With the recent stint of The Fat Duck in Melbourne (and my inability to win a place, although the price was a little ridiculous), I have been reminiscing about my own adventure at the mothership.
I remember anticipating this meal greatly. I was going to finally book the #2 restaurant in the world for one of the meals of the century. During a short term contract in northern Tasmania, I made the phone call one late evening. I wasn't particularly keen to use my mobile to ring the UK, but the work phone operator was only too happy to connect my call through. With only a few available dates, the 1/10/2009 was keenly booked, and then it was only a short two months before the day.
The restaurant isn't all that conveniently located. It requires an overground train to Maidenhead, then a taxi to the restaurant in Bray. Of course all the taxi drivers know it - it probably contributes more business for them than anything else in the area. The unassuming building stands like a old tavern. The fine dining inside and the French-accented staff elevate the mood to elegant.
Green olives with subtle flavour and fantastic bread with crunchy crust with spreadable salted and unsalted butter start things slowly. Then comes the procession of overwhelming sensory load.
- Lime Grove (nitro poached green tea & lime mousse) - mousse bathed in liquid nitrogen then sprinkled with green tea. Cleansed the palate.
- Red Cabbage Gazpacho (pommery grain mustard icecream) - mustard-flavour icecream with a sweet cabbage sauce;
- Fat Duck Film - a delicate film which gives a mint/oak flavour to your tongue in anticipation;
- Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, Chicken Liver Parfait & Truffle Toast (with oak moss) - water is poured over the oak moss to create a mist of oak scent flowing over the table. The moss flavours the air whilst you eat the parfait and truffle toast.
- Roast Foie Gras (president plum puree, braised konbu & crab biscuit) - delicately soft foie gras. The alternative (for my friend) was a sublime piece of aubergine;
- Mock Turtle Soup c. 1850 "Mad Hatter Tea" - hot water added to the golden medallion of dashi/konbu broth surrounded by gold leaf. This tea is added to a bowl consisting of layered beef & fat, tofu (i think) with mushrooms, a few cucumber and pickles and thus mock turtle soup is born;
- Sound of the Sea - seashell with an iPod playing ocean & beach soundtrack, sashimi of yellowtail, mackeral & halibut, sand of tapioca and fried baby eels, foam of seaweed and vegetable stock, added sea jellybeans;
- Salmon Poached in Liquorice (artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise, golden trout roe & manni olive oil from Tuscany) - exquisitely cooked and flavoured salmon, better than Nobu's miso cod;
- Powdered Anjou Pigeon c. 1720 (blood pudding & confit of umbles) - perfectly cooked pigeon.
- Taffety Tart c. 1660 (caramelised apple, fennel, rose & candied lemon) - the tangy candied lemon syrup with the blackcurrant sorbet is a whole new level of iced desserts.
The Not-So-Full English Breakfast
- Parsnip Cereal - chips (similar to almond slices) with parsnip milk poured on top. I adore cereal, but this tops them all for sweetness and flavour;
- Nitro-Scrambled Egg & Bacon Ice Cream - an 'egg' is cracked into a pot. liquid nitrogen is poured in. they stir... and bacon-flavoured ice cream that looks like scrambled egg is formed;
- Hot & Iced Tea - a drink of sweet lemon tea that is hot, before a hit of ice cold tea in your mouth.
That tea is followed up by an enormous menu of actual tea, should you fancy.
- Chocolate Wine "Slush" c. 1660 (millionaire shortbread) - chocolate and delicate wine mixed and aerated. Rich chocolate, a layer of caramel, crisp shortbread base;
- Cheese platter selection;
- Wine Gums (historic trade routes of Britain) - 5 wine gums of mead, cognac, madeira, sherry, rum.
Finally a bag is handed to you with a small selection of designer sweets to take home. Added in is a printed copy of the menu.
"Like A Kid In A Sweet Shop"
- Aerated Chocolate (mandarin jelly);
- Coconut Baccy (coconut infused with an aroma of black cavendish tobacco);
- Apple Pie Caramel with an Edible Wrapper;
- Queen of Hearts (white chocolate with fruit compote).
It is unlike anything I've experienced before. With the passage of time, I think I've had meals with overall flavours that I've enjoyed more, but the multi-sensory journey that this brings is still unparalleled.
The menu itself was £130, but added onto this was the price of the arrival drink, cheese, service and the trains. Altogether it came out to £190 or so. Considering these days the UK Fat Duck charges £180 and the Australian one was $500 per person, I think my time was a bargain, and at the height of its powers. I count myself lucky for that opportunity. I don't know if I'll dine at The Fat Duck ever again, but I will return for Dinner (http://eatlikeushi.posthaven.com/dinner-by-heston-blumenthal-london-03-2012).