[Bray] 3* The Fat Duck - A Journey into Heston Blumenthal's Wonderland
Rating: ❤❤❤❤1/2 (4.5/5)
So the main reason for our visit to London this time was because I managed to get reservations for The Fat Duck! The legendary restaurant by Heston Blumenthal needs little introduction with 3 Michelin stars and the #1 title from World's 50 Best Restaurant in 2005. It underwent a major renovation in 2015 and reopened with a new concept to take diners on a journey to relive their childhood memories. Reservations open 4 months in advance where you have to pay for the full price of the meal upon booking (£265 per person) - I felt that the reservation process was relatively easy unlike Osteria Francescana where I couldn't even get into the website at all for over an hour.
About a month before the meal, I got a questionnaire from the restaurant asking us about our memories - specifically what made us feel like kids in a sweetshop. Based on your answers, The Fat Duck will "customize" your experience...to a certain extent - I mean the menu is pretty much set for everyone but they may incorporate some of your memories as part of the presentation and add some trinkets here and there (more on that later). We did see some people getting bread that wasn't part of the menu (because we didn't get it) and we were told that it was based on the questionnaire so tip #1: if you want bread, then you should mention that in your answers!
Before I go any further, I feel like I should include a spoiler alert for anyone who's planning on going to The Fat Duck anytime soon since a big part of the experience was in the way the food was presented so if you know everything in advance, it may spoil the surprise for you. Even in the restaurant, I felt that the element of surprise was kind of destroyed for the guests who came in later because you can see what everyone was getting before you so tip #2: try to get the earliest seating if possible. But if you don't mind the spoilers, then read on for my journey into Heston Blumenthal's Wonderland aka The Fat Duck!
We arrived promptly for our lunch at noon by taking an Uber from London to Bray which took about 1 hour and 30 minutes. After being led to our table, we were handed a map of our journey which served as our menu for the day.
The journey was divided into 7 sections and we were given a magnifying glass to help us navigate our way around the map.
Hmm I wonder what I will find...definitely feeling like I'm Alice in Wonderland and I'm about to drop into the rabbit hole.
I'm ready for my journey into Heston's wonderland! Apologies for the rest of the photos - I had an issue with the shutter in my camera and all of my pictures came out with horizontal lines across them =(
1. The Day Before We Go: Are we nearly there yet?
For the first act, we were served 'A Change-of-Air' where we got to choose the flavor of our "welcome drink" from Palome, Campari Soda, Pina Colada and Vodka Lime Sour. What arrived was a solid nitro-poached cocktail that had us exhaling dry ice smoke from our nose like a dragon!
Aerated Beetroot Macaroon
Smoked Cumin Royale with Jerusalem Artichoke Ice Cream
2. Morning: Rise and Shine, It's Breakfast Time
The next act 'Excuse Me, My Tea Seems To Be Cold...And Hot' was a Hot and Cold Tea. Yes you read that right. But how can a drink be hot and cold at the same time you may ask ? Well the drink was split right down the middle with no visible divider and was actually hot on one side and cold on the other. The magic was into the use of liquid gel which was not as thick as regular gel and thin enough to drink as a liquid. The sensation was rather interesting especially when you are drinking the hot and cold liquid at the same time...but the taste left much to be desired. You can actually choose between coffee and tea, and the tea tasted much better than the coffee which tasted like bitter stale coffee (tip #3!).
For 'Why Do I Have To Choose Between A Variety Pack and A Cooked Breakfast', we received 6 cereal boxes with different designs (they're all the same inside by the way). We were told to open just one for each of us and pour the "cereal" into our bowl of "milk".
In reality, the cereal and milk were actually an English breakfast in disguise with Truffled Egg Mousse, Jellied Tomato Consomme, Bacon and Toasted Bread Cream - talk about playing with your senses!
We found some puzzle pieces inside our cereal box and it turned out to be a money box where we were to store a coin to be used for later.
