16th June 2016
Level 3, Crown Towers
130/8 Whiteman St
Southbank, VIC 3006
Heston Blumethal – where does one start? When I first heard that The Fat Duck was opening in Melbourne, I was at least twice as excited as the next person to eat at the three Michelin Star wonder. The price however made me quail ($550pp), and I had to comfort myself with the fact that after The Fat Duck closes, it will be permanently replaced with Dinner By Heston.
The extraordinary experience starts at the entrance, where you walk down a long, dark corridor towards a light sculpture, only to reach what seems to be a dead end. After a couple of confused blinks, the black reflective panel to your right slides silently open and voilà, you have arrived!
The decor at Dinner is the epitome of elegance and class, but with none of the pretention. It’s a luscious fusion of old and new, the tenderly green chairs sprouting against a backdrop of leather and wood. Almost a third of the restaurant is taken up by the kitchen, and it’s there where Heston’s hand in the venture becomes apparent. The shiny rows of benches in the dark, modern space would be just as at home in a chemistry lab as a kitchen, and the image was completed by the battalion of chefs in their crisp whites, moving precisely from one task to the next.
Unfortunately, try as I might, I just couldn’t do justice to the beautiful interior with my photos. So instead, here are some I dug up from the internets; the sources are in the captions, and if you own these photos and are upset about me using them, get in touch and I will remove them ASAP!
For those of you who are a fan of historical fiction/non-fiction, you may know that in England, dinner was originally the largest meal of the day, usually taken around noon. This makes the name Dinner a remarkably apt one for the restaurant, as the entire menu is influenced by British cuisine between the 13th and 19th century. The ‘sources of origin’ of these dishes are printed on the back of the menu, and makes for fascinating reading.
But anyway, onto the food! After we had ordered, we were offered the traditional bread and butter, with refills that I actually managed to refuse for a change. The bread was a good crusty sourdough, and the freshly churned butter spread thick and creamy with just a hint of salt.
You can’t mention Heston without mentioning Meat Fruit ($38), and it really is as visually startling as the pictures make it seem. It looked more like a mandarin than some real mandarins I’ve had; what does meat have to do with this?
Cut into it however, and you’ll find a centre of chicken liver parfait encased deceptively in the mandarin jelly. The mild yet rich pate was absolutely beautiful, spreading smoothly and thickly over the grilled toast, accompanied by the cool freshness of citrus.
Having heard that the Savoury Porridge ($36) is reminiscent to Heston’s famous snail porridge, I was very keen to give it a go. And it turned out to be possibly one of the most delicious things I’ve ever eaten.
The base of vibrantly green oatmeal porridge was resplendent with the aromas of parsley and garlic, and the perfect degree of buttery umami-ness was breathtaking. Layered on top of the stew were crunchy ribbons of pickled fennel, chewy slices of grilled abalone, and some beautifully tender beets. I honestly don’t think I have any words to do justice to just how good this dish was.
I had major troubles trying to choose a main, but after our waiter told us that the Chicken cooked with Lettuces ($58) was Heston’s favourite, my decision was made. Although the name was boring, the dish was anything but. The fillet of chicken was brined, slow cooked, then slow-roasted until it was plump, succulent, and infused with the herbal aroma of the jus. Served on the side were toffee-sweet shards of chicken skin and a rich grilled onion emulsion. Though not as astonishing as the entrees, this was still the best roast chicken I’ve ever had.
I wasn’t nearly as keen on the side dishes. We splurged on the Triple Cooked Chips ($16), which were indeed unprecedented levels of crunchy, but it lacked that carb-loaded goodness I crave from my chips. The Green Beans with Shallots ($14) had been cooked too long for my liking, and were flavoured very unimaginatively. What are you doing Heston??
I found the answer to my question in the Tipsy Cake ($32). I would acquit Heston of first degree murder if he agreed to make this for me on a daily basis. If I were to get diabetes, this is how I would choose for it to happen.
Like everything else Heston, this sounds simple on paper – brioche baked in a sauce of brandy, cream, and wine, served with a piece of spit-roasted pineapple. But that says nothing of the way the sauce soaks into the bread, so that it melts in the mouth with a burst of sugar, cream, and a hint of alcohol. It doesn’t tell you about the way the crispy, caramelised top gives way to the eggy-fluffiness of the centre, and it certainly doesn’t mention the tropical aroma of the pineapple and how well its acidic juiciness contrasts the richness of the brioche.
But wait, there’s more! Our bill came with a shot-glass of Earl Grey Chocolate Ganache and a couple of pieces of Caraway Biscuits. Despite being a freebie, this ganache was still one of the best I’ve had. The dark, rich cocoa was softened by the delicately floral earl grey, and the biscuit carried a warm hint of spice.
Having had such high expectations, disappointment was a niggling fear I had kept at the back of my mind. And although the mains and sides were weaker – as many people have previous said – this was still one of the best (if not the best) meals I’ve ever had. I also can’t finish this review without giving mad props to the service. Not only were all the staff knowledgeable, helpful, and accommodating, they made me feel as if I’ve made a dozen new friends who would like nothing more than to keep me happy. I can’t recommend the experience enough, but then again, what else would you expect from a two Michelin Star restaurant?
Rating: 19/20 – my heart says 20 but my brain says the mains and sides need to be more exciting :(
This rating reflects my personal experience at the time of visit.