Since discovering the food channel on Sky TV 7 years ago, I’ve been obsessed with molecular gastronomy and the memories you can create or recreate with food. Of course, there is only one true god of gastronomy who has never ceased to push the boundaries of food – Heston Blumenthal. In 2015, the people of Melbourne were gifted with the chance to taste his creations when he re-located The Fat Duck to the food capital of the Southern Hemisphere whilst the Bray location underwent renovations. I think I can speak for the whole population of Melbourne when I say nobody was prepared for the experience delivered at The Fat Duck, and as a result they opened a Dinner by Heston to satisfy the hundreds of hungry foodies itching to try even a morsel of Heston’s creations. With this in mind, you can bet when I planned my trip to Melbourne this was definitely on the cards – and after weeks of meticulously stalking their social to see when their November tables became available – I managed to wangle myself a spot to experience some of the best food in the world.
It was a stinking hot Tuesday night in Melbourne, and my partner and I had just hopped off the train and were powerwalking our way across the Yarra to the promise land of food, the third floor of the Crown Towers – Dinner by Heston. Even just entering the main lobby I knew I had stepped into a different world altogether – the designer boutiques, the golden accents, the dripping chandeliers – it oozed with affluence and riches, but I kinda’ liked it. And then finally, when the doors of the lift opened on level 3, there it was. A slate wall with 3 wrought iron words popping out of the darkness. ‘Dinner by Heston’.
I couldn’t quite believe I was here, and whilst walking through to the bar I had to keep pinching myself to make sure it wasn’t just a wild dream. But then we were greeted by our lovely (and can I say faultlessly trained) waiters and led to our booth – and that’s when everything got real. Once seated, we were given a wine and drinks menu – well, I want to say menu, but what it really was an encyclopedia of every sensational wine that has ever been fermented far and wide. Of course, we had to get a bottle – how many times do you go to Heston’s? So, we settled for a fabulous Portuguese Pinot Noir that slipped down our throats like velvet. Once the wine had been poured and we’d settled into our seats, it was time for the degustation to begin.
1. Savouries: Brioche Toast crab fennel apple mayo caviar, Oyster with oyster creme and cucumber, Emoji pickled radish Sherry reduction Shiitake.
At every Heston restaurant, you will always be treated to a few little savouries to start off the degustation – a way for the chef to prepare you for the fantastical finesse that was to come. Each of these small snack sized savouries sung the songs of the sea, and delivered flavours and textures that had my palette on overdrive – I don’t think I prepared myself for the sheer stage of artistry I was about to experience…
2. Cured kingfish smoked in Hay with a Lemon Salad
As small as this dish was, its tongue-tantalising powers should not be underestimated. Those cuts of smoked kingfish were no less than heavenly, and when I say the meat melted in my mouth – I’m not joking. Once the fish evaporated in our mouths, we were left with a fresh lemony flavour from the gel, puree and raw leaves. This dish was the ideal Segway into our degustation from the savouries – something simple with not too many ingredients, but each element jam-packed the dish full of strong mellow flavours.
3. Dry Fruit kedgeree, river prawns. Abalone, curry oil with Rye Bread and Butter
Apologies for my terrible photo – the only reasoning I have is that the aromas coming from this combination of sweet fruits, seafood, and curried rice was too much to handle, and I couldn’t help but dig in. I’ve had kedgeree a few times over the past year now – in some pretty swanky places as well – but it would be a disservice to Heston and his chefs if I compared these to this one right here. The flavours in this dish were on crack, and they definitely made me feel euphoric with every single bite. And that bread? F**k me. Never have a had a bread so crusty and homely served to me at a restaurant. I could taste the love and passion that was kneaded into it, and let me tell you – that definitely makes the difference.
4. Mushroom and truffle w bread
For a dish that sounds so simple, never could it be any more complex. We were again, treated to a slice of Dinner’s famous bread (well, I don’t know if its world-famous, but for me it definitely ranks high!), and then in front of us was placed a small dark grey ball – the colour coming from the coating of truffle shavings. The mystery is what really wowed me with this dish, as from the outside this little ball looked plain and unassuming – but when spread on a thick piece of bread, that’s when its identity really came out. I’ve tried a lot of mushroom dishes, but the earthy and umami flavours I got from this slather of pate was something unlike I’d ever had before. It was rich, earthy, sweet, and very savoury all at the same time – which sounds intimidating, but it was absolutely sensational. For me, truffles are rarely used well in dishes – however in this dish they were right at home.
