The Perfectionists’ Cafe at Heathrow Terminal 2: Heston reinvents airport food
Burgers, pizzas, fish and chips, ice cream. Superficially, perhaps, it’s an expected offering for a restaurant found in an airport. Of course that omits one key detail: The Perfectionists’ Café is actually the brainchild of Heston Blumenthal, inspired by his TV show In Search of Perfection, and as such nothing should be taken at face value.
Surprisingly, the restaurant doesn’t overtly play on the fact that it is part of the Heston group, so many diners don’t even realise Blumenthal’s involvement. Therefore, it is undeniably a credit to head chef Julian O’Neill and his team that they have garnered the success they have without the need to push Blumenthal’s credential’s at their guests.
The menu reads as you might expect one in an airport would, serving an array of dishes with something that should appeal to everyone, and all designed to be cooked under extreme time constraints. The key difference between The Perfectionists’ Café and any other superficially similar menu, though, is that O’Neill’s bill of fare appears to have been set out with only one thing in mind: to strive to make each of those dishes as perfect as possible.
For whilst there are Heston Blumenthal flourishes dotted about, such as the liquid nitrogen ice cream parlour proudly displayed at the restaurant front and the scented dry ice that appears on some of the cocktails, the influence that the café seems to have adopted is less Heston the mad scientist and more Heston the scientist and analyst, whose attention to detail and quest for constant improvement has made him one of the world’s top chef’s. And The Perfectionists’ Cafe is all the better for it.
As head chef, Julian O’Neill, who undertook ten months of recipe testing and development for the menu, points out that there hasn’t been any compromise in bringing these culinary efforts to life. In no small part, the equipment that the premises has been allowed to bring in has helped this enormously. A wood-fired pizza oven is the only one of its kind found in an airport in the UK, and 120-litre barrels of liquid nitrogen have to be brought in to create the ice cream. And that’s to say nothing about the daily deliveries from dozens of suppliers.
Compromise is also somewhat irrelevant because, in the first instance, the dishes that are available were chosen precisely because they suited the environment in which they were to be prepared: pizza and battered fish are inherently better cooked at speed.
Of course, all of this is only relevant if the food matches up and, perhaps unsurprisingly, it does, given the astonishing level of thought that has gone into what could appear to be such simple dishes. Perhaps just as adtounding as the fact that this has all been achieved within an airport setting, with no visible compromise to quality, The Perfectionists’ Cafe also manages to maintain incredibly competitive pricing
The Extraordinary Fish and Chips comprises fresh fish, which is delivered daily – unheard of anywhere else in Heathrow – and is coated in a chilled beer batter that has been put through a siphon gun to aerate before being fried, resulting in an astonishingly crisp yet entirely grease-free piece of fish.
The Perfectionists’ Classic Burgers are made with three cuts of meat in order to achieve the right flavour and consistency, and the smoked salmon is sourced from Hansen and Lydersen, arguably the finest smoked salmon supplier in the UK.
So was it the perfect fish and chips? As the restaurant itself points out, perfection within cooking is subjective. But it was certainly the best piece of battered fish this reviewer has ever eaten.
Photos: Filippo L’Astorina
The Perfectionists’ Cafe is at Heathrow Terminal 2, for further information visit here.