I first visited Heston Blumenthal‘s “The Fat Duck” in 2005. It had just become the best restaurant in the world and I treated myself and Mrs ITs Food to a Saturday a la carte lunch there for our wedding anniversary.
Most people choose the world famous “tasting menu” for their first visit (we waited until our second visit!) but we decided to keep it simple. We both decided to drink just water with the meal as well, Mrs ITs Food was driving and I decided to enjoy the food on its own.
The restaurant itself is a rather unassuming building in the village of Bray. Once you avoid the numerous Aston Martins and Ferraris (this is an affluent area) you immediately enter the surprisingly small dining room and are met by one of the excellent staff (mostly French). They say to the English, being a waiter/waitress is a dead end job, to the French it is a career. I can’t help agree, the staff were excellent and to a standard I’ve never seen in any other restaurant.
Now, please accept my apologies that some of the information below is a bit sketchy, this was well over 3 years ago and I’ve pieced this article together from emails I sent out to friends after we’d got back.
Between the courses you are served a variety of amuse-bouche, each showcasing Heston’s excellent control of flavour and texture. Thus our simple three course a la carte meal was actually a fantastically relaxed 3 hour meal consisting of about 7-8 courses.
Amuse-bouche: Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream with Red Cabbage Gazpacho – Lovely ice cream, I wasn’t a fan of the red cabbage though but I’ve never been a friend of gazpacho.
Amuse-bouche: Oyster with Passion Fruit Jelly, Lavender crisps and Horseradish – Passion fruit and Oyster, it’s a winning combination!
Starter (Me): Scallops with Sherry Jelly & Caramelised Cauliflower – Simple but perfectly cooked.
Starter (My Wife): Radish Raviioli of Oyster Goats cheese and truffle, rissole of fromage de tête.
Amuse-bouche: (Me): Jelly of Best End Of Lamb – The jellified juices of the lamb I was about to eat for my main course, designed to get the flavour of the lamb into my mouth. Very interesting and tasty, Heston calls these a “pre-hit”.
Main (Me): Best End Of Lamb with Parfait of Potatoes on Confit of Lamb with mustard greens – Honestly the best dish I’ve had in my entire life!
Main (My Wife): Venison with loads of stuff…! Sorry can’t remember much of this as the lamb was making me smile too much.
Amuse-bouche: Beetroot Jelly Sweet (like a fruit pastel!) with Orange & Carrot Toffee – He should sell these, they’re fantastic.
Amuse-bouche: (My wife): Pine Sherbert Fountain – Another “pre-hit” to give the taste of her course to come.
Dessert (Me): Macerated Mara des Bois Strawberries, purée of black olive & leather, pistachio scrambled eggs, vanilla ice cream – Yes, leather, I’m sure I didn’t mis-hear that. It went well with the strawberry, not to be eaten on it’s own. The pistachio scrambled eggs were fabulous and definitely one thing I’d try at home.
Dessert (My wife): Mango and Douglas Fir Puree, bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet – The blackcurrant sorbet was divine.
Coffee: Praline Rose Tartlet, Mint & Tobacco Chocolates, Espresso – The tobacco chocolates were one of the most bizarre taste sensations I’ve ever had.
Wow, what an amazing experience. A relaxed atmosphere and simply stunning food. The Best End of Lamb is still the best dish I have ever tasted. Today, over 3 years later, I still actually smile whenever I think about it. I can praise it no more than that.
The meal in total cost us ~£180 for the two of us, not too bad. We’ve spent more since, a LOT more! The Fat Duck seems permanently stuck in 2nd place behind El Bulli in the Best restaurants in the World list (2006,07,08) but, 2nd isn’t a bad place to be.
Would I recommend you visit The Fat Duck? Yes. Is it worth the money? (If you have it) yes. Would I go back? Yes (I am very soon). So, if you can afford it and even book a table, try it out, you will not be dissapointed.
- Our second visit was a much grander evening with the Tasting Menu (smail porridge, egg and bacon ice cream, etc) which lasted almost 5 hours and cost over £800 (for 4 people)! Review coming soon.
- Out third visit is almost here! Is the restaurant still as good as I remember?
If you’re interested in Heston, The Fat Duck, or his TV series In Search Of Perfection you may be interested in his excellent books. He hasn’t written many!