3. Mid-Morning: First One To See The Sea...
The next dish was the famous 'Sound of the Sea' where we were given headphones to listen to sounds of crashing waves while eating cured sashimi with edible tapioca sand. We also got our first customization in the meal where we were given a postcard of Hawaii because we were celebrating our anniversary and we had gotten married there!
The 'Can I Have Some Money For An Ice Cream' came with a series of cute beach snacks that looked like a "Rocket" popsicle, "Twister" lollipop and "99" ice cream cone but was really a Waldorf Salad, Salmon with Avocado and Horseradish and Crab with Passion Fruit. Another personalized trinket related to our memories was found in the sand which was a mini yellow plastic snorkeling set.
And of course like a kid, I accidentally dropped my "ice cream" on the table when I tried to pick it up but was promptly given a new one (whew!).
'Then We Went Rockpooling' consisted of a Cornish Crab with smoked caviar and golden trout roe, veloute of white chocolate and sea vegetables. The sauce was poured over the crab at the table which dissolved part of the shell to reveal the caviar and trout inside the crab.
4. Afternoon: If You Go Down To The Woods Today...
'Damping Through The Bouroughgroves' brought us to the woods when the staff placed a tall glass vase on the table and filled it with smoke - emitting an earthy aroma that you'd find in the middle of a forest after a rainfall. The wooden airplane inside the vase was the last of our customized trinkets.
The dish looked like something straight out of the forest with Mushroom, Beet and Blackberry, Scented with Fig Leaf, Meadowsweet, Melilot, Oakmoss and Black Truffle.
Look what I found!
'...We Discovered the Mock Turtle Picnic' was a tribute to Mat Hatter's Tea Party where we were supposed to take the gold pocket watch (which was actually freeze-dried beef consomme covered in gold leaf) and dissolve it into a teapot. The teapot was then poured on top of another bowl with a mock turtle egg made of turnip and swede puree along with cubes of ham and turnip on the side. The Mock Turtle Soup originated in the 19th century when turtle soup was really popular but turtle meat was expensive and difficult to import so an alternative was developed using calve's head and feet instead. This is why the Mock Turtle in Alice in Wonderland has the body and shell of a turtle but the head, tail and feet of a calf.
We ended our adventure in the forest with a Toast Sandwich.
5. Evening: Are You Ready For Dinner?
From here, we had a more serious part of the meal with a traditional 3-course dinner consisting of a starter, main and dessert. J and I each chose a different dish so we tried everything that was available on the menu.
Coq au Vin
Roast Turbot with Caviar
Alphonso Mango, Pepper and Mint
6. Bedtime: Off To the Land of Nod
The lights dimmed at our table during the 'Counting Sheep' course where we got an all-white dessert of Malt, Orange Blossom, Tonka, Milk, Meringue, Crystallized White Chocolate Pistachio. The attention to detail was astounding here - even the furry rabbit fur spoon handle had been scented with baby powder!
The magnetic pillow with our meringue snacks which seemingly floated in mid-air.
7. And Then To Dream...
Our last act was 'Like A Kid In A Sweetshop' where a super cute miniature sweetshop was wheeled out to our table! We finally put our coin (which we had been keeping in the wooden money box) to good use here by inserting it into a slot on the side and a random drawer popped out with our petit fours.
Our petit fours consisted of Oxchoc with layers of nougat and soft caramel, Caramel in and Edible Candy Wrapper, Queen of Hearts Jam Tart and Mandarin Scented Aerated Chocolate.
Admittedly not all of the dishes at The Fat Duck were impressive when it came strictly down to flavors, but the overall dining experience was surely one of the most memorable and magical of all! I definitely felt like a kid in a sweetshop at times when the courses were presented to us in the most creative way and I wanted to point at each and every single thing asking "Ooh what's this? Ooh whats that?". There were seemingly a lot of criticism for the high price tag after the renovation but for these once-in-lifetime type of experience, I think it's worth the splurge.
The Fat Duck
High Street, Bray, Berkshire, SL6 2AQ
Tel: +44 (0) 1628 580 333http://www.thefatduck.co.uk/
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