The Fat Duck

The name says it all. Heston Blumethal, 3 Michelin Stars, rated as one of best restaurants in the world. Originally inspired by the three star Michelin restaurant L’Oustau de Baumaniere when he was sixteen, Heston taught himself how to cook and in 1995, bought a quaint little pub called “The Bell” which has been transformed into what we all know today as Fat Duck. He led the way of culinary gastronomy and earned his third star in under a decade. Heston loves to question everything and push the boundaries of food and cooking bringing all the senses into the eating experience. Like a kid in the candy shop.

Last year (Sept/Oct, this has been a work in progress), Nat and I were planning a European adventure. Part of that was to visit Bray (and more importantly, the Fat Duck). Hoping upon hope, I checked their website to see if I could book a table. Turns out we could only book 2 months in advance! My uncle was also going to London and together, we plotted to somehow get a table. We used up our foodie contacts, even found an ex. Fat Duck chef and pleaded our case! No deal. So we locked in the date and I set countless reminders on my phone to call at exactly 10am London time.

The day finally came and I was rushing back home from work. The phone cards were bought and ran to my parents house to use their Lan line (just to be sure we didn’t drop out!) and called and called and called! On the 22nd called, we got through! Dancing commenced, but we weren’t there just yet. We were on hold, so I pulled up a chair and got comfortable. 45mins of listening to someone read “Alice in Wonderland” later, I heard a voice. At once I started regurgitating what I had been rehearsing, about how special this was going to be blah blah blah. OOOKKKK the lady was saying, and that was that. We were booked.

2 months later…

Shine your shoes Govna? We made it to London. The day we landed in London, we ate dinner at the Hinds Head (Heston’s pub which sits directly adjacent to the Fat Duck) as a sexy preview for tomorrow’s feast and I slept like a baby wondering how in the world it was going to be topped.  The next night, my cousin and her boyfriend (Steph and Andy) congregated outside the restaurant giggling like little school girls.

…and we’re in

The place was small, very intimate with extremely low ceilings. We had a sweet table in the corner right next to the wine (zing!) and greeted with simple and pleasant decor and a card (which obviously made it home with me, in fact, anything I could get my hands on came home with me) which spoke of Nostalgia Foods and how the senses and suggestion would trigger memories and emotions. “Foods that evoke childhood memories”. I have a feeling I’m going to have a great night.

Champagne, amuse-bouche and our take home menus

We were greeted with Champagne and an amuse-bouche of dehydrated beetroot with horseradish cream which was extremely light and melted in your mouth. We had this whist we pondered over a beautifully leather-bound menu. The Fat duck has a set menu and only a set menu and they let you look though it to make sure they avoid allergies and dietary requirements. They also showed us the wine menu for both individual wines, bottles and food matching. This is the first time a restaurant gave me a choice of the “level” of food/wine matching. We chose the expensive one, I mean, you only live once right!? The waiters we just pure class, friendly and professional and after all was said and done, we were each given the menu as a keepsake in a wax sealed envelope (which I swear feels like suede).

The Fat Duck Tasting Menu

On the wine I will apologise in advance, I didn’t take notes. This was a time where food came first. What I will say is that each was matched extremely well with each course, almost mimicking and enhancing the flavours of each meal.

The Wine Paring Menu

Ok, you have stuck with me thus far, let the food porn commence.

NITRO POACHED APERITIFS

Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin and Tonic, Campari Soda

“Citrus Grove”

The palate cleanser. Picture this, our waiter comes with a bowl filled with liquid nitrogen. The smoke and freshness fill the air. From a nozzle, he squeezes a fragile ball of foam and dips it into the bubbling liquid. He pulls it out and asks us what flavour we would like; vodka and lime sour, gin and tonic or campari soda. I had the original flavour, the Vokda Lime. He then dusts off the ball with green power from a muslin pouch and hands us the spoon. It has to been eaten whole. One at a time, we pop it in as the others watch in anticipation. Once it hits your mouth, the heat makes it vanish and citrus notes fills your mouth and nose, even coming out of your nostrils! It…was…insane.  The perfect start, showing off the a dish which would excite all the senses and generating that sense of magic and wonder (though in this case, you get the see the magic trick in action).

RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream

2008 Gruner Veltliner, Kamptaler Terrassen, Weingut Brundlmayer, Kamptal (Austria)

The dish came out with just the ice cream resting on a bed of dehydrated cucumber cubes. The waiter would then pour the cold vibrant gazpacho. The first this you see is colour. Just wow. Now, mustard ice cream you say? Red cabbage gazpacho? Interesting is a word that comes to mind but what a match.  Creamy, zesty, crunchy with the zip on the nose to match, almost like a coleslaw with pickles. An extremely tasty dish. The wine was to be had over the first two courses.

JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM

Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

(Homage to Alain Chapel)

2008 Gruner Veltliner, Kamptaler Terrassen, Weingut Brundlmayer, Kamptal (Austria)

This dish was inspired by Alain Chapel’s Gelee de Pigenneaux Trois Sot-l’y-Laisse et Jeunes Legumes (Jelly of Pigeon with Three Chicken Oyster and Young Vegetables) for its technical complexity. The dish started with a thin film of oak resin placed in those listerine boxes. Four of these rested neatly on a block of moss and dry ice. These strips was to evoke your imagination of woodlands and forest. We were then presented with a beautiful meal. In the tilted bowl was layers of parfait, quail jelly, langoustine cream and pea mousse. On the side was sliced radishes on truffle toast. As we ate, hot water was poured on the dry ice filling the table with a mist of moss. Stunning. The dish was rich, creamy and somehow fluffy. The layers all worked textually well together and the truffle toast…o.m.g. why only such a small piece!? You really did feel like you were eating in the forest.  One of my favourite meals of the night.

SNAIL PORRIDGE

Iberico Bollota Ham, Shaved Fennel

2006 Vin de Pays des Cotes Catalanes, Le Soula Gerard Gauby, Roussillon (France)

Thanks to Masterchef, Heston’s unofficial signature dish. Porridge oats, topped off with Jabugo ham, shaved fennel and nice plump snails. O yeah, and some parsley. Extremely tender oats and snails with the fennel lifting the dish. What stayed with me was the strikingly green colours and the smell…o the smell. definitely a dish where the aromats sung loudest.

ROAST FOIE GRAS

Barberry, Braised Konbu and Crab Biscuit

2009 Graacher Domprobst, Riesling Spatlese, Willi Schaefer, Mosel (Germany)

Possibly my favourite meal of the night…possibly. Ok who am I kidding, this was the sickest of the sick. By far the best foie gras I have ever had. Usually the foie gras you find at other restaurants is soft and/or cold and sometimes spreadable. This was poached twice via sous-vide bags and then blow torched to sear the surface. The foie gras would pop in my mouth and ooze out its awesomeness all over my mouth. The Konbu and the crab biscuit played well against the fattyness of the foir gras. Simply outstanding. Be sure to be ready when you try this. Ask for seconds, if you can, and send some over to me!

MOCK TURTLE SOUP

(C. 1850)

“Mad Hatter Tea”

This dish is more theater than food. I first saw this dish from “Heston’s Feasts – Victorian Feast” and I was blown away – check it out here, it’s only part of the show so try to find it if you can for full viewing pleasure.

Two waiters came out to our table, one holding a wooden box with 4 gold watches, the other 4 plates with “bits of turtle”. Then we were given cups of hot water and instructed to dip our gold watches into the cup. The gold would flake away revealing and dissolving the mock turtle soup stock (actually made from cow’s head, but how good does it look!). When finished, we would pour the lovely consume into the plates to enjoy. The consume was outstanding and the best part of the dish. The rest, to me, was just eye candy. Lovely.

“SOUND OF THE SEA”

DaiGinjo Masumi Nanago, Miyasaka Brewery, Nagano Prefecture (Japan)

Sound of the Sea aka “Ipod”. When our waiters came out to the table with conches, I knew what was next. Developed in 2007 and again shown on Masterchef, this dish was developed to enhance your eating experience by listening to “sounds of the sea” transporting you to the beach and enhancing your senses. There were seagulls and crashing waves all around me, and believe me, it works! (or was it the sake? By the way, it was good good sake!). Three slices of sashimi, (I think thy were king fish, halibut and mackerel) was served on a pile of dirt with a side of spit. Delicious. OK OK, the soft ‘sand’ was made from shirasu (baby eel or anchovies), tapioca and ice cream cone and the very fragrant ‘sea’ was made from a mix of veggies, chardonnay, clams, muscles, cockles and seaweed. It really had that salty sea water aspect and the sand felt like soft sand between your toes. Well played sir, had loads of fun with this dish.

SALMON POACHED IN A LIQUORICE GEL

Artichokes, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe

1997 Rosso del Veronese Ripasso, Campofiorin, Masi, Veneto (Italy)

This dish was initially developed because of a common compound shared between asparagus and liquorice called asparagine. Don’t ask me what it is because I have no idea. The combination was ment to make for a bitter (asparagus) sweet (liquorice) experience and come together like peanut butter and jam. So it is fair to say that I was disappointed to see the asparagus has been replaced by artichokes. Bugga. This dish was visually and textually striking. The glossy liquorice coating really stood out and made sure that you would get the salmon and liquorice combination with every bite. Flavour wise left the dish a bit deflated. I expected more from the liquorice being such a big flavour and mentally prepared myself for that along side the salmon. Alas no. Almost a unanimous let down from the table. 😦

ANJOU PIGEON

Blood pudding, Risotto of Spelt and Umbles

2001 Chateau Mouton Rothschild, 1er Grand Cru, Pauillac, Bordeaux (France)

It’s Mouton time baby! One of the reasons I picked this wine paring was to try the Mouton Rothschild. Mouton Rothschild is one of the five premier grand cru wines from left bank Bordeaux costing over $1000 a bottle. These guys are the most open of the first growths and I think are the only ones who allow “less stuff” admissions to their Chateau’s for tastings and the like. The label of a Mouton Rothschild is also very important. Since 1924, the Baron Philippe de Rothschild made the decision to bottle their wines before it left the property and each year would commission the leading artist at the time to paint the label for that vintage. You can check out most of the labels here. I was so excited to taste this and my enthusiasm must have been well received by out waitress who lovingly poured me another glass afterwards! Merci!

