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cabrales

The Fat Duck 2002

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I had lunch at the much-discussed Blumenthal's Fat Duck in Bray today. This was my first visit, and I had a very good meal. If Wilfrid has the time to make the short journey to Bray and has not visited Fat Duck before, this restaurant should be preferable to Petrus, Embassy, La Trompette, etc. The lunch special menu is a very good value-for-money. I could have had a wonderful meal for under Pounds 40 with wine by the glass, had I cared to limit costs.

Lunch Menu, Three Courses at Pounds 27.50

(Items not chosen included in square brackets)

-- Snail Porridge, Jabugo Ham,

[Veloute of pumpkin, fricasse of ceps and pigs' cheeks, or

Parfait of foie gras, fig compote and Banyuls]

-- Braised Lamb Shank,

[Petit sale of duck, green coffee sauce, pommes puree, or

Poached skate wing, cockles, braised celeriac, and tonka bean veloute]

-- Salted Butter Caramel, roasted pistachios and peanuts, chocolate sorbet and cumin caramel

[or Nougat Glace, praline rose, fromage blanc ice cream]

        Glass of Louis Roederer champagne (approx. 13-14)

        Glass of Aligote Goisot, 2000 (5.50)

        Glass of Chateau Jouvent Graves 1996 (9.00)

        Coffee and petits fours (separate charge, 3.95)

The first amuse was average -- an emulsion of green tea and lime sour, served in a slender V-shaped glass. This was light and airy (perhaps due to Adria influences? note I have never eaten at El Bulli). A dining room staff member indicated that vodka had likely been utilized in the dish, but this was not apparent. The tea flavors were too suppressed, resulting in a certain blandness and an emphasis on the citrus elements of the flavoring. The lime tasted much more like green apple to me, with nice notes of sweetness combined with sourness. Overall, however, this dish was still slightly bland and tended on the insubstantial side.

Then, a much better second amuse of a little serving of Pommery mustard ice cream, to which was added (from a cute ceramic jug) a gaspacho of red cabbage. Amusingly and wonderfully, this liquid was a beautiful medium purple in color. It tasted refreshing and yet also (appropriately) salty and with a subtle "kick". I do not recollect having seen a purple this intense in a dish, except when violets or lavendar saucing was used (e.g., Club Gascon).  

The appetizer of snail porridge was appealing. I generally do not like oats, but here softened small oats were integrated with diced bits of snail, garlic and parsley. A parsley-based oil bound this satisfying dish together.  The Jabugo was appropriately limited to thin slivers atop the porridge mixture. The reference to porridge is a misnomer, if it connoted Chinese-style congee consistency. This dish was much more a risotto-type preparation.  On top of this mixture were placed thin, translucent strands of fennel -- this was unnecessary in my assessment. The Aligote white Burgundy taken with this dish is a relatively classic pairing with snails. For me, the snail porridge was the best dish of the meal.

The lamb shank tasted good as well. I received a very generous portion, with a large angular expanse of bone protruding from it. The textures were nicely varied, with the caramelised and darkened overtones of the outer portions of the shank giving way to tender, well-prepared flesh inside. The only very minor area of improvement was that the sauce, which was nicely made, was a very little bit sweeter than I personally would have preferred. Softened slices of carrots were a good accompaniment. A dish I enjoyed, and paired with an appropriate wine by the glass recommended by the sommelier.

A trio of pre-desserts arrived. A thin circular-shaped crisp, which the maitre d' described as a "lollipop", with red chilli flavor; a beetroot gelee (quite dense, but not in a negative way) and a tart with basil and a bit of dried fennel on top. Quite different, although it highlighted the desire to be different as well (I guess there's nothing wrong with trying to appear innovative).

The dessert was a rich, elastic piece of dark-tasting caramel. As discussed in the "Pierre Herme" thread under France, there is a trend to combine saltiness with sweet sensations in dessert, and this dessert was consistent with that trend. The salted butter did add interesting elements to the caramel, and, while not a big fan of chocolate, I liked the melting chocolate sorbet as it hit the caramel. There were too many hard pistachio bits embeded in the caramel piece for my liking, but that is a pet peeve. The cumin ingredient in this dessert, described on the menu, was not noticeable.

