The Fat Duck | London & Melbourne

The Fat Duck is about to pull a hat trick.

The culinary overlord Heston Blumenthal (you may have heard of him) utterly and definitively blew me away when I dined at The Fat Duck in Bray over a year and a half ago. It was a transformative experience, teaching me that food can be elevated to unimaginable heights, yet take you back to food play dates of childhood. It is art, theatre, and the fulfilment of fantasy all in one meal. You do not visit a restaurant such as The Fat Duck to merely eat. Sure, in the end, it’s just food, they say. Only idiots would pay $500+ for a meal, they decry. Well then, let us fools be parted with our money – these tables are hard enough to nab as they are.

So many people tried to book a table at The Fat Duck’s 6-month stint in Melbourne – nearly 100,000 people applied for the mere chance. I, the masochist, tried my luck at the chef’s table – an even more improbable feat. Needless to say, I was truly counting on a lucky star to shine upon me. And then, one did.

Date Last Visited: 10/1/2014 (London) | 04/07/2015 (Melbourne)
Address: High Street, Bray, Berkshire SL6 2AQ, United Kingdom | 8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, VIC
Recommended Dish(es): the experience itself

The Fat Duck – Melbourne

My London experience follows that of Melbourne, click here to jump to it. Those who are interested in a deep dive into common dishes across the two experience are recommended to read both sections of this post.

Six months in, I got the email. I got the chef’s table. The Fat Duck is open five days a week, for roughly a six-month period. There is only one chef’s table of four. That means only 520 people get to dine there.

I can’t believe I played such a dangerous bet.

Nevertheless, the chips fell into my lap, and I secured a lunchtime reservation on Saturday, 4th of July. Yeah, I get the proverbial fireworks to boot. Before I knew it, the required 100% deposit (an eye-watering $2700/$675pp) was paid and flights booked. I was on my way.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The dining room – featuring the puzzle wall & The Fat Duck clock

A restaurant of The Fat Duck’s calibre can only find one of two homes in Melbourne – either a half-millennia old, heritage-listed building somewhere in Melbourne’s outskirts, as per its Bray heritage, or in the most salubrious venue of all: Melbourne’s Crown Casino.

The Crown won that one. But see, while the restaurant may be a little less cosy and just a little bit more fancy, it’s lost none of its charm:

  • Pretty much the entire Bray staff have made the move to Melbourne for the six-month stint, including head chef Jonathan Lake
  • All of the movable cooking equipment, cutlery and other mise en scene pieces were shipped to Melbourne
  • And for what it’s worth, Heston himself oversaw operations for the first few months. Suffice to say, the restaurant’s in good hands.
The Fat Duck Melbourne

The puzzle wall (I’ll explain later), with just a little alcohol to boot

However, a few things are slightly different.

  • When in Australia, use Australian produce! Sure, much of The Fat Duck Melbourne’s menu is the same as the one in Bray. However, a few local surprises have made it in. I won’t spoil it – you’ll have to keep reading!
  • The kitchen. Crown’s kitchen is far larger than the one in Bray. As a result, they’ve been able to fully segregate the savouries and sweets into separate kitchens, as well as being able to hire additional kitchen hands. As a result, no matter how fast we ate, we never felt like we had to suffer a tedious wait for the next course. Efficiency is greatly improved from my London experience.
The Fat Duck Melbourne

The view from the chef’s table

The experience starts before you even see the dining room. When the doors open at 12pm, table groups are led in only one at a time down a dark corridor of about 15 metres, lit only by a kid-sized rectangle of light at the end of the tunnel.  As we approached, we realised that it’s a virtual door – a screen displays a video depicting an opening door, revealing a kitchen behind. It is then that we turn to our right, the door opens, and the dining room presents itself to us. Yes, we were just shown down the rabbit hole!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The wine list is as big as a dictionary

The dining room pictures you saw earlier depict the majority of the restaurant’s space, however the chef’s table is situated away from this area, in the kitchen. Instead of white tablecloths, we get a large wooden table with ample space for all the performances about to happen. The wine list is presented, and although we did not elect to go with any, we had to admire just how big of a book it is – there is literally a table of contents in there. Then again, given that the wine pairing can cost up to $900 for the premium selection, we’re surprised it didn’t take up a bookshelf!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Quack quack! Duck paperweights!

As most of the dishes at The Fat Duck Melbourne are the same as that of The Fat Duck London, I’ll be very succinct for dishes common to both occasions. I figure those familiar with the London stint will be quite familiar, and for those who have no clue the London post below fills in the details. Generally speaking, dishes have been remarkably consistent between the two restaurants, with a few exceptions.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Aerated beetroot & horseradish

[London Dish]

To prepare the palate, we receive an ultra-light aerated beetroot & horseradish palate cleanser. As it is with London, this is a super light starter with a spicy-sweet, almost mustard-like kick. I’m more than happy to down this again – the speed the flavour cleared from my mouth is incredible, and quite unlike anything I’ve ever tried to this day.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Nitro poached aperitifs – preparation

[London Dish]

Anything with liquid nitrogen is super fun, and Heston’s popularised the concept to the point that the technique is practically attributed to him. The nitro poached aperitifs are exactly that – why have it in a glass when you can have it explode in your mouth instead?

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Rolling in the deep…except actually floating

This time around, I actually took a video of its creation, check it out:

The result:

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Nitro poached aperitifs – choice of vodka & lime sour, gin & tonic, tequila & grapefruit

While The Fat Duck menu prints out the flavours of vodka & lime sour, gin & tonic, tequila & grapefruit, one of the these was actually tequila & green tea, announced by our waitress. As it was different to what I’ve encountered at Bray, I decided to give it a go.

In the end, I couldn’t really detect much of a green tea taste at all. Fortunately, that wasn’t much of an issue – this second palate cleanser is all about the chilly bomb of refreshment in your mouth. It’s an arctic ice party in your mouth that’s gone as quickly as it came!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Red cabbage gazpacho w/pommery grain mustard ice cream (before)

[London Dish]

A more savoury/sour combination presents itself in the third dish of red cabbage gazpacho w/pommery grain mustard ice cream. Ok, so you can’t see any gazpacho – let’s get some poured, shall we?

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Pour shot

Another exact replica from Bray, this dish plays on a surprisingly effective pairing between what is essentially a mustard ice cream with a sweet, sour and chilled red cabbage soup. Heston’s always known that the colour of a dish can affect your perception of its taste, and red to me, has a more exotic, savoury connotation than a traditional green or yellow. It matters not if it’s a placebo, as being convinced is the idea.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The complete dish

Yep, it tastes exactly the same as it did for me back then. A potently sweet, mustard flavour, but that which is prevented from inflaming your nostrils thanks to its richness and creaminess. Crunchy little green squares of I-Have-No-Idea-Vegetable pack some welcome crunch which, while not blowing me away with excitement, leaves me satisfied and eagerly awaiting the next course.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Savoury lollies – Waldorf rocket, salmon twister & “feast”

[Melbourne Dish]

Now this is new. At least, for me.

