Fat Duck Restaurant – Dinner – Degustation – Bray, England

OMFG!!!!! Never in my life have I had such a FANTASTIC dining experience as that at Fat Duck Restaurant in Bray, England. Heston Blumenthal is an absolute genius & I would shout it from the rooftops if that would help me get another reservation.

Top 3 restaurant in the WORLD in 2010, it’s consistently been one of the best restaurants in the world and an absolute must on my recent trip to Europe.

This was, by far, the best restaurant I’ve ever been to in my entire life (so far).

After a 5 min cab ride from Maidenhead train station, the 4 of us arrive at the Fat Duck Restaurant, all ready to have a culinary experience of a lifetime.

The outside doesn’t look like much, if it weren’t for the renowned cutlery signage on the outside, I wouldn’t have known this was a place of business. It’s a large white building with a wooden door. Once we step inside, it’s a whole different world. It’s crowded and waiters, sommeliers, etc are running around.

Coats are removed & we’re seated at out table with some complimentary olives to share.

The restaurant has a cosy feel, the service makes us feel like we’re the only table around, it’s dedicated and expedient. Each table has a different bouquet of flowers as decoration which reinforces the feel that we’re not just another number but we’re being treated as special.

A lot of time and effort have gone into every aspect of the restaurant.

Fat Duck is not just about the food, it’s the smells, sounds & nostalgic memories that makes it a supreme dining experience.

With very little prodding, we all decide to go for the wine pairing (£90) on top of our 14 course degustation (£160).

As I had been doing a great deal of drinking that day, I needed to use the restroom prior to the meal even starting.

Even the hand soap was fat duck branded – such detail for such a minor thing.

Finally we’re ready to start, a trolley comes by & I whip out my tiny little camera in preparation to be wowed (it was funny to see that every table had at least 1 camera and at each table there was usually an SLR).

Apologies in advance for the less than stellar photos but photos never truly do an image justice.

Apertif cart

We were not disappointed.

There were 3 apertifs to choose from: Vodka & Lime Sour; Gin & Tonic; & Campari Soda

I went with the Vodka & lime, the egg white & alcohol mousse was foamed out onto a spoon & was placed into the bucket of liquid nitrogen to poach.

Nitro poached vodka & lime sour with a dusting of green tea powder

We were told to gobble it up before our apertifs melted & there was no hesitation at our table. It was so crisp & fresh, it was almost meringue in texture but with an invigorating coldness to it. If my mouth wasn’t watering before, this definitely would have got it starting.

Red Cabbage Gazpacho

A plate carrying a serving of Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream comes out before the deep red gazpacho is poured over it.

Amazing flavour combination, the gazpacho was slightly sour and the mustard gave it that nasal clearing kick at the end.

The nasal clearing was necessary as the next dish strongly involved our olfactory senses.

A bed of moss was brought out as well as something similar to mouth films.

After we put the edible film on our tongues, our mouths were filled with an oak flavour and a teapot was poured over the bed of moss to release the ‘forest of flavour’.

We were suddenly surrounded by a woodsy smell – oak and moss to enhance the environment for the dish pictured below.

Left: Oak Moss & Truffle Toast; Right: Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream & Chicken Liver Parfait

This is an homage to Alain Chapel (as stated on the menu). The quail jelly sat underneath the crayfish cream and was an absolute delight to eat. The miniscule toast was crunchy and full of flavour and the combination of the smells & taste had me salivating for more.

This dish was paired with 2004 Peter Lehmann, Wigan Riesling, Eden Valley.

Snail Porridge

Heston’s famed Snail Porridge with Iberico Bellota Ham & shaved fennel. This was a fantastic dish which far outshines any escargot I’ve had previously.

The porridge was warm & the snails were cooked to perfection, soft & delicate. This was amazing and so flavoursome.

This was paired with: 2006 Collio Bianco, Klin, Primosic, Friuli-Venezia-Giulia (Italy)

*sigh* As I write this, it just makes me want to return to England for another meal at Heston’s Fat Duck Restaurant.

Roast Foie Gras

Ah the foie gras, with a rhubarb gel, braised Konbu & paper-thin crab biscuits. The crab biscuits were out of this world, the crisp texture contrasted with the perfectly cooked foie gras and just made this a mouth-watering dish.

