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Image 1: It all started with a video called "Like a Kid in a Sweetshop". This was a 6-minute animation of an Alice in Wonderland-style fantasy received in my email two weeks prior to my reservation. I learned later that it had taken more than 4 years to produce it!
Image 2: In fact, this was my 4th visit to what may well be the world's most renowned restaurant - the pioneer of "multi-sensory" cuisine. Having visited the place in 2005, 2008, and 2010, I had been lucky enough to witness the evolution of Chef Heston's creativity - from a simple tasting menu (featuring liquid nitrogen, which may be rather old-hat now but was a bold move back then) to an elaborate, almost theatrical, dining experience which involved all the senses. And even, these days, a pre-meal video!
Image 3: Over the years, Heston has been criticised for sticking to the same tasting menu year after year. But why wouldn't he? After all, you can’t improve on perfection! Besides, as there are diners from all over the world who haven’t yet experienced the Fat Duck, it’s reasonable – isn’t it? – that he allows them to taste the signature dishes that made the place famous.
Image 4: Having said that, each year they do introduce a new dish – or make small enhancements to existing dishes. And I can confirm that today’s menu is much more elaborate than 2005’s.
Image 5: And here’s a good example. It’s the first time I’ve had this aerated beetroot and horseradish macaron. At this point, I should note that I’m going to keep these notes short, as most of the courses are either covered in my previous reviews, or well discussed in the blogosphere.
Image 6: So…off we go. This is the famous "Nitro poached aperitifs", intended as a palate cleanser in preparation for the meal. It came with……
Image 7: … "Citrus Grove".
Image 8: Although there wasn’t a choice of flavours as there was before, they now had three options of "cocktails": gin and tonic with lemon zest and a spray of perfume; vodka and lime sour with matcha dust; and campari & soda with raspberry dust. This is a good example of what I meant by ‘small enhancements’ to existing items.
Image 9: Red cabbage gazpacho with Pommery grain mustard ice cream – a Fat Duck classic.
Image 10: But this was new to me, though. It’s Savoury Lollie - Waldorf rocket (apple, celery, walnut), Salmon Twister, Foie gras feast
Image 11: Oak Moss
Image 13: Truffle Toast.
Image 14: Jelly of quail, crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait.
Image 15: Here’s another Fat Duck classic that made headlines: Snail porridge, Iberico bellota ham and shaved fennel.
Image 16: Roast foie gras, barberry, braised kombu, crab biscuit.
Image 17: They always have a few ‘conventional’ courses on the menu to demonstrate that they know how to cook delicious food as well as create new ideas, and this foie gras is a prime example. It had been carefully roasted to perfection resulting in a very thin, crisp layer of skin while maintaining a beautifully silky centre. Along with the superb balance of rich foie with barberry fruitiness, this foie gras dishes made it to my all-time best foie dish!
Image 18: Here’s a bookmark to introduce the Mad Hatter's Tea Party! This course was new to me, and was made up of things from the famous Lewis Carroll story.
Image 20: "Pocket watch"
Image 24: Mock turtle soup
Image 25: It was followed by another famous dish that was blogged by people around the world when it first appeared: "Sound of the Sea"!
Image 26: The idea, you see, is to enjoy the seafood with your eyes closed, while listening to the sound of waves and seagulls. Ingenious! With no distractions from the dining room, you can focus 100% on the seafood, just as if you’re sitting on a beach! It sounds gimmicky, I know, but I’ve had the course twice, and I think it really does improve one’s enjoyment of it. In fact, why not go further, and match every course with an appropriate soundtrack... now there’s an idea!
Image 27: Onto one of my favourite fish courses ever, since I first had it in 2005 - Salmon poached in liquorice gel!
Image 28: Asparagus, vanilla mayonnaise, black truffle, golden trout roe. Look at the moistness of the salmon! Another perfectly executed course!
