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Sunday, 28 October 2012

The Fat Duck

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The Fat Duck
My journey to the Fat Duck started just over three months ago when my boyfriend surprised me for my birthday. Yes, the restaurant is still booked out every day and three months in advance. As much as the experience is totally amazing, mind boggling and creative for a first time visitor, the menu hasn't changed for a couple of years, and this is probably why the Fat Duck has slid down the ranks in San Pellegrino’s top 50 restaurants in the world to fourteenth place.  Nevertheless, this dinner would have to be my number one to date!

The magic and anticipation began on receipt of a special video. It took us on a journey through the ‘Sweet Shop’ and titillated our eyes and ears with promises of great taste and smells to follow. My taste buds prickled with excitement.

Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck is in a quiet street in Bray only houses down from his pub the Hinds Head. Both are un-imposing on the street. The low ceiling and exposed beams in the restaurant pose a threat to some very tall staff, but set an intimate atmosphere for the room. We were made to feel very welcome from the moment we entered to the moment we left in a taxi some 4 hours later (quickest 4 hours of my life).
Nitro poached aperitifs - vodka and lime, gin and tonic or campari soda  

In true Heston fashion the meal started with nitro poached aperitifs. Vodka and lime flavoured egg-white mousse instantly froze with theatrical flare and just as instantly crumbled in my mouth. A dragon-like vapour escaped from my nose while vodka and lime flavours cleansed my palate.  It was a real flavour of things to come.

Red cabbage gazpacho with pommery grain mustard ice cream followed next. A few spoonfuls of incredibly robust flavours and exquisite colours.
Jelly of quail, crayfish cream - chicken liver parfait, oak moss and truffle toast
More quintessential 'Heston' followed with the third course of jelly of quail and crayfish cream. The oak moss in a wooden box was given a fourth dimension with the addition of liquid nitrogen transforming the table into a scene from the Enchanted Forest. Strong oaky aromas filled the air adding to the already earthy flavours of the dish. Ok, perhaps the fog is just for theatrical value. The jelly of quail, crayfish cream and chicken liver parfait sits on top of a pea puree. We were advised to spoon all the layers at once, resulting in very intense flavours of foresty goodness. I sensed some oak, truffle and even mushroom. 
snail porridge - iberico bellota ham, shaved fennel
The Snail Porridge was definitely something which I have heard about but could never imagine...Snail Porridge? It is in fact made with real snails and real oats. The intense green colour is very much due to the parsley (not snail goo). The snails added a nice meaty texture to the dish while the fennel gave it that extra oomth of flavour. For the first warm dish of the sitting I very much enjoyed the richness and comfort of this dish.
roast foie gras - barberry, braised konbu and crab biscuit
Next came the roast foie gras, with barberry, braised konbu and crab biscuit. The foie gras was light, almost mousse-y with incredible flavour. I didn't feel that the braised konbu (brown film underneath - type of seaweed) gave any more flavour, however the barberry sauce had a nice sourness to cut through the dish. 
mad hatters tea party
mad hatters tea party
Mad Hatters Tea Party reminded us of Heston's drama of food. We were presented with a wooden box containing a gold pocket watch on a string. The watch was placed in a teapot and magically dissolved turning into a gold speckled broth for our mock turtle soup. Among other things in our teacup was a mock turtle egg with tiny mushrooms placed on top adding to the magical feel and presentation of the dish. The soup was complimented by probably the most tasty sandwich in the world, although unfortunately I couldn't tell you what was in it. The whole experience was magical and truly outstanding.
sound of the sea
Possibly the most challenging course for me (and this is saying something as I eat everything) was the Sound of the Sea. Sashimi of mackerel, halibut and abalone sat on top edible sand made from tapioca and sardines, surrounded by edible seaweed and sea flavoured foam. The dish was visually stunning and creative with the addition of an iShell playing the sounds of crashing waves and chirping seagulls. The sea flavours were so fresh and robust with ocean that this is where the challenge was. It pushed my love of seafood flavours to the brim where I nearly couldn't hack it.  Images of myself swimming through the sea taste testing everything that I could see floated through my mind. Heston achieved the ultimate sensory experience with this dish.
salmon poached in liquorice gel - artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and golden trout roe
I felt that the poached salmon in liquorice gel which came next was the least inspiring dish. Of course the salmon was mind blowing, but the vanilla mayonnaise was too sweet and overall there was not enough contrasting flavours to compliment each other. 

lamb with cucumber, onion and dill fluid gel
The lamb with cucumber was probably the most 'normal' course i.e not singing, floating or dissolving in front of us. It was uncomplicated and the strength of the dish was due to the perfectly cooked lamb which melted in my mouth. My favourite part of this dish was the onion and dill fluid gel which was served on the side with lamb shoulder, tongue and crackling. The gel was refreshing and acted as a palate cleanser after each bite of lamb and cucumber.

Mind blowing 'Hot & Iced Tea' came out next. Left side cold tea, right side steaming hot. I am still unsure of what chemical reaction this had to undergo but drinking this cup of tea was the most unbelievable taste sensation, and the perfect preparation for the numerous courses of desserts to come. 

Macerated strawberries - olive oil biscuit, chamomile and coriander, jelly and ice cream cornet  
the bfg - black forest gateau
Not much could prepare us for the desserts, each was a standalone masterpiece exquisitely executed and breathtakingly tasty. The macerated strawberries dessert was not just art on a plate. The dish had some intriguing flavours of chamomile and coriander yet was still surprisingly sweet, while the jelly and ice cream cornet served on the side added the balancing sourness.  I particularly enjoyed the wild strawberries, something which I have not had since foraging for them as a child in Russia. The black forest gateau was not as impressive in appearance but just as punchy in flavours. At this stage fullness was definitely setting in. 
like a kid in a sweet shop
Whiskey wine gums then took us on a journey around Scotland, showcasing the distinct flavours and characteristics of Scottish whiskey. Cleverly the gums were presented on a map of Scotland and had to be eaten in chronological order; punchier flavours at the end. I am not a whiskey drinker, but I can definitively take it on in lolly form from now.

And just to top it all off, the dinner was finally finished with our very own bag of sweets 'Like a kid in a sweet shop'. From a ridiculously realistic but edible queen of hearts playing card to coconut flavoured edible tobacco, we were also told that one of the wrappers was fit to eat. Of course after such an unbelievable dinner where anything was physically possible and totally unexpected we did try most of the wrappers to no avail. Yep we literally left teeth marks on paper until finally realised that we can eat the cellophane. Amazing!

The Fat Duck really does aim to achieve a full sensory experience (sight, smell, touch, sound ant taste) over this journey of a meal. In fact, it is not a meal you can't call it that. It is literally the most exciting, theatrical, mind blowing food journey of all time. I really hope that I was able to relay the magic, but if you can you should really try and experience this for yourself.

Square Meal

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