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Sunday, July 02, 2006

The Fat Duck Restaurant is truly a moving experience

The Fat Duck - An old pub in Bray high street
The Fat Duck - An old pub in Bray high street
The wine list is thick as the phonebook
The wine list is thick as the phonebook

Snail porridge. Just as amazing as its reputation. An amazing composition of taste texture and colour.
Snail porridge. Just as amazing as its reputation. An amazing composition of taste texture and colour.
The lamb chop was purely amazing. Juicy tasteful. Cooked for four hours.
The lamb chop was purely amazing. Juicy tasteful. Cooked for four hours.

I loved this black current sorbet - so fresh and so smooth.
I loved this black current sorbet - so fresh and so smooth.
One of the chefs is demoing the lamb chops in the vaccuum bags.
One of the chefs is demoing the lamb chops in the vaccuum bags.

Heston Blumenthal’s famous The Fat Duck Restaurant has been a dream of mine to visit for some time. Yesterday I finally had a chance to visit. A six week wait for a table was well worth it. The food is a moving experience for all senses. The Fat Duck has been voted best restaurant in the world in 2005 and number two in 2006 by Restaurant magazine poll by chefs, experts and food lovers, it has three stars in Guide Michelin. Together with Spanish El Bulli it is on the bleeding edge of a food trend called Molecular Gastronomy. With the stories in Wired and Fast Company this spring this trend is reaching new audiences. You can imagine my expectations were very very high. I was thinking “the Molecular Gastronomy” would be gimmicky, a kind of “beta - eatery”, eat in Heston’s lab kind of experience, but I was actually surprised, it was much more mature tech, the kind of technology inside. Sort of Mercedes, Bentley rather than Formula one, runs one day and then rebuild. The result of all science is just insanely great food, nothing more nothing less. (some recepies here)

We decided to eat the tasting menu; it contained their famous Snail Porridge and the Egg and Bacon ice cream. It cost £97 and it has about 10 dishes.

The Fat Duck is situated on the high street in Bray, a small village in the English country side, about 40 min from London’s Paddington with a fast train and taxi. Getting there is very easy. Like Guide Michelin says a 3 star restaurant is worth a journey on its own.

Heston Blumenthal had a passion for food, but did not get academically educated in the profession of cuisine, this might be the reason why he was able to think of cuisine in a novel way and make some very interesting innovations. Reaqd his candid biography on the restaurants web pages.

One of Heston Blumenthal’s signature dishes is the snail porridge. I was very much looking forward to tasting it. I like snails, and love porridge, so it should be a perfect fusion, only problem that it is typically eaten 12 hours apart. Now I had it together. The porridge was cooked in parsley like a risotto giving it a wonderful deep green color, with a bit of butter turned in this became a bit like a risotto, but with very different texture. The snails were great and perfecting it was Fennel cut in fine stripes like spaghetti. The dish had color, taste and texture. With that name I am sure some guests were very skeptical. Also this dish was not gimmicky, just pure scientifically improved taste.

What one will notice when eating at the Fat Duck is that the food is colder than at other restaurants. In another restaurant I would have attributed this to a quality problem, here it caught my curiosity, and I decided to probe into it. It is actually a very conscious decision of taste. They target is that the food should be just below 60 degrees Celsius of the hot dishes as this brings out optimal flavors. One of the most amazing dishes we had was the lamb chop, a dish I make myself, but this one was very very different. It was fully cooked, but all pink, yet the fat was nicely brown. Its taste was very very rich. When discussing this with the chefs they told me they cook it in a vacuum bag for 4 hours in 60 degree water. This method retains all the flavor and matures the meat slowly. Really delicious; a great classic dish moved to completely new heights. Their lamb chop is perfected, exactly what one could expect of a 3 star restaurant.

I always thought visiting a 3 star Guide Michelin restaurant would be some upscale snob kind of show off thing, where the staff would look down on you. The Fat Duck was none of that. The staff was amazingly approachable, very knowledgeable, professional and funny. They took lots of time with the guest explaining the food, how it was made and if they could not answer they promptly came back with facts. I felt almost that I was at someone’s home where a great party was staged. I think a reason for it is that the restaurant is not over designed, like the Sketch for example.

We started our dinner at 7.20PM and left at 00.15AM after a tour of the kitchen and great chat with the chefs. What made the Fat Duck such a fantastic experience is what is created in that small kitchen. The kitchen was no larger than 15sq.m and the chefs told me that at peaks 11 people work there. That is like cooking in the morning Tube. Getting around 380 plates during a night can be nothing short of culinary ballet. Working there must be more than work it must be religion as what comes out is heavenly. Should I have visited the kitchen first the experience would have been even more amazing.

It would be apropririate to ask can it get better than this. For me food is not about out-doing, instead I am searching for moving experiences and that can be a lamb chop cooked for 4 hours or a sandwich at the local pub. It was certainly one of the most amazing meals I have ever had. If you get a chance – make it a journey.

12:15 AM | Permalink

Comments

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