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Image 1: In the small Berkshire village of Bray, about an hour and a half’s drive from London, is the home of two 3-star restaurants! When you consider that there’s only four 3-star establishments in the entire country, that’s pretty amazing! We weren’t expecting too many surprises as this was our third visit (2005 and 2008), but we were still looking forward to a fun meal, no doubt involving all of our 5 senses!
Image 2: It might be a bit dull with similar tasting menu all year long; and might be rather cramped and uncomfortable for a long meal in this small dining area. But who cares? This is the only place in the world where you can enjoy the “Sound of the Sea” with an iPod, and witness the transformation of a “magic egg” into ice-cream!
Image 3: Nitro-green tea and lime mousse (2001)
And yes – that’s liquid nitrogen! It boils at -196 °C!
Image 4: So, to kick off the meal, foam of egg white, green tea, and lime, instantly frozen by liquid nitrogen. (Incidentally – you don’t need to worry, nitrogen isn’t harmful. In fact, normal air contains 78% nitrogen.)
Image 5: Lime perfume was then sprayed in the air, and the mousse dusted with green tea powder. What a complex palate cleanser in preparation for our magical experience!
Image 6: Another amuse bouche - Bitter orange and beetroot jelly.
Image 7: More treats - Oyster in its shell, completely blanketed with passion fruit jelly and decorated with floral lavender on the side. The chilled, sharp and fruity jelly, and the “seawater” saltiness of the oyster made a unique combination. A great summer starter!
Image 8: Red cabbage gazpacho with a scoop of Pommery mustard ice cream. The first of these is unusual; the second strange. But both together? Surely only Heston would have the nerve! And you have to hand it to him – the dish totally awakened our senses!
Image 9: Next, a box with Fat Duck film for each of us on a bed of seaweed.
Image 10: Inside this tiny plastic holder is truffle-infused rice paper. It tasted of…well, nothing, really. Completely bland.
Image 11: Steam resulted after our server applied hot water. SEE VIDEO HERE!. To be honest, I’m not sure of the purpose of the steam. Seemed like a gimmick to me. Still, there’s nothing wrong with the occasional gimmick to make things interesting.
Image 12: It turned out to be a steamy overture to truffle toast topped with small slices of radish.
Image 13: Parfait of foie gras resting on quail jelly, and covered by a white cream of langoustine. Wow! The parfait was ultra-light but rich in flavour while the cream had a hint of shellfish. Incredible!
Image 14: The meal continued with a meaty snail and Joselito ham lying on a lovely green and herby porridge, topped with a spiral of shaved fennel.
Image 16: And now the best dish of the meal so far! A superb roasted foie gras, sitting on ‘rails’ of cherry puree and garnished with chamomile and shaved almond. It was accompanied by almond fluid gel, preserved cherry, and cubes of amaretto jelly. The shaved almond offered a textural contrast while the jelly cubes did the same thing for taste. The preserved cherry complemented the richness of the foie. Truly memorable dish!
Image 17: "SOUND OF THE SEA"
Can sound enhance the dining experience? Heston thinks so. To demonstrate the point, we were served an iPod, hidden inside a seashell and playing sounds of seagulls and waves. Our first impression was that it was just another gimmick. But after the experience, we changed our minds! Very interesting!
Image 18: Our minds and senses were freed from the rather constricting restaurant atmosphere to a sun-kissed paradise where we were relaxing on a beautiful beach with a nice warm breeze to cool us (not a typical experience in England!)
Image 19: While enjoying the sounds from a Utopian Ocean, what could be better than some seafood?
Image 20: Oysters, razor clams, sea urchins, fried mini-eel (like the Cantonese “white rice fish”) and a variety of seaweeds were served on glass with white ‘tapioca sand’ underneath. The theme was completed with oyster juice and clam stock foam. An original and brilliant course - involving all 5 senses! A very thoughtful creation!
Image 21: Poached salmon beautifully decorated by grapefruit pulps and drops of olive oil, accompanied by artichokes and vanilla mayonnaise.
Image 22: Delicate and melting salmon inside a soft gelatine liquorice shell. The bitterness of the liquorice was light enough not to overshadow the subtlety of this soft and moist poached salmon. Pulps of grapefruit delivered extra bursts of flavour. Another superb dish!
Image 23: For the main course, a rare ballotine of remarkably tender Anjou pigeon with thick black pudding sauce, leek and pickling foam. The sauce was made with pig’s blood, ginger and pepper, and the pigeon had a distinctly clean, instead of gamey, taste. Great ingredients!
Image 24: For those who don’t care for pigeon, a substitute was offered - a sea bass with champagne jelly and parsley foam.
Image 25: The most extraordinary palate cleanser before dessert - HOT AND ICED TEA.
Left was very cold and right was warm. The waiter removed the film at the very last second and we were told to drink immediately before the temperature equalised. An intelligent twist to simple iced-tea and what a uniquely stimulating sensation that lasted for the next few minutes! Strange!
Image 26: MRS MARSHALL’S MARGARET CORNET
Image 27: PINE SHERBET FOUNTAIN
Another interesting palate cleanser – you pull out the vanilla stick and lick the white powder. Playful experience!
Image 28: Finally, the first proper dessert was blackcurrant sorbet sitting on some coconut flakes, and accompanied by Bavarian cream of lychee and mango, cubes of blackcurrant jelly, and mango and Douglas fir puree.
Image 29: PARSNIP CEREAL
We opened up the package to find...
Image 30: …Heston’s unique idea of dessert! Or is it breakfast?
Image 31: NITRO-SCRAMBLED EGG AND BACON ICE CREAM
This course alone is worth a special trip to the Fat Duck! It was a spectacular lesson in how to cook without heat! Two of the Fat Duck’s magical eggs were placed in liquid nitrogen (at -196°C), and with just a few simple stirs, a fresh ice cream was produced. How? No idea. Amazing!
Served on a warm French toast, the ice cream captured the flavour of both egg and bacon
Image 33: Of course, breakfast isn’t breakfast without tea. This was Heston’s interpretation of tea – but in jelly form!
Image 34: Another original idea! Whisky gum, attached to a map that shows the brand and age of the whisky. Very clever!
Image 35: Carrot and Orange Tuile
Image 36: Petits-fours
Image 37: Petits-fours
Image 38: A wax-sealed envelop containing the menu! Really glad we revisited one of World’s most famous restaurants. True, some items looked and sounded rather gimmicky at first glance, but they really did enhance our dining experience, and we all admired the incredible amount of originality and creativity in the menu! Although I had some of the courses before, I still enjoyed every moment of the experience!