THE FAT DUCK - REVIEWED BY OUR MARKETING MANAGER EMMA
I find opinion is very much divided when it comes to Heston Blumenthal. Some say he is too much of a food scientist and not enough of a ‘cook’, whereas others are inspired by his drive to push the boundaries. I must admit, I sit very much in the latter camp; his ability to create an emotional journey through dining is simply outstanding.
I purposely did not read or research before my visit, I wanted to be surprised and I am pleased to say my trip to the Fat Duck delivered beyond my expectations.
- A 16th century cottage built in Bray, Berkshire.
- Opened in 1995 – Heston put himself and the little cash he had on the line and bought a formerly run down pub.
- It started as a French Bistro but it soon became evident that Heston had a knack for food pairing, flavour encapsulation and multi-sensory cooking.
- It gained its first Michelin start in 1999, it’s second in 2002, and it’s third in 2004 making it the fastest ever UK restaurant to get to three Michelin stars.
- It now has a team of over 40 year full time chefs covering three kitchens, the lab, the prep and the finishing kitchen.
- £255 a head before service charge (12.5%) and drinks.
THE ENTRANCE, DECOR AND STAFF
Blink and you would miss the Fat Duck, there’s no big sign or fancy entrance door. Out of the corner of my eye I spotted three pieces of dangling cutlery above a cottage. Bingo. Knocking on the door, I felt like I was popping round someone’s house for a cup of tea, until the door opened.
An immaculate waitress welcomed us inside a small but smart reception area and gave us our itinerary (menu) of our holiday journey that we were about to embark on. Heston wanted to take us back to that feeling we had as a kid when we packed off to the seaside for a summer holiday,
The doorway to the restaurant proceeded to slide open like something out of Star Trek. Inside lay 14 tables with the most beautiful leather chairs (£3,000 apiece), underneath a white beamed ceiling. The waiting staff looked like Heston’s Army, the ladies wearing cream neck bow polo neck’s and their hair tied in knot buns. The men smart in tweed and polished brogues. They were immaculate.
Our waitress explained our journey telling us we were ‘leaving the city and off to the seaside in the car, it was time for a change of air’ before serving a beautiful beetroot and horseradish macaroon that melted away in my mouth. A pleasant change of air. Throughout the meal, it became apparent to me just how much of an important part the waiting staff play at the Fat Duck. They performed restaurant theatre at the table, through speeches and cooking. The Sommelier invited us to the cellar to choose wine to accompany our meal.
THE FOOD HIGHLIGHTS
It would not be fair for me to give you every detail of every dish I ate. I don’t want to ruin the surprise. I will give you some of my highlights:
There’s the famous Sound of the Sea, a delectable dish of sashimi with seaweed notes, eaten while listening to a pair of headphones that play the sound of crashing waves and children playing. We went down to the Rockpools to catch a white chocolate crab. An explosion of rich yet delicate flavours.
There was a birthday in our group and the acknowledgement was subtle yet eye catching. We got stuck into our lollipops from the ice cream van, a ‘Zoom’ style walnut salad ice lolly. The lolly stick had a ‘Happy Birthday Maggie’ message on it. We also went ‘Foraging in the Woods’ where we found wild mushrooms and a porcini mushroom log with delectable berries underneath.
In the evening of our ‘holiday’ we were invited to ‘relax with a cocktail’ by underlining it on the cocktail list, our choice on paper was inserted into a cream dispenser and then dropped into a bubbling bowl of liquid nitrogen. The result? A Pina Colada frozen meringue, delicious!
‘Dinner’ was then served with the most succulent langoustine and believe it or not the most tender duck I have ever eaten. At the end of the meal, we were invited into Heston’s sweet shop for our petit fours, a £150,000 ‘doll’s house’ style sweet shop that arrived at our table. My bag of treats included his famous ox flavoured chocolate.
The price tag is eye watering for the average punter, the profit margin minimal according to Heston. For 15 courses, and 5 hours of pure delight and surprise – it’s worth it for a special occasion! It’s not just a restaurant, it’s a theatre that will really take you ‘out of the box’ for the day and give you a once in a lifetime experience.