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cheeekymunkey

The Fat Duck 2011

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I didn't want to mix reviews with instructions on the booking thread and it seems we're due a 2011 thread to add to the annual sequence...

There are so many blow-by-blow accounts of the FD menu on here and elsewhere that yet another one would add nothing. More than that, I wish they didn't exist at all. I would advise anyone thinking of going not to read them.

Much of the magic of the Fat Duck is in being surprised by what arrives on the plate (and not on the plate), so it was a shame that I knew exactly what was coming and what it was going to look like. I had read about all the theatrical twists and it was a flatter experience for it. I purposefully didn't let my wife in on the secrets, and she loved it more as a result. But, at least the photos do not convey the flavours and there were surprises for me there.

FWIW, my favourite dish was the Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast. It seemed to achieve everything it set out to. My wife loved the Roast Foie Gras, Barberry, Braised Konbu and Crab Biscuit. Least good of the bunch? For me, Sound of the Sea did what it was supposed to, but didn't actually taste very nice...

To talk of value for money at £350/head is bonkers. It is an obscene amount of money to spend on food and it's difficult to recommend it for that reason alone. However, it is a wonderful experience and, if you've got £350 sitting around with nothing better to spend it on, you'll enjoy your 4 hours at the Fat Duck.

P.S. Be ready for the ubiquitous champagne trolley. Fine if you want some, but I still struggle with the psychological challenge of turning it away after it has been wheeled up to the table. And, at £20 a glass for the NV stuff, it's not an insignificant addition to the bill.

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When you say £350 a head you presumably are talking about £180 per head for the menu plus £170 for drinks?


"Why would we want Children? What do they know about food?"

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Pretty much.

Sorry, should have broken it down. Approximately...

£180 - tasting menu

£115 - cheaper wine tasting

£20 - champagne

The rest - service


Edited by cheeekymunkey (log)

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^^

I think what the OP meant is that a play-by-play of each course (especially with photos) ruins the surprise. Instead cheeekymunkey has just given an overall review, which gives little away except for their overall impressions.

Must admit, I've always wanted to take my brother to the Fat Duck. Not sure Blumenthal is very vegetarian friendly so not so good for me but I think my bro would love it!


Edited by Jenni (log)

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This is my last year in london, and I finally managed to get reservations at the Fat Duck in Jan!

I must have read through a zillion blow-by-blow accounts over the past few years, but have abandoned that for a good few months, such that the only thing I vivdly remember descriptively is sound of the sea.

Thanks very much to the OP for the price breakdown - FD seems to be substantially costlier than the Michelins in london!

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I had a very similar experience to CheeekyMunkey - I would have given a lot to have had all knowledge of the Fat Duck erased from my head prior to going. That didn't stop it being a wonderful experience.

One thing I did question, how long has the menu been essentially the same? I suppose there is no shortage of takers but I feel as though I have been reading reviews of that menu for years. You feel as though some sort of evolution at least might be appropriate.

The menu at the Royal Hospital Road is still effectively the same three years after I went and that seems almost unforgiveable, Heston seems to get away with it.


Edited by Man In Transit (log)

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One thing I did question, how long has the menu been essentially the same?

I think it's one of the issues with places that might be thought of as iconic. Punters expect the iconic dishes, particularly if they are one-off visitors (as I was - I would have been a bit disappointed if no snail porridge, for instance). I wonder how many are repeat customers.


John Hartley

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To be fair, when I visited the menu had changed a fair bit from around 3 years previously - nearly half the dishes were different and those I had eaten before had certainly been changed.

Looking at the menu now, the venison and tafferty tart are different to the lamb and strawberry dishes I had in August - I wonder whether they are looking at changing 2-3 dishes seasonally?

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I went in 2005 and the only dishes I recognise are the snail porridge and the salmon in liquorice gel.............and the price was almost half the current 180.


Edited by cachan (log)

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The menu at the Royal Hospital Road is still effectively the same three years after I went and that seems almost unforgiveable, Heston seems to get away with it.

When I went last year the Prestige menu was introduced as "Gordon's signature dishes" (so that one wouldn't change much obviously), and we were also presented with a seasonal a la carte, and a five course "menu of the day", I haven't had a look through the current menus, but I guess they must recycle tried and tested dishes through.

I remember reading once that Gordon said something like "half the dishes are old ones, the other half are new, which may then become regular fixtures". Maybe it was in the 3 Star book.

