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Olympian bites

Updated: 2012-08-06 10:24
By Mark Bittman ( Agencies)


Waiting for me to get to the fancy-pants place? Here you go: It's called Dinner. (You may never tire of saying, "We're having dinner at Dinner," and I guess that's the idea.)

In the Mandarin Oriental Hotel in Knightsbridge, it couldn't be in a more upscale location. Nor could it have a better pedigree: The chef is Heston Blumenthal, a molecular gastronomist best known for the Fat Duck (in the town of Bray, to the west), which, since El Bulli in Spain has closed, is the most famous avant-garde restaurant in the world.

Dinner is supposedly a group of dishes all dug up by Blumenthal and his staff from medieval and later sources, historical recipes. Supposedly.

This gives the entire meal a narrative theme that most lack, though most of the food appears to be neither more nor less than that of other contemporary cuisine.

Nevertheless, the food is almost uniformly delicious. From a ball of chicken liver mousse with orange jelly disguised to look like a mandarin orange, to the gorgeous rose tea service, the food is careful, precise and irresistible. It had better be, because there are no bargains here, and Blumenthal has a reputation to uphold.

The oat porridge, the salamagundi, the pigeon and artichoke, and other dishes were fabulous, creative and interesting, as was the brown-bread ice cream.

Dinner, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park, 66 Knightsbridge; (44-207) 201 3833; An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, runs about 110 pounds.

Albion Cafe

Shoreditch is an area of London that has been increasingly gentrified since the '90s. Albion is a market and a restaurant that is bright, cheery and appealing.

A huge open kitchen churns out loaves of brioche and white and brown bread as if they were for show, which presumably they aren't. It's also churning out good, inexpensive food in a pleasant atmosphere. Lamb kidneys on toast were perfectly browned, breathtakingly tender and flavorful, in a light and lightly spiced glaze, finished with parsley.

Chips came with what I thought was over-battered fried fish, but that's a style question; the execution was fine, and some will think it perfect.

I do not believe you need to go this far from the center of town to eat well, but if you're here anyway, you could do a lot worse.

Albion, 2-4 Boundary St., Shoreditch; (44-207) 729 1051; An average meal for two, without drinks or tip, runs about 40 pounds.