Saturday, July 14, 2012

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, London

I had been watching the clock all day, counting down the minutes to 5pm. Five minutes before 5 I loaded the website, clicking refresh every so often and more frequently as it neared 5 o'clock. As the clock on the computer ticked over I hit refresh one more time, quickly selected the date I was after and then 'find table'. The last time I behaved like this I was trying to get tickets to a Foo Fighters concert. Although, I was somewhat more successful then. Unfortunately we weren't able to get a booking at Fat Duck while we were in London, despite my fanatical behaviour over the booking process.

English friends of ours came to our rescue, suggesting we try Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, a more laid-back Heston restaurant, located in the ground floor of the Mandarin Oriental in Hyde Park. Encouraged by their insistence that bookings were much easier to come by than those for Fat Duck, I repeated the above process a month later, and successfully nabbed Mr Alphie and myself a late night, mid-week, booking for our first week in London.

I must admit, that I was quite disappointed at having to settle for what I felt was 'second best' when it came to Heston's restaurants. I will now quite readily admit I was wrong. While Dinner does not give you the full Heston degustation experience you would get at Fat Duck (featuring the famous Snail Porridge and 'Sound of the Sea'), it is still a magical experience. The staff are outstanding, and were willing to provide suggestions from the menu, help me to understand the Euro-centric wine list, and very accommodating of our request for the infamous 'triple cooked chips' as a side dish. The food, was absolutely fantastic, although not in the style of Fat Duck & Heston's Feasts, more aligned with How to cook like Heston and In Search of Perfection - think of the burger featured on MasterChef last year.

The room is centered around the kitchen, a huge glassed-in space that lets you watch the chefs as they work industriously (and immaculately! my kitchen is never that tidy!) prepping and plating. Unfortunately we didn't see Heston working in the kitchen while we were there, I actually think he was in Perth at the time (just my luck!), but we did spy Matt Moran chatting with the crew on his way out after a meal. 

But, enough of my ramblings, check out the photos for yourself!
(Due to my reluctance to use flash they are slightly grainy, my apologies.)

Nettle Porridge (c.1660) - Roast cod palette, smoked beetroot, garlic, parsley & fennel

Meat Fruit (c.1500) - Mandarin, chicken liver parfait & grilled bread
Spiced Pigeon (c.1780) - Ale & artichokes

Powdered Duck Breast (c.1670) - Smoked confit fennel & umbles

Braised lettuce & peas

Triple cooked chips

Tipsy Cake (c.1810) - Spit roast pineapple

Chocolate pot, served with coffee

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Restaurant Amuse, Perth

On a rainy evening in late April, Mr Alphie and I were suiting up and looking our best in preparation for dinner at a restaurant frequently touted as one of Perth's (and Australia's) best - Restaurant Amuse. After a few (failed) attempts at getting a booking, we had decided to save it for a special occasion, and our first wedding anniversary seemed as fitting as any.

Our taxi arrived at an unassuming suburban house, the only giveaway that something more exciting was going on inside were the cars parked in every available space. I made a dash through the rain towards the front door, where we were met, and taken through a number of surprisingly large rooms to our seats.

Professionalism was evident from first contact. Mr Alphie booked nearly three months in advance, and even at that early stage he was queried on allergies and food preferences; information that was recorded and confirmed with the booking confirmation call one week before our booking, and again as we arrived.

Between us Mr Alphie and I have few small intolerances, that both of usually ignore when eating out, and just suffer the (minor) consequences later. However, we were very impressed with their attention to detail and concern for our dietary requirements. I can only imagine that they would just as graciously deal with more challenging allergies or intolerances.

All in all, it was a fantastic night out. The staff were fabulous, totally accommodating - such as when we asked for a 'break' between courses, to give us time to take it all in -  and more than happy to have a chat about a dish or ingredient when we were interested.

But, on to the photos!

 Welcome! Glass of bubbly & the menu


 Prawn, finger lime and tea seed oil
Anselmo Mendes, 2010 'Muron Antigos' Vinho Verde, Melgaco Portugal

  Marron, lemon verbena and arborio
Moo Brew, Hefeweizen, Moorilla Tasmania

Egg, hay and potato
Olssens, 2006 'Charcoal Joe' Chardonnay, Central Otago New Zealand

Scallop, shitake, cuttlefish
Best's, 2010 Young Vine Pinot Meunier, Great Western Victoria

Duck, roselle and chestnut
 Senorio del Aguila, 2002 Reserva, Carinena Spain

Lamb, samphire and khol rabi
Glenmore, 2005 'Pin Pin' Cabernet Sauvingnon, Margaret River Western Australia

Passionfruit, lime and lychee

Optional cheese course - for one!

Pear, walnut and lemon

Mandarin, basil and fig
Cortesio, 2011 Moscato d'Asti, Piemonte, Italy

Buttermilk, rum and raisin
AR Valdespino, 'El Canado' Pedro Ximinez, Jerez Spain

 Honeycomb, truffles and jubes


Hi Readers!

I've had some great dining experiences since you heard from me last. I really want to share them, but the growing list of reviews to write up scares me off every time I try to catch up. So, in an effort to get back on top of it all, I'll be posting a few photo heavy reviews in the next little while until I've caught up.

I'm also hoping to get back into cooking more than soup & reheating leftovers, like I have been for the last two months, so there should be some more recipe posts on the way as well.