I just finished my second dinner at The Fat Duck in Bray and I was worried that I would be disappointed. I have seen the Mad Hatters Tea Party, I have tried the nitro-poached aperitifs, and I know about the wonderful Whisky Gums. Could the food possible live up to the expectations when the element of surprise is gone. I am happy to say that the answer is a huge resounding YES. The Fat Duck is still my favorite restaurant in the world and the food can hold each one against any kitchen and any restaurant.
The Fat Duck is located in Bray in the High Street. Chef proprietor Heston Blumenthal has owned the premises since it opened at the location in 1995. The kitchen is now headed by Jonny Lake who is doing a great job of maintaining and even improving the classical Heston dishes. It has three Michelin stars and is ranked on Pellegrino's lists of the best restaurants in the world. The Fat Duck serves a fourteen courses tasting menu where most of these a playful and incredibly fun and innovative. Eating at the Fat Duck is a fun journey and you want it to just keep going forever.
First you are served some great Amuse Bouches. It all starts with a delicious beetroot and horseradish macaroon. The beetroot is aerated so it literally just melts away in your mouth. It is wonderful, and very, very tasty. It is followed by a Rocket Lolly and the traditional nitro poached aperitifs. This time I went for Tequila and Grapefruit, which works really well together. You could also go for a Vodka and Lime Sour or Gin and Tonic.
In the next course you are served a Quenelle of Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream sitting on a bed of perfectly diced onion. Our waiter pours the dark red liquid Red Cabbage Gazpacho into the bowl. The Mustard Ice Cream cut the bitterness of the Red Cabbage Gazpacho leaving a sweet, tangy aftertaste. The combination might not sound great but it is very, very good.
The next course is a wonderful journey through the forest. The waiting staff places a bed of oak moss on the table. On the moss is some Fat Duck Films, littel small strips that you are supposed to place on your tongue. While the film tasting of Oak Moss disintegrates in your mouth the waiter pour some water on the moss bed which connects with dry ice underneath the moss. Suddenly a fog covers the table and you taste oak moss and you smell oak moss. It is very rewarding experience. Fat Duck Films. It is followed by the Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, and Chicken Liver Parfait with a Truffle Toast. This dish is one of the best flavor combinations I have ever had in my life. It blends so well together and creates a dish you only want more of.
The next course is the infamous Snail Porridge, that I wasn't very happy with the first time. For some reasons, this time is so much better. I don't know if the quality of the snails was better or if the kitchen putting together this dish the last time just had a bad day - But this time, it is really good. A pile of crunchy, shaved Fennel topped a bright green Porridge and strips of Iberico Bellota Ham, and finally perfectly cooked Escargot. My wife was served a wonderful Beetroot Risotto that she gave the highest remarks for.
This was followed by the best Foie Gras E.V.E.R!! Just look at the image above. Can you honestly tell me that your mouth is not watering right now. Cooked to perfection, great barberries, and the crab biscuit adds a very interesting dimension to the dish.
Next course - The Mad Hatter's Teaparty. A white bookmark where the back of the bookmark describes the Mock Turtle’s story and its popularity in the 19th century. A two layered, clear teapot is placed before each of us and then the waiter appears with gold Pocket Watches which we were to repair by dipping in our tea. When they are dipped they dissolve and create a wonderful and rich broth filled with gold leaves. This is then poured into our teacup below containing Beef, Cucumber, and Turnip pieces surrounding a Mock Egg Yolk made from Mushroom. To accompany our Mock Turtle Soup, a Mad Hatter Tea Stand was placed in the center of the table with toast sandwiches. It is such a fun course that you often forget that it also tastes fantastic. The Mock Turtle soup with its beefy flavor profile is rich and again, something you cant get enough of.
The next is the classic Sound of the Sea. This dish is served with additional sensory input, a plate of seafood served with a seafood foam on top of a "beach" of tapioca, breadcrumbs and eel. Alongside the dish, we were given an iPod to listen to crashing waves whilst they eat. Maybe a little but too salty this time, I remember liking this more the first time. Still though, a tremendous dish that I could eat over and over again.
The next two courses - a rich salmon with liquorice - a personal favorite of mine. The bite of perfectly cooked Salmon with its hint of Liquorice Gel, pop of Golden Roe Trout, tanginess of Grapefruit pieces, and sweetness of the Vanilla Mayonnaise is truly perfection. The combination of textures and flavours is phenomenal and innovative. And then a vegetarian bone marrow. How they make this dish I have no idea - but it is fun but also again very, very good!!!
Pigeon - before this trip I might have had pigeon four times in total, over the last couple of weeks I have already had it five times. This one might lose out to the perfect pigeon at L'Astrance but it is a close call - A great course to end the savory part of the menu.
The sweet section is not necessary pictured above in the order they were served. I wanted to highlight two dishes with one full-frame image. These two desserts are probable the most visual appealing desserts I have seen but more important, they are also really good. But before we get to these, we had soem cold and hot tea - a Heston classic which always plays mind tricks on you. Tea that is both hot and cold at the same time. Another classic Heston - Whisky gums and then finally a cornet. All these are good, but the next two....WOW
This are simply stunning desserts, visually appealing, full of flavors and with so much depth. Words will not make them justice - so I will only say - you have to try them!!
The last course of The Fat Duck Feast was presented as a parting gift. A custom Fat Duck pink striped Sweet Shop bag was given to us with a tiny menu inside that smelled like the sugary sweetness of a Sweet Shop itself. Inside was some Coconut Baccy, Apple Pie Caramel, and The Queen of Hearts.
To summarize, the food is exquisite, fun and tremendously rewarding. They have a great wine list with choices that fits any budget. The Restaurant Manager Dimitri Bellos is a true professional (one of the best we have met) and the service level is impeccable. Jonny Lake runs the kitchen without skipping a beat and it is worth every penny (and you have to dish out quite a few).
Important to know that Heston Blumenthal has announced he would be closing the restaurant for renovations for 6 months and temporarily relocating it with its entire team to Crown Towers, Melbourne, Australia. The restaurant will be called The Fat Duck for 6 months before being renamed Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. So take the opportunity to visit it before it moves, visit it in Melbourne, or visit it when it reopens refurbished and re-energized.
My message is simply, I don't care how, when or where you visit the Fat Duck - but just do it!!!
You will not regret it. It is still the best meal that I have had in my life and now....I have had it twice!!
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