Heston’s savoury lollies have featured before on their London menu, but I have not had the fortune of eating them then. That changes now. The dish is inspired by sweet lollipops from the 1970s, notably the Zoom Rocket, Tangle Twister and Feast. You can see where this is going.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Salad-popsicle

This ain’t no zoom lollipop you’ve ever had (nor I, given they predate me by about 20 years). The waldorf rocket is a savoury play on the zoom rocket lollipop which had three flavours stacked on top of each other in a triangular fashion. Heston’s version also stacks three flavours, but they’re that of the waldorf salad – that is apples, celery and walnuts.

To be honest, while the lollipop is quite the looker, in taste there wasn’t too much exciting going for it. The most pronounced flavour was the walnut tip, but even that wasn’t particularly strong. The apple barely got through to me, while celery never had much of a flavour to begin with. I suckled it absent-mindedly purely for its cold, icy texture – it’s like an icy pop in that respect, even though I wasn’t particularly taken by the flavours.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Salmon twister

Before I even talk about the flavour of the salmon twister, I have to commend the level of detail that has gone into the 21 twists of almost the exact same thickness that went into this lollipop. My inner OCD self is extremely happy about this.

Thankfully, in terms of flavour I’m also satiated. In a more figurative twist than literal, the salmon is smoked with lapsang souchong tea, which gives it an extra aroma of sweetness and smoky depth that otherwise would not be present. A creamy texture is provisioned by the asparagus and horseradish creams and overall, brings a pop to the lollipop that quite satisfying.

It’s not the most mindblowing in terms of introducing novel flavour combinations, but it is a well-made morsel on a stick I’d be more than happy to consume several dozen times over. Catering companies, put this on your canapes offering and you are HIRED.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Essentially a foie gras gaytime

The third dish, called feast, is what I would rename as the golden gaytime. Speckled with a nutty exterior, inside is a chicken liver parfait, coated with a fig & red wine gel that is an absolute flavour bomb. In fact, based on the relatively tempered flavour profiles of the previous two lollipops, this is a relative conflagration. Be ready for it. The portion size is just about right, for any more and I wouldn’t be able to take the flavour assault. The almond nibs on the outside help to cut through the otherwise consistently creamy texture of the parfait, and keeps my taste buds sane as they struggle to receive this bounty of flavour.

Seriously delicious stuff, teetering on the edge of flavour paralysis.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Listerine but not as you know it

[London Dish – Melbourne Tweaks]

The next dish is one of Heston’s renowned signatures, and comes in several stages. The first is the consumption of the Fat Duck Films, which are moss & oak-scented “listerine strips” (that’s what I call them) which are designed to release the scent of a mossy forest floor into your mouth. The effect is very subtle, but it is allegedly to prepare us for a trip into the forest…

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The best show of them all

And boy, does it do that. Here it is in action:

Apart from being a visual feast of liquid nitrogen, the purpose of this is to bring out the scents and aromas of moss and oak. Heston believes that food is one of the few experience that involves all of the senses, and this dish is his ultimate realisation of the concept.

Okay sure, but what about the food?

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Jelly of quail, marron cream – caviar sorbet, oak moss & truffle toast (homage to Alain Chapel)

This is what you’re actually eating – jelly of quail, marron cream w/caviar sorbet, oak moss & truffle toast. It is an homage to Alain Chapel, a French chef that Heston has previously worked under.

In terms of flavours, this isn’t quite the same dish as the London version. Instead of marron cream, London’s is crayfish cream. The addition of caviar sorbet is also new. The usage of marron signifies a way in which The Fat Duck team is incorporating Australian produce into its food without changing the underlying spirit of the dish. Marron is an Australia-only exclusive – you simply can’t get it in the Queen’s Kingdom.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Flavour artillery

In terms of flavour? Incredibly intense. This is umami taken to a level I didn’t think was possible. The jelly from the parfait, the caviar on top, the century egg-like pungency of the quail egg. Everything hits you and no hostages are taken. I really, really enjoyed this as my palate is attuned to bold, strong flavours. My dining companions did not like it nearly as much, as it was too overpowering for them. I do agree that if I were to have much more, I’d begin to feel sick as well. As it were, this was a fabulous dish to me in the portion I received.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The truffle toast – that attention to detail…

There was no real rule on how to eat the jelly of quail with the truffle toast, so I took alternating bites. Comparatively, the toast is much more subdued in its flavour profile, with exception to the truffle. This was much more reminiscent of the London experience, which has the same element.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Oh, yeah – bread!

Another aspect of The Fat Duck experience in Melbourne that differs from London is that the chefs have been experimenting with baking their own bread with “burnt flour” from Italy. I’m not sure exactly what that’s all about, but this bread is tasty. It’s much better than what I remember noting in London, and after being offered a second piece, we happily said yes all too quickly. We were won over by the crunchy crust, but still soft and pillowy centres. Along with the house-churned butter and the fact that the bread is served warm, there could hardly be a better pairing. Melbourne, you’ve outdone London here!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Snail porridge w/Joselito ham & shaved fennel

[London Dish – Melbourne Tweaks]

One of Heston’s most famous dishes and arguably his signature comes in an unlikely form – snail porridge. Yes, this is what he’s known for.

I’ve never had a snail dish where I’ve thought the snail actually added anything appreciable. It was always a matter of “hey, I’m only really eating this because it’s snail” or, “this dish is cool because it’s got snail.” It’s never been “this dish would be untenable without snail” or “snail is the hero ingredient – the dish would be lost without it”.

Heston’s snail porridge on the other hand, heroes the snail. It is the one time where I felt a snail’s texture actually complements the dish at hand. Snails are very smooth and chewy in texture, which when mixed in with Heston’s grassy porridge (full analogy in the London post), works a treat every time. This was the Lady’s favourite dish, and it’s not hard to see why.

There is one crucial difference between this snail porridge and the one I was served a year ago – the inclusion of granola as a porridge base. Jonathan Lake explained to us that the team had been researching into ways of introducing a bit of additional texture to the porridge. Sure, there’s already the crunch of fennel, but that’s a watery, vegetable crunch. A more satisfying, carby crunch could be delivered by granola. It also compounds on a reference I made on the original snail porridge – in that it’s almost like the “earth” of the grassy garden on which snails moved about.

This was a definitive improvement and I’m happy they took the quantum leap forward – for it resulted in a better dish for all, and something different for me to write home about!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Roast marron w/shiitake, confit kombu & sea lettuce

[Melbourne Dish]

And now, we’re seeing the results of The Fat Duck’s experimentation with Australian produce. Marron is become a recurring theme, and why shouldn’t it? A quintessentially Australian protein, it deserves to a central spot on the plate.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The best marron, ever.

The flavours of the marron are nothing new – mushroom & kombu umami, the sweetness of the marron, a bit of crunchiness from the vegetables beneath and in the sauce streak on the side. There’s nothing I haven’t seen before – but what The Fat Duck does do well is balance these flavours beautifully, in such a way that nothing dominates, but the dish as a whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

Put quite simply, the best marron dish I’ve ever had.

 

 

 

The meal is now just getting started.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The mock turtle’s story

[London Dish – Small Tweaks]

A meal at The Fat Duck wouldn’t be complete without a tea party hosted by the Mad Hatter, would it? I’ll give a super quick rundown of the format of this most unusual party, alongside the pictures.