The meal ended with a chocolate containing tobacco (a la Adria), with a thin crisp (as thin as a veil) with bacon flavors (taken separately).  A very good meal, with no obvious flaws. I am beginning to consider accepting the position that it might not matter whether Blumenthal derives "inspiration" from other chefs, so long as his food tastes the way it does. Fat Duck deserves its two Michelin stars.  Modern and well-prepared food. Perhaps Blumenthal tries hard to make his dishes seem innovative, but the flavor combinations on the plate generally worked.

I also found the menu interesting enough to ask whether there was a table available for tonight or tomorrow's lunch, perhaps due to cancellations. (Unfortunately not yet)  The restaurant appears to be less busy during Saturday lunch than during Saturday night or Sunday lunch. It is closed Sunday dinner and Monday all day.

Access, Decor and Service

Bray can be accessed from Paddington station, from which I took a 30-40 minute trainride to Maidenhead (Pounds 7.50 return fare). Then, a quick (less than 10 minute) cab ride (approx. Pounds 5-6 each way) brought me to the little bend in the road that I had passed at various times on my way to Waterside Inn in the same town/village.  There was the Fat Duck!

The exterior of the restaurant is quite unassuming. However, the interior is modern, with hues of yellow, turquoise, and some limited amount of purple/light green in the artwork.  Wooden beams. A fireplace area with a modern-looking sculpture placed inside. Chairs of a color between mustard yellow and a light olive. Modern artwork, and a large glass wall area near the entryway with blue hues.

The maitre d' was wonderfully detailed in explaining each dish. The dining room team member who, together with the maitre d', primarily assisted me spoke fluent French (Andy -- I don't know why I like speaking French at restaurants in London, but I do). The sommeliers recommended fitting selections by the glass, and were knowledgeable and friendly (and spoke French). It was nice that the service was effective, but not stuffy.

I liked the "French" aspects of this restaurant: (1) the availability of Chateldon sparkling water (less common in London and not available at, for example, Petrus), (2) the provision of Langiole knives for the lamb, and (3) butter from France, brought to a table in a large circular slab and described as having been aged appropriately (this butter did not taste impressive, but the effort was there).  A fairly strong, although in some cases not inexpensive, wine list (including Delamotte champagne, an item I like alot even though it probably does not have appeal to most).

The tasting menu offered was Pounds 75:

-- Roast scallop, caramelised cauliflower puree, jelly of Oloroso sherry

-- Crab biscuit, roast foie gras, crystallised seaweed, marinated salmon and oyster vinaigrette, or

Cauliflower risotto, carpaccio of cauliflower, caramelised cauliflower puree [Wilfrid -- deconstruction of cauliflower?]

-- Poached breast of Anjou pigeon, a pastilla of its leg with cherries, pistachio cocoa and quatre epices, or

Poached-grilled red mullet, veloute of Borlotti beans with rosemary and vanilla

-- Pineapple and chilli jelly, pain d'epices ice cream and crab syrup

-- Delice chocolate, chocolate sorbet, cumin caramel

The a la carte menu is Pounds 58 for three courses:

Appetizers

-- Roast scallop (see above)

-- Crab biscuit (see above)

-- Cuttlefish cannelloni of duck, maple syrup, parsley and perilla broth

-- Cauliflower risotto (see above)

-- Ballotine of foie gras with jasmine, jelly of mead, Sichuan peppercorn

-- Lasagne of langoustine, pig's trotter and truffle (6.50 supplement)

-- Radish ravioli of oyster, with truffle and goat's cheese, fromage de tete

Main courses

-- Pigeon (see above)

-- Saddle of lamb cooked at low temperature, lamb tongue, onion puree

-- Pot roast best end of pork, gratin of macaroni (for two)

-- Roast spiced cod, castelluccio lentils, braised cockscombs [interesting!] and pea puree

-- Sweetbread cooked in a salt crust with hay, crusted with pollen, cockles a la plancha and parsnip puree

-- Red mullet (see above)

Dessert

-- Delice Chocolate (see above)

-- Chocolate coulant (M. Bras) [note crediting] with blue cheese, fromage-blanc ice cream, Sichuan pepper and wine pear

-- Tart tatin, bay leaf and almond foam, vanilla ice cream

-- Millefeuille of pain d'epices, pineapple and chilli jelly

-- Smoked bacon and egg ice cream, pain perdu, tomato jam [interesting]

-- Artisan cheese from La Fromagerie (if additional course, 10 pound supplement)

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Obviously I'm expected to dip my already waxy wick on this one so I'll say only this:

Blumenthal is a consumate restauranteur.