Ok so Pigeon right? Pigeon is known to be very difficult to cook, problem being how to make crispy skin without overcooking the brest? Heston cooks them separately but cooks two breasts together to form a roll (or ballottine as he puts it) using “meat glue” (official name is transglutaminase…sure…) to both simulate cooking the bird as if it still had skin whist aiding presentation.  To keep the pigeon tender, it wasn’t browned and a roasted meat sauce was used to get that flavour, along with the pigeon and duck “prawn crackers” and the black pudding/chocolate sauce. Sure, lets also just add half a piegon heart. I can sum up this dish with one word – Rich. So so rich. The flavours were very intense, savoury and meaty whist having a velvety smooth mouthfeel. The pigeon was very tender with a hint of pickling, which I assume was to cut through the dish. Getting full just thinking about it! Don’t feel bad if you cannot get all the black pudding down, I couldn’t, it was just way too much. Besides, I had to fill my tummy up with Mouton, which, by the way had a very inky texture and broody feel  to it amping up the dishes strong points.

HOT & ICED TEA

Waiter with russian accent: ” And now, we have a dish which is just….Fat Duck”

Ken: “Did you just say, this dish is F#%@ed up?”

Waiter with russian accent: “No No! I mean, actually, yeah! it is!

This was a very simple but very cool palate cleanser. The earl grey tea was placed in front of us and had to be drunk in a very specific way. As you drink the tea, the left side was cold and the right side was hot. It was super slick work. Simple and effective.

TAFFETY TART

(C. 1660)

Caramelized Apple, Fennel, Rose and Candied Lemon

2008 Passito di Pantelleria, Ben Rye, Donnafugata, Sicily (Italy)

This was my favourite dessert. A great mix of zest and sweetness from the apple and lemon complemented by the crunchy flower petals and smooth current sorbet. It was such such such a wonderfully balanced dessert. I’m not sure what else there is to say.

THE “BFG”

Black Forest Gateau

1999 Tokaji Esszencia, Chateau Pajzos, Tokaj-Hegyalja (Hungary)

The Black Forest Gateau. This was beautifully presented and takes a lot of work to make (check out Heston’s “In search of Pefection” part 1 here and part 2 here). Made in three separate parts and with about 10 layers, I was blown away with it’s techical complexity. I purposely ate it by cutting into all the layers and getting the entire range of textures. For me, this dish didn’t impress me as much as the tart taste wise. I thought it had way too much Kirsch in it which killed the flavour. I still wouldn’t say no though!

Just a little on the Tokaji. This was the second reason I wanted this wine pairing. Tokaji is a sweet wine from Hungary. What makes this wine a wine to try is that it’s labeled Esszencia which is also called nectar and is one of the most exclusive wines in the world. The wine is made from free standing juice which runs off naturally and collected so the flavours and extremely concentrated and intense and of a very high quality. You can usually store these wines for over 100 years and used to be only drunk the Hungarian kings.  This bottle was as expected, very sweet which may have not sat well with the BFG. You could feel a bit more of a kick with this wine and it’s very pure.

WHISK(E)Y WINE GUMS

Just stopping over to Scotland now. Whisk(e)y gums, and almost all single malts! This dessert came on a large picture frame with a map of Scotland and five gums the size of those coke lollies. Each was representative of the 4 whisky regions of Scotland; Islay, Highlands, Lowlands and Speyside. The last gum was Jack Daniels from USA. Being a whiskey drinker, I was loving it but the rest of the table were basically getting their ears wet. More for me then! There is actually about 100g of here and I was surprised at how much these tasted like the real thing! Another very fun and entertaining way to eat your food.

“LIKE A KID IN A SWEET SHOP”

Aerated chocolate, Mandarin Jerry

Coconut Baccy, Coconut infused with an aroma of Black Cavendish Tobacco

Apple Pie Caramel, with edible wrapper

The Queen of Hearts, she made some tarts

We finally came to the end of our glorious meal and was given a bag of lollies to take home. I started eating mine here! The queen of hearts was the most visually impressive and came in a sealed envelope. There is a lot of detail on this piece of chocolate with a layer of jam inside. I wasn’t sure what was edible so I ended up trying to eat the envelope also (which by the way is paper) but the wax seal is not!

I have eaten at many high class restaurants before, but never like this. The staff was gorgeous, friendly and very attentive and professional. It is truly an experience. I really couldn’t have been happier after the feast. It really makes you think and feel what it was like the first time you tasted, felt or seen something magical. Worth every penny.

I hope you all enjoyed this, please hit “like” if you did. Start booking those tickets to London!

The Fat Kenny

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