Compared to, for instance, the top restaurants in San Sebastian (e.g., Martin Berasategui, Akelare and Arzak) I’d say the Spanish restaurants express their creativity more in terms of flavour combinations, whereas The Fat Duck puts more emphasis on showmanship.
The Fat Duck’s aim is to take you back to Heston’s childhood and experience it with all your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch and taste). And the people guiding you through this tour of delight (both front of the house as well as behind the stove) are some of the best in the business!
We visited the Fat Duck, Waterside Inn and the Hind’s Head in the same weekend. I’d say all three are at the top of their game, but offer a completely different experience. The Fat Duck is all about evoking all your senses and sparking your imagination; the Waterside Inn is about classical French flavours combined with extremely fresh produce; and the Hind’s Head is about British soul food.
The menu at the Fat Duck consists of 14 courses, an amuse bouche and a palette cleanser and takes about 4 to 4.5 hours. I would recommend choosing your own bottle(s) of wine.
During our lunch at the Fat Duck we tried the, 2009 Riesling Spätlese (available by the glass, 9/10), the 2004 Dão, Quinta da Falorca (available by the glass, 10/10) and the superb 2009 Alella, Dolc Mataro (available by the glass, 10/10). These were all excellent recommendations by our glass. Do note that the wines are very expensive (even for a 3-star restaurant), but worth it.
Some of the highlights of the menu at the Fat Duck were:
- Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast (10/10)
- Snail porridge (10/10)
- Roast Foie Gras with Rhubarb, Sesame seeds, Braised Kunbu and Crab Biscuit (10/10)
- Anjou Pigeon with a delectable Blood pudding and amazing Risotto of Spelt and Umbles (11/10). This was the best dish of them all. I could write a whole chapter about this dish…but let me just paraphrase it by saying: simply amazing!
- Black Forest Gateau (10/10)
A few facts for you to consider about the Fat Duck:
- Amazing service (you tell something to one waiter, they make sure to mention it to the other waiters and when you speak to any other waiter afterwards they will follow-up on whatever you’ve asked for/spoken about with someone else)
- Unlike any dining experience…more than a dining experience
- Proper spacing between the tables
- Come 30-45 mins early so that you can explore the beautiful village of Bray and have a drink beforehand in the Hinds Head…it’s worth it
Some minor quibbles about the Fat Duck:
- As mentioned before the emphasis more on engaging all senses and therefore for some dishes taste has been sacrificed for the sake of evoking other senses. For instance, the sandwiches served during the ‘Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ very pleasant but certainly not amazing.
- Wait time between the dishes was quite long
- The wines are good, but expensive (even for 3-star restaurant)
Overall rating of the Fat Duck: 9.5/10