The Fat Duck is #5 top restaurant IN THE WORLD right now. Yes, the whole world… and it’s about 10 miles from where I currently live. If I’m honest, I (despite calling myself a foodie) was never really interested in going there because of all the talk about how Heston serves up weird meals made up of not-really-food ingredients, but M really wanted to and my attitude softened as I watched How to Cook like Heston too. That left the problem that it is virtually impossible to get a reservation there – our booking on Friday claimed the last table for 2 until April (at least on a Friday or Saturday). If that hadn’t been the case I would’ve tried to wait until I was no longer maintaining a weight at least 14lbs above my panic and get back on a diet weight…
One thing I did when making the reservation was add a comment that I was gluten-free – and I was very impressed by the way they looked after me! On arrival they checked the details of my intolerance – was I ok with oats, spelt, soy etc so that I could feel totally comfortable with eating every they had to offer. And in most cases, my course looked exactly like M’s, so I wasn’t left feeling like I had an inferior ‘compromise dish’!
Our table was booked at 1pm, and the website suggests allowing 3.5 hrs for lunch!!! That was an UNDERestimate!!! We didn’t leave till 5pm!
I did take my camera but didn’t remember to photograph every course. Still, here goes…
1) Pre-lunch amuse bouche: We each had what looked like one small ‘french macaron’ - a tiny mouthful with a beautiful, deep red shell with a creamy pale filling. The shell was beetroot, and the filling horse-radish cream – and I would not, could not have guess what a wonderful combination of flavours that would be!
2) 1st course: Nitro-poached Aperitifs. We had a choice of 3 flavours – vodka & lime, campari & soda, or Gin & Tonic. I had vodka & lime. The dry ice was used to poach a light cream to give it a crisp shell while remaining soft inside; the idea was to eat it in a single mouthful, where it would explode and instantly dissipate in your mouth, completely freshening the mouth with a burst of citrus.
3) Red cabbage gazpacho with Pommery Grain mushroom ice-cream. Beautiful, delicious, and again an incredible unexpected flavour combination!
4) Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, Chicken Liver parfait, oak moss & Truffle Toast. If I’m honest, this course looked beautiful but I didn’t like it. I’m not a fan of chicken liver (or any other kind of liver) and I didn’t enjoy the jelly of quail either, since the texture and flavours didn’t seem to, well, ‘gel’ for me!
5) Snail porridge. I was unsure about this course originally, but really enjoyed it. The porridge itself was delicious, and though I didn’t necessarily think the snails added a lot of flavour, they did offer a great contrasting texture that I liked a lot
6) Roast foie gras. OK, see my comment about not liking liver…. and forget it, as this was great! The original dish came with a delicate crab biscuit, mine had a different biscuit and was absolutely amazing. I wouldn’t have wanted a bigger portion as the foie gras was incredibly rich and soft, but it was perfect in that serving size.
7) Mock Turtle Soup. This course was full of theatre – and edible gold leaf! A bowl was placed on the table containing a turnip mousse, tiny chinese mushrooms and a dumpling. We were also given a cup of boiling water, and a ‘gold fob watch’ was dunked in the water to make a lovely stock which was then poured into the bowl to complete the mock turtle soup!
8) Sound of the Sea. I really liked the sound of this dish, and if I’m honest, I was disappointed by it The sashimi of tuna, mackerel and halibut was great, but I wasn’t keen on the foam or the tapioca ‘sand’ so the dish didn’t really excite me as a whole – though I liked the sound effects of crashing waves delivered through an ipod hidden in a conch shell!
9) Salmon poached in liquorice gel – perfect salmon, accompanied by delicious artichokes and golden trout roe. I wouldn’t say the vanilla mayonnaise added much flavour, but that could be because the other flavours blew me away!
10) Saddle of venison with beetroot soubise, risotto of
spelt rice for me! and umbles. O.M.G. I was very much uncertain about the umbles as that’s offal and bluntly ewww. But, it was great! The risotto wasn’t a risotto so much as a savoury puffed rice with a hint of crunch, and it was excellent. The venison was the best venison I’ve ever had, possibly even the best red meat I’ve ever had, and if M had looked away from his plate for one minute I might have been forced to steal some of his – but he didn’t, until it was all gone!!!
11) Hot & Iced tea. I have no idea how they did this, though I bet dry ice was involved somewhere. One cup containing both hot and iced tea – and the hot tea was actually hot, not warm, and the iced tea was cold, not just cook – an amazing sensation when drinking it, and the tea tasted great too!!!
12) Tafferty Tart. This was the only course you could really tell was different for me than for M, as they’d combined the same flavours of caramelized apple, fennel, rose & candied lemon without the actual ‘tart’. It was amazing, and I loved the way each flavour could be distinguished separately while combining together brilliantly as well
13) The ‘BFG’ – Black Forest Gateau. Mine looked exactly the same as M’s, and was absolutely to die for. It looked dense and rich, and the flavours were, yet it was light enough to eat after 12 other courses and over 3 hours of lunch!
14) Whisk(e)y wine gums. I love wine gums but I don’t really love whisky (however you spell it!) This course consisted of 5 ‘wine gums’ flavoured with different whiskys from around the world (well, Scotland the US anyway). I could detect different flavours in the different gums, as opposed to just a general ‘whisky-ness’ but would’ve preferred them to be flavoured with wines given the choice.
15) “Like a kid in the sweet shop” – a bag of sweets that could be eaten in the restaurant or taken home. I took them home, feeling slightly virtuous for waiting, but then ate them minutes after we got back without photographing them, so I guess I was no less piggy than most other people!!!
M insisted on getting a cheese plate as well. I didn’t feel I had room for any myself, but when they brought the cheese they had 2 plates of crackers – normal crackers for M, gf ones for me – so I felt I had to show my appreciation. The crackers were so thin you could almost see through them and fantastically crisp while somehow still managing to hold the weight of small pieces of very good cheeses – fantastic!
I also managed to drink too much wine, but although the wine was incredible I don’t know enough about it to critique it in any way. I chose a Riesling Spatlese from Mosel and wanted to bathe in it… there was also a cabernet sauvignon from Napa Valley, which was also great but I prefer white generally, and a delicious dessert wine as well.
I freely admit I was wrong not to be keen on the idea, as it was definitely an experience. Because they only offer a tasting menu and it doesn’t change I don’t expect to go back, but it was certainly memorable! For a better review and much better photographs, check out this site