A simple Heston Blumenthal hack could turn your London trip into travel magic, says our Travel Editor.
Lunch is the new dinner.
That's my travel takeaway after paying all of £40/€47 for three courses of Michelin-star magic at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal at London's Hyde Park.
You could easily blow hundreds of pounds on an evening meal here. Set in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Blumenthal's concept restaurant has ranked among the World's 50 Best since its debut in 2011.
The park views, spanking service and floor-to-ceiling windows peering into a kitchen, where chefs work next to a unique pulley system, and spit-roasting pineapples (they feature in a delicious take on tipsy cake) are pure foodie theatre.
But that's dinner. Hack Heston with the set lunch menu, and you've got a bucket-list bargain (main courses like spiced pigeon alone cost £40 on the à la carte).
Dinner reimagines historic British dishes. Think riffs on hay-smoked salmon, powdered duck breast, savoury ice-creams or 'Meat Fruit' (see below).
Menus list 'sources of origin' - my main, 'chicken cooked with lettuces' (see gallery above), is inspired by a 1670 cookbook recipe. A napkin note reveals that 'dinner' comes from a 13th-century French word for breakfast.
Is it pretentious? Of course. But it's also brilliantly realised, bringing some of London's best chefs together in a sensational space that never lets the gourmet concept spill over into twee gimmickry.
Naturally, that £40 starts heading north once you add drinks and tips to the bill. But travel is all about moments that lift you out of the ordinary, that make you feel part of a place. Not bad for lunch in London.
In creating the concept for Dinner, Blumenthal and head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts researched in the British Library, consulted with historians and even drew from Lewis Carroll. The result is a brilliant celebration and reboot of British cuisine, and its iconic dish is 'Meat Fruit' (above). This looks for all the world like a mandarin, right down to dimples on its 'skin', but slice it open and a ridiculously light chicken liver parfait is revealed... a nod to a medieval trend of making meat look like other food. See dinnerbyheston.com for more information.
'Rhubarb with hibiscus' at Dinner by Heston
Fine dining doesn't get more meta than this: you can now eat dishes inspired by British culinary history at Dinner in Melbourne. Blumenthal's Fat Duck moved its operations Down Under in 2015, and now that its residency at Melbourne's Crown Entertainment Complex is done, the space has been reworked into a new Dinner by Heston Blumenthal (dinnerbyheston.com.au). 'Meat Fruit' and other classics are on the menu, but there are Australian touches too - from eucalyptus to local cheeses and curried kangaroo tail in the 'Rice & Flesh'.