Ashley Palmer-Watts, Dinner by Heston London and Melbourne

The Staff Canteen



Ashley Palmer-Watts was formerly the head chef at Heston’s three Michelin-starred restaurant, The Fat Duck in Bray before heading up Dinner by Heston when it opened in 2011. Dinner received a Michelin star within its first year of opening followed by a second a few years later in 2014.

Situated in the 5 star hotel, Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park in Kensington, Dinner replaced the Michelin-starred restaurant Foliage in early 2011. The 120 seat cover restaurant was originally slated for a December 2010 opening but due to numerous delays it was pushed back eventually opening in January instead.

Born and raised in Dorset, Ashley began his career at the age of 13 working for a local restaurant and later working on a farm picking watercress. He first discovered Heston’s The Fat Duck after dining there with some friends one night.  Deciding there and then that he had to work there, Ashley wrote to Heston asking for a job. After a few weeks a position was made available and Ashley was taken on. Since starting his journey at The Fat Duck in 1999 he quickly moved up the ranks to become head chef and Heston’s right hand man. Ashley later moved on to head up Dinner by Heston situated in the Mandarin Oriental Hyde Park when it opened its doors in early 2011.

Now in its fifth year Heston and Ashley have gone on to open another Dinner restaurant, this time in Melbourne, Australia. Ashley’s role now requires him to look after both establishments with a strong focus on growing both teams and learning how to manage two restaurants that are on the opposite sides of the world to each other.

Ashley explained: “My role has kind of evolved into growing this kind of central team between both restaurants, leading development, leading the teams within those restaurants with head chefs in both restaurants and learning how to run two restaurants completely the other side of the world from each other.”

The style of food served at Dinner by Heston has a strong focus on modern interpretations and takes inspiration from historical cuisine dating back 700-800 years. Both Heston and Ashley spent a lot of time researching historical menu choices when planning the restaurant which was further enhanced when Heston was filming the Channel 4 show, Heston’s Feasts which saw Heston recreate famous period dishes and feasts for 21st century diners. To give an accurate representation of the food at that time, they also contacted food historians and took inspiration from the British Library.

Since opening five and a half years ago the food at Dinner has gradually evolved to offer more ‘refined’ dishes that are ultimately bolder and cleaner. Advances in technical abilities have also helped improve the way the dishes are prepared and presented reflecting the restaurant’s growth from when it first opened its doors half a decade ago.

 “I think the food style now is really an evolution of where we started. I would say our techniques are much more advanced, plating is much more intricate, there’s more detail in the food. It’s probably a little bit more refined and I like to think the flavours are more bold, clear and clean. The balance, I like to think is a lot better than when we first opened.”

Despite the name, Dinner is open for both lunch and dinner seven days a week. Working alongside Ashley in the kitchen are 51 chefs who work four days a week and 65 Front of House staff including the wine team.

Looking ahead, Ashley is keen for Dinner to expand and would like to open at least two more establishments within the next five years. He also hopes customers dining in more than one of the restaurants will receive a fluid experience between each venue.

“I like to think I will be running a few more, maybe two more, Dinner by Heston’s around the globe and being more remote as well and having is operating as it should be. Showcasing the best ingredients, growing on the most incredible teams in each location and generally having this kind of cross between someone from one country with experience in our restaurant coming to London or going to Melbourne.”

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The Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 9th August 2016

Ashley Palmer-Watts, Dinner by Heston London and Melbourne