1) You’re given an explanation of the dish’s purpose – playfully referencing Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter tea party. It also delves into the origins of the “mock turtle soup”, and you’re given this explanation both verbally, and with the two cards you see above. They make great bookmarks, by the way!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Complimentary wristwatches included as part of the meal

2) Because we don’t want the Mad Hatter to kill time all over again, we’re presented with a “pocket watch” each. You know, for safekeeping, in case he decides to sing again. What’s particularly cool about this moment is that you can hear the tick-tock, tick-tock of an actual watch in the background when being presented the watch case.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

What are you doing to my watch?

3) But wait, oh dear, what are you doing to my watch! I cannot have an eternal tea party! I MUST MOVE ONTO THE NEXT COURSE!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Ok so my watch is now soup…what next?

4) Oh boy, looks like the pocket watch has dissolved into the teacup (right), and now we’re going to be in for one heck of a tea party.

The pocket watch is actually a fancy bouillon stock cube in the shape of a wristwatch with a gold-sprayed skin. In hot water, this dissolves and the seasoning gets mixed throughout. It is this ‘tea’ that forms your mock turtle “soup”.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Most complicated soup ever

5) If you’re paying big money to visit a place where food is cooked for you, it must seem an affront to have to make your own soup. I think I can forgive Heston for this transgression. This time 😛

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Enjoy! But it’s missing something…

6) And this is it! Mock turtle soup! It’s just like the version I was served in London, with the exception of added truffles in this variant – thank you winter – and any excuse to get truffle in is a good excuse.

The soup tastes much the same as it did back in London – quite a bit of salty umami and bittersweet notes of tea throughout, with lots of texture provided by the various cubed ingredients inside. The truffle is very welcome, but there was something else that was quite bitter which was a bit off-putting. I never did discover what it was…

Overall, it’s a good soup but as the caption states, it’s awfully incomplete. It’s missing a foil of some sort…

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Ah, the sandwiches! Mad Hatter’s tea party – mock turtle soup, pocket watch & toast sandwich

But of course – sandwichesThat’s what’s missing. You can’t have a tea party without sandwiches! That said, I had my reservations.

You see, I was quite disappointed when I ate them in London – they were one of the lowest points of the meal. Dry, flavourless bread, uninspired fillings, all in all something I felt could be topped with $10 and a sandwich toaster.

I’m pleased to report that this has completely changed. The bread is now fluffy and airy, yet retaining the crusty crunch of a true toastie. The fillings vary between chicken, truffle, lettuce, cinnamon cream and a bevy of other goodies that just work. I don’t want to dissect the sandwich too much as I honestly don’t know enough to give a detailed rundown. All I can say is that, along with the rest of the table, these toasties were fabulous.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Last time I checked molluscs didn’t listen to music

[London Dish – Melbourne tweaks]

As mentioned previously, Heston is a big fan of a multisensory approach to food. The more senses you engage, the better the food will taste. Which is better – eating exquisite seafood beachside, or in an uncomfortably warm/cold dining room with uncomfortably jovial/stiff waitstaff?

Heston can’t bring the beach to you, but he can try and get you a little piece of it. You just need to look inside the shell.

By the way, they upgraded their earbuds – just a nerdy observation 🙂

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Listen up! “Sound of the sea”

For the most part, the sounds of the sea is arranged in a similar manner as it is in London. Today’s catch includes kingfish, abalone, & butterfish. The beach “soil” is made with tapioca starch & miso oil, while the foam is made from a seaweed & vegetable stock. The inclusion of Australian sea succulents is another nod to our nation’s great produce, while they’ve retained the dead man’s fingers seaweed (the black stuff at the left).

As you may already have guessed, the iPods hidden inside the seashells play a continuous loop of ‘sounds of the sea’ – crashing waves, the cries of seagulls and the like. I’m never sure if a “gimmick” like this actually makes the food taste any better, but I can safely say it won’t make things worse. Your best bet is just to go along with it and savour the moment.

It’s not an exceptional seafood dish, but the produce is top notch, and I can’t fault the execution. A very enjoyable course!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Salmon poached in a liquorice gel w/endives, vanilla mayonnaise & golden trout roe

[London Dish]

One of my favourite dishes from my London Fat Duck experience is salmon poached in liquorice gel.

It’s simple. This is the salmon with the best texture I have ever had, and eating it again reinforces that fact.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Angled view

The notes I took for the salmon’s texture spelled out “legendary”. Now, I shouldn’t use that word as I prefer to preserve the impact of modal adjectives, but boy am I tempted to call it out as such. It is after all, the best. Buttery soft, and creamy, this is the pinnacle of salmon. I am still to find an equal. Take a look at the internal shot:

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Poached perfection

That is perfection.

In terms of flavour, the liquorice isn’t particularly overpowering, adding a bit of savouriness to the salmon that pairs well with the sweetness of the roasted endives. I quite enjoy the flavour, but it wouldn’t be my top pick of flavour pairing for salmon. But where the flavour gets 80%, texturally we’re talking 300%, so I’m still on a winner. It’s delicious then, it’s delicious now.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Duck chips – tapioca flour & duck meat

[London Dish]

A meal at The Fat Duck wouldn’t be complete without duck now would it? But first, how about some duck chips? These are made with blended duck meat and tapioca flour, which is deep fried. These were a crunchy, moreish appetiser that lead up to the main course. Appropriately, called The Duck.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The Duck – blood pudding, chicory & green coffee

Ah, The Duck. In London, I remarked that it is the best non-Asiatic duck I’ve ever had.

That is not the case this time.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

#fromabove

To be sure, it’s still a fantastic duck dish, and definitely one of the more memorable ones I’ve had over the years. It just isn’t as good as the first time. The skin wasn’t as crispy as I would have liked it. It also still tasted a little bit fatty. Was the fat fully rendered through? I can’t be sure, but it didn’t seem like the case.

As for all the edible accoutrements surrounding the duck, I have the same opinion as I did the London instance of the dish – they’re very helpful and complementary to the duck, but ultimately the bird stands alone.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Duck neck cigar

As a final sendoff to the great-but-not-superb duck is the duck neck cigar. Inside the “spring roll” we have plum/red wine-smoked duck neck meat & umbles. I don’t smoke, but I’ll make an exception just this once. It’s crunchy, unctuous and delicious, full of dense, sugary-sweet umami and wine-induced alcohol.

Totally worth it.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Hot & iced tea

[London Dish]

The first time I had the hot & iced tea, I drank it incorrectly. The waiter had specifically told me to drink from the cup at the angle it was presented to me, but no – I had to turn it to take a photo. As a result, I ended up drinking….hot tea.

I did not make that mistake this time.

Let me explain: two teas, one hot and one cold, are poured into this cup which is separated by a divider. When full, the divider is removed, and the difference in viscosity of the two teas ensure that they don’t mix. The divide is naturally straight, so you absolutely must drink it at the angle it is served to you – one side of your mouth gets a blast of cold tea, the other, hot.

The experience is immensely satisfying in an equally odd kind of way. Having half of your mouth on heat and the other in a fridge is a sensation that should not exist, yet Heston makes it so. And that, is how it’s meant to be drunk.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Bortrytis Cinerea

[London Dish]

Say hello to one of the most beautiful desserts I’ve ever had the pleasure to lay eyes on, and one of the best desserts I’ve had the opportunity to eat. This is bortrytis cinerea. I will copy word for word my description from my London post, because I can’t frame it any better even now:

This dessert is something else. Even the name Botrytis Cinerea begs for some explanation: the term refers to a grey fungus that specifically preys on wine grapes (grapes = “Botrytis” in ancient Greek). When this fungus attacks grapes, two things can happen:

1) The grapes die (darn it)

2) “Noble Rot” occurs, which actually impart on the grapes a distinct flavour when made into dessert wines.

Only The Fat Duck can get away with naming a dessert “grape fungus”.

This dessert explores the [deconstructed] flavours of an extraordinary wine called Château d’Yquem – a Premier Cru Supérieur wine from Bordeaux in France. I know nothing about wine as per usual, but this particular gem of a bottle is famous due to its grapes being attacked by noble rot. For more reading, click on the Noble Rot hyperlink above.

This dessert celebrates the various flavours of the grapes of this particular wine. In essence, it could have been called “textures of grape – homage to Château d’Yquem”, but that would be too prosaic for this dessert – nay – for The Fat Duck.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

AKA one of the best desserts I’ve ever had

Still bloody excellent. Sorbet, popping candy, jelly, crumble, chocolate, citrus, alcoholic, even a churro texture.

This dessert is a masterpiece, one of the best plates of food in the world, and a privilege for me to enjoy not just once – but twice. I am truly thankful.

You could say I’m having a pretty fantastical lunch. But for the next dish, we’re winding the clock backwards – it’s breakfast time.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

The not-so-full English breakfast – puzzle box & breakfast cereal

[Melbourne Dish]

But before we have breakfast, we’ve got to earn it. It’s time to solve a puzzle.

*lightbulb moment* – AHA, so THAT’S what the puzzle wall is about! Dining at The Fat Duck isn’t just about eating their food. It’s about taking part in their history.

Let’s see what that’s all about then!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Got it? Ok!

Now, it’s a bit uncomely to force diners to stretch their necks and strain their backs to place this puzzle on that giant panoramic puzzle wall you saw earlier, especially after a fattening. That’s not even bringing up the difficulty in finding the right spot to put it in! Fortunately, we had a lot of help:

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Time to put our brains to good use!

The wall comes to us – and good that it did, for the entire puzzle wall clocks in at 19560 pieces!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Being a part of Fat Duck history

I may not be able to cook, but I can now say I’m a part of The Fat Duck!

Okay, onto part 1 of Heston’s not-so-full English Breakfast. Once again, only Heston would get away with something like serving breakfast for lunch/dinner. But of course, you weren’t expecting just any breakfast, were you?

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Parsnip milk goes in…

Aside from the jigsaw piece, the puzzle box also contained a small packet of root vegetable cereals and parsnip milk. Oh yes, it is possible to make a healthy breakfast that also tastes great. While the reality is that this is a really simple dish, it’s very, very tasty. The dehydrated veggies are wonderfully crispy and crunchy, releasing bursts of sweetness with each and every bite. As for the parsnip milk, instead of tasting like a vegetable stock, actually did taste like milk. Not as creamy as full-fat milk, and closer to soy (but not as watery as almond). it is an ideal complement to the cereal.

I don’t eat cereal for breakfast, but I wouldn’t mind having a bit of this every now and then. Breakfast is off to a good start. Does it get any better than this? You really didn’t need to ask…

The Fat Duck Melbourne

OH MAN SO EXCITED

This, I’ve been waiting for a long, long time. At London, I didn’t receive Heston’s signature bacon and egg ice cream, so had assumed that The Fat Duck no longer served it. Alas, it turned out it was an off-menu item that had to be specifically requested. WHY OH WHY WAS I SUCH THE FOOL?

The Fat Duck however is one to give second chances. Bacon and egg ice cream.

Bacon and egg ice cream.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Le ice cream contraption

The contraption that makes the ice cream was placed before us while we were still eating our cereal – I had no idea what it was for until a special little surprise was presented before us:

The Fat Duck Melbourne

“Bacon sandwich-fed chickens”

The story goes that these eggs are laid by chickens fed on a bacon sandwich diet, flown in directly from the UK. It’s a cute story, but of course you know that’s not the case. Some of you may have already figured out how it’s done, but I won’t spoil the magic here, so you’ll have to Google the answer! Meanwhile, onto the show!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

3….

The Fat Duck Melbourne

2…

The Fat Duck Melbourne

1…(sorry about the derpface shot)

The Fat Duck Melbourne

And we have plating!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Bacon & egg ice cream, candied pancetta, French toast

So this is it – bacon & egg ice cream sandwich, candied pancetta w/French toast.

I’ll be frank, the bacon and egg ice cream itself was a bit of a letdown. It was surprisingly bitter while not being as creamy as I thought it would be, given method in which it was prepared. It’s nothing like any ice cream I’ve tried before, but not for the right reasons. I didn’t expect Heston to win with every dish, I just didn’t wish this would be the letdown. However, not all is lost – the candied pancetta is a crystalline dream. Savoury and sweet at the same time, it’s the fulfilment of bacon and candy lover’s ultimate fantasy. Texturally it’s like a sugar candy, with satisfying pops of crunch with every bite. In flavour? Definitely bacon bacon bacon, with a sweet edge to it all.

Really delicious. This sentiment can be said of the French toast underneath as well – a rich, warm and thick slab of what could quite possibly be the best piece of toast I’ve had. If only the ice cream lived up to my expectations!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

And of course, some marmalade (with edible lid) to boot!

To top off the English breakfast, how can you go past some marmalade? The orange zestiness was very apparent, but never overpowering. Plus, the edible lid (yes, edible) of checkered white chocolate added some additional sweetness to the bitterness of the tangy marmalade.

I’ve never really made marmalade as part of my standard breakfast routine, but in retrospect, Heston’s English breakfast would be incomplete without it. Now that’s a brunch worth blogging about.

What could possibly be next? Drinks? Don’t speak so soon…

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Whisky wine gums

[London Dish]

For Heston’s whisky wine gums are up next! This dish is presented the same way as in London – the whiskies of five regions are represented and presented on a map, showing you where your slosh comes from. For my London meal, all locations were from the UK. Here, Heston’s worked in a draught from Tasmania. I have no idea about the first thing when it comes to whisky, so the experts can decode the locations for me.

What is important is the intensity – you start from 1 and work up to 5. #1? Child’s play. #5? I’m going to get tipsy. The gums all have the same gummy texture, melting quickly in your mouth. As for flavour, there’s sweetness in each, but by the time I reach #5, I stop enjoying it very much as I’m not a drinker and the alcohol becomes overpowering. Whisky lovers will definitely appreciate this dish more. The important takeaway? It’s hella fun, and that doesn’t yet end!

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Like a kid in a sweet shop 1) Aerated chocolate w/mandarin jelly 2) apple pie caramel w/edible wrapper 3) the Queen of Hearts…she made some tarts 4) oxchoc – wagyu nougat, Guinness & beef caramel

[London Dish – Melbourne Tweak]

These are The Fat Duck’s petit fours, known as Like a kid in a sweet shop. We were given the choice of having them there and then, or to take them home. Now, because we are dining at The Fat Duck, we were ready to chow down right there and then.

