The Fat Duck ★★★ // Bray // Berkshire

Acclaimed, but sometimes disliked for his gimmicky approach, Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck is known in the UK as the most famous restaurant in the world. Strangely, connoisseurs from outside of the UK will know less about it, confirming that the restaurant holds a special place in the UK’s culinary psyche.

However, the Fat Duck does not allow the diner any choices. There is one tasting menu, one experience….4 hours 30 min at £200+ per head by the time you add in drinks and service. While the concept may be as sharply set-out as a Peter Jackson movie, there is no room for error with the scenario.

Knowing the amount of work that has gone in to creating the dishes creates a feeling of respect and satisfaction even before you’ve sat sat down. Despite this, it’s the gimmicky courses which are often the less interesting from a taste point of view, compared to the more traditional dishes. Though without a doubt, the plating is always impeccable with little touches, aromas and textures. But forget the “Sound of the Sea” and the “Tea Party”, as although they are nice, they don’t have great amounts of flavour, and amount to little more than a play on words.

As far as we are concerned, it’s better to focus on the dishes that are done to divine effect.

The snail porridge is an absolute winner. Certainly the least complicated  dish of the tour – made up of an impressively balanced emulsion of parsley and coriander. The quality of the snails is undoubtale and the cooking is perfection. A stand out dish for sure.

Also, the pan-fried foie gras topped with a crab caramel “tuile” is stunningly balanced with the goji berry (described as a “barbary”) purée. A sumptuous piece of cooking and flavour combinations, which is 3*** in all aspects. The tarty purée, sweetness of the sugar and buttery melting foie gras is gimmick free, full of flavour and textures.

Though there is one gimmick that does stand-out. Shaped like an egg, the colour of an egg, with the outer texture of an egg. Once you break the shell, you reveal a crème brulée style cream….flavoured with bitter orange and slithers off verjus caramel. An impressive, fresh and flavoursome dessert. Not quite revolutionary, but it certainly tastes good.

In essence, the Fat Duck is a culinary factory. It is to the UK for food what BMW is for Germany. However, you can’t ask to change of colour of your car here, as nothing can be changed. While it’s 3*** rating is deserved, once you’ve been,  you’ll never need to go back.

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