Harden's survey result
“If you can overlook the stratospheric prices, and don’t go often enough to tire of the historical menu” (“we’ve all heard about the Meat Fruit now, thanks!”), then Heston Blumenthal’s Knightsbridge dining room can, say fans, “still deliver stand-out dishes with precise execution, Heston-eque flourishes” and “bold and exciting flavours”. Even supporters, though, caution that “you must get someone else to pay” (“even with great cooking, the bill’s terrible value”) and to its worst critics it’s becoming “a horrible and stale experience”, especially given an environment that feels ever-more “soulless and hotel-like”.
“Heston Blumenthal would do well to pay attention and create some new ideas” at this Knightsbridge dining room, where ratings this year are continuing on their remorseless march south (and whose ongoing inclusion in William Reed’s World’s 50 Best awards seems to represent the worst kind of spineless kowtowing to celebrity). Undoubtedly, there are many loyalists, who “love the menu that’s full of history” (being researched from medieval recipe books), and who feel Ashley Palmer-Watts and his team deliver “entertaining”, “alternative” cuisine that’s “so impressive”. There are too many reporters however, for whom it’s becoming an “overpriced nightmare” – charming “extortionate prices” for “mediocre” or even “dreadful” fare. Despite its park views, reporters are also increasingly “not sure about the dining room” either: “all dark wood and posh design looking into the kitchen, it lacks intimacy” and can seem totally “atmosphere-free”. STOP PRESS – after the fire at the hotel in June 2018, the restaurant was reopened on 4th December 2018
“I am perplexed as to how it achieved a second Michelin Star and made it onto the World’s 50 Best!” – verdicts are ever-harsher on Heston’s “historically inspired” Knightsbridge dining room, which increasingly “trades on the Blumenthal name”. Yes, many reporters do still enjoy “an amazing taste sensation” from its “delicious Olde Worlde English recipes with a twist”. And yes it has “stunning views over Hyde Park”. But far too many refuseniks nowadays report “terrifying bills” for food that’s “simply OK”, from a menu that reads like “a marketing con” (and barely changes), in a room with all the ambience of “a plush hotel foyer”. “If I want a modern take on 15th century chicken, in future I think I’ll go to Chicken Cottage!” Top Menu Tip – “the Meat Fruit is cool”.
Heston Blumenthal’s “theatrical” menu “loosely based on historic British recipes” has won fame for this large, swish dining room, with “magnificent views over Hyde Park”. Arguably the shtick “relies more on history-telling than cooking” however, and “now that the original hype is over” reporters divide between the majority for whom the cuisine is still plain “incredible” and a sizeable minority for whom “the original ‘ooooohs’ and ‘aaaahs’ have been superseded by ‘so whats’”.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Restaurant Diner Reviews
"Having seen a huge fan of fine dining for a while, I felt it was vital I visit this venue. It has all the attributes of what one expects at 2 michelin starred venues. Polite efficient staff and superb service. Heston’s style is very individual and his staff at this venue present it perfectly. We chose the chefs table to experience the full interaction, and we had our own staff member who was superbly informed as to the history of the extraordinary menu Every dish is beautifully flavoured and presented with Heston’s typical personal style. Every dish had something really unique about it and frankly the liver parfait, typically camouflaged to look like a satsuma was beyond my descriptive abilities to adequately define. There was a perfect time gap between courses, every course was superb, for me hard to criticise apart from the nitrogen icecream only because I’m not a huge fan of yogurt flavouring. My only minor complaint, in many of the Michelin establishments I have really enjoyed meeting chef, and bearing in mind the fact we were on chefs table I had hoped we would see the leader of one of the most efficient together brigades I have ever seen. I did ask our “facilitator” (so much more than a member of waiting staff) if we might speak to chef, but he had apparently gone. Shame A superb, not cheap, but amazing total experience!"
"Outstanding food and outstanding staff is what makes this place so good, plus the views of Hyde Park! I've been around 10 times now and never tire of it."
|Wine per bottle||£30.00|
Heston Blumenthal's historically-themed Knightsbridge newcomer - it's undoubtedly a good restaurant, but is it good enough to stand up to the hype?
Has any restaurant in recent years been a more hotly anticipated media event than Heston Blumenthal's Knightsbridge newcomer?
By the third day of official opening - on the lunch service of which we visited - reviews (adulatory) had already appeared in a couple of the broadsheets. As we entered, the media circus continued unabated. Heston and his PR right by the door. By the windows: a film crew. We were quickly embraced.
