Chef Heston Blumenthal’s new restaurant, appropriately called Dinner, at the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in London, opened in February and has already been lauded as England’s most important restaurant. Blumenthal’s goal is to render unto England what belongs to England: culinary pride. “The second half of the last century didn’t do us any favors,” he says. “It completely killed any reputation for half-decent food in Britain.” So Blumenthal went back, way back, to the 14th century onward, to find inspiration for his modernist menu. We asked the chef to annotate his favorite dishes. Dinner starts at $85; 66 Knightsbridge; 44-20/7201-3833; dinnerbyheston.com.
Meat Fruit: This is a dish from the court of Henry VIII, when illusion was very important. If you could make something that looks like something else, that was cool. Our version is a sphere of chicken liver parfait dipped in liquid nitrogen so it looks like a mandarin orange.
Powdered Duck: Powdering is essentially curing. Here we serve two duck legs, boned so they look like little hams, plus some smoked fennel, which gives a nice, ashy taste.
Braised Celery: The way they used to make vegetables in the Tudor period made them all taste the same. That’s the benefit of taking inspiration from the past but not trying to replicate it.
Taffety Tart: One woman in particular has been researching the menu for four years. She found this dessert—a combination of apples, rose petals and fennel—at the British Library.
British Cheese: We’ve probably got the best cheese in the world…after France.
Cod in Cider: From 1940, this one is the baby of the bunch. It raises the question: When does something become historic?
Beef Royal: This is from the menu for the coronation of James II. There were more than 170 courses. It was outrageous. The original was hollowed out and stuffed with white truffles and a bunch of other expensive ingredients. We cook ours at 56 degrees Celsius for 72 hours.
Hay Smoked Mackerel: The presence of fire and fire flavor is crucial. In the 18th and 19th centuries, the English were the leading experts of roasting over an open fire. The French called us les rosbifs (they still do) and used to send their chefs here. Any opportunity I get as a Brit to lord over the French when it comes to cooking, I’m not going to pass up!