London has overtaken New York as the most exciting city for dining, Heston Blumenthal said.
“London has just exploded,” the Fat Duck chef said in an interview to discuss his new book, “Historic Heston.” “The New York scene started to grow first, in the 1970s. It was more cosmopolitan. We were more old-fashioned, with pomp and ladies’ menus without prices, things like that. People couldn’t relax.
“Things got going in London in the 1980s, with the Roux brothers and chefs like Pierre Koffmann, Nico Ladenis and Marco Pierre White, but it was all very French. Because London had the later start, now we have the momentum, and geographically we are connected to more countries. Things have changed massively.”
“London has pipped New York,” according to the British chef, who holds three Michelin stars at the Fat Duck, in Bray; two for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, in London; and one for the Hinds Head pub, also in Bray, west of the capital.
(While Blumenthal is British, he is known for his friendships with overseas chefs such as Thomas Keller and Ferran Adria, with whom he produced a joint manifesto.)
New York, London, Melbourne and Sydney are among the leading cities for restaurants offering diversity, he said.
“If you want three-star French cuisine you go to Paris,” he said. “If you want Zen-like purity, go to Tokyo.”
The chef’s new book is inspired by his research into historic British cooking, a passion that led to the opening of Dinner, at the Mandarin Oriental. The menu carries the year of the inspiration for each dish. The most popular is meat fruit, a liver parfait, whose origins Blumenthal traces to 1500.
Blumenthal, 47, rejected speculation he is about to announce a second location for Dinner in Australia, the U.S. or anywhere else, though he said he plans to open more. The first dates to January 2011.
“Our original plan was to open a second one three years later,” he said. “We’ve been looking but we certainly won’t be able to do one in the next year. New York would have been great. The Mandarin is a fantastic hotel but we couldn’t make it work because of the unions. Alain Ducasse has tried, Joel Robuchon has too.”
Blumenthal said he is a fan of Australia. He is creating a range for the Coles supermarket chain, owned by Wesfarmers Ltd.
“Australia is possible,” he said. “It would make sense to have a Dinner there. I love it there, but there is nothing agreed. We are talking to people. I would love to open a restaurant in South Africa, too. We are looking into it because I’ve got relatives there and will be spending time there.”
The new book is beautifully produced, with artwork by Dave McKean and photographs by Romas Foord. (It costs 125 pounds or $200, so you’ll be lucky if it shows up in your Christmas stocking.)
Blumenthal tells the story of about 30 dishes, with illustrations of the original inspiration, then recipes and photographs of his modern interpretation.
Home cooks are unlikely to be able to reproduce treats such as meatfruit, yet most of the recipes contain elements, such as sauces, that can be incorporated into less ambitions recipes.
Or you could just try for a table at Fat Duck or Dinner.
“Historic Heston” by Heston Blumenthal is published by Bloomsbury for 125 pounds. It is published in the U.S. on Nov. 12 for $200. To buy the book in North America, click here.
(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.)
Muse highlights include Amanda Gordon’s Scene Last Night, Jorg von Uthmann on Paris art and Scott Reyburn on the art market.