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how to get it very wrong – Heston’s Dinner in the Mandarin Oriental (1*)

So if you follow me on my overload of social media networks you will know I went to London last week and one of the places I was most excited to go was the 1 Michelin starred Dinner restaurant which recreates historical English dishes with a dash of Heston Blumenthal’s molecular gastronomy (chef Ashley Palmer-Watts). Having been to the Fat Duck and Hind’s Head a number of times I felt guaranteed a great experience.

Dinner by Heston in the Mandarin Oriental, London

However, this visit was so bad it actually drove me to complain personally at the end of the meal, then after no response formally write the following to the restaurant. Unfortunately, despite an pro forma email back from them I still haven’t had a substantive response or apology despite actually following up with them again after the pro forma email and a terrible meal. I won’t be returning. You shouldn’t either.

[*EDIT* Dinner did reach me just now. Details in PPPS below]

The Text (names removed)

Dear Dinner restaurant, Mandarin Oriental London, and Lotus PR,

I am writing about a meal I had at Dinner restaurant last Monday 17 September 2012 at 8:30pm under the name “[TomEats]” for three people. Our bill was roughly GBP 500.00.

Dinner by Heston in the Mandarin Oriental, London

At the end of the meal, after paying and the other guests had left, I went to the front of house and explained to them that the meal had been particularly bad and had been near ruined by service. The two male front of house noted my concerns but said they would get in contact with me to discuss. They agreed it was unacceptable to have such a bad experience. I confirmed my name and contact details. However, 7 days later I have still not been contacted. This particularly rankles me.

Dinner by Heston in the Mandarin Oriental, London

Just so you have a brief overview of why the meal was so bad:

1. Every single dish bar the desserts were served luke warm or cold. This meant that only the cold starter of ‘meat fruit’ was actually served as it should be and rendered the food pretty unenjoyable.

2. The service was intermittent and forgetful. We regularly spent 10 to 15 minutes trying to get service and even when we got their attention it often meant little. For instance it took us an hour to get a glass of still water for one of our party who didn’t like sparkling water. This is also why we couldn’t face sending back each of the dishes.

3. There was also a completely random array of servers which meant that we had 10 or so different ones over the course of the meal and no consistency at all. Thus dishes weren’t explained or discussed and we ended up being recommended wines which were inappropriate by members of staff who clearly weren’t wine waiters.

4. The pacing between the courses was perversely long. 45 minutes a time. I speculate a lot of this was due to the food sitting out which was whilst it was served cold.

From speaking to others in London I understand this is not an uncommon experience and the positive impression when the restaurant opened has now faded. It is a shame as the food seems ambitious and the kitchen can cook. Most importantly for me, if your front of house says it is going to check a customer’s concerns they really should. It is never pleasant during or after a meal to complain in person. It is also embarrassing to have to do so and have such a bad meal when people have come on your recommendation.

Yours faithfully

[TomEats + contact details]

  • Price – GBP 500 for three including a fair bit of wine and cold food
  • Address – Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7LA (+44 20 7201 3833)

PS sorry about the photos. I hated the whole experience so much I just couldn’t be bothered. Ironically (for someone who is a blogger but doesn’t use flash) my meal was also destroyed by a tourist who you can see in the first picture on the right who barraged our table with a torrent of DSLR and Samsung Note flash attacks. Foul.

PPS the above was all done in my ‘private’ capacity so no reference to blogs etc..

PPS after this post I was actually rung by an assistant manager from Dinner who did the best of a very difficult job. He personally apologized and offered a full refund or the opportunity for me or a friend to revisit to have what he felt would be a more reflective experience. I declined both as I only like to write about what I pay for and we ate the food and drunk the wine. We also live in Seoul. He also explained that they have been trying to contact me but have been unable to do so till now.

4 Comments

  1. I’m kinda glad now that I never managed to get a reservation when i tried. Sounds like money well spent elsewhere to me.
    I wonder how much input Heston has in the place and how much he is in control, as it sounds like not a lot.

  2. Tom, just take the refund.

    I want to go there 1 day too, but I opted for Fat Duck instead last time around as I needed to conquer it first. Let them heed the warning. For the sake of your fellow foodies ; )

    HKE

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