That doesn’t sound very modern
No shit, Sherlock. We’re talking about a special menu inspired by the ancient Roman town immortalised by the ash of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79 that is being served at Knightsbridge-based Dinner by Heston Blumenthal from next week (7 January).
AD 79 is quite a while ago. Why now?
The menu has been devised to tie in with a major exhibition at The Ashmolean Museum in Oxford of the same name, running until 12 January, that uses the carbonised and organic remains of food unearthed by archaeologists to show how the food culture of Pompeii played an integral part of daily life.
Ah, I see. So I’m guessing it’s a menu of burnt offerings then...
Actually, there is an element of this. The menu starts with an authentic Pompeiian bread that is black in colour and which is made with heritage spelt flour and Grano Arsso, a burnt wheat flour from Puglia. The round loaf aims to capture the magic of the authentic Pompeiian breads that had been discovered in bread ovens, carbonised and recovered in the 1800s. The bread is served with Naples butter that is whipped to achieve a lava rock appearance and takes inspiration from key ingredients that are commonly found in the bay of Naples - namely squid ink, the juice from the heads of red prawns and seasoned with a mix of kombu, ponzu and soy.
But it can’t all be ‘burnt’ food...
Thankfully not. Other dishes on four-course menu are pickled mussels and octopus in a lovage (one of the Roman’s favourite seasonings), garum and mussel emulsion, inspired by the Roman love of seafood and the art of pickling; roast duck with buttered turnips, turnip tops and truffle; served with duck sauce of Pompeiian red wine, fig vinegar and spice, and a civit of confit duck leg; and libum – a baked goat’s curd cheesecake that’s served with white-wine gel, grapes,honey ice cream and crystallised almonds.
Ah clever. What’s the, err, damage?
Very funny. The menu will be available for lunch or dinner from until 31 March, with a set menu priced at £88, although individual dishes will be available to order from the a la carte as well.
Is this a one-off?
Possibly not. According to Ashley Palmer-Watts, Heston’s right-hand man who worked on the project, this could be the first in a series of historical meals that could be replicated. Other options could include the final meal on the Titanic, or maybe even on the Mary Celeste.
So no plans to replicate The Last Supper then?
Not as yet. In a twist of fate, it is likely that the Last Supper of Pompeii will be Palmer-Watts’s final bit of menu development for Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. The chef has just announced that he is to leave Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant empire after almost 20 years. That should warrant a decent send off.