The Fat Duck Melbourne

Bring on the chocolate

The Fat Duck Melbourne

She made some tarts, but I ate her anyway

The aerated chocolate w/mandarin jelly, apple pie caramel w/edible wrapper & Queen of Hearts were the same as what I had in London. I needn’t say any more.

The introduction of the oxchoc is a newcomer, and arguably the most interesting treat of them all. After all, it’s a beef candy – with Guinness flavouring to boot! Despite its outlandish ingredient list, this was a peculiarly tasty treat. The beef flavour in the candy gives it a feeling of fullness and volume, which I’d normally associate with a satisfying piece of steak. It’s still sweet, and yet it’s so beefy. There’s also an alcoholic aftertaste, thanks to that Guinness. All in all, it was the surprise star, which is saying something given that this is meant to be a bag of sweets.

Are you tired? We were, and yet I was buzzing at the same time. I had just dined at The Fat Duck – for the second time! Despite this, the experience still felt almost completely new. Little tweaks and changes are made here and there, with nothing left to chance. Sure, not every dish is a winner, but when was the last time you had 18 courses that were all hits? Heston’s nailed most of them for me, and bloody kudos to him for that.

Lightning in a bottle.

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The Good:

  • Cooking at a level that is rare even in this day and age of culinary awareness
  • Exceptional service, flawless from start to finish
  • An experience that is as much theatre as it is food

The Bad:

  • With such a high calibre of cooking, dishes that disappoint stand out like a sore, sore thumb

The Ugly:

  • That it’s $675 for the chef’s table
    or
  • The fact that I won’t be able to eat at The Fat Duck again for a long time to come?

F8.5 | S5 | A2

8.5/10 Caesars

Now, for the London story:

The Fat Duck – London

Heston Blumenthal and his flagship restaurant, The Fat Duck. In a way, this post may be the epitome of shameless pandering to my reader base. After all, any avid foodie surely is familiar with a man of Heston’s fame; a restaurant of The Fat Duck’s reputation. In that sense, what could be known, has already been told a thousand times.

On the other hand, I know how rare it is to actually experience the culmination of Heston’s handiwork. Knowing the legend is one thing, sitting down at one of The Fat Duck’s tables – the dream of many a foodie, is attained only by few. Theatrical dining is not a term I was always very familiar with, believing it was to be, at best, a pretentious philosophy of food mise en place. With one (amazing) outlier,  it was difficult to visualise just how a dining experience can be ‘pure theatre’.

Welcome to The Fat Duck. Once you’re here, you won’t want to leave.

The Fat Duck

So keen, we came too early 🙁

A decade in the top ten restaurants in the World’s 50 Best list (currently still on the list at #47), three Michelin Stars for as long as one can remember, the prospect of dining at a restaurant of such reputation gets one to feel, to say the least, a little giddy.

To borrow one of Heston’s favourite adjectives. The Fat Duck experience is a most extraordinary story.

Even getting a booking was an ordeal – The Fat Duck takes reservations three months in advance, to the date. I attempted a January 9 booking on October 9, 9pm (Sydney time). Yes, you do need to camp on the site the moment the clock strikes 9pm. Tarrying even for five minutes will result in the entire night’s tables booking out.

Heck, that actually happened – I got through to the last stage, and then my CC got declined due to some technical error. I lost January 9. One last chance for January 10. To non-foodies, the idea of booking a trip around a restaurant reservation may seem pretty mad hatter. To those in the know, you know how frustrating this can be.

October 10, 8:59:55pm. Ok, I’m ready. Five seconds later, I’m in. CC is in, and….sigh of relief. I literally did sigh out loud, as we would have missed the chance to eat at The Fat Duck if January 10 was also a goner. Fate, should I ever believe it, is on my side.

Don’t delude though – the meal costs 220GBP (around $400 at current exchange rates). That’s not cheap, so think this through. I was fortunate enough to only pay 190GBP as they raised their prices recently.

The Fat Duck

Keeping it simple

To say we were a little keen would be an understatement. In fear of arriving late, we rocked up a solid twenty minutes before the actual 6pm reservation time. Needless to say, we had to camp outside for a bit, which would have been awkward, if it weren’t for the fact that the street was pretty much empty.

To clarify, The Fat Duck’s proximity to London Central is akin to Parramatta’s proximity from Sydney CBD. You will need to take a train, or a taxi. Or even don your tracksuit and jog your way down – The Fat Duck has no dress code. Seriously though don’t do that, nobody likes a sweaty, smelly diner.

The restaurant keeps decor functional but simple. The food and service does all the talking, as it should. The menu? An 18-course journey. The ride begins.

The Fat Duck

Aerated beetroot & horseradish

Have you heard of aerogel? No? Here’s a picture of a brick balancing on a 2g block of the stuff.

That’s kind of the feeling I get when I first pick up the amuse of aerated beetroot & horseradish. So light, so airy. It’s like you’re eating almost nothing, which would seem like quite the gyp.

That is, until the burst of flavour slaps you for not having any faith. Tangy and mustard-like, the radish cream punches well above its weight. The beetroot can be acutely divined via the crispy “shell”, which again, despite its lack of mass, is pure, distilled flavour.

Such a small morsel of goodness packing such a hit. I’m going to have to shift gears with this meal, big-time.

The Fat Duck

Nitro poached aperitifs – preparation

Nitro poached aperitifs are one of the signature ‘snacks’ of The Fat Duck. This one’s been on the menu for awhile, and for good reason. This is where the theatre kicks off: a trolly comes around, and you choose a flavour – vodka & lime sour, campari soda, or tequila and grapefruit.

A meringue cream is squeezed onto a spoon and then flash frozen in liquid nitrogen. Totally ordinary stuff *ahem*. A while later, this is removed, and then a dollop of ‘gel’ of the alcohol you ordered is injected within. Serving suggestion? Fire down the hole!

The Fat Duck

Nitro poached apertifs – choice of vodka & lime sour, campari soda, tequila & grapefruit

You can be prepared all you want, but nothing truly equips you for the sensation of the frozen egg white bursting into intense coolness, then in the next instant to nothing in your mouth. Then, it’s followed by the clearest, purest gin and tonic you’ve ever tasted. It’s a great start to the meal, a performance piece and a lovely palate cleanser.

By the way, if you ever get to eat this, please follow the server’s advice and eat it whole – I know I was also tempted to crack it open to see the inside. You don’t want to do that – unless you want to lose half of the insides! Remember, food before pictures, as hard as that may be sometimes.

The Fat Duck

Red cabbage gazpacho w/pommery grain mustard ice cream

Gazpacho is a fancy name for vegetable soup, served cold. Doesn’t seem very appetising, but then there’s this red cabbage gazpacho w/pommery grain mustard ice cream.

To boil things down, the gazpacho tastes somewhat like a savoury consomme, it’s as good as a cold soup is going to get, even though I’d always prefer them warm. That’s a personal gripe. Even so, for what it is, I can’t fault it. The flavours are clear and speak out without needing to hide behind the veneer of warmth. It’s harder to make a cold soup shine.

The Fat Duck

The colours!

That said, the gazpacho does not stand alone. It was difficult to describe the ice cream to begin with, it’s got a very subtle grainy texture, with a palpable mustard flavour that complemented the texture quite well. It’s like you’re eating actual mustard paste but…it’s ice cream!

Because it’s ice cream, there is incredible depth of texture to be talked about. Creamy initially, then slightly rough, but then when the last bite’s through (and you always wish for more), it’s more buttery again, which is the aftertaste it leaves you with. That, and mustard, of course. A great treat for those into the yellow spice. I think even non-believers may enjoy this one.

The Fat Duck

Part 1: “forest flavour film”

One of Heston’s signature dishes, and one I’m sure is one of his most instagrammed, the jelly of quail w/crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss & truffle toast practically requires its own blog post.

The first element of the dish are the forest flavour films. Ever tried Listerine fresh breath strips? This is kind of like that – in principle only. In terms of flavour, it’s almost like absorbing a fresh, crisp foresty flavour in your mouth. Or just imagine you’re in a forest, that also works.

It’s hard to describe because it’s so weird, and it’s so weird because it’s not every day you’re melting down a flavour strip to ready yourself for the next course.

Heston’s propensity to engage the diner’s senses in unusual ways is really showing here, and it’s only beginning.

The Fat Duck

Part 2: dry ice on oak moss – scents of the forest

This is what really gets the photographers snap happy (oh wait, that’s me!). While you’re processing the films, the server will lay down a block of oaky moss, then pour liquid nitrogen all over it. The results are…visual spectacular, to say the least. If my camera could capture stills and video at the same time, I totally would have.

Visual and aural senses are what’s targed with this element. Seeing it is essentially dreamland magic, while breathing in wafts of the essence further heightens the experience of walking through a forest. Get enchanted.

The Fat Duck

Part 3 – the dish: jelly of quail, crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss & truffle toast (homage to Alain Chapel)

It took three pictures, but we’ve actually arrived at the food itself. Oh yeah, we were meant to eat something, right? That would come in two parts – truffle toast on the left, chicken liver parfait on the right.

Looking back at the notes I took for this dish all that time ago, I read – and I quote:

“so good. So damn good. Absolutely delicious”.

I clearly didn’t give my present self much to go on, but luckily, this, like every other dish, blazes in my memory.

With the scents of the forest lingering about, you start with the truffle toast – the crisp texture is just unbelieveable, and every bite is chock-full of the flavour of truffle. It’s a bias, placebo, and the context in which we were eating, but it’s easily the best truffle item I’ve ever had. Deal with it. I’m at The Fat Duck.

The Fat Duck

A closer look at the parfait’s innards

Of course, any kind of “toast” ought to get dry, and that’s why the parfait exists. To be taken every few bites of the toast, the parfait provides a strong foil of flavour and buttery texture that manages to sock you in the face with intensity, yet the portion is appropriately-sized, such that you don’t get overwhelmed.

It’s particularly complex, with a jelly layer (the quail jelly, one can presume) at the bottom that completely changes the dynamic once you dig down there. It’s cooler, and the texture is firmer, which does a great job at keeping it interesting. Overall, the taste was both very much the strength of chicken, but with a not so subtle edge of seafood. Crayfish cream? Well…damn…cray…

The Fat Duck

Bread was probably the most normal thing about this meal

At this point, The Fat Duck was impressioning on us so hard that serving “mere” bread and butter (which happens to be from Northern Ireland, if you’re wondering) is by far, the most unassuming thing we would eat tonight.

Getting back into the magic…

The Fat Duck

Snail porridge, Iberico Bellota ham, shaved fennel

…is the dish that made Heston famous. You wouldn’t think snail porridge is what makes a man famous, but then again you haven’t had Heston’s snail porridge.

In Northern China (where I was born), Chinese porridge (congee) is essentially flavourless goop that doesn’t have much going for it. You can add garnishes and toppings, but it is essentially flavourless carbs to drink down at a fundamental level. Not precisely appetising, so imagine when I first discovered Cantonese-style congee. Full of flavour as it’s cooked in meat stock as opposed to just water, and seasoning heavy-handed. Ah, I was liberated.

The Fat Duck’s snail porridge? It’s like the second coming of porridge. Ok, that’s already selling a bit too much, given it’s just porridge. Nevertheless, like a great but simple risotto, the nature of this dish allows for some seriously deep flavours.

The porridge is thick and appetising, while the palate is surprisingly very straigtforward. It’s a tad on the salty side, and oddly enough tasted rather “grassy”. I think Heston was trying to recreate a snail’s natural habitat, and the result was this garden-like tang that was difficult to pinpoint.

Texture is well taken care of with delicious Iberico, and of course, the snails themselves were juicy to the point where you really don’t think about eating snails.

The Fat Duck

Roast foie gras w/barberry, confit kombu & crab biscuit

Honestly, I thought I had foie down pat. But then I just had to visit The Fat Duck, and have what I thought I knew scoffed at and thrown back at my face.

It’s very easy to say that this is the best foie gras dish I’ve had when the dish came from the kitchens of The Fat Duck. To avoid sounding like a broken record, let’s just say that the foie dish here is….a difficult one to top.

As is with foie, flavours are intense and nothing is reserved from assailing your tastebuds, with what is the phenomenon of simultaneous sweet and savoury sensations all in one. I mentioned before in my post on (sadly now closed) Tomislav that Martinovic learned his craft from Heston at one point. Welcome to the real OG.

The Fat Duck

In case the first view didn’t do it justice

The foie is smoother than your man-crush, but foie dishes need a bit of texture to really get things going. Enter the crab biscuit. Impossibly thin, but when the “essence of crab” (my terminology) is with you the whole way, you forget how such a thin crisp can deliver so much.

Crab, now how will I ever face supermarket chips again?

The Fat Duck

It’s time for tea!

Tea is one of the defining aspects of English culture. Heston would be remiss not to put out a spin on one of the great pastimes of the English people.

You can’t be a lazy diner at The Fat Duck. No, you have to work for your tea. “Surely not?!” you cry, but yes, you make your own tea.

The Fat Duck

The tea, the pocket watch

1) A gold leaf pocket watch which is essentially a fancy stock “cube” is presented to you, which you dip into a teapot with water which makes a stock. The above picture is technically “incorrect” (I was doing it wrong), as we’ll be pouring the stock into that teapot after it’s made. Stay with me people.

The Fat Duck

MAGICAL DISSOLVING

2) Watch as it dissolves before your eyes – the pocket watch is dipped into a teapot with just water, as you can see.

The Fat Duck

Oh Heston

3) Pour the “tea” you made into the prepared teacup.

The Fat Duck

Ready to serve

4) Tea is served!

The Fat Duck

Mad Hatter’s tea party – mock turtle soup, pocket watch & toast sandwich

So how does all this effort pay off? The tea is an experience in itself. You can taste the subtlety of the tea in its bitterness and that slight, dry feeling it leaves on your tongue. The overall flavour is extremely savoury, with a kind of beef consomme feel to it. It’s quite relishing, but you do need to eat the sandwiches with it, otherwise it’s like drinking cordial.

There are a lot of crunchy and meaty bits, which is not exactly scientific, but I am saying the tea is kept interesting by the variety of textural experiences, especially that of the egg. A crucial element that’s definitely at the heart of it all.