No denying the calm and order too, however. Here, the months of menu planning, and the two weeks of 'friends and family' trials, had clearly paid off. It may help that the brigade - both in the kitchen and front-of-house - seems large in comparison to the number of guests (still, in these early days, being limited to well under full capacity). You might think that, in such circumstances, the service should have been faultless. And it was.
The ambience of the dining room inspired mixed emotions. The less kind view was that the hotel-financed interior was corporate and rather neutral (if with wonderful, picture-window views of Hyde Park, and a lively goldfish bowl of a kitchen). As mid-afternoon gloaming set in, however, the room's design made more sense, with the jelly-mould light fittings, in particular, injecting a greater air of whimsicality.
And finally, we get to see the menu, with its bizarre names such as Salumugundy (chicken oysters, bone marrow and horseradish cream), and in each case listing the date of the recipe that was its inspiration (in this case, 1720).
What a heritage, we're supposed to believe, we Brits have ignored all these years!
But despite the mad-scientist-chef schtick, and the obscure menu descriptions, you may be disappointed if you head to this corner of Knightsbridge expecting to be dazzled by a succession of outre creations.
The dish you may already have read a lot about is the 'Meat Fruit' (which the management kindly sent over to us, along with a couple of glasses of fizz). It certainly looks brilliant: a chicken liver parfait that's presented to look like a tangerine, within a cleverly reconstituted skin of that fruit.
But while it's a great dish, there's no real getting away from the fact that the super-intense twang of citrus and crackingly crunchy toast offset a food concept - parfait - so simple you could take it on a picnic. Like many of the other creations, what's delivered is a known-and-usual indulgence with a smart historically-inspired veneer.
Cleverly 'cutting' flavours is a hallmark of eating here, and was also evident in a firmly-fleshed dish of hay-smoked mackerel, with lemon salad, gentleman's relish and olive oil. Another starter, savoury porridge - a bit of a nod to the famous snail version - was gorgeous: vividly green, and both Colgate-fresh and soggily satisfying all at the same time.
Moving to the main event, baked cod with chard, presented on a butter sauce, was hard to better. Here the 'period' slant was hard to discern, but the maestro himself explained that the accompanying mussels were wood-fired (which adds a hint of smokiness), which was all the rage in 1940, apparently. Who knew? Who cares? For £22, in Knightsbridge, it was just a very good dish.
The other main course, pigeon, consisted of flesh that was immorally yielding, if maybe a bit underseasoned. Here the period schtick (1780) is to be found in the spicing with ale and artichokes, and very good it was. At £32 for a modest portion, though, the dish should have been good. Again the maestro explained: this particular bird had breezed in from Anjou, not Trafalgar Square, and one has to pay for quality.
And so to puds. Whoever said they're what Brits do best was right, at least on the evidence of the Tipsy Cake (1810): this baked brioche with pineapple (theatrically spit-roast in the view of the punters) was a bravura performance. Our other dessert, Taffety Tart (1660) - which includes rose, fennel, lemon and blackcurrant - was undoubedly 'different', but something of a love-it-or-hate-it affair.
If one were looking to criticise, coffee, for around £4 a cup, was good but no more. This was also true of the white bread which was no better than you'd find in many gastropubs. (The brown was more interesting.)
And while we're being picky, why is the china from Germany? And where are the English wines? Still under consideration apparently. Still? And the real ales, ciders and perries of Old England? Apparently, these definitely are 'coming soon'.
And finally, as humble vegetables must have largely sustained this island nation for much of its history, surely the vast brigade of chefs might have plundered the market gardens of Olde England to find more than four, ultra-basic vegetable options - apart from spuds, the choices boil down to 'carrots' or 'cabbage'!
These are, however, essentially quibbles. This is a worthwhile addition to London, over which The Fat Duck's chef has wafted an admirable sprinkling of inspiration. And it's reasonably enough priced... by the standards of Knightsbridge hotels.
In the long run, though, it's not at all clear that, in the longer term, the waves of hype currently washing over the place are really doing the chef - or the restaurant - any favours at all.
Mandarin Oriental, 66 Knightsbridge, London, SW1X 7LA
|Monday||12 pm‑2:15pm, 6 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Tuesday||12 pm‑2:15pm, 6 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Wednesday||12 pm‑2:15pm, 6 pm‑9:30 pm|
|Thursday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6 pm‑10 pm|
|Friday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6 pm‑10 pm|
|Saturday||12 pm‑2:15 pm, 6 pm‑10 pm|
|Sunday||12 pm‑2:15pm, 6 pm‑9:30 pm|