5. Fillet of salmon, Seaweed butter. Champagne gel, sautéed greens
The best thing about this particular menu, is that none of the fish dishes competed against each other. Every flake of fish brought its own unique texture to the dish, and this dish is another perfect example. The salmon was as pink and flaky as ever, and whilst it was soft on the tongue and consistent in fishy flavour, it had a certain meatiness that was only heightened by the seaweed and champagne. The chefs at Dinner by Heston have taken a simple dish so delightfully delicious and turned it into a gastronomic glory – yet still keeping those classic flavours and textures everybody loves from a fillet of salmon and greens.
6. Goats milk cheese bake, honey jam, walnuts, raspberries
What’s better than a degustation with dessert? A degustation with two desserts! Okay, well, kinda’ two desserts – this course is what the chefs at Dinner by Heston called a ‘pre-dessert’ which consisted of a goats milk cheesecake, a honey jam, candied walnuts, fresh raspberries and little dollops of raspberry coulis. I’m not usually one for cheesecake – the textures and cheesiness just aren’t my thing – so I was a little cautious trying this (I really didn’t want to dislike a meal from here!). But after swallowing my caution and spooning the pre-dessert into my mouth, all my fears were washed away by stunning flavours of creamy goats cheese and an earthy walnut base – all complimented by the fresh and tangy raspberry accompaniments. This for me was my favourite dish of the evening, not because it tasted sensational, but because it got me to fall in love with something I usually dislike.
7. Chocolate, gold leaf, grape, olive oil sponge
So, now we’ve had the pre-dessert, it was time to get onto the main event. Not long after we’d cleared our cheesecake, a plate of sheer patisserie perfection was placed in front of us. A stunning olive oil sponge wrapped in shiny tempered chocolate, with balls of gold-leaf wrapped chocolate ganache and grapes delicately balanced on top. This dish was a homage to good quality chocolate, with grapes and the sponge being the vehicle for the indulgent flavours. This dish was rich, don’t get me wrong, but it was also one that you kept coming back for. I’d never tried grape and chocolate before, but of course – everything at Heston’s restaurants have a way of working together seamlessly!
8. Aperitifs: Vegemite Granola crunch, raspberry and custard tartlet, chocolate truffle
Ah, last but not least, the aperitifs! I think my favourite dish of a degustation is the dish you don’t realise you’re getting. This was on the menu, so we were delighted when three little bite-sized beauties were placed before us to have with our post-dinner tea. The first was a little wacky and very Heston – being a vegemite flavoured granola bite – which sounds crazy, but after munching on this sticky ball of nuts and oats, I realised it’s what the cereal market needs. It was the ONLY time I could hand on heart say I loved the taste of vegemite! Next was the chocolate truffle, which was a glorious mouthful rich and velvety chocolate, but not so sugary enough to make me feel guilty for cheating on my diet. And lastly, was an English classic – a raspberry tartlet. Hands down, one of the best flavour combinations there is, and I was more than impressed to see the chefs just let it sing in its natural tart form, as they know the combo doesn’t need all the bells and whistles to make it shine.
What can I say? This was truly an experience I couldn’t have before imagined in my wildest dreams. I knew it was going to be spectacular, but I definitely underestimated just how incredible Heston and his team are – not only in the kitchen, but in the restaurant too. Every single detail was considered, which meant every single person who dined here had the same magical and seamless evening. Right down to the last speck of salt, the flavours of the food were just extraordinary, and this has inspired me to go out of my way to play with quirkier flavours in the kitchen myself (thought they definitely won’t taste anything like I had here!). Heston’s goal is to not only bring people back to their favourite memories through food, but also create them, and I can truthfully say that Dinner by Heston not only filled my tummy with fantastical culinary creations, but it has created memories that I’ll cherish forever. If you love food or just want to experience wonderfully wacky food at its finest, I urge you to book a spot in this establishment – for the price it is, it’s totally worth it.
Check out Dinner by Heston’s website here: