Reviewing Heston Blumenthal’s 3-Michelin starred Fat Duck is a near-impossible task. I am already lost for words and haven’t even started.
The Fat Duck is not a place where you go to have dinner. It is more like going to the theatre. It is a theatre of food.
The outside of the restaurant is very pub-like, set in the heart of the leafy village of Bray. By the time we arrived I was feeling butterflies in my stomach in anticipation. As you go in, the room is surprisingly simple, plain, almost dull. But then this place is all about the food, why waste time on props and décor and draw attention away from what really matters? Still, the tables were impeccably set, the cloth immaculately white and smooth. We sat, asked for a glass of champagne, and then the show began.
I can’t describe every dish in detail here. It would be an endless list of peculiar details, intricate descriptions, strange names, bizarre combinations of ingredients and near-impossible textures. I feel an obligation to briefly mention the Sounds of the Sea and the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party. The thing with the food at the Fat Duck is that it is crazy AND delicious. That’s what surprised me. I thought it was going to be just crazy, for some reason.
The Sounds of the Sea is one of the best things I have eaten in my life. I did this whilst listening to the sounds of the sea on headphones that sprouted from the inside a giant seashell. It was a stunning dish and the flavours and textures were perfection, the edible sand surprisingly light and the ‘sea’ foam beautifully mushroom-y. The sea would be proud.
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party took us into the magic fairy-tale of Alice in Wonderland and enchanted us with the earthiest of broths that came from a pocket watch made of gold, which dissolved into a pool of delicious liquid with minuscule mushrooms and other exquisite elements floating around inside the translucent teapot. As I said, too many details, too much to tell and none of it is going to make any sense.
Ah yes, and then there was a drink that was hot and cold at the same time. I kid you not.
And an egg that turned out not to be an egg.
And I absolutely loved the salmon poached in a liquorice gel. For a liquorice-hater like me, that is saying a lot!
Because words won’t do the food any justice, I leave you with some pictures. They were taken with a mobile phone under dimly lit conditions so not the best, but I think you can get the idea and hopefully get as curious and excited as the food deserves.
Some people will think going to the Fat Duck for a meal is an extravagance they would never consider and I guess it’s not for everyone. It is for people who truly LOVE food and even more for people who understand it. The more you understand it, the more you will enjoy it because you appreciate the years, experience, hard work and pure genius that are needed to put a meal like that together. And you get to appreciate how unique it is.
We were there for 4 hours, ate 14 courses, and had our minds blown. There is absolutely nothing I didn’t like or would have changed. It was a once-in-the-lifetime experience I will never forget. I believe I have become a better food-lover because of it. It taught me that anything is possible with food, and it made me even more humble when it comes to cooking.
This is the only 3 Michelin-starred restaurant that I have ever been to so I don’t have a proper frame of reference to benchmark it against. I just can’t see anyone following this or have heard of anywhere that is on the same level in terms of the sheer inventiveness of it all. This is the ultimate food experience and if you are lucky enough to go be prepared for surprise and delight from start to finish. Enjoy the ride!
Where: Bray, Berkshire
Cuisine: Modern, Experimental
Type: Restaurant, Michelin Star (3)
Price: Very expensive (expected of a 3-Michelin-starred place)
Rating: 5 stars
Would I go again? Absolutely yes (but need to save for it!)