What now feels like a life time ago (January 5th) I eagerly booked a table for two at the soon to be opened Dinner for a random date in March. That date finally arrived and after some persuading, I managed to convince my husband to join me (as he does not find Heston’s food an appealing idea).
Avoiding the attractive looking but possibly over popular ‘Meat Fruit’, we opted for a more regular sounding Smoked Mackerel Salad (my husband) and the oldest dish on the menu (for me), Rice and Flesh. My companion did not think too much of the mackerel salad, claiming the fish was too raw for him (and raw it really was) and that the horseradish sauce was too overpowering. My starter was excellent however: the risotto was well cooked, with a striking yellow colour (saffron); the pieces of calf’s tail were small so that they complemented the risotto without giving it a feel of heaviness. The red wine jus added some tartness to an almost sweet dish. The flavours were overall fantastic.
My main was Cod with cider and fired mussels. I don’t usually like mussels and I sort of regret choosing a dish that despite being pretty good, somehow missed out on on the originality of some of the other dishes. The cider sauce was great, pale yellow in colour with a strong flavour, the cod was a large portion and well roasted. The mussels were ok – not sure what fired meant, and I did not think they added anything special to the dish.
The other main was a better choice: Powdered duck with smoked fennel. It was nicely cooked (9 hours!) and quite delicate, while the fennel had a very subtle smoked aroma. The mash was a little over mashed, while the side of chantenay carrots was lovely, and I usually hate carrots. They had some sort of spice or herb which made them interesting and they were crunchy enough. My side of pointy cabbage and onions was also delicious – how to turn a humble pair of vegetables into something actually very tasty!
I enjoyed every one of the three mouthfuls I made.
Before the bill, we also received a cute looking coffee cup with Earl Grey tea and white chocolate ganache and caraway seeds biscuits. I have to admit, the caraway seeds biscuits were interesting, but a bit greasy and overpowering the ganache. I said to my husband ‘this doesn’t taste of anything’. Once I actually had a spoonful of ganache alone, then the Earl Grey aroma was coming through, and it was pleasant if a little too leafy – if you like Earl Grey of course.
The bill came to a quite decent £155 including 12.5% for an attentive and friendly service. We did enjoy two aperitif at our table (G&T 13.50£, Campari £7.50) , but we then opted for a very reasonably priced house white, which is a bargain and a good dry white option at £20.
To those, like me, expecting a ‘Fat Duck experience’ with the fun, the discovery, the emotions and the multi-sensory exposure, I have to say, I was disappointed. There is a lot of hype about Dinner and in my humble opinion it does not live up to expectations but purely because it has such high standards to live up to. As far as creative, interesting and mostly, flavoursome food, elegantly presented and, let’s not forget, meticulously researched, is surely a winning formula. I will likely go back again to, if only to tickle some more of my historical culinary fantasies.