Perfectionist’s Cafe, Heathrow T2

Forget Terminal 5, it is Heathrow’s Terminal 2 that impressed me on my last visit to the UK’s biggest airport. Known as ‘The Queen’s Terminal’, this departure area is truly fit for royalty with the finest British luxury brands (the likes of Smythson and Burberry) and a range of innovative cuisine choices to enjoy before your flight.

Recently international airports have been offering more exciting and prestigious restaurants with some of the world’s most famous chefs opening establishments and, since June, passengers travelling through Heathrow Terminal 2 have had access to The Perfectionists’ Cafe, from multi-award winning chef Heston Blumenthal. Heston hopes to offer Brits the chance to satisfy their stomachs with nostalgic British classic, but fast, food that is tasty and good quality. Inspired by the chef’s TV series ‘In Search of Perfection,’ the menu features fun and familiar dishes like Fish and Chips, Pizzas and Burgers.

The futuristic design is instantly recognisable in the smart and shiny new Terminal. We took a seat and quickly ordered a burger and pizza to share. Both arrived within ten minutes, smelling delicious. The burger was disappointing however, with under-flavoured meat and limp salad. Having tasted Heston’s triple cooked chips at his London restaurant ‘Dinner’, I was hoping for a reminder of these crispy delights, but the fries were plain and unimaginative. The pizza was thin crusted and fresh out of the pizza oven, it was topped with rocket and salami and tasted great.

For dessert, diners can design their own ice-cream sundae which is then made in the Nitro Ice-cream Parlour adjoining the restaurant. Served in a biscuit basket and topped with chocolate sauce and popping candy, it is a child’s dream come true. I love that the ice-cream concept is so different to any other desserts you would find in an airport, and this part of the restaurant is definitely the most original.

Flicking through the Heston cookbooks at the table, I could see how much the great chef has had to compromise in this airport scenario – the food certainly isn’t exceptional but it is much better than anything else I spotted on offer. If you haven’t got time for a whole meal I’d recommend popping by for a sweet treat at the Willy Wonka style parlour.

More information here.

The Hind’s Head, Bray

When Heston bought the last remaining traditional pub in Bray in 2010, locals complained that the small village was being turned into “Hestonworld”. This self-taught British chef now has three establishments in Bray, The Fat Duck, Hind’s Head and The Crown, alongside his more metropolitan eatery in London’s Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Dinner. Despite the odd grumble no one can deny that Heston Blumenthal has single-handedly revolutionised the UK restaurant scene and transformed our perceptions of cooking and eating.

Unable to afford the time and money needed to secure a table at The Fat Duck, I travelled to Bray for a weekend in December to enjoy a breath of fresh air and some Heston food at the Hind’s Head instead. It is a 15th century pub in the heart of the picturesque village of Bray, conveniently located just five minutes from Maidenhead in Berkshire. Here Heston combines his unique approach to cooking and seasonal produce with good old English culinary traditions offering historic dishes with a twist of innovation and creativity. Head Chef Kevin Love creates lovely looking plates of wholesome and delicious food in a menu that focuses on British favourites. Locally sourced ales and sublime cocktails provide an impressive drinks menu.

Locals love to meet here, whilst visitors travel far to experience Heston’s food without the fuss and mortgage sized bill. When I visited this homely pub, I couldn’t help wondering about Heston’s acquisition of the property, why a quaint little pub in Bray? The world-renowned chef explains that this pub has always been special to him… it was where he enjoyed a much-needed pint after a stressful service on Sundays in the Fat Duck. When the opportunity arose in 2004 to take it over he jumped at the chance eager to pay homage to the pub’s 500 year history with recipes inspired by Britain’s rich culinary heritage. Initially sceptical, I was amazed by the Hind’s Head… a venue which manages to sustain all the atmosphere and history whilst showcasing Heston’s faultless food.

Homemade crusty brown bread with crushed sea salt butter was in danger of filling us up all too soon. We abstained from a second piece, the main courses deserved our full appetite. Roast meals are nearly always a disappointment when you eat them anywhere but home… aside from when Heston is cooking of course. Roast Turkey with chestnut and prune stuffing, roast potatoes and green beans, cabbage and curried parsnips was the perfect plate, each component cooked and seasoned beautifully. I was particularly amazed by the vegetables which were coated in a subtle creamy sauce, and the roast potatoes which were so crispy-edged they tasted as if they had been triple cooked like chips. Free Range Pork Collar with Butternut Squash Puree and Spinach was equally divine. The lean cut of pork was full of flavour, and the sauce (it tasted like a red wine reduction) was sweet and smooth and so tasty I considered licking my plate clean. My only quibble? The plates could have been a little hotter, as the food turned cold too quickly… and believe me I could not have eaten any faster!

For dessert we took a gamble and tried the highly recommended Treacle Sponge with Lemon Sauce and Cream and Whipped Chocolate with Hazelnut Ice-cream and Orange. Both had a Christmas theme, but I found the citrusy flavours a bit contradictory and preferred the sponge without the lemon sauce. Whipped chocolate is for cocoa lovers, a dense mousse decorated with satisfyingly crunchy nuts. The sponge was wonderfully light and airy and the sweetness was nicely cut by the cool cream.

For the ultimate, unrivalled pub lunch there is nowhere better than the Hind’s Head. Get yourself to Bray pronto.

More information and book here:

British Airways Flight BA 2012 Pop-Up, Shoreditch

British Airways Flight BA2012 landed in London for a short two weeks receiving a frenzied response. This pop up event documents the Great Britons project and showcases the work of three chosen creatives who are mentored by famous experts in their fields: chef Simon Holstone with Heston Blumenthal, Pascal Anson with Tracey Emin and Prasanna Purwanarajah with Richard E Grant

The relaxed lounge houses artwork by Brighton born artist Pascal Anson. Influenced by the dove and motifs of feathers and flying, Pascal has developed a plane design which has been used to create nine limited edition aircraft that will take to the skies this month.

Leaving the lounge and down a corridor, you come to a smart viewing room where Prasanna Purwanarajah’s touching film, BOY is played for all to watch. Timothy Spall stars as a father who struggles to overcome the grief of losing his cyclist son. Particularly poignant without words, it is a moving story that manages to make a strong impression despite only running for a few minutes.

Perhaps the most exciting part of the project though is the food. Michelin-starred Head Chef from the Elephant in Torquay, Simon Holstone has created an appropriately British menu to be served specially for BA during the Olympic Games, with valuable assistance from food magician Heston Blumenthal. It is inspired by the menu on-board British Airways in 1948 – the last time that the Olympics were held in the UK. A recreated British Airways aeroplane seats the lucky diners who manage to book tickets for dinner, but for the visiting public a £10 tasting plate is available from the bar. I thought the Salad of golden beetroot, peppered goats curd, micro watercress with an elderflower dressing was particularly well balanced and delicious.

Simon’s four menus will be available on long-haul flights from London Heathrow from July in First, Club, World Traveller Plus and World Traveller cabins.

Flight BA2012 has now taken off into the stratosphere, but if you can afford a first class plane ticket, the Simon Holstone food is a treat.