FAT DUCK - THE SHOW MUST GO ON

My second blog post from abroad comes from none other famous institution than the world's second best restaurant according to some: the Fat Duck. The Fat Duck and its star chef Heston Blumenthal is an avid follower if not one of the creators of molecular gastronomy, where science and technology triumph over simple homely cooking. Where nothing is what it seems and seemingly there are no barriers to experimenting with flavours and wild and wonderful combinations.




Heston is similar to Ferran Adria in many ways, except you get a 30 course tasting menu at El Bulli, but only 17 at the Fat Duck. 17 courses of non stop mayhem, where every single dish aims to draw some sort of major reaction or response from the guests from "oh my god", to "I can't stop laughing", to "I haven't seen anything so beautiful/disgusting in my life". But most of the cases you can't even say a word, because the presentation of the dishes (which are created in front of you in some cases) leave you speechless. You just sit there thinking this is the most amazing culinary experience you've ever had. Not necessarily taste wise, but rather experience and show-wise.

The Fat Duck sits in a small village called Bray on Thames about 45 minutes from London along the M4. It's only a stones throw away from Heathrow really, so make sure you drop by next time you land. I tried to reserve a table about 2 months ago on the phone, but were kindly told that it was impossible to book for my given date, but I would be put on the waiting list and if anything came up...bla bla bla. Well I didn't give it any chance at all at that time, but 4 days before my trip the phone rang and a beautiful voice at the other end of line asked me if I was still open Friday night, because there had been a cancellation. My heart leapt with joy and I immediately said yes! I am so lucky in a way, because the same thing happened with the French Laundry 4 years ago: I was called up at the very last moment and a table was offered to me. So off we went to Bray to taste the food that I had read so much about in practically every world famous culinary blog.

We all went for the 17 course tasting menu, which had about 4-5 amouses, 2-3 starters, about 3-4 palate cleanser type of dishes stuck in between and about 4 desserts. This time the focus will be on the pictures themselves and I'll make some very short notes about each dish, but try and leave it up to your fantasy. The whole dinner started off with some home-made bread and churned butter: unpasteurized and pasteurized and salted and unsalted. Because we were pretty hungry we downed at least 4 slices before the first amouses started arriving, so all was well.

Nitro green tea and lime mousse (2001). The date marks the first creation of this course, which was our first liquid nitro course. A small blob of mousse gets nitroed and then doused with some powder. You then put it in your mouth and the ice cold blob dissolves and cold steam comes out of your nose. Weird, wonderful.




Oyster, passion fruit jelly and lavender. For those of you not so keen on the oyster taste- this is an amazingly good dish combining sweet jelly, salty oyster and hot horseradish. A wonderful journey for your tongue.






Pommery grain mustard ice cream, red cabbage gazpacho. The mustard ice cream was creamy and almost sweet, while the gazpacho was acidic and tart. As soon as the ice cream dissolved on your spoon or in the plate, the two joined hands in complete harmony.





Jelly of quail, langoustine cream, pea puree and parfait of foie gras (in the white little pot). Oak moss on the green grass and truffle toast next to the white pot. The oak moss was actually a little "breath freshener" type of thing that you put on your tongue and it dissolves leaving a taste of.... oak and moss. You then take a spoonful of the jelly/puree/cream and parfait and realise that it is the most intense taste sensation you have ever had, but it all makes sense in your mouth. The earthy woody tones are underlined by the truffle and toast.




2005 Silvaner Spatlese Trocken, Iphöfer Kronsberg, Dr. Wirsching, Franken – good, good wine to accompany all of the above.





On to the starters. First one of the signature dishes of The Fat Duck: Snail Porridge with joselito ham and shaved fennel. At the bottom lies a green porridge coloured by loads of flat leaf parsley, then 4-5 plump and truly delicious snails, in between slices of ham and fennel on top. The best dish of the night. Yum Yum. Even the thought of those snails makes my mouth water. A chateauneuf du pape came along with it.



Roast foie gras with almond fluid gel and chamomile. Chamomile? I last time I had chamomile was when I was 5, I had a cold and my mother prepared and hot bowl of chamomile tea to sit over and breathe in deeply. But to find it lying on top of a perfectly made piece of liver? Astonishing. And delicious of course. The liver still creamy enough. Not a big fan of the almond fluid, but I understand it goes well with the liver.



