London has so many cultural and shopping options that even though I am a foodie, I don't always get the time to checkout the newest and hottest restaurant openings between meeting friends, going to parks, shopping and enjoying nightlife. This time my friends insisted that I check out Heston Blumenthal's eponymously named restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge.
For those of you who are not familiar with Mr. Blumenthal, he is a self-taught molecular gastronomist, food-historian, and has been seriously cooking since the mid-90's. He has helped pioneer the contemporary slow cooking process; a combination of a slow cook time and very low temperatures. When employing this process, often times, the fat may not melt enough to make gravies and sauces, but Blumenthal's underlying principle is that sauces are not needed since the slow-cooking process allows for the meat to be so tender and moist.
The other interesting concept about Blumenthal's food is that he does historical British recipes from the 1500s on, although they taste so good that I am sure he's added modern spices and herbs to make it delicious for the modern palate. The menu in itself is a walk down history lane from the 1500s to the present. The food is delightfully luscious, from the Roast Marrowbone with parsley, anchovy, mace, and pickled vegetables circa 1720, to the Cod in Cider with Chard and fired mussels circa 1940 to the Sirloin of Black Angus with Mushroom Ketchup, Red Wine juice, and of course Triple Cooked Chips, circa 1830.
The service was interesting, in the sense that there was no one waiter serving us, instead, there was a group of about 10 people who came to serve us intermittently, which led to a lack of consistency and some miscommunication. On the whole, I would recommend visiting Heston Blumenthal for the food and the incredibly creative food concept that he has pioneered both with his science and his thorough research of history.
While in London, I also decided to eat at the classic British institution Claridges in the dining room, not to be confused with Gordon Ramsey at Claridges. I found it to be extremely pleasant with lots of delightful food and drink options enclosed within the most gorgeous art deco surroundings. Even the ladies powder room was divine. The food was certainly delicious and comfortable and I simply loved the way they served tea.
The last restaurant I visited was the recently opened Spice Market in the brand spanking new W Hotel in Soho. The Spice Market has conceptualized a Pan Asian dining experience featuring smaller plates and smaller prices. The Spice Market in New York has become exhausted and dated while in Soho the service was friendly and efficient and the food hit the spot so precisely that there was no need to over order. Their Nonya Laksa (Singapore) and a Vegetable Green Curry (Thai) were amazing, both of which were not overly spicy, and with very well balanced flavors. My only suggestion was to add a touch more salt. To top it off the tea service was delightful and so well presented.
The commonality between all these restaurants is that they were all in major hotels, which really shows the shift in the world of dining. People are becoming less intimidated by dining in hotel restaurants; in fact they are becoming the most popular places and the hottest tickets in town. Their service and menus are usually superior; they have clean powder rooms, and stunning environments.