Not original, not clever, not cutting edge but with an unerring ability to judge and serve the tastes of the nouveau riche with a minimum of effort and maximum profit.

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Cabrales, are you able to contrast The Fat Duck to Arpege in terms of construction or how the dishes are put together and hold together? In terms of taste, does one chef seem more flavorful than the other. Can Passard rock you back on your heels with a more pure conception than Blumenthal, or would you need more experiences at Fat Duck? Did you have post-meal reassessment (a phenomenon worth exploring, by the way) after you left Bray?

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In any case, yet another exceptional report, cabrales. Thank you.

I would just like to add a link to the excellent Fat Duck web site that Andy pointed out in an earlier thread.

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Michael,if the dishes recounted by Cabrales are not "clever" than maybe you can explain your definition of the word.

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Cabrales - I wouldn't for one second criticise you for wishing to speak French in London, or indeed Berkshire restaurants. I don't speak French, but am generally reassured when front of house are of that extraction. They just do it all better somehow don't they. And I am sure they are more than happy to converse in their mother tongue with you.

Excellent report BTW. I do think sometimes that Blumenthal is being deliberately confrontational with his menu speak, almost daring his customers to order a particular dish, Snail porridge just makes you involuntarily go "ugrh, yuk!".

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I've not eaten at The Fat Duck and it may well be wonderful but reading the menu above the dishes strike me as sailing very close to the parodies featured in the restaurant in Mike Leigh's film "Life is Sweet"-you know, Liver in Lager and Duck in Chocolate Sauce,and so on

I am also  highly sceptical of all that pseudo-scientific and quasi-philosophical guff which purports to lie behind these combinations and ,in contrast to LML, the phrase "too clever by half" springs reflexively to my mind when seeing them.

Is this REALLY "cutting edge" cuisine or is it pretentious nonsense for the terminally jaded?

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To begin with, I haven't eaten at the Fat Duck either, which makes me eminently qualified to discuss it! :biggrin: Having said that, let me say that, according to Shaun Hill, he once passed on to Blumenthal an invite to participate in a resident seminar with Harold McGee, and that Blumenthal's occupation with scientific recipes dates from that time.

That is by no means a condemnation. McGee is very informative and very stimulating, and he appears to be as expert in the kitchen as in the lab. His second book, The Curious Cook (out of print the last time I checked) is much more personal and idiosyncratic than his first, and makes me like him very much just as a human being. So if Blumenthal has learned from him attitude as well as fact and technique, it will have done him no harm whatsoever.

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I ate one meal at The Fat Duck last May and I have to say it was very good. I do not think Blumenthal is so consumed with modern technique that he has thrown flavor out the window for it. My take on it was that his interest lies more in playing with savory/sweet concepts. Hence, the mustard ice cream with red cabbage (an amuse he served me as well.) I also think that although his technique is obviously inspired by Adria and other French chefs, if you asked me to put him in a category I would say he is Modern British. That what the places feels like to me. Here are my notes excluding the wine notes;

"First up, a long thin glass, which contained Green Tea and Lime foam. This was followed by a small glass dish, which had three thin layers at its bottom, Crab Aspic, Pea Puree and an aspic of Pigeon. It was quite sensational and could have passed for an appetizer if the portion was larger. The glass dish is intentional as one can hold the dish up and see the colorful layers through the side of the dish. Finally a small saucer that contained a small scoop of Mustard Ice Cream sitting in a small pool of Red Cabbage soup. All three dishes were extraordinarily different and tasty. My palate had now been energized.

