If someone challenged me to come up with my perfect afternoon, I'd probably describe yesterday's leisurely, champagne-fuelled luncheon at Heston Blumenthal's Dinner to them in meticulous detail. From the picture-perfect location overlooking Hyde Park to the fabulous company of three of my oldest friends, the food could well have been incidental in such a wonderful setting. This was Heston, however. God of gastronomy and the only man who could possibly get me thinking sweetbreads are ever a good idea...
I started with Meat Fruit, a quintessential Heston trick where he serves up a dish masquerading as something quite different. This time it was chicken liver parfait disguised in what looked like a mandarin. At The Fat Duck it was an impossibly thin white chocolate playing card with a raspberry jam filling. Cheeky, fun and, most importantly, delicious.
My friend Jo, a girl famed for her categorical eschewing of all vegetables, shocked us all when she ordered the Lamb Broth, served with slow-cooked hen's egg (otherwise known as egg), celery, radish, turnip and deep-fried sweetbreads. Complex and adventurous, I've already marked this as my starter for the next time I go.
Zoe's starter was Roast Scallops with cucumber ketchup and borage whilst Amy (who, incidentally, has written a vastly more culinarily-informed post about this on her blog here), ordered the Rice and Flesh, a dish that harks back to 1390 and was a rich yet delicate saffron risotto flavoured with calf tail and red wine.
We were brought a taster portion of Hay Smoked Mackerel with lemon salad, gentleman's relish and olive oil whilst we waited for our main - a little touch which meant that I left the restaurant having tried five out of the eight starters available. No wonder I nearly passed out in Harvey Nicks.
By this point all the Laurent Perrier had gone to my head so, clearly mesmerised, I only took pictures of my own main. It was a good 'un, though - Sirloin of Black Angus with mushroom ketchup, red wine juice and Heston's infamous triple-cooked chips - one bite of which had Amy declaring that her last ever meal would be those dipped in the potato puree that she received with her Powdered Duck. A good choice, my friend.
I won't lie, I was slightly horrified when I found out the white jellies on the top of my steak were in fact - gulp - bone marrow. I take it all back, though, Heston - you carry on. It was perfect.
Jo had the fillet version of my main and Zoe opted for the Spiced Pigeon served with ale and artichokes - dishes from 1826 and 1777 respectively.
Dessert time was met with a wave of bittersweet sadness, although, again, that could've been the bubbles talking. I was pretty gutted the meal would soon be over but I always look forward to pudding so was intrigued to see what they'd pull out of the bag after such a beautiful main. Amy's wonderfully-titled Tipsy Cake gave us all serious food envy. If I were her I wouldn't have shared it but I guess she's just a better person that I am. It was a buttery, sugary, briochey dish of deliciousness served with a slice of spit-roasted pineapple that you could see being prepared through the glass-fronted kitchens.
Jo had the Chocolate Bar with passionfruit jam and ginger ice cream and Zoe and I had the Baked Lemon Suet Pudding with lemon caramel and jersey cream. My philistine palate was saying "mmm, lemon curd!", but I'm sure that slightly insults the complexities and 1630 provenance of the dish. Bloody good, though.
Just when we thought it was all over, they brought us a tiny petit four-esque white chocolate and Earl Gray ganache, served with a caraway seed biscuit. I'd go back for that alone. We rolled ourselves into Harvey Nicks where I bought Chanel's Mimosa (I'm such a sucker), then rolled ourselves out again and into a taxi. My perfect afternoon. You should try it.