The Fat Duck (Gourmet Chick in Berkshire)

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It’s the big one. For reasons both financial and organisational it has taken me four years of living in London to finally make it to The Fat Duck. Of course I had heard how fabulous it is, I had noted the numerous awards, gongs and three Michelin stars along with poring over the copious blog posts and newspaper reviews to the extent that I knew the entire contents of the menu off by heart. However I had not actually been as cost and complete inability to commit to a meal two months in advance to the day had deterred me until MTV boyfriend sweetly suggested eating there to celebrate our one year wedding anniversary.

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Nitrogen steam covers our table at The Fat Duck
 
Bring on the crazy nitrogen steam, scented moss and dissolving watches – I was finally off to the Fat Duck!
 
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Gin and tonic palate cleanser
 
In keeping with my ridiculously high expectations, the meal started with a bang, or rather a hiss and a pop. The hiss was the sound of the nitrogen steam that was used to create a solid, icy cold ball of gin and tonic. The ball was finished with a sprinkling of green tea dust and then the pop was the ball dissolving in my mouth as the perfect alcoholic palate cleanser.
 
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Beetroot gazpacho
 
Red cabbage gazpacho with mustard ice cream sounded quite revolting on paper but in Heston Blumenthal’s hands it was a triumph. The gazpacho was thing but rich and the pommery grain mustard ice-cream provided a tangy but sweet antidote to the soup.
 
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Jelly of quail with crayfish cream
 
Probably the most visually spectacular dish of the meal was next, the jelly of quail with crayfish cream. The dish recreates the experience of truffle hunting in the countryside, first through a film served on the moss which I placed on my tounge to experience a mild, woody taste. Then through the spectacle of more liquid nitrogen poured over the moss to create a blanket of cloud over the whole table. Finally the experience finished by eating a luxurious chicken liver parfait served with rich truffle toast. Through the visual theatre, the taste and even the smell this one course transported me straight into a misty morning truffle hunting in the Provencal countryside.
 
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Snail porridge
 
While it lacked the smoke and mirrors, Blumenthal’s signature dish of snail porridge did not disappoint. The oats that made up the porridge were a lurid green from the parsley they were cooked with and the salty, tender snails were teamed with shards of Iberico ham and the slight licorice hit of shaved fennel.
 
Roast foie gras was quite simply the best foie gras I have ever tasted in my life. It instantly converted MTV boyfriend (a simple meat and three veg man) to the foie gras camp. The foie gras was creamy and wobbly in the centre and slightly bronzed and denser around the edges adding a textural element to the dish. It was balanced by the tang of rhubarb jam.
 
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Roast foie gras
 
Each dish seemed to top the next but the real highlight came with the mock turtle soup which was served in the style of Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea party. Just as the Mad Hatter dunked his fob watch in the tea, so too a gold fob watch was dipped into a cup of boiling water and dissolved to leave behind the richest, most pungent broth flecked with shreds of gold leaf.
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The dissolving watch
 
I was then instructed to pour the broth into a bowl of a turnip mousse, which was designed to resemble a mock turtle egg, delicate enoki mushrooms and a meaty dumpling. The whole dish was just magical and I could not help grinning in child like wonderment.
 
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Mock turtle soup
 
Equally as visually spectacular was the “Sound of the Sea” which I ate while listening to to waves crash through an ipod located in a giant sea shell. The dish was presented on a two tier wooden and glass board and was topped with sashimi of brilliantly fresh tuna, halibut and mackerel on top of ‘sand’ made out of spiced tapioca and a shellfish foam. It was wacky and brilliant although I was not as wowed by the taste as I found the tapioca a little too dry and perhaps a too accurate representation of sand.
 
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Sound of the Sea
 
A fillet of salmon was perfectly cooked to a firm pink and then poached in a sticky licorice gel which provided a mild aniseed flavour to the fish. The salmon was teamed with in season asparagus, creamy vanilla mayonnaise and tiny explosions of golden trout roe.
 