Crab Risotto that had a thin layer of Passion Fruit Jelly covering it all topped by a scoop of Crab Ice Cream. The dish was an unbelievable combination of textures and flavors, mixing the grainy firmness of the rice with the gummy texture of the jelly and the creaminess of the ice cream, which added a crunchy texture as well from it having little pieces of ice in it. One further note about the wines, the first two bottles were so good that we blew through them in no time and we needed to order the Z-H from the list because we were out of wine. That meant we went through three bottles for five people before the red wines started. Sloshed was putting it mildly!

My main dish was Spiced Cod, which was rubbed with 7-8 spices such as saffron, vanilla, cardamom, etc. It was served with a braised Cockscomb, which was strategically placed on the plate in a way that made it look like a mountain range, and a pile of lentils that were boiled in Badoit, which supposedly keeps them from splitting in the boiling water. Just delicious. My dessert was a scoop of Smoked Bacon and Egg Ice Cream served with a Pain Perdu (French Toast) and the various petits fours that were served were things like Chewing Tobacco Caramels and Red Pepper Essence lollipops. All terrific. I have to add that I can’t comment on the dessert wines as I was gone by then. In fact everything after the lollipops is a big blur.

Cabrales is correct and the place truly merits two stars. And as for the food sounding outrageous, it isn't anywhere as outrageous tasting as it sounds. As for getting there, Cabrales obviously took the slow train. There are express trains available from Paddington that make their first stop in Maidenhead in a mere 22 minutes.

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And as for the food sounding outrageous, it isn't anywhere as outrageous tasting as it sounds.

I agree with Andy that the restaurant almost tries to surprise and tease with respect to the naming of dishes (e.g., the snail porridge Andy pointed to), the utilization of ingredients (e.g., coxcombs) and, sometimes even, presentation (e.g., the pre-dessert lollipop was served with the "rod" part placed into a shotglass filled with inedible items that looked good).

I am a bit surprised by my own acceptance of Blumenthal's cuisine, given how much I hate gimmicks (e.g., the set-up and cuisine at Marc Veyrat's Ferme de Mon Pere) and the deliberate and unnecessary combination of unusual ingredients (e.g., sometimes, at Pierre Gagnaire).  Also, I don't ordinarily like it when a restaurant seems to have to "try hard" on the perceived creativity front. In that context, Fat Duck offered an interesting meal for me, in that it led me to ask why I didn't object to certain aspects of the restaurant that I would ordinarily take issue with. I have not yet come with particular insight on that front. Perhaps it comes down to the simple observation that the food did taste good, and was modern in the way that L'Astrance is (but without the subtlety with respect to creativity or lyricism of L'Astrance -- that's not a negative comment on Fat Duck, to be clear).

Note that the lunch special appears to be an ideal way to sample Blumenthal's cuisine -- Bray can be quite pretty during the spring/summertime. The lunch special was such a good deal that I seriously thought about taking 2 orders of it, such that I would have also sampled the skate entree (a fish I like, when done well) and the pumpkin veloute with ceps and pigs' cheeks. However, I decided not to, in view of reservations at The Capital today (lunch report to come).  :wink:

I agree with Steve P's comment that the taste of certain dishes was not outrageous. For example, the lamb shank was a relatively classic preparation, albeit with greater notes of sweetness than one would expect. Also, the pairing of garlic and parsley with snails is a "black letter" traditional combination. Here, of course, the utilization of oats and Jabugo ham in the same dish was not traditional, but the central tastes in the appetizer were garlic and parsley and snails.

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Cabrales--might I request a more involved description of how Heston's "Salted Butter Caramel, roasted pistachios and peanuts, chocolate sorbet and cumin caramel" was presented on the plate?

Especially compare to Roellinger's presentation of "Caramel mou de cacahuetes salees" if possible.  There's a nice picture of the Roellinger on p. 284 of his 1994 book--"le livre d'Olivier Roellinger"--a 4" round disc of mou (the soft caramel containing both peanut and pistachio), yet firm enough to stand up, molded inside a ring about 3/4" high, with a quenelle of chocolate sorbet on top and a few decorative chocolate fans stuck into the sorbet.  Once on the plate, this pile was then ringed by a caramel sauce, deglazed with butter, cream and powdered cinnamon.

Were you able to slice right down through the sorbet into the caramel and scoop up both together?