This was paired with: 2008 Vouvray, Abbaye de Marmoutier, Vigneau-Chevreau, Loire Valley (France)

Next up was something I was very eagerly anticipating. After having watched Heston’s Feasts about the Victorian era, I was greatly excited by the fact that we were going to be joining the Mad Hatter’s tea party.

The menu stated we were to be having Mock Turtle Soup, but where was the soup?

The waiter then comes out with a glass case filled with gold pocket watches.

Note: I have edited this photo (poorly) as the lid is glass and so there was another diner visible in the background. If you were having a delectable dinner, I doubt you’d appreciate having your photo taken by some random stranger & posted on the internet.

Mad Hatter etiquette dictates that one’s gold pocket watch must actually be dipped as you would a tea bag.

The waiter pours the hot water over my watch and I watch it slowly unravel before I stir my ‘tea’.

Hey presto! The gold watch was actually solid beef consommé which had been in a watch mould & covered in gold flakes.

The consommé is then poured over our plates to complete our Mock Turtle Soup. Obviously, you cannot have Mock Turtle Soup without Mock Turtle Eggs, which consists of a turnip mousse with a yellow swede gel. Tiny mushrooms have been placed onto the ‘egg’ & surrounded my micro herbs and slivers of turnip & truffle. This was combined with a piece of braised veal head meat.

I love the theatrics of it all, the novelty made me feel like a child again & we were all enthralled with the splendor that was the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party.

Next up is my absolute favourite dish of the night.

Ipod in a sea shell

Waves, sea gulls, crunching of someone walking through the sand, listening to this, I could easily imagine I was at the seaside enjoying a lovely day at the beach.

Sounds of the sea

Fresh cured fish, sand, seaweed & wave foam – what more could you want?

The sashimi was the best sashimi I’ve ever tasted, consisting of Haliburt, Yellowtail & Mackerel – it was just so fresh and tasty.

The sand had the crunch & texture you’d expect from sand except it had the most glorious taste. It was made from tapioca & dried eels and was divine – if real sand tasted like that, I’d be down at the beach chowing down all day everyday.

The foam was made of a salty seaweed stock and just completed the whole sea feel of the meal.

Stunned silence is the best term I could use to describe our table as we ate this, there was no discussion during, just the intense pleasure of us enjoying this fantastic dish.

If I were stuck on a desert island, I would gladly eat this 3 (or more) times a day for the rest of my life.

*sigh*

*sigh*

Best dish EVA.

This was paired very well with: DaiGinjo Masumi Nanago, Miyasaka Brewery, Nagano Prefecture (Japan)

Salmon poached in liquorice gel

I’m not a fan of liquorice or of cooked salmon, but there wasn’t a single Fat Duck dish that I found unpalatable. This was no exception, together with crunchy artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise & golden trout roe, it was an overall lovely dish.

This was paired with: 1997 Rosso del Veronese Ripasso, Campofiorin, Masi, Veneto (Italy)

Anjou Pigeon

If you’ve never liked blood pudding before, you’ll definitely like this one. Again, everything perfectly cooked, the pigeon was wonderful, the blood pudding was very rich and the crackers were divine.

Even though all the portions so far had been small, they and the wine do start adding up and I was quite full by this time. Having such a rich and heavy meal didn’t help things at this point but I persevered and soldiered onto completion of our 14 course degustation.

This dish was accompanied by the Risotto below.

Risotto of Spelts & Umbles

As we waited for this dish, our table was debating (without using google) what spelts & umbles were. 1 person thought they were some sort of oat, another thought it was offal. Turns out they were both right. Who knew puffed cereal & innards (including heart) would go so well together?

The crunchy cereal just added an extra depth & crunch to the meal. I also found this to be rich but thoroughly pleasing to the taste buds. This would be ranked in the top half of dishes I experienced at Heston’s.

The pigeon & risotto were paired with: 2004 Val de Cornia Suvereto, Olpaio, Rubbia Al Colle, Tuscany (Italy)

Hot & Iced Tea

Now for something to cleanse the palette before dessert & it does not get any better than this. It felt like 2 different liquids swirling in my mouth with different parts of my tongue & mouth flashing hot & cold. It was magical & enthralling and definitely shook us out of our food-induced stupor ready to lay into the desserts.

