Oak moss from the course that paid homage to Alain Chapel
This post on the Fat Duck is just too long to have in one – there’s so much I want to record for posterity so that I can relive the meal – and rather than put anyone through reading the War and Peace of one dinner, I’m separating the meal into three posts. Here’s the second and third parts).
The Fat Duck is such an indulgent treat for all your senses. Apart from divine food, the entire experience is, in a word, FUN.
There to celebrate D’s 40th, we were treated to a unique dining experience, tucked away in the village of Bray (about an hour’s drive from London). Not coming from England, even just being in a village is quaint to me, and with another Michelin starred restaurant at the Waterside Inn and Heston owning the nearby pub – the Hinds Head – this small town packs a punch per square inch in the culinary stakes.
Balls of beetroot with cream
A combination of the anticipation of the evening, and a few pre-dinner cocktails at the Hinds Head meant that we were arrived at the Fat Duck already pretty happy. The matching wine flight with our meal pretty much ensured that we left happy.
As we settled in to our champagne, we were given beetroot cream balls – balls of what I can only describe as beetroot flavoured balls of air with a slick of cream. I love beetroot – it has this wonderful earthy flavour. And to enjoy that flavour in something so delicate was the start of the meal.
I think what makes things special is attention to detail. The beetroot balls were served without any cutlery, so we had to eat them using our hands. The cutlery was laid down after this, and I was almost stunned when I realised that they had not set the cutlery the wrong way around for one of the four of us, but that they had noticed L had picked up her beetroot ball with her left hand - and was therefore left-handed. I mean, COME ON.
We then had some nitro poached aperitifs – we had a choice of vodka and lime sour, gin and tonic, or Campari soda, mixed with some egg white that was then cooked in liquid nitrogen, which is at a temperature of about -200C (-328F), so we each had a cold meringue that we popped whole in to our mouths, to experience the crisp outer shell crack and release the cocktail within.
The truffle toast that we all wanted more more more of
We then were served a red cabbage gazpacho with pommery grain mustard ice-cream. Yep, you read right – the menu seriously screws with your head. Tangy red cabbage served on savoury ice-cream. The whole ice-cream thing really made you think you should be eating dessert but then your palate is served a savoury dish. This was paired with a 2010 Fume Blanc from Turkey.
Chicken liver parfait in a crayfish cream with jelly of quail
Failing at not sneaking a peek at the other tables being served who were ahead of you on the meal, didn’t deter from the showmanship of the next dish – jelly of quail, with a crayfish cream, chicken liver parfait, oak moss and truffle toast. Our glasses were topped up with the same Fume Blanc and the incredible thing was how different the exact same wine tasted with different food. The first part of the dish arrived at our table – a square of moss, with four plastic containers that each held a single strip of “oak moss and pine” gelatin film that dissolved on your tongue. This is was served to prepare us for the parfait of chicken liver in a crayfish cream and a sliver of jelly of quail and truffle course. The chicken liver parfait in the crayfish cream was silky smooth, paired perfectly with the crunch-teeny-tiny-wish-there-was-more toast speckled with flecks of pungent truffles. As we were served this part of the course, the waiter tipped water on to the oak moss, which was sitting on some dry ice, so you felt like you were enjoying an early morning walk amongst the mist in a forest.
Next was one of Heston’s signature dishes, the famous snail porridge. Poached snails and thin shavings of fennel on top of tiny squares of oatmeal in a vibrant green complex savoury porridge of parsley, butter, garlic, shallots, almonds, Iberico ham and dijon mustard. I have to admit, the idea of a savoury porridge was almost appealing to me – Chinese congee or rice porridge is a favourite of mine, but eating the snail porridge with oatmeal was truly a surprisingly delicious treat. A dry and crisp 2011 Chateauneuf du Pape, Clos la Rocquete from the Rhone Valley was paired with this course.
Roast foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit
Perfectly roasted foie gras with barberry, braised kombu and crab biscuit was served next, paired with a 2011 Pinot Gris, Signature, Rene Mure from Alsace. Bursting with flavour, the pillow-light softness of the the foie gras with its savoury flavour was completely in harmony with the crispness and sweetness of the crab biscuit.again. A wafer thin slice of kombu added umami to the dish.
That’s six out of 14 courses. This might be a three-post post – I’d better get cracking on the next courses !