In this regular op-ed feature, we give an honest breakdown on popular activities many have listed on their bucket list. We judge base on quality of experience, price paid, and whether or not we would sincerely recommend it to a friend.
In our food-obsessed culture, everyone wants to be the first to discover a new dining trend or claim bragging rights for dining at a restaurant by a famous chef – just take a look at the queues anytime a Michelin-star anything opens up or whenever Gordon Ramsay or Anthony Bourdain stop by or a food porn video goes viral. So it only made sense that booking a table at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal would be one of the first things I did once I had my ticket to Melbourne.
Heston Blumenthal is probably one of the most celebrated chefs in the world, having won countless awards like Michelin stars and ranking high on World’s 50 Best Restaurants for his establishments. He’s probably best known for The Fat Duck, which is where Heston acquired his reputation for inventiveness. The restaurant was also where many modern culinary trends were developed, such as food pairing and multi-sensory cooking. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is Heston’s next venture that focuses on historical British dishes but with a modern take for today’s diners.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal in Melbourne sits on the third floor of the Crown Towers Melbourne and faces the Yarra River. I was lucky enough to be seated just next to the panoramic windows during my session but from what I gathered, most guests were able to enjoy the view. The other coveted view in Dinner is that of the kitchen. A large, landscape window gives guests who walk past (or are lucky enough to be seated right in front of) a generous view of the chefs hard at work creating elements of the spectacular menu.
I chose the five-course menu that started off with the Hay Smoked Ocean Trout, which is served with a pickled lemon salad, gentleman’s relish, wood sorrel & smoked roe. The dish fits well as a starter, as its tartness does jump start appetites. The dish also plays along with a classic Heston move – using textures and a myriad of flavours to amp up sensory stimulation. In one bite, you’re faced with the sweetness of the relish, crunch from the salad, the slick and smoky ocean trout, and smoked roe that explode in the mouth like briny pop rocks.
The second course is one that I would consider to be the signature of Dinner. Meat Fruit is a chicken liver parfait dipped in a gelatinous mandarin orange “peel” and served with warm, crusty bread. As much as the name sounds entirely unappetising, this was one of my favourites from this course. The chicken liver parfait is more like a smooth and creamy pâté mousse that is almost like just-churned butter, and although the portion is quite much for one person, it isn’t jelak (too rich). The addition of the mandarin orange “peel” is what cuts the richness of this dish with its citrus bite.
Following this was Rice & Flesh, which again is quite an unappetising name but the dish is quite the opposite. Saffron-infused rice is served with curried kangaroo tail seasoned with red wine and amaranth. The use of kangaroo here is homage to where this institution is location (Australia), as Dinner in Hyde Park, London, uses calf tail instead. As the third course, I expected this to be the climax of the meal but this one was slightly disappointing. The kangaroo tail was absolutely tender and flavourful but the rice lacked much to be desired. Maybe I was expecting something more on the side of a creamy risotto but the grains were quite hard and felt quite underdone. Was this intentional? Maybe, but it not something I’d order again.
The last course before dessert was something called Chicken cooked with Lettuces. This course beautifully summed up the mains. Chicken breast is cooked, I believe, sous vide first and the skin is then crisped up in a pan. On the side is a creamy grilled onion emulsion served with a lettuce wedge, chicken skin chips and crispy bits I wasn’t able to make out (more chicken skin?). As much as Heston is known for his modern interpretations, especially on this course of historical dishes, this one felt like something a mother or grandmother would have whipped up on a Sunday night for the kids. The choice of complementing components and the familiarity of being served chicken and gravy may be homely and nostalgic but it wins here.
Finally, the tasting menu ends with dessert. Tipsy Cake, as its name suggests, is an alcohol-infused dense cake baked in a small cast iron pot that is then drenched in syrup. It is usually served with berries but this one is served with a wedge of spit-roasted pineapple. For the end to a meal, this was really rich, considering the feast we’d had in the in the previous courses. Not much was going through my mind at this point since I was way too full at this point. It was very sweet and full of rum, and the pineapple did add a nice touch to the dessert.
The experience of dining at a celebrity chef restaurant is met well and above expectations here at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal from its ambience to its food. Service-wise, it wasn’t the best but acceptable. For first-time diners, booking the five-course menu is the most worth it option. At A$160 per person, it is a fantastic introduction to Heston Blumenthal’s philosophies. For anyone looking for a great way to spend the afternoon, I would recommend this place. Several reviews I’ve read have shown that repeat customers are few, as the menu does not change as often as hoped but again, as a one-time experience, book your table now.
Need to know:
- The five-course lunch is only available from Friday to Sunday and costs A$160 (inclusive of GST)
- Add wine pairing to the menu at an additional A$120 per person
- Apart from the five-course lunch, there is an a la carte menu available as well
- Credit card payments will incur a 1.5% processing fee so it might be wise to bring enough cash
- Book at least one month in advance here