The Fat Duck (***)
Two weeks ago, I went to the Fat Duck with some friends. This is a restaurant by Heston Blumenthal in Bray (village near London), sporting 3 Michelin stars. Now for those of you who don’t know Heston, he is a pretty big deal.
Working his way up the the top, questioning the consensus en re-innovating food. Perfecting dishes by trial & error… and science!
He’s known for his ‘molecular cooking’ approach (although he doesn’t like to use that term… it’s simply using all possible means to perfect the dish and not just pepper, salt and the standard kitchen equipment) . I read one of his books, watched multiple youtube videos and was extremely excited about the dinner. My hopes were obviously way to high, since I expected simply the best food ever.
Bray was supposed to be ‘near London’, but it’s actually 45 minutes by car with no traffic. When you go on a weekday around 6pm, you can add another 30 minutes. Thank god we left early and arrived almost in time. Here we go:
The first dish would be made from foam made of either vodka+lime, tequila+grapefruit+basil or campari+orange. We each picked one and the waitress would poach it in liquid nitrogen to create this:
Cold, crunchy on the outside and pretty soft on the inside, melts away in your mouth. I went for the tequila+grapefruit+basil because that was the most special combination and I didn’t regret my decision at all. good stuff.
This was the next course. It packed a bit of punch thanks to the red cabbage, but the mustard ice cream could used some. But I guess it’s to provide some creamy balance. Next up was a Noma favorite: moss!
Part 1 of the moss was a thin piece of edible paper which we were to put on our tongue. It melted away with what would be some kind of mossy flavor.
The real course was oak moss & truffle toast + jelly of quail, crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait. The bowl with the jelly was build up out of different layers with different structures. Only comment I could give is that these dishes could have used the smell of moss to really elevate them to the next level….
Ok, scratch that.
(What you smell while eating should/could influence what you taste, but I’m not sure if this had a big effect for me. But it definitely looked cool!)
Snail porridge, a Fat Duck classic. Tasted fine, but not a huuuge fan.
But luckily next up was what some people at my table decribed as the best roasted foie gras they ever had. Not sure if I agree, but at least it was pretty damn close.
Apparently, Heston is a fan of Alice in Wonderland. This is a dish inspired by that. I’ll spare you the details, because I don’t know them myself.
We each got to pick a ‘golden watch’ which was basically a stock cube covered with gold. Then we’d solve it in hot water and pour it into our soup bowl.
Sound of the Sea:
Yeah, so listening to ocean sounds while you eat, should alter the perception of how you taste the dish.
Not sure if the iPod had any effect, but the dish was beautiful and tasted good.
After eating some more fish, we were ready for the “main course”:
Again, epic. And again, described as ‘the best they ever had’ by multiple people at the table.
What is this sorcery? It looked like the glass just contained one single liquid, but one half was hot and the other cold. And for some mysterious reason, the two halves wouldn’t mix, which created an awesome experience.
All I can remember is that it tasted as good as it looked: many different flavors & structures and just when you thought it was a sweet dessert, you hit the crunch on the bottom which contained salty & cheesy flavors.
“The various elements of this dessert represent the (deconstructed) flavours of Chateau d’Yquem. Each ‘grape’ on the plate had a different texture and flavour, from simple and elegant to very intense and complex.”
“Verjuice/Verjus is a highly acidic juice made by pressing unripe grapes, crab-apples or other sour fruit.”
So, is the shell edible?
Guess it is. Kind of a Kinder Suprise for grown ups. The inside featured an egg made of panna cotta.
Some more candy for grown ups. These wine gums each actually contained a different kind of whisk(e)y.
As a goodbye present, each guest got a bag of sweets to take home. Or eat it asap, which I did. The little menu card was flavored with ‘the smell of a sweet shop’.
While the food was awesome, I expected too much. This wasn’t the best I had ever eaten, but “only top 5 material”. Simply flavorwise, I liked Frantzén better for example. But experiencewise, this has been unprecedented.
“But isn’t the food all that matters?” I hear some of you think.
Well, on my way to London I watched a documentary about El Bulli (RIP), and I have to agree with the wise words of Ferran Adria. He said that when people don’t go to these high end restaurants just for the food, but also for the overall experience. And that’s where the Fat Duck excelled.