Heston Blumenthal, the Fat Duck owner whose dishes include a seafood concoction to be consumed while listening to the sound of crashing waves, last night presented his latest culinary creation: Airline food.
The Olympic Games menus for British Airways, developed with fellow chef Simon Hulstone, will be served for two weeks at a pop-up restaurant designed as an airliner in east London. The meals are strong in savory umami flavors that still pack a punch in the air, so expect fish pie, mackerel, parmesan, mustard and pickled cucumber, though not combined in a single dish.
“People were expecting Heston dishes like snail porridge, but we were never going to do that,” Hulstone, 37, said in an interview. “What we wanted was comfort food that will divert people’s attention from flying and that is recognizable to all our customers. We went back to the airline menus from the time of the last London Olympics, in 1948, for inspiration.”
Hulstone created four menus, which will be available on long-haul flights from London Heathrow from July in First, Club, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins.
Blumenthal attended a party last night at the temporary venue, BA2012, on Shoreditch High Street. He was accompanied by the artist Tracey Emin and the actor Richard E. Grant, who are both mentors in a British Airways-sponsored program.
The bad news for those of us who are not celebrities is that the restaurant is fully booked for its entire nightly run through April 17. Non-diners may still get a drink at the gallery and visit the cinema. We may also try for cancellations.
Pie in Sky
The Club class menu features starters such as golden beetroot, with goat’s cheese and elderflower dressing; or gin & tonic cured smoked salmon. The main is fish pie with hake, with parmesan pomme puree and a warm tartare sauce; the dessert is lemon curd cheesecake with raspberry and basil compote.
Passengers flying First may dine on rillette of mackerel dressed on a pickled cucumber carpaccio with sourdough croutons; main of potted braised beef, with a potato and horseradish topping served with hispi cabbage, baby carrots and roasted shallots with a rich jus; dessert is chilled chocolate fondant with a salted caramel liquid center, caramel sauce and spun sugar topped with hazelnuts.
Hulstone, who owns the Elephant, in Torquay, spent the past year being mentored by Blumenthal as part of the BA Great Britons program, which supports British talent in the run-up to the London 2012 Games, from July 27 to Aug. 12.
“The dishes celebrate our rich history and British talent at its best,” Blumenthal said in a statement. “As a mentor, chef and friend, I’m very proud of what he has achieved.”
Blumenthal previously tried to improve airline food in an episode of the Channel 4 series, “Heston’s Mission Impossible.”
By contrast to the current dishes, here’s the luncheon menu from British Overseas Airways Corp. flight on Aug. 17, 1948: consomme royale; Cape salmon mayonnaise; cold roast chicken, ox tongue, corned silverside; potato salad, green salad, pineapple salad; peaches & cream; cheese, dessert, biscuits; tea, coffee.
Emin supported Pascal Anson on a design entitled the Dove for celebratory aircraft for the Games. Grant worked with scriptwriter Prasanna Puwanarajah on a short film, “Boy,” starring Timothy Spall, which follows the story of a track cyclist and his father.
BA2012, 3-10 Shoreditch High Street, London, E1 6PG. Information: +44-20-7307-3132 (weekdays 3 p.m. to 9 p.m.)
(Richard Vines is the chief food critic for Muse, the arts and leisure section of Bloomberg News. He is U.K. and Ireland chairman of the World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards. Opinions expressed are his own. This interview was adapted from a longer conversation.)