Image 29: Knowing that I’ve been here several times, they specially prepared a few meat courses for us to share. There was Wagyu Beef with picalilli…
Image 30: … Braised pork belly, with…
Image 31: … Black truffle, risotto of spelt, and …
Image 32: … Lamb with cucumber, onion and dill fluid gel.
Image 33: And now, one of the most simple-looking but most sensational, dishes of all time - Hot & Iced Tea! I had this last time, but I’m still fascinated by it. It’s tea at two different temperatures, served in a single cup – on the left side it was very cold and on the right it was warm. At the very last moment, the waiter removed a film in the middle and suggested that we drink it immediately. The resulting temperature contrast delivers an almost numbing sensation on the tongue, as if the brain is confused which side of the tongue it should believe in! A truly stimulating course!
Image 34: Another extra course - Botrytis Cinerea! Don’t worry, it’s not the real thing, which is a fungus that infects many plants. This is just a sort of tribute to a form of the fungus called noble rot, which can result in distinctive sweet dessert wines. That’s why it’s served in the form of a bunch of grapes. Actually, the dish his is considered to be one of the restaurant’s most complex desserts, involving – wait for it! - 80 ingredients, 23 elements, and 55 stages! It was even featured in Masterchef UK. Each bubble contains different flavours and textures related to grapes. Pretty sophisticated stuff!
Image 35: More dessert - Macerated Strawberries with…
Image 36: … Olive oil biscuit, chamomile and coriander jelly, and ice cream cornet.
Image 37: BFG - Black Forest Gateau
Image 39: As we got near the end of the meal, I requested a course that I had before, but which is no longer on the menu – the full tableside version of the Nitro-scrambled egg and bacon ice cream. Freshly made, it demonstrates how to cook without heat!
Image 40: First, you take a magic "Fat Duck" egg, then…
Image 41: … crack it into the empty pot, and …
Image 43: … add Liquid Nitrogen, which is at a temperature of minus 196 degree Celcius!
Image 44: Usually, to make ice cream, you churn the mix while it slowly cools to below freezing. This can take hours. However, if you’re brave enough, like Heston, you can make it immediately, using a super-cold substance like Liquid Nitrogen. It’s like cooking, but without the heat!
Image 45: Of course, there’s a trick involved, which many diners don’t cotton on to – which is that you need an ice cream mixture, not just a raw egg. So the egg used wasn't really an egg! Instead, they make a small hole in the shell and replace the inside of the egg with ice cream mixture. Then, at the tableside, all that’s needed is to add the Liquid Nitrogen. Genius!
Image 46: This is the "Not-so-full English Breakfast"! It’s scrambled egg and bacon ice cream, with ultra-thin bacon served on toast. It's actually a dessert, but it has the flavour profile of a breakfast! And note that the bacon must be about a molecule thick (slight exaggeration, but not much!) because it's translucent! Incredible!
Image 47: Another new concept to or me - Edible Candle! At first, we thought it was part of our table setting, so it came as a surprise - to say the least - when the staff cut it into pieces!
Image 48: It turned out to be white chocolate with caramel inside. They actually first introduced the idea a decade ago, but they only bring it on special occasions! That's why I’m seeing it for the first time. I am sure Tom Sellers got the edible candle idea in his Restaurant Story from here.
Image 49: Whisky wine gums, served on a frame!
Image 50: Each gum is actually made from a different whisky! I loved the idea of putting them on a map to show their place of origin.
Image 52: And finally - "Like a kid in a sweet shop"!
Image 54: Coconut baccy
Image 56: The Queen of Hearts! Look at the precision of the "food printing”!
Image 58: Many of the concepts from the Fat Duck have shaped today's modern cuisine - Nitro aperitif, "Sound of the Sea", Hot and Iced Tea, Liquid Nitrogen ice cream, the Edible Candle and more. And they’re not merely gimmicks like the kind of thing many other restaurants use just to entertain – every single course here is well thought-out and produced to perfection. It’s hard not to admire the originality and creativity – the way they constantly push the boundaries. I said it in my previous review, and I still think it – however many times I come, I’m sure I’ll truly enjoy every moment of the experience.