“Hi, do you know where we can find Dinner?”
“You might have to be more specific, what kind of meal were you after?”
“No, it’s called Dinner. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, that’s the name of the restaurant.”
It’s an awkward but simplistically accurate name, although being a Heston restaurant you would assume a name like ‘The Curious & Bewildering Dinner Experience’, would be more apt.
Its dimly lit interior, hidden away in the echelons of Melbourne’s Crown Casino, deceives the eyes but the space has been well designed to ensure the tables themselves are well lit. It’s dark but warm, minimalist yet sleek and stylish.
The first thing to pique my interest is the rows of stripped pineapples strung up like kebab slabs in front of a wall grill. Ah Tipsy Cake – I’ve pre-read the menu online.
The restaurant is the creation of famous English chef, Heston Blumenthal, known for his theatrical and historically inclined, modern British cuisine, normally served out of his 3-Michelin starred, London restaurant, The Fat Duck.
Dinner, continues the historical twist with each dish on the menu being adapted from obsolete recipes, often hundreds of years old.
Tipsy Cake, a caramelised brioche cake served with a strip of the caramelised grilled pineapple, was taken from an 1810 English cookery book.
But what I was really excited about, was the Meat Fruit. If you’ve watched Masterchef Australia, you would have seen the dish that looks exactly like a mandarin, but once cut into reveals a silky smooth pâté.
I love pâté. I want the Meat Fruit.
But we’re not there yet, I’ve only just walked in the door, my vision obscured by walls of pineapple as my eyes adjust to the dark.
A friendly maître d’ shows us to the small bar till our table is available. Very friendly bartenders coax you into selecting a cocktail from their menu. I order the Mint Rickey, an 1880 cocktail purported to have first been made as a breakfast hangover cure by Colonel Joe Rickey (who?) and made with gin, lime, garden mint, verjus, soda – so basically a mojito, but this was just so perfectly balanced. More adventurous cocktails included the Cider Gimlet (c.1500), which consisted of Calvados Domfrontais, acidulated butter and cider cordial or the Potted Whiskey (c.1851), made with whiskey, lapsang tea, worcestershire sauce, beef jerky and shiitake mushroom, (wait, what?)
It’s not long before we’re shown our table, right at the window overlooking the Yarra River and Melbourne’s skyline. A great spot to see the hourly gas show which sates my inner pyro. (Burn it all!)
It’s time for the Meat Fruit! The recipe was found by Hampton Court Palace historians in an 18th Century set of manuscripts which mention the dish being served at the coronation of Henry IV in 1399. Back then it was made to look like an apple and hidden in fruit platters to freak out guests.
Now, a mandarin sat on a wooden board before me. It looked exactly like a fruit plucked straight from a tree. I didn’t want to cut into it’s dimpled, orange skin, it seemed too much like a little piece of art. But it was also pâté and I want it in ma belly!
Holy crap, that’s the best pâté I’ve had, ok technically it’s a liver parfait and noticeably lighter and smoother than pâté. But it tasted delicious! The tinge of citrus from the gel complements it perfectly. I could eat this all day!
For mains, we ordered Roast Quail with confit butternut, pumpkin puree, spiced crumb and chard, taken from the English and Australian Cookery Book by Edward Abbott, 1860, along with Roast Snapper in Cider, with silverbeet leaves, roast onions and fired mussels, taken from Good Fish Dishes by Ambrose Heath, 1940.
Both quail and fish were cooked perfectly and nicely seasoned. Would eat again.
For dessert we ordered The Lamington Cake; raspberry jam, toasted coconut, rum and vanilla icecream from the late Victorian era and Sambocade; goats milk cheesecake, elderflower & apple, perry poached pear and smoked candied walnuts, taken from ‘The Forme of Cury – The Master Cooks of King Richard II’, (1390!)
The lamington was amazing, a lovely smooth white chocolate mousse with layers of raspberry and chocolate. The rum icecream was punchy but still creamy.
Sambocade was very nice, not too sweet but not tart. The smoked candied walnuts also toned down any hits of sugar.
And on top of all that, we were given little glasses of ganache with spiced biscuits. After being asked a few times by numerous waiters if we were here for an occasion, it seems they listened, hence the Happy Birthday message. Nice touch.
All up it worked out to around Au$150 each including a cocktail. Would I go there again? Absolutely. Would I go all the time? This is definitely more a special occasion restaurant, but I think, totally worth it.
Everything was perfectly cooked, perfectly balanced, friendly service, warm atmosphere, great views. There was nothing to fault.
Well, except the adventure we took in trying to find the place, which is half the fun. Or not fun when you realise you lose $100 off your credit card if you miss a reservation.
So go to the lifts behind the fountains on the ground level, Queen’s Bridge/lobby side of Crown, go up to level 3, walk to the end of the hall and then opposite Crown Spa you’ll find a very dark and narrow walkway that will open into the restaurant.
If you want a table you NEED a reservation and booking well in advance is recommended, at least two weeks ahead if you want to eat Thurs-Sat at a reasonable time, though you might be able to find tables available early in the week with just a few days notice.
We enjoyed a non-hurried service which might have been a reflection of our late 9pm booking, so going late isn’t a bad thing.
So all in all, I was pretty impressed with Dinner. Still, I think the name is a bit faffy, but everything else is top-notch dining. The meals weren’t wanky, all tasted great and most were of a decent size, lamington cake could have been a bit bigger, but still.
And definitely, try the Meat Fruit!