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Heston Blumenthal talks about the imminent launch of Dinner

Heston Blumenthal talks about the imminent launch of Dinner
Helen Hokin talks to Heston Blumenthal about his new restaurant concept, 'Dinner' at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park.
Despite carving a reputation for pioneering cutting-edge cooking methods, Heston's new dining concept 'Dinner' indulges his fascination with the past.
To a room of fascinated listeners, Heston shares his passion for food history and his knowledge, it seems, is vast. Did we know that the first use of liquid nitrogen in the kitchen was in 18th century England, when a cook by the name of Mrs Marshall used it to make ice cream? Punters, having long assumed that Heston and Ferran Adria were its forerunners, using it to conjure foams and froths as part of last decade's molecular food movement might wonder if he's inadvertently blowing the whistle on himself.  
Though the concept of Dinner might not have been conclusively summed up in a phrase during our interview, 'Historical British' might be one way to describe it. Trust Heston to give the proliferation of chefs attempting to follow his earlier footsteps with their own take on Modern British the slip. Not so much leading from the front as blazing a trail of his own entirely. This is new. Really new. And you just cant help feel a shiver of excitement at the prospect of Dinner taking the London dining scene up yet another notch.
But what can customers 'blind' booked into Dinner expect to find on the menu? Because as we understand it, the restaurant is already choc-a-bloc, at least three months ahead, perhaps more. It hasn't even opened yet, and no-one, not even the press, is privy to the full menu.
It appears diners can look forward to a 14th-century inspired Rice and flesh main course -  an adaptation, according to Heston, of Britain's first risotto recipe; Roast bone marrow with anchovy and pickles; or Pigeon with artichoke. Accompaniments include an assortment of ketchups, derived from old-fashioned recipes, from cucumber to mushroom or cockle. As out of step with contemporary dining as it may sound, Heston insists that the overall effect will be that of a refined British brasserie. Confused? Apparently, the culinary alchemy, cutting edge research and developmental methods used at The Fat Duck as measurements to understand and gain greater consistency in cooking have been applied to turn Dinner's ancient recipes into something more appealing to the 21st century palate. To sum it up, says Heston, the resulting menu at Dinner will be a coming together of the concepts of The Fat Duck and The Hinds Head.
Celebrity chefs lending their names to hotel restaurant concepts are notorious for never being on site. And Heston admits, his main focus will remain The Fat Duck but, he adds, he'd find it hard to resist regular visits to The Mandarin. Looking around the plush suite we're using as an interview room, it's easy to see why.
The restaurant itself, like the menu, is still off bounds but diners can look forward to an open kitchen with chefs on show and a huge rotisserie. Whilst the environment promises to be sumptuous, it turns out there won't be table cloths. I wonder if all this modern medieval wining and dining is starting to sound like an upscale theme restaurant, but Heston assures me that  wenches bearing beer flagons are decidedly off the menu.
I ask if there's any rivalry between himself and fellow hotel-dweller Daniel Boulud who less than  a year ago firmly stamped his brand here with Bar Boulud housed in the gorgeously refurbished subterranean brasserie. "We're great friends," Heston assures me, "And besides the two offerings are mutually exclusive."
Upstairs for Historic British,  downstairs for Modern French. An entente cordiale? Time will tell.
What are the chances of Dinner becoming a roll-out concept across the Mandarin Group? The grin on our chef's face betrays nothing but  says it all. Though he does offer that the decision not to use exclusively British ingredients in all-British recipes was so as not rule out a brand expansion. I detect an electric mix of excitement and trepidation about his new venture.
Big brand partnerships with Waitrose and now the Mandarin Oriental, and with Heston now a brand in his own right, it's fair to say the man's evolved into a businessman, as much as chef, with the retail and  hospitality industries at his feet.  But just when you might start to think you've seen the last of the much-loved mad inventor, he throws in a crowd-pleaser with a parting shot that allows a glimmer of eccentricity to show through. His prediction for the future of food? An increase in the consumption of insects over the coming decade. Worm pizza? Who knows.
Words: Helen Hokin & Zoe Perrett
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal opens at The Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park on 31st January 2011
Seating 140 guests, the new restaurant will serve lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. The kitchen will be headed by Ashley Palmer-Watts who has worked with Blumenthal at The Fat Duck for nine years in the capacity of Group Executive Chef.
A private dining room will be available for up to 12 guests as well as a chef’s table located in the kitchen that will seat 6. During the summer months, a terrace overlooking Hyde Park will provide guests with one of London’s finest al fresco dining locations.
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17 January 2011
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