A minor aside--regarding salt as a trend--salt has been used in dessertmaking forever, generations of pastry chefs, before Conticini, Herme and Claudia Fleming, realized the vital role salt played scientifically and on the palate. The only "trend" is that certain food writers noticed, and annointed those putting a sea salt crystal on top of a dessert element as surely the work of a genius.  Note that long before a few US writers paid attention the gracious, charming and humble Brittany chocolatier Henri Le Roux had already become infamous for selling salted butter caramels in Quiberon.

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Cabrales--might I request a more involved description of how Heston's "Salted Butter Caramel, roasted pistachios and peanuts, chocolate sorbet and cumin caramel" was presented on the plate?

Especially compare to Roellinger's presentation of "Caramel mou de cacahuetes salees" if possible.  There's a nice picture of the Roellinger on p. 284 of his 1994 book--"le livre d'Olivier Roellinger"--a 4" round disc of mou (the soft caramel containing both peanut and pistachio), yet firm enough to stand up, molded inside a ring about 3/4" high, with a quenelle of chocolate sorbet on top and a few decorative chocolate fans stuck into the sorbet.  Once on the plate, this pile was then ringed by a caramel sauce, deglazed with butter, cream and powdered cinnamon.

Were you able to slice right down through the sorbet into the caramel and scoop up both together?

Steve Klc -- I'll do my best to describe the Blumenthal dessert in non-technical terms, using only your description of the Roellinger dessert (I have not yet purchased the book, and, as you know, still have never visited Cancale).  But here goes...

-- The caramel at FD was harder than you describe ("soft") because it was evident it could stand up and it was almost a solid piece of caramel (although, of course with elastic and "gooey" textures associated with caramel). The caramel took the form of an approximately 1 cm-high "slab" (not as large as slab might connote). It was darker in color than medium brown. Its shape was somewhat rectangular, but not with clear definition in such way.

-- The pistachios were crushed, and the taste of the pistachio was more pronounced than that of the peanut (although that could be tasted too).

-- The chocolate sorbet was indeed on top of the caramel, and it was nice-tasting. One could, I believe, slice through the sorbet and get at both the sorbet and the caramel together. However, this would require the application of considerable force to the sauce spoon. Indeed, just the caramel itself was not easy to cut with the sauce spoon provided (obviously, no knife was available at this stage). I had to hold the piece carefully with my fork, while making some effort with the sauce spoon. I ate the chocolate separate from the caramel, although I liked the melting of some of the sorbet onto the caramel.

-- There was no fan on top of the chocolate sorbet.

-- On saltiness, salt had been worked into the caramel. Also, a bit of saltiness was provided by the roasted pistachios and peanuts.

Hope the above helps. It appears that Blumenthal might have been "inspired" by Roellinger? It's not surprising, from a practical perspective, that Blumenthal only credited Bras' dessert (which is well-known) and not Roellinger's (less known), but the theoretically the same standard ought to be applied with respect to attribution, no?  :wink:

You'll be amused to know that today lunch, at The Capital, I ordered a dessert completely unrelated to toffee (chocolate fondant with coffee parfait) and it came with toffee, among other things.

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I take it the cumin caramel was a sauce?  was this rectangular dessert form, the "slab," presented on a rectangular plate with the sauce running alongside or in some other fashion? was a line of ground nuts spread along as well?

I am very impressed with and respect the menu deference shown toward the Bras coulant.  Fewer mainstream diners are aware of the Bras coulant and the more widely imitated, though different, Jean-Georges version than you realize.

I am now--interested--in what this dessert potentially reveals cabrales.  You have piqued my curiousity. It appears neither modern nor interesting in an international (i.e. non-UK) dessert context--certainly not on the level of mostly everything else described in this thread. It doesn't appear that the version you had brings anything new or creative to the presentation vs. Roellinger--in fact, it could even be perceived as technically or scientifically flawed:  a sophisticated caramel--with the right mix of sugars and additives cooked to the proper temperature--should be firm yet remain soft and unctuous enough to be cut through with a spoon.  Otherwise, what's the point?

