CELEBRITY chef Heston Blumenthal is always on the search for adventurous new ideas. And the latest show at Oxford’s Ashmolean Museum has proved particularly fruitful – inspiring him to develop a menu based on the Roman city of Pompeii.

Heston, whose wild flights of fancy have made him a familiar face on television, toured the museum’s Last Supper in Pompeii exhibition, which tells the story of the destroyed city through what its inhabitants ate.

And the scorched loaves of bread, carbonised fruits and grains and mosaics depicting sea creatures and feasting, inspired him to develop a new menu for his two Michelin-starred London restaurant, Dinner – which he served up for staff and invited guests at the museum.

The menu features such delights as jet black ‘carbonised bread of Pompeii’ – served with ‘blackened Bay of Naples Butter’ – a rich seafood spread created to look like a glowing volcanic rock.

The fiery theme continued with a bubbling foam of ‘smoked pickled mussels’ , while Roman ingredients were represented in an elegant plate of duck, turnip and truffle (complete with a turnip top fashioned into an erupting Vesuvius), civet of duck with pearl barley and a spectacular twist on a Roman cake or ‘libum’, created with cheese curds, preserved fig, grapes, pink pepper, honey ice cream and frozen ash.

Read more: See the treasures of Naples and Pompeii... without leaving Oxford

They were served with wines from the Pompeii area and wider Roman empire. And the verdict from diners to the culinary gladiator’s feast was an emphatic ‘thumb’s up’.

Oxford Mail:

Museum director Xa Sturgis said: “The excitement of the show is that it connects you so directly to the food of Pompeii, and it is so thrilling to have one of the world’s greatest chefs creating something so original and delicious.”

Mr Blumenthal, who also runs the three Michelin-starred Fat Duck in Bray, Berkshire – which has been voted best restaurant in the world – described the Ashmolean as “a gem” and said visiting to develop the menu was “a dream”.

Read again: Volcanic Ashmolean show gives beautiful taste of old Pompeii

He said viewing the burned food items in the show had been inspirational, adding: “Carbon is life, so it runs through the menu along with the food on show and depicted in the mosaics.”

Oxford Mail:

Describing his experimental style – which employs nitrogen to re-shape ingredients, he said: “I love creativity and theatre but there has to be a reason. We take something and wrap a story around it. It’s like Horrible Histories but with things you can eat and smell.”

He said he planned to create further Last Supper-style meals, hinting one may include the final menu on the Titanic.

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The show has been curated by historian Paul Roberts, the museum’s Sackler Keeper of Antiquities. He said food was the perfect medium through which to learn more about the people of Pompeii, with the city’s destruction creating unique conditions to preserve comestibles – such as the items on show.

Oxford Mail:

He said: “ We want people to take away the Romans’ real humanity. They were like us – sitting in restaurants or lolling around in pubs having their last meal. I can’t say how proud we are to have had Heston see the exhibition and be inspired.”

  • The Last Supper in Pompeii menu is available at Dinner, in the London Mandarin Oriental Hotel, from January 7– March 31.