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Licorice salmon
 
The dish that made me think I might not make it to dessert was the pigeon with spelt risotto. The pigeon was served with meaty blood pudding and a dense, sticky sauce. The bird seemed to have been cooked sous-vide so that it was ridiculously soft and rich and nearly finished me off when teamed with the risotto.
 
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Pigeon
 
Of course when you have ODed there is nothing that can pick you up again like a good old cup of tea. Or more specifically Blumenthal’s hot and iced tea which alternates between freezing cold iced tea and steaming hot tea in each breath. My mind could only boggle at the actual science that went into this but whatever it was, it was delicious and resuscitated me in time for the three desserts.
 
First up was the taffety tart, a confection of absolute patisserie precision which I had eaten before at Blumenthal’s Dinner restaurant in London (the only overlap on the menus of the two restaurants that I am aware of). It was as good as I remembered with incredibly thin layers of pastry balance on puffs of fromage blanc which were enlivened by an intense scoop of blackcurrant sorbet.
 
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Taffety tart
 
Even better though was the “BFG”, a contemporary take on the classic black forest gateau. It was creamy and chocolately all at the same time and utter perfection right down to the edible stalk on the cherry on top. Accompanied by kirsch ice cream and a spritz of Black Forest scent it was perhaps the ultimate dessert.
 
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BFG
 
After dinner came whiskey, or in Blumenthal’s case whiskey gums ingeniously served on a map of Scotland. It distinct flavours and characteristics of each whiskey were actually clearer than they ever have been when I am drinking the stuff so perhaps I should imbibe all whiskey in gum form from now on.
 
We had actually opted not to get the matching wines per course and so were not too sloshed by this stage and so actually able to enjoy the whiskey gums. For a saving of £70 on the cheapest wine matching option we were still able to enjoy a glass of Tattinger each, a glass of white wine and then to share a bottle of red. All were expertly selected by the sommelier and this offered a good option for those more interested in the food than the wine at The Fat Duck.
 
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Whiskey gums
 
To finish there was a bag of treats called “A kid in a sweetshop”. I was so full that I opted to take the treats away and enjoy the novelty of things such as an apple pie caramel with an edible wrapper from the comfort of home. This also allowed me to eek out a little bit longer the incredible Fat Duck experience which had already taken about four hours in the restaurant.
 
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Sweet shop goodies to take away
 
I was blown away by the theatrical nature of my meal at the Fat Duck. It was not only some of the best food I have eaten in my life, it was also truly an experience rather than just a meal. I was constantly delighted, amused and entertained by what appeared before me. The fact that such an experience was served in a low key, relaxed environment only made the meal more enjoyable.
 
Finally I can say I have been there, eaten and got the tshirt. Well I probably would have if The Fat Duck sold such a thing.
 
Essentials
Details: The Fat Duck, High Street, Bray Berkshire SL6 2AQ (Ph +44 (0) 1628 580 333)
Damage: Budget breaking. The tasting menu is £160 a person. Including drinks our meal came to £500 for two.
10/10
 
Gourmet Travel Tips
  • To get to The Fat Duck we caught the train from Paddington in London to Maidenhead which took about 45 mins and cost £10 return off peak. The Fat Duck is less than 10 minutes in a cab from Maidenhead station.
  • When booking ask for a table by the window as they are easily the best ones in the restaurant. We got one there by fluke but you may not be so lucky.
 
Links
If you liked reading this you might be interested in my reviews of Blumenthal’s pub, The Hind’s Head or his restaurant in London, Dinner.

The Fat Duck on Urbanspoon

26 comments

  1. a lovely post, I’m very envious. And one day I’m sure I will make it there. But one thing I am unsure of. It seems to me that a lot of the dishes on that menu have been on it for years. Do you think that this is a case of playing the greatest hits. He is the chef that most of the press call the snail porridge guy. I’m sure that Heston is not short of imaginative new dishes as we see on his TV shows. why do you think he doesn’t change it up a bit?