A caramel meant to be picked up with your hand as a petits four might be cooked to yet a different temperature or with a different recipe than one meant to be wrapped in plastic, etc. but neither would have a quenelle of sorbet on top.

Perhaps it's a seasonal aberration--cooking sugar is very dependent on humidity--and I screw things up as the ambient temperature and climate shifts, usually before it's obvious the season has changed!

All this aside--Heston wouldn't be the first chef to have an openly derivative dessert on his menu, nor an underwhelming one when compared to the interest and vitality of the preceeding savory courses.  Anyone know whether Fat Duck has a pastry chef?

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I take it the cumin caramel was a sauce?  was this rectangular dessert form, the "slab," presented on a rectangular plate with the sauce running alongside or in some other fashion? was a line of ground nuts spread along as well?

Steve Klc -- I couldn't detect where in the dish the cumin was, and I was interested by its inclusion in the name of the dish and was looking (in view of prior discussions by board members on cumin in non-dessert dishes). There was no palpable sauce, to my recollection, which makes the cumin caramel reference a bit difficult for me to interpret. I was disappointed that I was unable to begin to unravel the mystery of the utilization of the cumin in the caramel. If I go again, I'll ask the dining room staff members.

There were no ground nuts spread along the plate (whose shape I cannot recollect).  The only utilization of nuts was inside the "slab" of caramel itself.

I have to say that I didn't mind the harder texture of the caramel. When you mention petit fours/mignardises, it occurred to me that the texture of the caramel was like that one finds in certain mignardises.

LML -- Thanks for the links.  :wink:

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LML-But Roellinger stole the recipe. It's an ancient Breton recipe from Sal Ty La Crima.

Steve Klc-Ducasse in NYC has a dessert cart they offer at the end of the meal with a selection of caramels and lollipops. One of the caramel flavors they offered was sea salt. While it was terrific, I didn't think it unusual at the time assuming that mixing salt with sweet must be par for the course in regions where they farm salt. I can't imagine Roellinger was the first one to do it.

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Some background for members on Bras' coulant, which was credited:

http://www.boncolac.fr/fr/bras.htm

http://www.michel-bras.fr/francai....ant.htm (2000 version)

The indicative menu on Bras' website has the following types of coulants (rough translations):

(1) Sur une interprétation du coulant, originel de 81, le biscuit tiède de chocolat "coulant", aux arômes de café ; crème double glacée, trait de caramel-café (an interpretation of the original coulant from 1981, lukewarm chocolate biscuit coulant, with coffee aroma; ice cream (?? unclear translation of creme double glacee) with a trace of caramel-coffee)

(2) Le biscuit tiède de chocolat "coulant" aux arômes de cardamome ; crème glacée au lait entier d'ici (lukewarm chocolate biscuit coulant, with cadamon aroma; ice cream made from "full" milk of the region)

(3) Le biscuit tiède épicé à la pulpe d'oranges "coulantes", cornet de sorbet aux amandes amères (lukewarm biscuit coulant spiced with orange pulp, sorbet of bitter almond)

The reference to "coulant" means runny (typically used for, for example, cheese). It refers to the interior of the biscuit, presumably. :wink: I have never tasted this biscuit, but have known about it for a while.

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great review of the duck. i have been to the braserrie recently and ate at the duck in September 2001. Deserving of 2 stars but the menu hasnt changed drastically since last summer.

ps - what was the bread like ?

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ps - what was the bread like ?

cappers -- The bread was average. Only two varieties were offered; the dining room staff member referred to them as white and, likely, brown. The crust was a bit hard for my preference in this roll-like bread. I did not take cheese, and do not know if other bread varieties are available for that.

On the brasserie, please provide input when you have a chance.

Back to bread -- Have members been to the Poilane bakery in London? Note that La Fromaggerie was mentioned by the maitre d' at The Capital as being the best place for cheese in London. I have looked at the selections at Harrods and Selfridge's, and they were not too bad either. At Selfridge's over the weekend, I noted that they had various smoked fish (e.g., sturgeon, marlin (sic), swordfish). The person at the counter was nice enough to let me sample a couple of these -- average only.

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Cabrales--here's a link to the beautiful Fat Duck site with a picture of a version of the Delice:

http://www.fatduck.co.uk/food_science.html

This isn't anything close to what you had, is it?

