“I realise that, Shorty, but where are we going?”
“I know what the evening meal’s called, Shorty, I sometimes have three. But where are we going?”
I’ll spare y’all the rest of the conversation, just believe me when I say it went on for quite some time with Shorty chuckling like a hick who’s struck oil and me getting as riled as an oilman who’s run out. Y’all ain’t stupid though, so you probably realise that we were going to dinner – as in the meal – at Dinner, the new Heston Blue Menthol restaurant.
Now, I know as a “foodie” – a word I’m not especially fond of but then it does sound better than “pig” – that I should be as happy as a tick on a fat dog about visiting somewhere that Blue Menthol’s put his name to but I wasn’t so sure. I mean, I’ve checked out that Fat Duck menu and figured someone had hacked his website until Shorty assured me it was meant to read like that.
When you call a restaurant The Fat Duck, you better darn well serve me some obese chucks of dead animal, not things cooked in hay. I learned two things that day though. It’s Blumenthal not ‘Blue Menthol’ – I still think he’s missing a big toothpaste sponsorship deal there – and, when he sets his mind to it, the boy can cook. Actually, it turns out some protégé called Ashley Palmer-Watts is the main man here but Heston’s stamp is all over the menu.
The theme at Dinner, as Shorty explained, is historical British food. This doesn’t mean – as has been the case in many a place in the UK – old food, but old recipes: Blumenthal and his team have cracked some history books open to rediscover lost recipes. My own feeling, before dinner/Dinner, was that things get lost for good reason – like the reason my siblings and I hid our grandmother’s book of Jello recipes. But I’m glad ol’ Heston hit the libraries.
I thought Salamagundy was that writer of yours the Iranians put a Fatwa on, but it turns out it’s an 18th Century dish of chicken oysters, bone marrow and horseradish. There’s still some of that freaky stuff – hay smoked mackerel, savoury porridge – but there’s lots of real eating too, like Roast Marrowbone and Broth of Lamb.
After a quick ‘fruit’ course – a palate cleanser of Blumenthal’s now infamous meat fruit – we take delivery of our main courses. Shorty went for some 17th century thing called Powdered Duck – nothing of the sort, but proper bits of duck in a spicy coating, like a Tudor Colonel Sanders – and I went for the Wing Rib of Black Angus.
This is apparently meant for two people or, as I see these things, one Texan. They claim the recipe is 19th century, which means there’s many a barbecue joint back home that could claim to be teaching culinary history. Damned fine beef, though.
Pudding was a double bill of fruit salad – well, one of those jelly mandarins and a spoon, if truth be told – and something called Tipsy Cake: you can watch them roasting the accompanying pineapple over a fire in the open kitchen. The cake got hidden while I took a photo for Loretta, but I have to say, it was pretty good. Even the real fruit.
I’ve seen how some of these proper reviewers do this, so I guess I need a closing statement, like “Dinner is creative but still recognisable as the sort of meat and two veg Shorty tells me built this country.” That’ll do, as I’ve got to submit this AND call the restaurant to see if they’ll deliver. Loretta wants to see me eat two bits of fruit every morning. Meat fruit, I love ya. CECILE B. HUNTER