Bond is back. The girls, the music, the martinis, the awfully brilliant one-line quips (“Where the hell have you been, Bond?”… dramatic pause … “Enjoying death”). And the cars. Nothing beats an Aston Martin DB5. Aston Martin has done so much to be cool, to be sexy, so why did it insist on producing the Cygnet? A hideous, squashed-faced joke of a car. It’s not just Aston – luxury brands seem steadfast on cheapening their image at the moment; think of the Ferrari Store on Regent’s street, all those luxury brand high street collaborations (Karl Lagerfeld and H&M, etc.). And here’s the seamless link: Heston Blumenthal with his ready meal collection at Waitrose. For around a fiver, you can buy his version of shepherd’s pie, chilli con carne, and prawn cocktail, which differ from other versions of the same dishes by, well, err, not much really except for the nicer packaging.
Heston Blumenthal is a brilliant, brilliant chef. His one-star Michelin restaurant, Dinner, is superb. His Meat Fruit starter is at the same time fun, different, delicious, and memorable. The Broth of Lamb with Slow Cooked Hen’s Egg divine, rich, with layers of flavour that surprise you with delight as each new one unfolds. He even makes chicken an interesting dish to eat, so tender you could eat it with a spoon. His Tipsy Cake is hearty, wonderfully sweet and nostalgic. There’s even the élan of having your ice-cream made at the table with liquid nitrogen. This really is fantastic food. And for not much more than a meal at more buzzing but far less delicious joints like Le Caprice, Boisdale, and Daphnes – per head, with wine, you can have three courses for around £80. The set-lunch menu is £36 for three courses – an absolute steal.
This simply makes Heston’s descent to pre-packed, just-pierce-the-transparent-film-and-heat-in-the-microwave-for-4-minutes hell all the more disappointing and shameful. Dinner by Heston is stupendous, like an Aston Martin DB5, something that blurs the lines between practicality and art. But just as much as Bond doesn’t belong in a Cygnet, Heston Blumenthal dishes do not belong on neon-lit supermarket shelves next to the Chinese meal box for four. His ready meals leave you shaken and stirred, but for all the wrong reasons.