Galette of Rhubarb

Neroli scented Yoghurt, Rhubarb Sorbet with a Rhubarb Crisp. Sweet & sour, refreshing on the palette after the rich & filling dishes. This was quite tart and highly enjoyable.

Paired with: 2007 Graševina Izborna Berba Prosušenih Bobica, Krauthaker, Kutjevo, Slavonija (Croatia)

BFG – Black Forest Gateaux

This was phenomenal – layers of chocolate mousse, kirsch cream, chocolate ganache, sour cherries, chocolate cake, aerated chocolate & biscuit base. It is then spray-painted with chocolate, given a crunchy trail of chocolate rocks & a dollop of ice cream.

It was an absolute delight to eat and as full as I was (near bursting point), all I wished for at that moment was more of it.

*sigh*

This was paired with: 2009 Alelia, Dolç Mataró, Alta Alella, Catalunia (Spain)

I’ve had a craving to make black forest gateaux since this experience. Or if I’m feeling really ambitious, I could try making Heston’s BFG – the recipe can be found in his ‘In Search of Perfection’ series.

The cheese trolley then comes whizzing around and my stomach is both protesting against more food & desperately wanting a nibble of some creamy, cheesy goodness for an extra £15.

In the end, the 4 of us decided to split 1 cheese plate as our stomaches could not take any further abuse (I fear we were too close to a food coma by this point, I knew I was)

We obviously managed to find some space to demolish these cheeses & crackers before returning to the last 2 courses of the degustation menu. Cheesalicious.

Whisk(e)y Wine Gums

The texture – like jelly babies. The taste – like a shot of whiskey. I sucked on each ‘lolly’, enjoying the smooth, oaky warmth sliding down my throat. I am no means a whiskey drinker & this would not convert me, but it was another delightful example of Heston’s genius.

Last, but most definitely not least, came the finale:

Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop

Clockwise from top left: Aerated Chocolate with Mandarin Jelly; Apple Pie Caramel with Edible Wrapper; Queen of Hearts Tart; Coconut Tobacco;

A candy-striped bag of goodies is placed in front of us with a sniffable menu card. As we were all nearly comatose at this point (from a combination of food, wine & exhaustion after 5 hours of dining), we all decided to take this as a goodie bag to consume the next day.

Wacky tobacky – coconut crunch with tobacco aroma

Edible playing card – white chocolate tart with raspberry filling & the envelope had an edible ‘wax’ seal

At the end of our night, a copy the degustation menu & wine list are given to us in envelopes sealed with the Fat Duck logo.

Absolutely love it! A cherished souvenir from my travels.

The bill for 4 people – £1207 (March 2011)

Worth it? Hells yeah, I’ll definitely be back there the next time I’m on that continent.

The lowdown:

The good – everything? Sound of the Sea, BFG, Pigeon, etc *sigh*

The mediocre – mediocre should never be used to describe this phenomenal restaurant

The bad – that the meal doesn’t last for eternity and that it eventually ends?

Details:

Fat Duck Restaurant

High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ England

Phone: +44 (0) 1628 580 333 (Reservations critical)

http://www.thefatduck.co.uk/

Reservations Tip: Reservations for the day you want to dine open 2 months prior to that date & it’s first in best dressed. You MUST call them for the best odds of a reservation. Online reservations are possible but that opens later (I believe).

Whilst trying to secure a reservation, I had my phone & Skype & a friend simultaneously calling them. Fortunately my friend got through and I will be eternally grateful to her for it.

The only time I got through on the phone was to get the answering machine saying all dates until XX date have been booked out. Persistence pays so keep at it until you get through. We had to keep trying for several days until we finally got through to their reservations desk.

Good luck & it’s well worth the time, effort & funds. 🙂

If you liked this, you may also like my attempts at some of Heston Blumenthal’s recipes (See here for other Heston Blumenthal related posts)

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One Response to “Fat Duck Restaurant – Dinner – Degustation – Bray, England”

  1. Sharmini Says:

    I have tried for 10 years to get a reservation by ringing 2 months before to no avail.We have been to Heston’s in London which was lovely but not spectacular .We got through to fat duxk but tables for 2 were all booked out

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