Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Fat Duck, Bray, UK

The Fat Duck is Heston Blumenthal's masterpiece. The chefs he works with share his passion and dedication. He also has 2 pubs in Bray and I highly recommend the one closest to his restaurant. The Fat Duck is about a 50 minute drive from London, depending on traffic and well worth the journey. Heston Blumenthal is also the owner of the London restaurant Dinner (recently reviewed in our blog), where his former executive chef Ashley Palmer-Watts is now executive chef. This was my second visit to the Fat Duck and the experience was as good or even exceeded the first experience. We also received an intriguing tour of the lilliputian kitchens.

Aerated and dried beet root made into wafers filled with horseradish cream.

Nitro poached aperitifs

Preparing the vodka and lime sour. Pouring the liquid nitrogen.

Meringue flavoured with vodka is expressed onto a spoon.

The soft meringue is placed in the liquid nitrogen bath, firming it.

The now solid meringue is dusted with lime powder. We are instructed to quickly (before it melts) pickup the meringue and consume it in one bight. A "Campari and soda" "aperitif" was also offered where freeze dried raspberry dust was sprinkled over frozen meringue flavoured with Campari.

Butter at The Fat Duck: artisanal, salted, hand churned, unpasteurized and Welsh. Absolutely addictive!!

Pommery grain mustard ice cream becomes:

Red cabbage gazpacho with the ice cream.

Savoury lollies: "Waldorf rocket" made from apple, walnut, grape and celery puree and frozen; "salmon twister" made from smoked salmon, horseradish gel and avocado; "foie gras feast" made chicken liver parfait, raspberry gel. almonds and chocolate. Eye pleasing, palate satisfying again!

Jelly of quail with crayfish cream (homage to Alain Chapel): THE ASSEMBLY: an oak moss filled box is presented with a plastic dispenser on it's centre that contains a paper thin, oak moss flavoured gel. Truffles are grown at the base of oak trees and absorb flavours of oak moss. To fully help us to more fully appreciate the taste of truffles, we are asked to remove the oak moss flavoured gel and place it on our tongues.  

Truffled toast covered with black truffle dust topped with slices of radish (on left) and chicken liver parfait with crayfish cream and a layer of pea puree at the bottom and on top, a fig tuile.

Liquid nitrogen is poured onto the oak moss.

The nitrogen vapours now have the aroma of the oak moss and the vapours drift across the table. The aroma is part of the eating experience. Aware of that heady aroma, we eat the rich truffle toast, an extraordinary gustatory experience.

Snail porridge with Iberico Bellota ham and shaved fennel. Parsley, porridge, braised snails finished with a walnut dressing. Sublime! The fennel was a brilliant flavour counterpoint.

Roast foie gras topped with sesame seeds with rhubarb fruit gel, braised konbu and crab biscuit. The konbu provides a very earthy flavoured contrast to the rich foie gras.

The introduction to the "production" : "The Mad Hatter's Tea" (C. 1850): mock turtle soup.

A mock turtle egg, consisting of turnip, egg white and saffron mousse topped with rutabaga puree, black mustard seeds and minute enoki mushrooms representing the caterpillar's toadstool and also lardo wrapped pig's cheek with black truffle cubes and cucumber.

We are asked to select a watch fob.

We then place the fob, freeze dried, reduced and concentrated beef stock, in the cup, like a tea bag, with the thread attached, hanging over the lip of the cup. Hot water is poured in the cup and we are instructed to let the fob steep. 

We then pour the steeped liquid into the bowl and consume the "mock turtle soup", gold leaf flakes and all.

Introduction the "sound of the sea": a spiral conch shell in which ear buds are found. 

We are then served with a rectangular wood box filled with shell flecked white sand from the seashore over which a suspended glass plate is affixed. On the glass at right is foam representing the foam found on the sea shore. To the left and against the sea foam, 3 pieces of cured raw fish, kingfish, halibut and mackerel are buried with bits of sea weed in "sand" (made from a mixture of fried baby sardines and tapioca ground to the consistency of sand).

We are then instructed to place the buds in our ears. Immediately we become aware of the cries of seagulls flying over head, all the while the sounds of the surf can be heard, crashing against the shore. Lost in contemplative concentration admiring the white shell flecked sand below the glass, I tasted the foam, bits of seaweed, raw fish and bits of salty "sand" and slowly devour this 3 dimensional eating experience: sight, sound and taste. Extraordinary!

Salmon and bits of black truffle wrapped in liquorice gel and poached sous vide, accompanied by black truffle, artichoke, bits of pink grapefruit,pink peppercorns, spanish olive oil, vanilla mayonnaise and golden trout roe. The remarkable combination of the rather strong, heady flavours  of the sweet liquorice, salmon, truffle and vanilla is a brilliant flavour symphony.

Braised pork belly with black truffle and cabbage.

Anjou pigeon cooked sous vide accompanied by thick and creamy blood pudding, risotto of spelt and umbles (entrails of the pigeon), pigeon skin cracker, puffed spelt and foie gras cream gently flavoured with star anise.

Hot and iced tea. Drinking the Earl Grey tea in one draft, one experiences first the warm tea and at the finish the very cold sugar syrup at the bottom of the glass.

Galette of rhubarb with neroli ( an essential oil distilled from the flowers of a seville orange) scented yogurt and rhubarb sorbet and crystallized coconut. Wonderfully refreshing!

The "BFG", black forest gateau topped with a chocolate dipped cherry (which had an extremely intense cherry taste), sided with kirsch flavoured ice cream. As soon as the dish was placed before us the waiter spritzed the air with a Kirsch essence.

Preparing the Not-So-Full English Breakfast: nitro-scrambled egg and bacon ice cream, a Fat Duck classic.

The frozen eggs are placed on french toast soaked with maple syrup and sided with the bacon.

The presentation of whisky wine gums. If you love wine gums like I do, you should find these delightful. There were 5 flavours: Glenlivet; Oban; Highland Park; Laphroag; Jack Daniels. 

"Like a kid in a sweet shop", a gift bag was provided to each of us at the conclusion of the meal, containing a playing card found in an envelope that was decorated white chocolate, an envelope of coconut "baccy", a chocolate truffle and salt water toffee.

The gift bag.

More "candy" in this envelope, coconut baccy.

The coconut baccy.

A chocolate truffle.

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