Cooking Dinner

Published on the Taste of London blog on 8th June 2012:

There’s little to say about Dinner that hasn’t already been said. Anything remaining from its launch last year has been well and truly covered in the stories surrounding its placing at number 9 in the recent World’s 50 Best Awards – making it the UK’s top restaurants by this measure.

We spoke to journalist, blogger and trainee chef Qin Xie, who has something new to add. She hasn’t just eaten at Dinner, but actually worked in the kitchen for a week. In her words…

After working 9am to 11pm for seven consecutive days, you get a pretty good idea of the whole operation as a stagiaire. Certainly by the end of the week, I was more than impressed.

It wasn’t everything that I expected. Like the kitchen; you’d expect it to be noisy but one comment from Head Chef Ashley Palmer-Watts and the noise is reduced to a bare minimum. The entire operation runs so smoothly that it’s not just the show kitchen that makes an entertaining viewing, rather, the whole thing is theatre. And everything from start to finish is done with finesse.

Behind the scenes, too, is deserving of praise. Fantastic team work aside, there’s support and nurture found everywhere. More senior chefs take the time to show and teach junior chefs. Enthusiastic and talented chefs are always given the opportunity to progress, whether internally or externally – even I was allowed to plate up and send out starters. And they really take the time to care too; every ailment is taken seriously be it a cut, a burn or simply slight dehydration.

But most of all I am impressed by the chefs. How they have so much passion for what they do. How they are so aware of what other chefs are doing and what the press is saying. How they have travelled the world to work in the kitchens of the best restaurants in the world before working at Dinner.

When the time came for me to leave, I was pretty sorry to go. I really felt like I was part of the team. And what a team to be part of. So it really is with my warmest congratulations to Ashley Palmer-Watts and his exemplary team of chefs for winning this year’s highest new entry at number 9. What is there left to do now but wait in eager anticipation for next year’s awards and see what else they can achieve?

The Perfect G&T

Published on the Taste of London blog on 18th May 2012:

As we inch into summer, the weather begins to perk up and the countdown to Taste of London begins, there’s only one thing that we can think of other than summer food: summer drink.

Here journalist, trainee chef and stagiaire at Dinner by Heston Blumenthal enthuses over a drink first enjoyed at one of Heston’s other venues, The Hinds Head.

There’s nothing more refreshing than a cool glass of G&T at the height of summer, but the simple drink is not always treated with the respect it deserves. A G&T is not just a G&T. Each gin has different characteristics, as does each tonic. Then there’s the garnishes to contend with. Preferences will vary from person to person, but finding a harmonious blend is like striking gold.

To my taste, The Hinds Head has one of the best combinations sorted. They do a fabulous G&T with my favourite gin – Gin Mare (pronounced mar-ray) – and perk it up with a floral tonic and some unusual garnishes.

Even on gloomy rain-filled Sundays, a taste of its heady blend of citrus and herbal aromatics takes me back to the roasting summers day when I first discovered it at the Hinds Head bar.

Here’s a guide to that ‘perfect’ G&T. It’s just a guide because, as with everything, it should be done to taste…

Key parts:
a tall glass
ice cubes
wedge of orange
sprig of rosemary
25ml Gin Mare
Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic to top up

Fill your tall glass with lots of ice, bigger cubes will melt more slowly. Throw in your wedge of orange and sprig of rosemary. Pour over Gin Mare and top up with Fever Tree Mediterranean Tonic as desired. Enjoy.