Trip 2011 Part 2: The Fat Duck June 8, 2011Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Uncategorized.
So – the Fat Duck – Heston Blumenthal’s restaurant in the village of Bray, outside London. I almost gave up trying to get reservations after calling on two phones for three nights straight – before I got through and was able to secure a table for 2 for lunch. We’d had a frantic morning at the Portobello Road Market, and catching the train out to Maidenhead was a relief after the crowds we’d encountered earlier. When we arrived at the Fat Duck, I was immediately put at ease – not only did they have our booking (yes, I am neurotic enough to imagine us arriving and them having no record of us!), but the atmosphere was fun and welcoming and not at all stuck up.
There’s lots of photos of the different courses at the Fat Duck, so rather than post the full meal we had, I thought I’d post some of the courses and discuss them. The previous disclaimer on our photos applies (taken with a mobile phone, etc)…
This was one of the first dishes served. I loved the steam/vapour that poured over the table from the moss in the middle in the box. This released the scent of oak, earth, dampness and moss over the table, leading to eating the quail and crayfish cream with truffle toast. The quail and crayfish cream was in perfectly defined layers, while the truffle toast added an earthiness and a spicy element from the radish on top.
This is one of Heston’s signature dishes and was certainly presented with a flourish, with the bowls arriving with lids which were then whipped off at the pronouncement of “and now, your snail porridge”. Very dramatic! I’m not sure how we were meant to react – recoil in horror at the idea of eating snails, perhaps? I found this a delicious meal, but the snails really played a secondary role to the pea and ham porridge base and fennel shavings on top. Delicious, but perhaps not as revolutionary as I had thought…
I know this was foie gras topped with a crispy crab biscuit and sitting on a piece of seaweed, but to me this was like eating a duck! The crab biscuit took the place of the crispy skin, with the foie gras and seaweed providing the texture and flavour of the duck flesh. This was wonderful, and not at all what I was expecting.
Another completely over the top and very famous dish. The shell contained an ipod which had a soundtrack from the seashore – the sound of the waves going in and out, seagulls, etc. What struck me about the use of this soundtrack was that it was someone else’s memories of the sea and the seaside. This sea sounded cold to me! I associate the sea with summers and warmth and different sounding gulls. Having said that, the dish itself was fantastic. They had captured the exact flavour of getting slapped in the face with a wave, and the fish was excellent.
This dish is apparently one which changes depending on what is in season – as I checked the current menu at the Fat Duck, I see they are serving lamb in its place. I’m a big fan of pigeon, and of blood pudding, so it was no surprise I loved this dish. The meat was quite rich; this was added to by the incredibly smooth blood pudding sauce. However, overall the dish was not too heavy thanks to the crispy skin accents and foam.
I loved the architecture of this dish. The black forest gateau was fantastic, of course, but what really stood out for me was the kirsch icecream. Delicious, and still very alcoholic!
I found all the desserts very clever, and this was perhaps the cleverest. These were different gums (or gummys), flavoured with different whiskys, and placed on a display to show where they were from. I was surprised how different they tasted, and enjoyed the display and comparing them to each other.
This was the final course – we were both presented with pink and white striped lolly bags, with the pictured contents within. We chose to eat one bag at the restaurant, and took the other one home with us. Clockwise from the centre top we had: caramel complete with edible wrapper, edible playing card with raspberry filling, ‘coconut baccy’, infused with the smell of tobacco, and a mandarin aerated chocolate. The caramel and the playing card were my favourites, both for looks and taste – the ‘coconut baccy’ just tasted like coconut to me, and I didn’t love the aerated chocolate.
I was impressed with all the drinks and wait-staff who served us during our time there. Everyone was very knowledgeable but did not recite descriptions as if they were bored with repeating the same thing over and over; and the wine servers in particular were happy to answer all our questions about the wine being served (and were generous with their portions!). And they even called us a cab to take us back to the train station when we were finally finished.
I feel like I’m still trying to process this meal more than a month later and it makes me smile even thinking about it. I know I will probably not go back to the Fat Duck (too many other exciting places to try!) but I’m so happy I got the opportunity to eat there.