I assume Heston gets away with it because his dishes are much more involved, and because of the huge demand for tables. If I was lucky enough to get a table, I'd be making a request for Bacon and Egg ice cream.


James.

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I'm still digesting a delightful lunch at the Fat Duck today, will scribble some quick comments!

It was my first time dining here. While I had read about the experience a couple of years back, the only dishes I recognised/remembered were 'Sounds of the Sea' and the Hot & Iced Tea. I just skimmed through the old egullet threads, and yes, much of the menu has changed. Further, while some dishes seem to be the same (oakmoss, sounds of the sea, etc), there are slight changes in the components (possibly reflecting seasonality?) - so the flavour profiles are slightly different. E.g. beetroot, artichokes for my meal vs asparagus etc in others.

The flavours were good, solid on a whole, but assertive (especially with the use of umami components). Also, very complex. I wouldn't go expecting a delicate piece of fish. Plates often have many components, some of which you may not casually put together, but somehow work because of a third 'bridging' ingredient.

Something I didn't expect was how asian some of the flavours felt to me (I grew up in Singapore). So there was a kind of nostalgic, familiar instinct when I had expected none of it.

I'm in physics, and have worked with liquid nitro, which meant that the whole impact of liquid nitrogen at the table doesn't have a large impact on me. But those dishes weren't gimmicky, they tasted great too.

All in all it was a fantastic sensory experience. Definitely something different. Like a previous poster said, a meal at this price point is definitely not something you'd call value for money. But if you have the money to spend, this place is well worth a trip.

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Thinking of paying for friends to visit as a wedding present - is it the same price/menu at lunch? £180 still for food I guess? What sort of price is a bottle of wine (wine matching not quite in my budget - would like to allow a set amount and they can top up If they wish.)

Thanks for any advice :-)


"Experience is something you gain just after you needed it" ....A Wise man

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I believe the Fat Duck is UK’s most frequently-reviewed restaurant out there. Additionally, the restaurant seems to serve the same dishes ‘forever’ (or at least 80% of them) regardless of the season. The often changed items are probably the main course and its desserts. Given this, I’m not sure how much fresh information or new insights I can add. What I’m about to write - it’s very likely has been written and discussed elsewhere. That being said, here was my lunch experience last month.   

 

The Fat Duck’s popularity reached its peak in 2005 when it was selected as the world’s best restaurant by the Restaurant magazine. However, what lured me here was the fact that it’s a Michelin 3-star restaurant (I did not bother to visit Dinner by Heston although currently it ranked higher than the Fat Duck according to that same magazine); it gained its first star in ’99 and within 5 years, the Fat Duck was considered among Red guide book’s most elite dining place. I’ve heard how difficult it was to get a table here. So, I didn’t put that much hope. I asked my hotel’s concierge assistance to make a reservation, but at the back of my mind, I doubt they would put that much effort and it proved to be true (hey, it’s not the concierge of Japan’s hotels). Based on my Europe trip schedule, actually I only had one day in which my spouse and I could eat at the Fat Duck – our other days in London fell on Saturday afternoon, Sunday + Monday, the days where the restaurant was closed – yes, you could ‘judge’ that I did not make sufficient effort by sparing only one day in trying to dine at one of the most competitive tables in this planet. But the stars were aligned that after waiting 15 minutes for the online reservation to open (exactly 2 months before), somehow, I could secure a table for 2 at lunch. My struggle happened to be quite minimal, I suppose we’re lucky.

 

The restaurant was located in the peaceful village of Bray. Despite the cloudy and gloomy day, our mood was good as we’re about to spoil ourselves with a very promising lunch. Like a few other guests, we did not directly enter the restaurant; instead many of us were busy taking picture of the restaurant’s façade. After that we stepped in to the Fat Duck (finally) and were warmly greeted and escorted by the staff. We were seated at the table near the staircase – the table was big and could possibly seat 3-4 guests. The degustation menu consisted of 14 courses and it meant the dish’s portion would likely to be small (3-5 bytes per course). The long menu could be tricky since it’s very difficult to serve excellent 10+ dishes all the time, but should the kitchen screw up early, they got plenty of courses to redeem themselves. Let’s dive into the menu …

 

The food symphony at the Fat Duck began with 3 small dishes at the 8’s level (out of 10)    

-beetroot and horseradish cream (8.5): soft & airy with crispy shell, having sweet and earthy flavor. A good start