The Fat Duck

Sammich

The sandwiches were probably the only underwhelming aspect of this entire meal. The bread was fluffy, but the filling was too dry and flavourless. This dish is all about the tea it seems, whether that was deliberate or not.

The Fat Duck

“Sound of the sea” – ipod in seashell

Another one of Heston’s food philosophies is centred around sensory immersion. Our perception of taste comes not only from the tongue, but also the nose, eyes, touch, and yes, even sound.

It’s not every day that a dish is served with a side of ipod, but that’s exactly what this dish is all about.

The Fat Duck

Mackerel, kingfish, abalone, tapioca & fried baby sardines

For the hygeine-conscious, fret not – the earphones are covered with a disposable foam cover so you won’t be getting a case of ear wax from any previous user.

The ipod plays the classic sounds of the sea – waves crashing on the beach, seagulls squawking, you’re already imagining it in your head, I know! It’s powerful stuff.

Heston’s theory is that flavours are more powerful and impressionable if you receive complementary stimuli via your other senses. Being a seafood dish of mackerel, kingfish, abalone, tapioca powder, baby sardines and goodness knows what else, this seafood dish is most appropriately backed by the sounds of the sea.

The Fat Duck

A closer look

It’s a fantastic seafood sensation, and one that I struggle to fault even if I tried. Gun to my head, I would say the powder can be a bit drying (of the mouth) at times, but the lush seafood, with its many unique textures easily got me to forget any such issues.

One of the best dishes I’ve had so far. I seem to be saying that a lot though?

The Fat Duck

Salmon poached in a liquorice gel w/artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise & golden trout roe

If there ever was a perfectly poached salmon, this would be it. Let’s get the texture out of the way quick smart – it’s perfect. Seriously, it’s like eating butter but with the delicious natural flavours of salmon. Enough said, poached salmon like this cannot be improved.

The Fat Duck

Perfection

Then we arrive at the curious fact that it’s poached in a liquorice gel. I personally know many people who aren’t big fans of liquorice (myself included), but this should be pleasing, not upsetting. It doesn’t taste like the weird, funky bitterness that liquorice usually portends. Instead, this gel captures the bittersweet, almost savoury-like nature of the stuff, which is further finished off with a zing from the orbs of roe on top. It’s beautiful. It’s so smooth, and so finger-licking good. I wanted to lick the plate, but that would be indecent. Where’s my bread?

The Fat Duck

The Duck – bay, blood pudding & umbles

When I was reading blog posts on The Fat Duck many years ago, I made my way down many dishes, and wondered – “where’s the duck?” Surely a restaurant called “The Fat Duck” may feature a quacker or two?

Await no more, this is “the duck” or as I like to call it the “quacker lacker”. Once again, my on-location notes are most unhelpful (seriously, I literally wrote this is “the duck”). But nobody knows me like me – what I wanted to carry across, and I recall myself saying this to my two dining companions on the night:

Asian methods of cooking duck aside (e.g. Peking duck), this is the best duck I have ever had. i.e., it’s the best Western-style duck I’ve ever had.

The Fat Duck

It deserves another shot

Cooked perfectly? You would expect that at a minimum. Duck’s a difficult meat – too early, too raw; too late, too tough. This was perfect. It tastes better than chicken.

I’m not completely sure where all of the flavours come from, but a big guess would go to the blood pudding and umbles. You don’t really want to know what umbles are, but you’re already Googling it aren’t you?

Get over the psychological hurdles of eating offal, and savour this duck. There’s no way to hate on it.

The Fat Duck

Cylinder – plum sauce, duck neck, cucumber | Dish – potato puree

The duck isn’t all that’s up with this dish. There are two sides as well, both of which are delectable in their own way. Inside the cylinder crisp is the lean but juicy duck neck in a sweet plum sauce. Again, finger-licking good. Very Asiatic too, which was a welcome touch, given we’ve spent around 40 days eating anything but Asian food.

The potato puree adds a bit of heaviness that probably wasn’t necessary, but who doesn’t like a good mash? After all, this is also one of Britain’s culinary heritages.

Once again gentlemen – “the duck”.

The Fat Duck

Hot and iced tea

When the hot and ice tea is put in front of you, I implore you follow the server’s advice in not turning the cup. It is placed in front of you at a certain angle, because – yes – one side is actually a ‘hot’ (not scalding) liquid, while the other side is an icy (actually cold) tea.

Heston pulls off this feat by making the two teas at different viscosities with a  impermeable divider between them. When the cup is filled on both sides, the divider is removed, and the difference in density between the two causes the two to remain separate – like how oil does not mix with water. Mind. Freaking. Blown.

Drink up – the most unusual sensation of drinking something hot and cold at once floods you. It’s like magic. What a way to wash away the savouries and cleanse the palate!

The Fat Duck

Botrytis Cinerea – grapes done many ways

This dessert is something else. Even the name Botrytis Cinerea begs for some explanation: the term refers to a grey fungus that specifically preys on wine grapes (grapes = “Botrytis” in ancient Greek). When this fungus attacks grapes, two things can happen:

1) The grapes die (darn it)

2) “Noble Rot” occurs, which actually impart on the grapes a distinct flavour when made into dessert wines.

Only The Fat Duck can get away with naming a dessert “grape fungus”.

This dessert explores the flavours of an extraordinary wine called Château d’Yquem – a Premier Cru Supérieur wine from Bordeaux in France. I know nothing about wine as per usual, but this particular gem of a bottle is famous due to its grapes being attacked by noble rot. For more reading, click on the Noble Rot hyperlink above.

This dessert celebrates the various flavours of the grapes of this particular wine. In essence, it could have been called “textures of grape – homage to Château d’Yquem”, but that would be too prosaic for this dessert – nay – for The Fat Duck.

The Fat Duck

Another delicious angle

I detected at least five different textures:

1) An extremely chilly, tart sorbet grape
2) A brown sugar grape with citrus blanc filling (holy crap)
3) A milk chocolate grape with feuillantine
4) A peach wine grape

All of this and more rested on a bed of edible popping candy “soil” made from crystallised chocolate, d’Yquem infused sultanas and vanilla. The brown “stalk” is kind of like a churro in texture dusted in cinnamon. Oh, and there’s grape gel somewhere in it all.

This dessert is…beyond impressive. The number of techniques and level of skill required could quite possibly drive me insane.

Chef d’oeuvre.

The Fat Duck

The “BFG” – black forest gateau

In every other picture/post I’ve seen about The BFG, servers will spray the area around your table with an “essence of the forest” spray, to serve a similar purpose to several other dishes in stimulating your aural senses. I was somewhat let down that we didn’t get this treatment. Perhaps I shouldn’t have spoilt myself!

The Fat Duck

From the other end

Admission: black forest cake isn’t usually one that’s on my “must eat” cake list.

Then again, it’s not every day I eat a BF cake like this.

The Fat Duck

The innards, at various levels

I won’t even try to name all the layers that’s going on here, but there was – at minimum – aerated chocolate, cherry mousse, chocolate ganache, and kirsch cream. What made this cake work for me was that it wasn’t too heavy on the chocolate. Yep, I’m not a fan of thick and heavy chocolate-based cakes (this is why I nod politely when people tell me their favourite cake is mudcake).

