Heston Blumenthal (Chef Patron), Ashley Palmer-Watts (Executive Chef), Stefan Neumann (Head Sommelier)
Rating in the Michelin Guide: 2 stars (when I first visited it had 1)
What to wear: Men – jeans or nice trousers and a shirt; women – jeans and a smart top or a smart dress
Ambience: Friendly, fun, busy, within the Mandarin Oriental hotel
Course of the meal: Tipsy cake
If I could change one thing: Price (but this is understandable given the location)
Dinner is perhaps my favourite fine dining restaurant, to the extent that I go back once a year and would probably like to go more. Even though it only had 1 star when I first visited (I think this is a quirk of the Michelin Guide’s ratings where restaurants have to gain their stars in order rather than jumping straight to 2 or 3 stars) it always felt like a 2-star to me in terms of the food quality, service and special points. It boasts great views of Hyde Park, extremely friendly staff and some star dishes.
Nominally, the food is ‘posh English’ and you get a bit of a history lesson with the little cards on your tables explaining facts about dining in past times and the menu itself using old-fashioned words and sticking mainly to hearty meat and fish dishes (perhaps the only drawback of this restaurant is that it probably wouldn’t be good for vegetarians, although I haven’t asked if they have an alternate menu).
If you’ve heard of this restaurant you’ve probably heard of their Meat Fruit and Tipsy Cake, stars of the starter and dessert section respectively. The Meat Fruit is a beautiful orange-shaped dish containing mandarin and chicken liver parfait, and comes with a delicious brioche. It’s indulgent, gorgeous and pretty hard to resist – I normally let myself have the Meat Fruit one year and the Tipsy Cake the next. The Tipsy Cake is a dish starring slowly spit-roasted pineapple and just melts in the mouth – quite simply, it’s AMAZING and unforgettable.
As an example of what you might expect if you go for lunch: we started with two glasses of the house champagne (Moet 2006 – very light and dry) and picked a white wine (2011 Valtellina Superiore, “Carter” Sandro Fay, Lombardia) with the help of the sommelier. For the starters, I indulged in the Meat Fruit while my partner Owl went for the savoury porridge (which involves frog’s legs). I did share my Meat Fruit as it’s pretty big and also my partner Owl was eyeing it up longingly (not that the favour was returned when I eyed up the Tipsy Cake from across the table later on … ).
For our mains we had the lamb chop and cucumber heart, and the pork chop with apple puree, cabbage and spring onions – these are examples of beautifully done ‘simple’ courses. Desserts were the aforementioned Tipsy Cake and the wonderful Sambocade (goat’s cheesecake with walnuts and liquid apple in its centre).
As readers will know, I like to finish off with a green tea – today I went for whole rose buds tea (pretty and tasty) and my partner Owl had oolong. You also get a ‘post-dessert’ thrown in (chocolate and Earl Grey ganache with a herby biscuit with herbs in).
You might think that would be enough, but on our last few visits (we normally visit in the summer) we’ve noticed people having the ice-cream trolley (that’s right!) and had tried it ourselves last time, so again couldn’t resist. You get a bit of a performance at your table as your waiter operates an old-fashioned but slick device to produce liquid nitrogen natural yoghurt ice cream in a cone with your choice of topping – dried raspberries, chocolate and biscuit crumble, hundreds and thousands, or popping candy. Of course we ordered ours ostentatiously and drew the attention of all the tables around us, including one including some young boys whose parents were delighted with us when they had to then do the same for their kids, I’m sure.
Basically, I’m hungry just describing my latest meal at Dinner and urge you all to go whenever you can and simply ENJOY! This restaurant stands out even within the crowded London restaurant market and never disappoints.