Which is why when we travelled to the UK for my brother's wedding, we just had to go try a couple of the UK's top chefs - starting with a lunch at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. Heston's flagship restaurant is The Fat Duck, but the only option there is a £180 tastings menu, which is a tad bit out of range of our financial muscle.
Dinner's concept is the most unique of any restaurant I've been to. Every item on the menu is inspired by some recipe, ingredient or dish from historic British cuisine (some of which date back hundreds of years).
Dinner does serve up an economical set lunch menu for £36, but seeing as the choices available are limited, we opt to splurge on ala-carte: Starting with the Roast Marrowbone with Snails, parsley, anchovy, mace & pickled vegetables (£15.50). I don't normally eat escargot, but the snails went very well with the roasted marrowbone and toasted breadcrumbs. However, we didn't care much for the pickled vegetables which were very sour.
The Meat Fruit (£15.00) turned out to be my favorite dish of the afternoon. The brioche was good enough to eat on its' own. Buttered and olive-oiled and then charred on the grill, it tasted and smelled remarkably similar to a nice char-grilled steak (!). Spread on the chicken and duck liver parfait/pate with its sweet, mandarin-orange flavored gel, and it was so heavenly we had to ask for additional toast.
The rest of the lunch was somewhat ... of an anti-climax after that. I tried this 'deconstructed' pie for £30 that came fully loaded with a ton of ingredients - including carrots, smoked bone marrow, veal sweetbreads, confit of pigeon, lamb kidney, etc, tied together by a nice thick sauce. I thought, however, that there were too many different "spare parts" such that I found myself wandering between each different meat, not knowing which was the "focus" of the dish.
I don't have the proper name for this dish because it was something new/experimental and wasn't on the menu ... yet.
The Powdered Duck Breast, also £30, comes with Smoked confit fennel & umbles. "Umbles? What are those?" ... is a question we should have asked our waiter before we ordered. Turns out umbles, in the context of this dish, are duck hearts, which tasted remarkably strong and bloody, and I was only able to take one mouthful. The duck, though, was very nice. Sous-vide'ed til pink, moist, juicy and tender.
We also ordered some sides! The Mashed Potato was rich and OH-so-creamy, but the chips, presumably triple-cooked, were simply ordinary despite Heston bandying them about as one of his "signature" dishes.
By this stage we're absolutely stuffed but having pre-ordered a Tipsy Cake for £12, we summon up some additional room in the tummy.
The Tipsy Cake can perhaps be described as a light sponge cake soaked in some sort of alcohol or other (brandy, perhaps), and dusted with powdered sugar. Together with the tart-ness of the spit-roasted pineapple, it was a very enjoyable dessert.
To end the lunch, complimentary chocolate ganache (infused with orange) and a somewhat middle-eastern-flavored cookie.
I think what reduced the experience for us somewhat, was that neither the darling or I are fans of spare parts; and both mains we ordered were chock full of kidneys and hearts - even the "sweetbreads" we had are actually an animal's pancreas and/or thymus gland.
We also feel that Dinner is priced a little on the high side for a one-starred restaurant - there are other two-starred places that you can eat at for less money.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal is located in the Mandarin Oriental hotel over at Knightsbridge (5 minute walk from the Underground). Non-Halal.