  2. Wow you’re SO lucky! I’m dying to go. BTW went to spuntino last night after reading your post and loved it!!!! Have a great weekend xx LondonZest

  3. Oh it all looks amazing! I have tried to get a reservation literally forever, but never seem to try at thye right time. xx

  4. What an experience! That looks like an amazing dinner from start to finish and so dramatic!

  5. I always want to go to any restaurant you write about, but this must be the piece de resistance!

    x x x

  6. Such fantastic photos and write up of a brilliant place. It’s been two years since we were there- but just the sight of the BFG (which wasn’t on the menu when we went) might be enough to get us saving our pennies again.

  7. If The Fat Duck did sell a t-shirt, it’d probably be edible!

  8. Congratulations on your one year anniversary! And thank you for these gorgeous photos. I too feel like I know the menu by heart (despite having never been, I’ve read so much about it) but seeing all these pictures close up is making me think I can’t wait that much longer to go. Totally mad, totally incredible and, by the sounds of it, totally delicious. Wow.

  9. Lovely review GC! And what beautiful food. The attention to detail is staggering (hand picked grapefruit pearls with the salmon!) It’s been a while since I was there, but it looks like The Fat Duck is definitely deserving of its status as one of the best in the world.

  10. Loved reading this – the food looks fantastic, and thanks for such a great write up!

  11. It all looks amazing. Have still not managed to get organised enough to go. Will have to soon.

  12. So jealous! I’ve yet to go – it looks amazing!

    And by the way… congratulations on your 1 year anniversary! 😀

  13. So we are agreed. Nice post & photos. All the best, and happy anniversary.

  14. Made it there for my birthday last year. Like you, I loved it, how could you not.

  15. That food looks absolutely incredible – never seen anything like it. £500 for 2 is a lot though, but it looks genius…

    Adam from Go dine – http://www.godine.co.uk

  16. What a great post! I really have to get focused to get a table there, looks it’s worth the money.

  17. Looks amazing. I have been three times and wondering if I should go again.

    Great seeing you the other night.

  18. Sam Hill – yes you are right – some dishes have been on there for years like the snail porridge. They are still brilliant but I wonder if this means the restaurant does not attract repeat clientele as much.

    Emily – So good to hear you loved Spuntino

    A girl writes – It is a complicated system alright

    Fashion Foie Gras – It was!

    Flower Girl – I loved it. Highly recommend.

    Tori – Has the menu changed much in the two years?

    Mr Noodles – Very true

    The Little Loaf – That’s exactly the way I felt – have read about it so many times

    Nordic Nibbler – Yes the attention to detail is just brilliant and really makes the whole experience.

    Jo Romero – Thanks, it was

    May – It does take quite a bit of organising I agree

    Yeebot – Thanks very much.

    Laissez Faire – Yes we do agree – thankyou!

    Vintage Macaroon – What a great place to celebrate a birthday

    Anon – Yes it is a lot – a one in the lifetime opportunity

    Ute – It’s a lot of money but I think you do see where your money goes.

    A girl has to eat – Three times – wow! You too…

  19. Oh wowee, looks amazing! I daresay I’m more likely to make it to Dinner than here but I can see why people save their pennies to go!

  20. Sarah – Yes it was brilliant! But I agree Dinner is much more accessible…

  21. Looks amazing, any tips on getting through to reserve? Persistence I imagine…

  22. Eatstreetsandleaves – Just ring on the allocated day (exactly two months in advance of the day you want to go, on a weekday) and just being a bit flexible with days as well. Eg don’t have just one day in mind which is the only day you can go on.

    Charlotte – Thanks Charlotte!

    1. The reservation system has changed somewhat and by the sounds of things much easier than what It was. We have been lucky enough to get a table in May. What happens now is that they will release a month of bookings, 3 months ahead. So for example, if you want any date in June, you will log on, on the 01st April and you can book any date in June. Having said that, be sure to open the reservation window before 9.30am when reservations open. Continue to refresh the page to make sure that you are ready and able as soon as they open. We found that they didn’t actually become available until around 9.45am so persevere. The other thing I have noticed now is the reservation line is open from 11am – 2pm, so if you want more of a chance of getting a table, online is the way to go. Good luck everyone!

    2. Jason – Thanks very much for providing this updated information. I have heard as well that now when you make a reservation you get access to a special online interactive experience which sounds quite cool. Good luck everyone with your reservations – it is worth it.

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