-the nitro poached aperitif (7.8): a good show and my wife loved it. Marc Veyrat spoiled it; the chef in a black hat prepared something similar with better and more interesting flavors 6 years ago in Annecy – so this was not too impressive

-cabbage gazpacho with mustard ice cream (8.2): making good cold soup was never easy and this one was refreshing  

Then the kitchen up its game by delivering 3 consecutive high quality dishes. They’re supposedly among the restaurant’s famous classics

-quail jelly and crayfish cream with chicken liver (9.5): the cream & liver were smooth and intense, every layer was consistent and delicious - a high level French cuisine prepared near perfection. There was also a crisp truffle toast and the thin strip with oak flavor (decent)

-snail porridge (9.2): possibly Heston’s most well-known dish and it lived up to expectation. All elements were in balanced creating a delicious porridge with a right texture

-roast foie gras (9): the liver was creamy and rich, combined with some unusual side dishes (barberry, kombu and crab biscuit) that happened to work well together

 

We’re very pleased with the proggressed thus far. After that ... come probably the lowest points of this beautiful tasting menu at level 7 or below

-mad hatter’s tea (6.7): I enjoyed the theater but was not impressed with the dish’s subtances. The broth and its contents plus the sandwich were average

-sound of the sea (7.3): again, a nice show and quite liked the music. The food was the ‘problem’ – the edible sand and the foam had some Ok flavor. The raw fishes/seafood were not bad, but I’ve tasted better preparation & flavor of octopus, mackerel, & yellow tail in Japan

Sometimes the new high does not come until very low points. The next 2 dishes were kinds of stuffs that makes the idea of travelling far and “broke the bank” for food were worth the time & effort

-salmon in liquorice gel (9.7): I often think any elite fine dining/sushi-ya serving salmon was ‘cheap’ and I could not be more wrong this time. It was a masterpiece; perfectly poached buttery salmon was enhanced by the gel, trout roe, vanilla mayo etc.

-venison with truffled spelt (9.8): if there’s such thing to be close to perfection, one of them was definitely the Fat Duck’s umble pie. The deer was moist and delicious; even better was the spelt ‘risotto’ with some deer cube inside – exceptional in both taste and aroma

 

The ‘orchestra’ ended with similar notes as the beginning. I was not blown away by any of the pre-dessert, dessert and mignardises. A couple of them were meticulously prepared with beautiful presentation.

-hot & iced tea (8): fun and pleasant “two-face” tea

-egg in verjus and vice versa (8.4): a nice play of flavors – sweet, bitter and sour

-botrytis cinerea(8.1): wine grapes in different shapes and colors with decent flavor

-whiskey gums (7.9): cool presentation with distinct flavors

-sweet shop bag (7.6): very sweet’ mignardises’

My food description has been quite brief and if you want to know in greater details, you’re welcome to see them at the longer review (see the link below)

 

What a fun and memorable gastronomy adventure. The food has been fantastic overall (97 pts in my note) and it fully deserved the Michelin guide’s highest honor. My impression that UK has no great restaurant has been dismissed by this meal. The restaurant was full as expected and the guests were quite diverse. There were a couple flying from Germany next to us and 2 (unrelated) groups of Indian families/relatives occupying the restaurant’s biggest tables. The service was relaxed and impeccable, but not personal; the staffs surely were in the top of their games – always ready to re-fill our drinks, answer any questions about the dishes and fold napkins whenever we left the table. The “worst” part of this meal was probably the restaurant’s decor. Excluding Japan’s kappo kaiseki and sushi places, as far as I remember, the Fat Duck has the simplest/humblest ambiance with relatively low ceiling. Thus, the upcoming renovation for the building is surely a wise thing to do. I would love to return here again but the staff informed me that the restaurant did not usually change the menu; this can be a challenge since when I re-visit a restaurant, I would love to eat new dishes – about half of them ideally. However, if any gourmand has not visited here, I really recommend it. Heston is truly the chef who knows how to cook both ‘molecular’, modern and old school stuffs well and most of the times they’re delicious. The other chef I know who could come close to do what Chef Blumenthal’s doing was Alinea’s Grant Achatz

 

More detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspot.com/2014/12/the-fat-duck-heston-blumenthal.html

Pictures: https://picasaweb.google.com/118237905546308956881/TheFatDuckBrayUnitedKingdom

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