Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Affordable World Class Dining in Melbourne
Heston has done it again; ever since the World's 50 Best Restaurant awards began he has featured in this exclusive list. This is an amazing achievement as the World's Best list is fluid and evolving; but so is Heston. Melbourne can be grateful that Heston decided to embrace our city of Melbourne; first with The Fat Duck and now with equally as iconic Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. In fact such is the standing of the man that his restaurant is often referred to as simply "Dinner".
To achieve World's Best 50 with a restaurant in two locations (London and Melbourne) is a significant achievement. You don't see this every day and we know of no other dual location restaurants on the list. This honour speaks of the highest excellence but also of food and service consistency; something that top Australian restaurants strive for but don't always attain. We figure Heston will feature as a key figure when World's 50 Best comes to Melbourne in 2017. A seismic shift will take place in the Australian dining scene and our foodie scene will be centre stage; with a plethora of events to be built around the visiting world's top chefs.
We began at the bar at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal; one of the best experiences in Melbourne with killer views, fabulous engagement from the bar staff, first class cocktails and modern vibe.
We were invited to experience Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in all it's glory on a week night; and noted a packed restaurant. We do question though whether Melbourne totally "gets" Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at this stage.
Let's be clear; Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is not The Fat Duck (as amazing as it was in Melbourne). Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is an affordable restaurant; you don't have to pay $500 a head but can visit (now open for lunch) for lunch or dinner and decide for example to just order a brilliant steak and the thrice cooked chips with a bottle of wine. It's a restaurant for the people (a contemporary bistro), as it is in London, where diners will choose to order several courses or just a bottle of wine and a main.
Kudos also to Head Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and his extensive kitchen team.
The bar at Dinner by Heston is one of the best bars in Melbourne. At some restaurants the bar is just an after thought but this is a serious bar with imaginative cocktails with historical significance. The scene is compelling; to sit at the bar with a spectacular backdrop of Melbourne along the Yarra is therapeutic in itself. The White Cliffs c1660 (above) was an experience of Chalk Liqueur and Champagne, with the journey beginning at the White Cliffs of Dover. In 1662 the English scientist Christopher Merret wrote that adding sugar to any wine before it was bottled would transform it into sparkling.
We also enjoyed the Olive Leaf Martini c 1930 of Gin, Vermouth and Olive Leaf. The olive nuance gave a pleasant savoury and oil hit. The practice of adding olive brine goes back to at least 1930, where it's found in a little volume called "My New cocktail Book", privately printed by one G. F. Stee. We felt on a "high" even before sitting down to dinner.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is an attractive option for corporates; you can come in with clients and enjoy a first class dining experience but be back to the office in time for that "meeting". Corporates can enjoy a bespoke world class dining experience in Melbourne. What client wouldn't be impressed with "this dish was served as one of 138 dishes at the coronation of James II..." Important to corporates is a great sommelier, and Dinner by Heston boasts world's best. The staff are well versed not only in service, but in the history of food. And the food is innovative and delicious!
Chefs pay respect to food in different ways but we found Heston's honouring of food history compelling. Dishes from the 1300's through to the 1900's still relevant and exciting today. Each dish is allocated a circa date in terms of its historical gastronomy.
Meat Fruit c 1500 is a visually exciting dish which looks like a mandarin; but under the skin is a superb chicken parfait. The dish heralds from the 1500s in England. The chicken parfait is piped into moulds and the skin of the "fruit" is made from mandarin jelly. The chargrilled sourdough is the perfect accompaniment. The Head Sommelier Loic Avri selects matching wines for our dinner, including this French Bourgogne Pinot Noir.
We found ourselves spreading the meat fruit across the sourdough in copious amounts. This is an iconic famous global dish and a must try dish in Melbourne. Bourgogne Pinot Noir 2013 was the perfect matching wine; a great example of a French Pinot Noir.
Top Australian wines feature on the wine list, with Ten Minutes by Tractor Estate Chardonnay only an hour away and S. & E. Morris & Sons Woody's Amontillado only slightly further from Beechworth.
Warm sourdough with house churned butter was welcome; featuring decent crust and soft beautiful bread that makes you reach for more.
Rice & Flesh c 1390 featured Saffron, curried kangaroo tail, red wine and amaranth and is in the style of a risotto. We celebrate the Aussie touch of the kangaroo tail in wine and the match with saffron. Heston has embraced several clever examples of indigenous food in his historical English gastronomic selections.
Frumenty c1390 features Grilled octopus, spelt, pickled red moss, chervil emulsion and smoked sea broth. Is this Heston's homage to Alain Chapel; a champion of land meets sea and of nouveau cuisine? We imbibed the smoky flavoured sea broth and the generous amount of grilled octopus for an entree dish.
Heston famous for his take on porridge delivers with this Savoury Porridge c1660 with Garlic and parsley butter, grilled abalone, pickled beetroot and fennel.
Powdered Duck Breast c1670 also featured Smoked beetroot, grilled red cabbage, umbles and pickled cherries. We love the history of the umbles and the references to eating umble (or humble) pie. The duck is cured in brine and the plate is an attractive array of colour and texture. Pink duck with something akin to a winter salad was rich almost exotic.
Another signature is the Lamb & Cucumber c1830 featuring Best end of lamb with roast cucumber heart, sweetbreads, peas, barilla and mint. Don't underestimate the cucumber in this dish; it contrasts with the lamb but also lifts it. Saltbush lamb is the most flavoursome lamb we know and this dish is cooked to perfection.
A special on the night was the Beef Royal with an anchovy sauce; served at the coronation of James II in 1723.
Is the soul of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in the Meat Fruit or other signature dishes? Or is it in the indulgence of the creamy buttery Mashed potatoes and the Triple cooked chips? This is unapologetic satiation.
Wine matching is perfection here and explores a huge scope of wines including local as well as international.
Tipsy Cake c1810 is light and fluffy with decadence of pineapple cooked on a spit roast. A triumph of brioche based cake in brandy caramel (sauternes custard sauce). Does it get any better or any more indulgent in terms of dessert? We scooped a steaming portion of Tipsy Cake on to the plate with extra creamy sauternes sauce dripping on to the cakes from our spoon. Decadence overdrive.
You notice the pineapple on the spit through the kitchen window, hen see it later appear on your plate with the Tipsy Cake.
Taffety Tart c1660 also features caramelised apple, wattle seed biscuit, Eucalyptus, fennel and blackcurrant sorbet. Again, we applaud Heston's use of indigenous Australian ingredients in one of his classics.
Ice cream cart arrives and you are given a choice of toppings; raspberry popping candy appealed. The advent of liquid nitrogen (and a haze) is also signature Heston; apart from the stunning theatre, liquid nitrogen makes ice cream freeze faster.
Murals of fruit and medieval adorn Dinner by Heston; with a stunning Chef's Table adjacent to the kitchen.
Book your private dining room here at Dinner by Heston; appealing with stunning views both day and night.
Dinner by Heston is a must visit foodie destination in Melbourne. The mindset of it being just for special occasions needs to be broken; this is a high end contemporary bistro you can return to time and again without breaking your wallet. It's sophisticated, clever, professional and of the highest service standards yet also relaxed and casual with a spoonful of fun. Highly recommended.