The BFG is different – the various layers, in particular the kirsch cream and low density of the cake overall makes for a surprisingly moreish piece. I can’t believe it, but I could have gone with another one.

It doesn’t exactly sound like I’m showering this dessert with praise – but to reiterate – it got me to change my opinion on a chocolate black forest cake. That may not happen again for a long time.

Besides, there’s always that smooth kirsch ice cream to level it out, right?

The Fat Duck

Whisk(e)y wine gums

Now things get really fun – whiskey gums from various regions in the UK are presented to us. They’re exactly what you think they are – tasting like whiskey jellies, and I must say this is impressive presentation. Despite my lack of whiskey knowledge, I still reveled in this after-dessert snack.

The Fat Duck

The Fat Duck even provides an education!

And now I know where they’re from!

The Fat Duck

“Like a kid in a sweet shop”: Aerated chocolate w/mandarin jelly core; Coconut baccy – coconut infused w/aroma of black Cavendish tobacco; Apple pie caramel w/edible wrapper; The Queen of Hearts – “she made some tarts”

The final parting gift from The Fat Duck is sending us back to our childhood days – like a kid in a sweet shop.

It’s pretty simple: a collection of four types of sweets. The Fat Duck’s petit fours, as it were.

The Fat Duck

Please, what can I do with a card?

The amount of visual fidelity that goes into producing the Queen of Hearts is awe-inspiring. The outside is white chocolate, while the inside some kind of fruity jam. All that in something as thin as a 5c coin.

The Fat Duck

Ohhhhh….om nom nom

[Insider Joke] Sorry Danny, you can’t do magic tricks with this one because the girls will just eat it. [/Insider Joke]

The Fat Duck

Coconut baccy

I’m completely opposed to smoking, so when the coconut baccy came out, with aromas almost exactly like that of tobacco, I had to turn my nose up at it. Yet, on the palate, it was quite sweet, given that it’s coconut first, tobacco smoke second. Being desiccated coconut, it gets a bit dry, so keep the water handy.

The Aerated chocolate w/mandarin jelly disappeared as quickly as it came, given the lightness of this particular sweet. I will forever remember you, dear mandarin!

My favourite though was the apple pie caramel w/edible wrapper. It’s a mini party apple pie caramel. Hands down winning.

The Fat Duck

Obligatory

My socks have been knocked off, ok. I have to figure out a way to conclude this post.

That’s difficult to do, to say the least. On the one hand, I am truly astounded that it not only met, but exceeded all the hype that surrounds Heston’s bellwether restaurant. On the other hand, I had not expected it to be as good as it was.

Perhaps there’s another way to summarise my thoughts on The Fat Duck:

In the first half of 2015, The Fat Duck and its staff will move to Melbourne while the original site at Bray undergoes renovations. Heston promises the full Fat Duck experience will be there, perhaps even a little bit better. The price? An eye-watering $525. This is a full $125 more expensive than if you were to dine there at the original location in Bray.

And yet, I will pay every last dollar to visit The Fat Duck in Melbourne. How’s that for a conclusion?

Awesome:

  • The nature of perfection is that it cannot be reached. This restaurant comes close

Not so Awesome:

  • One or two dishes aren’t perfectly suited for my palate. More of a personal gripe rather than anything awry with the restaurant
  • One or two dishes were more theatre than substance

9.5/10 Caesars

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  • Editor Rating

  • Rated 4 stars
  • 80%

  • The Fat Duck
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: July 15, 2015

Summary:

36 comments on “The Fat Duck | London & Melbourne”

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Thanks Andrew! I would say it is, but I probably wouldn’t do it again due to the price. Would be more than happy with a normal table next time!

    • Jonathan Reply

      We managed to get a kitchen table, but it’s full (only room for 4). I’m hoping that they’ll let me take a camera in as the photos might be enlightening! Unfortunately I don’t have a blog to share them on (except the ubiquitous Facebook). Nor do I have your gift with words – or at least, I don’t think I do.

      • Michael Shen Reply

        Ooft, lucky you! It’s actually the fact that I’ve already been that makes me all the more jealous of your position. You’ll have a blast of a time and I’m sure they’ll let photography be a part of it.

        What’s your instagram account? Would love to check your experience out in some way?

  1. Choc Chip Uru Reply

    Your post was brilliant. Absolutely brilliant. Your post writes everything I thought the Duck would be about! Gorgeous photos 🙂

    Cheers
    Choc Chip Uru

  2. Chris @ MAB vs Food Reply

    I too have read your post from start to finish, your post does the Duck justice!

    I agree wiht pretty much all you have said about Fat Duck. The foie gras and the Botrytis Cinerea were my favourite dishes, some of the best dishes I have had anywhere!

    But I think I might be the only person that is not all that enamoured by the sound of the sea. It was a nice dish, but I was expecting to have my socks knocked off. I don’t know if the sand and foam make for great flavours tbh and the seafood itself was alright without being spectacular. The ipod thing was cute, but a bit of a gimmick for me. I am probably the black sheep on this one….

    Now back to writing up my post…..

    • Michael Shen Reply

      I must admit Chris that’s a lot of attention span you’ve got there! I couldn’t even proof read my own post in one sitting 😛

      I know where you’re coming from regarding Sounds of the Sea. The seafood is good but it yes, it wasn’t quite on the same level as some of the others. For me, the underwhelming aspect was The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party sandwiches. So dry…so dry…

      Looking forward to reading your thoughts!

  3. irene Reply

    I’m so speechless. I’ve always loved your reviews but this one has to be one ot the bests you’ve ever posted. Cold and hot tea sounds like magic. Everything sounds like freaking magic!!

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Thank you Irene 😀
      I personally feel this is my best work as well. Honestly though, it’s all because of the restaurant – it speaks for itself!

      Magic indeed, hence the price to see (eat) such a show!

  4. talkandspoon Reply

    Wow – this post totally took me on a journey. More than excited about The Fat Duck in Melbourne now.
    My only Heston experience was in London at Dinner – would definitely recommend that too and it’s a LOT cheaper! Less theatre of course, but the meat fruit is pretty cool too.

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Agreed on Dinner – it was a very different experience to The Fat Duck, but one that I would readily pay for again as well. It is as you said – much cheaper as well.

      That meat fruit…so awesome.

  5. Padaek Reply

    Awesome post Michael! Read and enjoyed it from start to finish.Thanks for sharing the magnificent and famous Fat Duck experience. The food looks incredible, especially the poached salmon with licorice gel and the duck. I’ve never seen a duck steak look so good like that before! Love the tea photos. A very difficult post and experience to top indeed! Best wishes. 🙂

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Thanks Padaek, I must say, this was a pretty amazing experience. The photos do the talking themselves, really!

      I can’t wait to go again!

  6. Sherrie @ Crystal Noir Reply

    Fantastically thorough post Michael! Everything looks amaaaazing on crazy proportions! I’ve got my fingers crossed that I can get a booking for TFD in Melbourne for 2015 😀

    • Michael Shen Reply

      Thanks Sherrie 🙂

      It’s a pity that it’s not up to us to decide whether we get a booking or not – may the odds be ever in our favour!

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