Wow, it has been almost 2 months since Arlie and I ventured into the great unknown land outside of London (Berkshire) to visit Heston Blumenthal’s famed 3 star Michelin restaurant, Fat Duck. Being one of only 3 3-stars in England and the most reputed worldwide, my epicurean sensibilities were clearly anticipating this reservation. In all honesty, we didn’t even have a reservation… Arlie had put us on a waiting list a few months before with the guilt trip statement / begging that it was her birthday on the 5th of June. Finally the week prior to her birthday we received a call asking if we wanted a table. Arlie hesitated. We lost our table. She phoned back and somehow, magically (or maybe not) we got our table back. Game on! The evening began with us getting dressed rather nicely and then running off to Paddington to catch the commuter train out to Bray. Not the most pleasant experience in the weather of the London faux summer in high heels, but thankfully most commuters got off at the first stop and we could sit the rest of the 35 minute journey. From the station we took a taxi that was about 5 minutes to the restaurant. We were seated immediately where we chose our apperitifs. Me – obviously the rose Dom champagne while Arlie declined and we decided to go for a bottle of Sancerre. Now I will run through the courses briefly with what I remember.
Nitro green tea and lime mousse
This was the big intro. Served with a lenghty explanation. Lots of nitrogen and smoke. The green tea ball batter is dipped into the nitrogen and comes out in something that resembles a meringue. You are instructed to eat it in one bite. During this time the server spritzes the air with a bit of lemon or lime scent. Tastes light and airy, dissolves in your mouth instantly.
Oyster and passion fruit jelly, lavender
Beautiful presentation. I love oysters, so I knew that I would enjoy this course. Arlie, on the other hand, is not a fan of our little friends. I slurped it down in one gulp and let it slide around in my mouth for a few seconds. The passion fruit was a surprising accompaniment to this and the lavender added a slight flavour. Loved it. And shockingly, even Arlie loved it. Another thing to note, we dissected the stand of the oyster shell which was something that looked liked rock salt, but was somehow mushier and moist. Not sure what that was…
Pommery grain mustard ice cream, red cabbage gaspacho
Another original and tasty dish. I actually didn’t realise at the time that the ice cream was mustard flavour, but it did work well with the gaspacho. The gaspacho had an almost beetroot colouring to it (which I actually thought it was). Nice and garlicy, onion flavours with subtle chunks of cabbage. A winner. I almost licked the bowl!
Quail jelly, cream of langoustine, parfait of foie gras
Apologies for the horrible quality of the photo. We weren’t allowed to use the flash in the restaurant and my camera had run out of batteries in the first few photos. This course was a delicate, creamy, lush little dish. The foie was buttery and beautiful.
Oak moss and truffle toast
Yet another one of those WOW dishes. The moss plate was brought out and more nitrous was used to create a little forest of smoke on our table. The toast brought out nice oakey flavours (and I love me a good truffle). Beautiful presentation and great theatrics.
Arlie’s most feared dish and probably the dish that I was most looking forward to. Can’t explain why I love a little snail. Perhaps it is the stigma. Perhaps because in reality if I were strolling a garden and saw a snail I would vomit because they freak me out. But damn it, if you douse those little suckers in some garlic and butter they taste like heaven. I guess if you douse most things in garlic and butter they taste pretty damned good, alas. However, this dish did live up to the hype. I enjoyed it. Rubbery (but not too chewy) snails with garlic. Flavours spot on. A winner.
Roast foie gras
No photos of this one. And around this point in time I was either slightly drunk or delirious on snail porridge so I can’t make much of a comment. Foie it was – at least according to the menu. And when is foie really bad? OK.
Sound of the sea
My most feared, almost upon loathing the idea of it, dish. I had spent the evening watching these jackasses have this course delivered to their table and for some reason was completely annoyed by the bullshitness of it. Come on. A fucking ipod in a seashell? Was this taking it a bit too far? Don’t get me wrong. I completely agree with the fact that cuisine is an artform. I won’t even go into my usual diatribe of how I think it is probably the most complete art on the face of the planet in the way that it can touch upon all of your senses more completely than anything else. But for some reason the ridiculousness of this dish hit a nerve with me. Over the top? Hess going completely self indulegent (in a Ferran Adria-esque way)? Anyways. I was more than prepared to hate this course and laugh up on my high horse at the people that fell for the hype. Then it was delivered. Beautiful presentation, you got me there. Put in my headphones. Ahhh, the soothing sounds of the sea. Started eating…. Maybe I was drunk. Maybe not much.
But it was an experience. The seaweed and the way that my plating looked exactly like an unexplored seashore. The slightly salty taste in my mouth that reminded me of family holidays and boogie boarding. I was totally wrapped up in it. Amazing. So, yes. I can be proven wrong. This was my favourite course of the entire meal. Ok – enough for today. I will continue with the rest tomorrow and leave it on that high note…