To be frank, we've avoided dining in Knightsbridge for a while. With wallet-bashing department store food courts, garish sushi chains, and a few hotel restaurants with more beige features than a middle-aged woman's underwear drawer our only options, the appeal was negligible.
Thankfully, that's all changed. Last year The Mandarin Oriental opened a burger-slinging branch of Bar Boloud in its basement, which garnered both global praise and managed, in part at least, to shake off the stuffy reputation the area had carved for itself. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, the Oriental's latest opening, is yet another step in the right direction.
Set in the hotel's utterly massive Hyde Park-facing dining room, we were welcomed by dark wood floors, cloth-free tables and - true to form - jelly mould light fixtures.
The kitchen, massive spit roast and all, is displayed in its entirety to the dining room, from where diners are free to watch head chef Ashley Palmer-Watts working his magic. Another point worth mentioning is that despite the restaurant's three-month waiting list (to be re-opened every month to give eager diners a chance to get a foot in the door), the clientele seemed remarkably normal. Which is to say, fur/tiara/crocodile loafer-free.
Following a quick whip round the chef's table, ensconced in a room which can only be described as a cross between Henry VIII's antechamber and a leather-clad abattoir, we sat down to take in the views of Hyde Park and await our plates.
A starter of porridge, in a Blumenthal restaurant at least, is not a dish to be sniffed at. The buttery mixture of garlic and parsley-coated oats, insanely succulent cod cheeks (we didn't ask either), pickled beetroot and paper-thin fennel was a combination like none other we've tasted. Intensely savoury and featuring enough textures to leave your pallet tired, the combination was a synthesis of pin-point consideration and aesthetic elegance.
The main, however, fared less well, which was no fault of the kitchen. It's a compulsion most men will follow to their grave, but ordering a steak in anything but a designated steakhouse - in this writers opinion - to be avoided. After all, a steak, is a steak, is a steak. True, a good steak is always worthy of praise, but more often than not it's for the quality of cut than the work of the chef. Our steak, a hulking slab of rib eye, was tender beyond reproach and immaculately cooked. The red wine jus and mushroom ketchup accompaniments, equally faultless. But, in all, nothing to write home about.
The final hurrah came in the form of the tweely titled "Tipsy Cake" and "Taffety Tart". The latter - a delicate combination of rose, fennel, lemon and blackcurrant Sorbet - was by all accounts a little tart (chortle chortle), but stunning to look at nonetheless. The former, though humbler by sight, was tastier. Consisting of a alcohol-basted, cream-filled brioche, it was the best, most fattening doughnut we've ever tried. The accompanying sliver of spit-roasted pineapple was tasty, though superfluous.
In all? Dinner is what every restaurant should aim to be. Friendly, approachable, relatively affordable, competent and above all, able to serve up everything is promises with gusto. A triumph.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA, United Kingdom www.dinnerbyheston.com