Interesting that there is no mention of salted butter, peanut or pistachio on any of the menus?

It's possible Heston altered the public face of the site, reworked the Roellinger presentation and has yet to fully integrate the plating change onto the menu.

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Cabrales--here's a link to the beautiful Fat Duck site with a picture of a version of the Delice:

http://www.fatduck.co.uk/food_science.html

This isn't anything close to what you had, is it?

Interesting that there is no mention of salted butter, peanut or pistachio on any of the menus?

It's possible Heston altered the public face of the site, reworked the Roellinger presentation and has yet to fully integrate the plating change onto the menu.

Steve Klc -- That is not like what I had. The caramel is not as tall, nor as round. And the chocolate sorbet was on top of the caramel. Also, there was no wafer/veil, as depicted on the linked page.  Also, in the picture, there appears to be a bit of yellowish pastry-like thin item under the chocolate sorbet -- that was absent from the dish.

Another explanation might be the existence of two similar desserts:

"Salted Butter Caramel, roasted pistachios and peanuts, chocolate sorbet and cumin caramel" (what I had as part of the lunch menu and inspired by Roellinger; note no reference to "Delice of Chocolate" in the name, as the photo linked is annotated)

VS

"Delice chocolate, chocolate sorbet, cumin caramel"

(see the tasting menu description in my original post; this seems to be the dessert picture, and, like the above dessert, has chocolate sorbet and cumin caramel; however, it has "Delice chocolate" instead of "Salted butter caramel, roasted pistachio and peanuts").

The linked page also offered a board called "molecular gastronomy discussion group", with three non-interesting threads. :wink:

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:confused: I have to say that this is all getting a little too nerdy. At the end of the day the question is whether the food tasted nice or not.

I'm sure all these chefs are happy to admit to cross-fertilisation, indeed Roellinger and Bras are friends and I'm sure I read somewhere that Blumenthal knows Bras. In fact one of his waiting staff worked at both Maison Bricourt and Michel Bras.

For what it is worth I have eaten at all three restaurants (Maison Bricourt about 7 times as it is my favourite restaurant in the world, period) and I have to say that the Fat Duck does not reach the heights of the other two, despite the definite invention (for the UK) shown by Mr Blumenthal - I particularly enjoyed the red pepper lollipops.

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For what it is worth I have eaten at all three restaurants (Maison Bricourt about 7 times as it is my favourite restaurant in the world, period) and I have to say that the Fat Duck does not reach the heights of the other two . . . .

Gavin -- While I have never visited Roellinger or Bras' restaurants (a misfortune that is high on my priority list to rectify), I agree that Fat Duck does not approach the level of French three-stars (except perhaps Bocuse, but that's because Bocuse's cuisine is so poor).  For the greater London area, though, except for Gordon Ramsay, La Tante Claire and arguably Waterside Inn, my current assessment (albeit based on one FD visit; that hopefully to be soon rectified as well) is that FD is the restaurant where I would want to eat.  :wink:

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To a large extent I agree with Gavin. I've not been to Roellinger, Bras, or El Bulli, and I've only had one lunch at the Fat Duck (summer 2000, just after the refurb) and it was very good. I know the palate-cleansing sour is Adria-derived, but it doesn't really bother me. Apart from that, I had the red cabbage borscht with mustard ice-cream, which was excellent, the roast scallop with cauliflower puree, which was OK and a slow-roast veal kidney, sauce Mac-vin and home-made chips and ketchup - which was superb. We also had the beetroot jelly - the only beetroot dish I've ever been able to stomach - and the tobacco-infused chocolate among the petits fours, and at this distance, I can't remember what I had for pudding. Knowing me, it involved chocolate.

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I would be happy to eat at the Fat Duck more often if it was in London but being a lazy sod and suitably encumbered with wife and child that isn't an easy option.

I would highly recommend Maison Bricourt to anyone not just for the food but for the ambience and service also - I would love to find its equivalent in London but have not yet done so.

Michel Bras is also wonderful and is in the most amazing modernist hotel I have ever stayed at.....but I guess I should make these observations on the French board...

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