Heston’s Christmas Feast Review: Good Enough To Eat

December 18, 2009 by  
Filed under - Home, Reviews

4heston300HESTON’S CHRISTMAS FEAST: Friday 18th December, Channel 4, 9pm ALERT ME

I love Heston Blumenthal. He’s the most inventive culinary genius since…well since nobody actually. I’m sure we’ve all had our fair share of dodgy Christmas meals – lumpy gravy, dry turkey, radioactive pudding – but the real-life Willy Wonka is here to show us how it should be done.

Taking inspiration from the meals of Christmas past, Heston is intent on creating the lavish delights enjoyed by kings. In typical Blumenthal style, it’s going to involve the most ostentatious and weird dishes ever conceived; Brussels sprouts and leftover cold cuts aren’t going to feature in the festivities.

Munching their way through the delights are celebrity diners which include comedienne Arabella Weir, actor James Purefoy, a loquacious Mariella Frostrup and comedian Charlie Higson. Lucky sods.

An aperitif of ambergris (that’s sperm whale vomit!) served over eggs (one of Charles II’s favourite meals apparently) goes down surprisingly well. But the follow up of white chocolate dormice on sticks (with real dormice) is a little more than his guests can bear and completely shunned by Mariella, unnerved at eating one of the little furry squeakers.

More successful is a recreated Christmas scene made with edible snow (unfortunately not yellow), which elicits squeals of delight from his guests. It’s that feeling that he’s trying to capture – that childish excitement of unwrapping a new gift.

This is all prefaced by some interesting historical and cultural facts. The Roman Empire almost ground to halt because of the population’s insatiable appetite for dormice and apparently puritans banned Christmas in the C17th saying that it encouraged drinking and depravity. Thank goodness we’ve moved on from there…

The joy in watching Heston work is in the enthusiasm he has for his craft – travelling to Slovenia to hunt dormice, redesigning a medieval spit-roast and investing his food with a sense of the theatrical, turning the meal into a performance and not merely dinner.

Whereas Jamie Oliver is all about how to cook the perfect Christmas gravy, Heston’s busy setting fire to things and making blackcurrant snow. The message is clear – it’s not about trying to recreate this experience at home but to showcase a once in a lifetime meal that also happens to taste divine.