It’s no secret Heston Blumenthal flew into Melbourne a couple of weeks ago and snuck into Abla’s just to get a taste of one of our world-famous dishes, The Fat Felafel!
Okay, okay, that’s not quite how Blumenthal came to dine at Abla’s. Truth be told, it so happens that one of our loveliest and most loyal patrons is an acquaintance of Blumenthal’s, and, as everyone knows by now, he was in town to oversee the set-up of The Fat Duck, which is due to open in early 2015. He took it as an opportunity to sample some of the culinary delights that Australia’s food capital has on offer, and so naturally our dear patron decided on taking Heston to his “favourite Lebanese restaurant”.
Abla’s menu is a far cry from what Blumenthal would do at The Fat Duck. After all, he is the man who has concocted some of the most outrageously exotic dishes — anyone for Jelly of Quail with Crayfish Cream? But let’s not forget he’s also a self-taught chef and one who has championed the pleasures of home-cooking in his book Heston Blumenthal at Home (Bloomsbury, 2011).
And so Heston came, he saw, and he ate — and what he ate was the banquet. He tried everything and loved it!
He also conquered our hearts. It was like royalty had arrived when Blumenthal stepped through our front door with a few of his entourage from the UK. There were no curtseys but heads turned and most diners were stopped in their tracks, and even from the kitchen we heard one diner exclaim, “Oh my God! Is that Heston Blumenthal?” as she came down from our dining room upstairs.
For someone of his caliber, you’d think there’d be a few airs and graces, but he wasn’t at all what you might expect. He was very down-to-earth, funny and quite approachable. A few of our diners that night stopped at his table and he had no qualms whatsoever about chatting to them for a few minutes. And when Rae, one of our waiters, went up to him at the end of the night to ask if he’d mind if we took some photos, he said that he was actually going to ask the same thing. Ah, such charm!
Everyone at Abla’s that night, including the staff, were in awe of him, as much for his friendly, no-fuss manner as for his influence in the culinary world. So much so that some of us had the passing fancy of ever-so slightly experimenting with Abla’s menu. Rachael and Lauren (seen pictured below) thought of turning their hands at Tabouleh Mousse with Hummus Coulis and Labnee Sorbet with Kibbee Foam as a couple of exciting additions!
But then again, if Heston loved it all, that’s a pretty good reason for us to keep on doing what we do best.