This one time, in London, we spent over $300 to cure a hangover. It was quite possibly the best – and most expensive – lunch we’ve ever eaten. And it was worth every penny.
Flashback to the previous evening.
We went out for supper with our friend at Upstairs at the Ten Bells. It was a great meal in itself, but as it often happens, a meal turns into drinks. A couple hours later we find ourselves hanging out at a little pub in Camden watching another friend playing some great music.
Again, a couple pints shortly became a couple more. When a couple of cook friends showed up a little later, pints became shots of whiskey because that’s just how it goes sometimes.
A couple weeks prior to this wonderful evening, Kylee managed to book a last-minute lunch reservation at Dinner, a Michelin-starred restaurant that currently ranked 7th best in the world. If that wasn’t impressive enough, Dinner is helmed by none other than Heston Blumenthal, the self-taught Chef and owner of the three-starred Fat Duck, that was 2005’s best restaurant in the world!
And yes, I said self-taught.
So here we are, rolling out of bed in our Camden flat at 10:30 am, trying to peel our eyes open. To say we’re suffering at this point would be an understatement. Had this been any other day, we would have picked up a kebab and gone back to bed. However, this wasn’t any other day. We had just over an hour to prepare ourselves for a lunch at one of the top fine dining establishments in London.
We arrive about 15 minutes early and are led to the lounge to await our seating. We grab two stools at the bar and order two of the fanciest cocktails we’ve ever had. Mark had a bright blue one with lemongrass and kefir lime leaves – it tasted like Southeast Asia in a glass! Kylee’s if I remember correctly was blackberries and pine. Incredibly unique and both wildly delicious – at 16 quid a pop! By the time our table was ready, we were already feeling much better.
Bread and butter.
Before we even have a chance to explore the menu, we’re already blown away by the food. It’s the little details that make a place like this stand out. Perfectly soft bread with some of the tastiest, unpasteurized butter we’ve ever eaten. This is huge in itself, as back in Canada, unpasteurized dairy is illegal. It was so dark and yellow, and so full of flavour, it was almost unrecognizable from the bland, white paste back home.
Now it was time to really eat.
First, the appetizers:
Roasted Marrowbone with Snails
This is how every escargot dish should be for the rest of time. I’ve always enjoyed snails, but ever this much. The marrow itself was tossed with herbs and panic crumbs which added a fantastic texture. The snails themselves couldn’t have been more tender. To cut through all of the richness, sweet, pickled vegetables joined the dish.
Grilled Octopus in Smoked Sea Broth
This was the first of several dishes using the sous vide method, where food is cooked at a very specific temperature in a vacuum sealed bag submerged in water. After the bath, the octopus is just lightly grilled, giving it all of the flavour of a grill, while retaining a perfectly-cooked piece of meat. The sea broth was just salty enough and had only a subtle hint of smoke as to not overpower the dish.
Grilled Iberico Pork Chop
Famous for having some of the best ham on earth, the Iberian region encompassing Portugal and Spain produces incredible pork. Like the octopus, the chop here was sous vide before searing a beautiful crust on the grill. It was served with a warm cabbage slaw with ham hock and a brown mustard sauce. This is arguably the best pork chop either of us have tasted.
Powdered Duck Breast
Not powdered in the molecular gastronomy sense, but in the brine and salting method used in it’s preparation. Duck breast is one of those meats that can be so tough and dry, yet whatever the team at Dinner did here was nothing short of perfection. The meat was cooked just enough that the meat almost melted, yet the sear left the skin incredibly crisp. Served with one of my favourite sides – roasted fennel – and duck hearts in a pan sauce, it was so elegant in it’s simplicity.
After clearing up our 200 pound bill – roughly $340 Canadian – we stepped out into the London rain. The effects of the food and wine were kicking into full gear. Our bellies were full and our minds flowing with the dopamine rush that only comes from such a meal. Though our time in Europe was coming to a close in only a few short days, we finished with a bang.