Sound of the Sea. The most bizarre dish of the night. Also the worst taste. But the most fun!! We first received an ipod in a shell. The ipod had a constant repeat of seagulls crying, crashing waves and the seaside. The dish was a strange concoction of a sashimi of razor clams, oyster and abalone? While the white foam was definitely oyster. I felt like having a big gulp of seawater while a seagull took a dump in my mouth. Not very good in terms of taste, but 10/10 for presentation and fun. Rashiku Junmai Ginjo Sake to go along with it. Cool!

Salmon poached with liquorice. Artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise. Not a big fan of liqourice, but I understand the efforts the chef is making to take us back to our roots and childhood days and tastes. The liquorice colours the salmon black, but the salmon stay wonderfully soft and retains all of its flavour. Forgot to take a picture of it, it was OK.



Ballotine of Anjou Pigeon with Black Pudding, pickling brine and spiced juices. The pigeon was very gamey and the black pudding pretty bloody. In fact the whole course reeked of blood a bit too much. Not a very good taste sensation. In fact, now is the time when I have to say that the main courses were all a bit disappointing. I thought that they would be the main attraction, but instead the amouses, starters and desserts were all much better. So keep on improving these, Heston my friend. The best thing about the course is the ’99 Cannubi Barolo. Hard hitting stuff.

Hot and ice tea. Amazing. They bring you glass of ice tea which looks completely normal. You then take a drink and realize that half of the tea in your mouth is really warm, while the other half is ice cold! This is because of the consistency, acidity, temperature of the two fluids: they simply don’t mix and stay apart. It’s magic.

Mrs. Marshall’s Margaret Cornet. A nice little cornet of delicious apple ice cream made using the age-old recipe of Mrs Marshall. Fun.

Pine Sherbet Fountain. Sherbet is also one of those things English kids grew up with. You suck it up through a tube and it tastes of pine trees! Perfect start for the next course which is the Douglas Fir puree with mango jelly on top. The puree and the sherbet all taste of pine trees and Christmas. Hand up those of you who have had a Douglas fir tree in your living room. Suck the leaves next time and you’ll know what I’m talking about.

2005 Vidal ice wine, Pelee Island Winery, Canada – I prefer the Szepsy Cuveé , but amazingly enough this one really tastes of pine trees and Canada! A perfect choice to accompany the food.

Nitro Scrambled Bacon and Eggs Ice Cream (2004)
A nitro dish to round off the night. The waitress comes up with a basket of Fat Duck branded eggs, which she breaks up into a pot. The eggs have been pre-filled with egg cream and it flows into the pot. The waitress then pours a large dose of liquid nitrogen on the egg paste and it turns into ice cream in a matter of seconds. The final dish is assembled with some French toast, an almost sweet piece of bacon „candy” and the egg ice cream. Wow! Wine: Jurancon, Uroulat, Charles Hours, South West. Still prefer a good 6 puttonyos aszú.

And a double wow to round it all off. A little plexi display appears with a map of Scotland drawn on it. The map has wine gums shaped like whiskey bottles stuck all over various regions of Scotland. Each gum tastes of different regions – Oban, Highland Park, Glenmorangie, etc. Peel off the gum, pop it in your mouth and let it dissolve and feel the peaty tastes! We almost laughed ourselves to death when we received this.






You must be wondering about the price of it all. 200 pounds per head.

Q: Am I crazy?
A: Yes, probably.
Q: Is Heston?
A: Yes, definitely.
Q: But is it all worth it?
A: Sure. It’s an experience of a lifetime. But there’s no real point of going back, because the menu rarely changes and there is little emphasis on seasonal ingredients.
Q: Is it the world’s best restaurant?
A: No, it’s a category on its own I guess.

The Fat Duck by Heston Blumenthal
Bray on Thames
http://www.fatduck.co.uk/

Overall: 9.5/10

2 megjegyzés:

Lila Füge said...

turning green. yellow. purple with envy. in that order. not nice. i know. but my time will come someday soon too

QJ said...

Finally, someone with taste buds writing about food! I agree with lots of your comments- but I loved the pigeon (but I grew up in the Midlands- home of black pudding, so maybe I'm immune to the blood overload?). I had this menu last week at the Fat Duck, and I'm still salivating at the thought of the snail porridge (definitely the highlight taste-wise) and egg and bacon ice-cream (I could have eaten at least 3 portions of this). An utterly fabulous meal- definitely worth doing the matching wines as they were really interesting. I can't wait to go back again- especially if I can find some handsome chap to pick up the bill...
Thanks for the write up... it brought the flavours flooding back. Jx