Heston Blumenthal is enamored by the theatricality of food. At Dinner, his historically themed London restaurant inside the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, the experimental chef has delighted guests with playful dishes. Meat fruit, perhaps the most iconic dish to emerge from the restaurant thus far, was originally served at Henry VIII’s coronation and is a triumph of surprise—while it looks like an orange, it is actually a serving of chicken liver parfait. Historic recipes like this are at heart of Blumenthal’s quest to celebrate the glories of British cooking, and they’ve also aided in bringing two Michelin stars to Dinner.
However, culinary achievement for Blumenthal is rarely limited to recognition. His quest differs from, say, Gordon Ramsey’s, in that Blumenthal’s aims have didactic motives. His latest book, Historic Heston, is no exception. Over 28-dishes, Blumenthal explores both his motivations and British traditions lost over time. Included, of course, is meat fruit. There is also quaking pudding, first prepared in 1660, and a revised version of an 1892 recipe for mock-turtle soup.
The odd dishes are culled from obscure culinary tomes (for example, 1672’s The Queen-like Closet), and they tie together the legacy of English pageantry with Britain’s newly regained interest in cookery. Through a new vision of a rich heritage, Heston (not-so-humbly) hopes to foster renewed pride in British food.
After celebrating the nation’s favorites with The Search For Perfection, it’s only natural that Blumenthal would reach deeper into its roots. Having once told Jay Rayner that “molecular gastronomy is dead,” Blumenthal is now properly celebrating the stories that make British food so much more exciting than the rest of the world seems to believe.
Out in the U.S. on November 12, Historic Heston features illustrations by Dave McKean. Pre-order it from Amazon.