Monday, 13 August 2012

Foodie Review - Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck

For me, food equals nostalgia - it takes me all the way back to childhood. Whether it be butterscotch Angel Delight, mint chocolate Vienetta, jelly and ice cream, fairy cakes, or Yorkshire puddings, certain foods hold precious memories.

I mean, who doesn't remember crumbs scattered across the floor when Santa ate the mince pies at Christmas? Or a half-munched carrot which Rudolph supposedly was too full to eat. Who doesn't remember making their first chocolate crispy cake, chocolate smeared around their faces in glee?

For these reasons, I am a massive foodie. I LOVE my food. So, you can imagine my delight when hubby and I finally - FINALLY! - managed to book a table to sample Heston Blumenthal's amazing taster menu (check it out by clicking here) at his world-famous Fat Duck restaurant in Bray.

You see, while I cannot perform Heston wizardry in the kitchen, him and I share the same food ethos...

Heston Blumenthal has always made it his mission to create fantastical foods which take you right back to childhood. A bit of a modern-day Willy Wonka, he's even managed to create edible wallpaper. Each dish at The Fat Duck makes you gasp with wonder, and you can't help but let a huge grin spread across your face.

So, for anyone who wants to visit The Fat Duck, here you go - my review of one of the world's best restaurants.

Sam x

For those of you who feel intimidated in posh places, you have nothing to fear at The Fat Duck. In fact, it  is so unassuming (both inside and out!) that we walked right past it at first. Nestled on a quiet corner in Bray, we were sure we hadn't got the right place - how could it be that someone as bonkers as Heston could own a restaurant which looked so, well, quaint?

I don't know what I'd been expecting (a fair ground or some Oompah Loompahs perhaps?) but inside was even more normal - it looked just like any other restaurant.

Of course, that's pretty much where normality ended. As soon as we were seated, the theatre began, and our mouths were left gaping for pretty much the entire three and a half hours.

Honestly, the whole thing was simply magical, with each dish drawing a massive "oooh!" from us as it landed on our table. Even the aperitifs (refreshing alcoholic flavours poached in liquid nitrogen) were spectacular and had my gaping in wonder.

You see, while Heston may not offer fancy, French-style haute cuisine, he excels at bringing out your inner child. The presentation of each course was sublime, every course a stand-out meal, but I did have a few favourites...

Jelly of Quail and Crayfish Cream

Sounds horrible, right? But just check out the pictures - the whole table was transformed into a magical, faraway forest, complete with steam and smoke. Small pockets of oak-smoked films had to be popped onto your tongue before you dug into the truffle toast (hubby was in heaven) and the chicken liver parfait. Every bite was sublime, every mouthful tasted different...amazing.

Snail Porridge
Snail Porridge
Next up was the meal which I was most dubious about - Snail Porridge (I mean, really!). It just sounds c-c-c-crazy, right? I needn't have worried, though - in the hands of a genius, it was actually one of my very favourite dishes. In fact, it was my favourite savoury course. Despite its lurid green colour and, well, the fact that it contained snails, it was truly divine. I can't even begin to describe the way it tasted - it was simply like nothing I'd ever tried before.

Sound of the Sea

Perhaps one of Heston's most famous dishes, if only for its presentation. Before being presented with the course, we were each brought a seashell, which contained a small iPod. Once you popped the headphones in, you were instantly whisked away to the seaside with the soothing sound of waves and seagulls...

It meant that the actual meal itself tasted of the seaside. From the edible sand, to the seaweed, fish and foaming sea, I was instantly taken back to searing hot summers on the beach.

Mad Hatter's Tea Party

The Mad Hatter's Tea Party was the course I was most excited about, and it lived up to every expectation I had. It was spectacular!

Waitresses laid a small story on our tables (Alice in Wonderland-inspired, what else?), before presenting us with an elegant box. Inside the box was a gold-leafed chain watch, which we then had to stir into a tea pot and pour into a bowl - this formed the Mock Turtle Soup. Small triangles of sandwiches were then brought out on a top-hat cake stand...

Honestly, I can't even tell you HOW GOOD the sandwiches were! I don't even know what was in them. Just know this - a) I'm not a sandwich person at all, b) How good can bread get, really? c) I could have happily died eating these.

Macerated Strawberries

Macerated Strawberries
Having a sweet kind of tooth, I was jigging with excitement by the time we got to desserts. After we had tasted Hot and Iced tea (how is that even possible? I still don't know!) we were served a tiny, miniature ice cream cone, stacked with Earl Grey ice cream and strawberry jelly. Being the kind of person who dribbles ice cream down her chin, I made such a mess with this - but it was just the aperitif to the prettiest pudding imaginable, Macerated Strawberries.

I know, you what?! What the hell are Macerated Strawberries? But just look at it! I could scarcely bring myself to eat it it was so pretty, but I'm glad I did. It was MOUTHWATERING! The strawberries even had their very own edible white chocolate picnic blanket - yum, yum, yum.



Before the BFG (Heston's reinvention of that classic dish, the Black Forest Gateau), the waitresses trotted out with a miniature aerosol. They sprayed the air with the scent of kirsch, cherries and, well, the Black Forest, all designed to transport us to yet another world.

In a dazed world of our own, we tucked in to this chocolate tower, not quite knowing what to expect. Well, hands down, this is the best thing both which hubby and I have ever eaten. Every mouthful, every bite was, quite simply a chocolate, boozy, cherry orgasm. Sorry - there is simply no other word to compare it to! We were literally drooling, endlessly mumbling "OH MY GOD!" between hurried mouthfuls.

Total food orgasm.

Whisk(e)y Gums

Whisk(e)y Gums
Firstly, let's be clear on this - I am not a fan of whisky. In fact, I hate the stuff. Yet present me with a framed map with small, peelable whisky wine gums and, chances are, I will be in raptures.

Just how awesome is this for an idea?! Each gum was flavoured with a different whisky, taking you on an alcoholic journey across the world. Some were strong, while others tasted of those beer bottle sweets you used to get as children - quite simply amazing!

Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop

Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop
For someone who is pretty much a pick n mix addict, this was my dream course. Heston's take on sweets is, like everything else, nothing short of spectacular - even the menu of sweets was scented. We opened our bags to reveal edible playing cards (chocolate, strawberry, mouthwatering yumminess), coconut tobacco, and then an apple pie flavoured toffee (complete with edible wrapper) and a bubbly, mandarin-flavoured chocolate. YUM YUM YUM!

So, is it worth £180pp? Yes, yes, yes. Not only do you get three and a half hours worth of foodie heaven, but Heston is a true Willy Wonka. He is a genius and will make you taste and experience things you never thought possible. He will leave your mouth hanging open in astonishment and grinning in delight. He will quite literally take your breath away, and that is worth the money alone.

Get booking now...