An authentic Pompeii menu launches today Tuesday 7th January 2020, at Dinner by Heston, the Michelin two-starred restaurant at Mandarin Oriental London Hyde Park.
The Last Supper in Pompeii menu offers a taste of history from the ancient Roman town immortalised by the ash of Mount Vesuvius in AD 79. Dishes have been researched with the University of Oxford’s museum of art and archaeology, founded in 1683.
Dinner by Heston’s set-price menu, at £88, is available lunch and dinner through 31 March 2020. The Last Supper in Pompeii menu, inspired by the carbonised and organic remains of food unearthed by archaeologists, includes:
• Carbonised bread of Pompeii & Bay of Naples Butter.
• Pickled Mussels and Octopus in a Lovage, Garum & Mussel Emulsion.
• Pickled seafood served on a smoked olive oil, lovage, onion and lemon emulsion with a mussel cream, salad of endive, celery, oyster leaf and fried purslane.
• Duck & Turnips – Roast duck with buttered turnips, turnip tops and truffle; served with duck sauce of Pompeiian red wine, fig vinegar and spice, and a civet of confit duck leg
• Libum – A rich baked goat’s curd cheesecake served with white-wine gel, grapes, honey ice cream and crystallised almonds.
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 recipe has been developed using heritage spelt flour and Grano Arsso – a burnt wheat flour from Puglia – by incorporating activated carbon into the dough to achieve the depth of colour. The characteristic shape is created with a string around the outside of the loaf whilst baking, thought to have aided carrying multiple loaves home from the bakery. The butter is whipped to achieve a lava rock appearance and takes inspiration from key ingredients that are commonly found in the bay of Naples; squid ink, the juice from the heads of red prawns and seasoned with a mix of kombu, ponzu and soy. The result is a complex butter that is rich with umami and perfumed with the taste of the sea.
The first course is inspired by the Pompeiian love of seafood, as depicted in various artworks in the exhibition, along with the common use of lovage and one of the Roman’s favourite seasonings, garam. Mussels are pickled in a smoked olive oil, lovage, onion and lemon pickle, then laid on a thin layer of lovage emulsion and topped with a textural salad of endive, celery, oyster leaf and fried purslane. The dish will be sauced at the table with a mussel cream, finished with garum.
The second course is a celebration of a dish from Apicius, including two much-loved Roman ingredients; roast duck and turnips. The duck sauce is finished with red wine from Pompeii, fig vinegar and spice, and a civit is served on the side; a rich stew of confit duck leg, heart, gizzards, parfait, daikon and buttered sprouts, with a light and crunchy spiced cracker.
To finish, the Libum takes inspiration from a baked Roman dessert and some of the carbonised ingredients that were discovered, including almonds and grapes. The baked goats curd cheesecake is rich and unctuous, sat atop a crunch crumb base with fragrant, textural, and contrasting temperature garnishes to top the dessert.
Heston Blumenthal and his long-time culinary business partner, Ashley Palmer-Watts, worked closely with The Ashmolean’s Dr Paul Roberts, curator of the Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition, which closes at the Museum on 12th January 2020, to create this special menu for Dinner.
Says Palmer-Watts, who has just announced he is moving on, “We wanted to offer a tangible experience that added further insight into the food culture of Pompeii, inspired by, and in collaboration with, the exhibition. It was important to us that the finished dishes were evocative of Roman life, via the use of key ingredients and flavour combination and expressed our interpretation of how food would have been perceived by the Pompeiians.”