Sunday 22 July 2012

Bray - The Fat Duck

Ever since Heston first graced our television screens and wooed me with his culinary wizardry, I've been one stage away from buying-a-vat-of-liquid-nitrogen-and-using-it-instead-of-milk-on-my-cereal - on the Blumenthal fan scale. 
Anyone who manages to combine delicious food with a sprinkle of Disney magic is a worthy idol in my eyes.
This week, after years of not-so-subtle hints, my lovely boyfriend made all of my gastronomic dreams come true.
Less than a ten second stroll in the sunshine from our pretty cottage took us to the famous webbed feet and feather shaped utensils, marking the entrance to The Fat Duck.
Cue four deliriously happy hours of uncontrollable giggles and excitable squeals...

The Amuse Bouche was an aerated beetroot and horseradish cream 'savoury macaroon'
with a light honeycomb texture that dissolved on first bite.
We gobbled them up whilst attempting to decipher the next 14 courses, trying our hardest not to peek at the tables around us...

The first course, in true Heston style, was theatrically prepared at our table - a choice of Vodka and Lime, Gin and Tonic or Campari Soda was poached in a smoking nitro pot and then dusted with a puff of powder. We were instructed to eat it in one bite, let it melt in the mouth and enjoy its palette-cleansing properties. The server spritzed a citrusy fragrance over our heads as smoke hilariously blew from our nostrils. 

Next up was Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Pommery Grain Mustard ice-cream. 
Unusual? Yes. Exceptionally tasty? Most definitely.

We devoured the next course whilst the entire table swam in billowing clouds of smoke, it rippled across our cutlery and spilled onto our laps. We sat with open mouths and wide eyes as the moss-covered platter revealed two boxes of 'Fat Duck Films' which we were told to open and place on the tips of our tongues. If you licked a tree I'm pretty sure this is what it would taste like. In a good way of course.

Snail porridge. Seemingly one of the menus most squeamish combinations, we scooped up the green mixture with trepidation. Mr Blumenthal however, pulls weird and wonderful out the bag once again (how did we doubt you) and this ends up being one of our favouite dishes.

The roast foie gras followed, served on a braised kombu base with a crispy crab biscuit...

Next came the 'Mad Hatter's Tea Party'. 
'Would you like to be Alice?' the server asked me, 'Yesssss!'
'I want to be the rabbit!' shouted the voice next to me eagerly. That's the effect the food has, it conjures up a childlike excitement like no other and takes you back to your five year old self. Inspired by an extract from Alice in Wonderland - 'The March Hare took the watch and looked at it gloomily; then he dipped it into his cup of tea...' we were each presented with a gold watch that was then ceremoniously dunked into our glass tea pots, to dissolve before our eyes.
We were asked to pour the resulting mixture into our tea cups to create 'Mock Turtle Soup'. 
I'm going to demand gold flakes in all of my food from now on.

Next was perhaps one of the most famous of Heston's creations, "Sound Of The Sea" - with a side portion of iPod. We listened to the sound of crashing waves and squawking seagulls as we tucked into fish, seaweed, edible sand and salty sea foam. Brighton beach eat your heart out. 

The 'Main Courses' followed, 'salmon poached in a liquorice gel with artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise and golden trout roe'...

... and 'lamb with cucumber'
 So far, so tasty.

'Hot & Iced Tea' curiously turned your mouth both hot and cold at the same time. If I didn't already think Heston was a genius, I do now.

Next, what I always find to be the perfect antidote to being slightly full, dessert. 
Not one, but five - this is The Fat Duck after all. We started with the adorably miniature jelly and ice cream cornets, which were served with a picnic blanket of macerated strawberries. 
Quite simply summer on a plate.

The "BFG" Black Forest Gateau with kirsch ice-cream, was enjoyed whilst the smell of the Black Forest was squirted above our heads.

Whisk(e)y Wine Gums were impressively served on a glass map of Scotland, (and Tennessee) to be peeled off in designated order - dissolving as tasty little sips of their alcoholic counterparts.

Last but not least was a pink candy-striped retro paper bag full of gasp-inducing goodies. It contained a small menu that actually smelt like sweets - it took all the strength we could muster to refrain from licking the paper. Inside was an apple pie flavoured toffee with edible wrapper, coconut baccy, an aerated chocolate with a mandarin center - which tasted like the love child of an Aero and Jaffa Cake and my favourite of all, which came in a tiny wax sealed envelope...

... an intricately designed white chocolate playing card with raspberry jam filling. 
The wax seal? Chocolate, obviously.

I think we're going to have to be slowly weaned back to 'normal' food, the thought of a plain old ham sandwich seems ludicrously dull from this culinary corner of the world.
I imagine that I won't be treated to another meal for the foreseeable future but my signed birthday card from Heston himself is proof that the whole magical experience wasn't just a figment of my imagination.
Hell, it's going to get framed.

Best Birthday Ever.

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