This all started when my sister asked me what I wanted for my birthday a few months ago. For her birthday, I had paid for some cooking lessons, so (eventually) the topic of The Fat Duck came up. I would have been foolish to say no, so on the phone we were, a month or two back trying to get through to their reservations line. We both tried calling up over several days, and fate being what it was, it was my sister who finally got through and booked a week day lunch.
Strangely I didn’t actually have many expectations about The Fat Duck. I had read a few different reactions to them via the blogosphere yet I think I unconsciously avoided reading any of it in any great detail. I knew that it would be different, I knew that it was going to be exciting, and I knew it was going to not only about the food, but the entire dining experience. Having been, I am glad to say it met all of those expectations and even more.
Our day started off at a very leisurely pace, where we caught the 11 o’clock train from Paddington to Maidenhead. Having caught it many times before for work, the lack of commuters, students and general bustle almost made it enjoyable. From Maidenhead, we caught a taxi (£5.60) that dropped us off right outside, alongside the other diners that we shared the train with. Note that the taxi The Fat Duck ordered us cost £7.50 on the return trip (unmetered).
We took a brief stroll through the village, having heard about other Michelin starred restaurants in the area, and just saw that the high street really wasn’t that big and mostly filled with mothers and their prams, a fair number of cars and lots of gorgeously green scenery. We didn’t stop in Heston’s pub instead choosing to step in for our lunchtime appointment.
The insides of The Fat Duck are fairly non-de script, being converted from its original housing shell. The kitchen is far in the back behind the coats, with the amenities upstairs and a enough tables to seat up to eighty people or so. No wonder it’s so hard to get a booking for this place! A maître de took our coats and led us to our table, perfectly situated next to one of the street side windows. Not only did that guarantee us a fair amount of privacy with tables behind and far to the left but it also meant we had plenty of light to take some great photographs. Fortunately The Fat Duck is one of those places that don’t prevent you from taking photos, and so photos we did take.
We had come for the tasting menu and so we didn’t need to look at the menu very hard. We didn’t go for the wine tasting course with it, partially because I don’t normally drink if we go out for a family meal, and frankly when you’re having this sort of exquisite food, I wanted to enjoy every last bit without dulled senses. Looking around it seemed like most other tables also went for the tasting menu and we only noticed one single table who ordered a la carte from the menu. Even compared to the meal that we had at the seven star Burj Al Arab in Dubai, this had been the most extravagant food I had paid for with the tasting menu costing £125. I owe my sister big time for this (since she paid my share of the meal as well).
I lost sense of exactly how many courses that we had, with some of them arriving in quick succession to form a continuous gastronomic experience. For those that may have been fortunate to go already, I don’t think the menu has changed that much. I warn you that the rest of this post is going to describe the rest of the dishes and what I thought of them, so expect it to be fairly lengthy. Read on otherwise! Continue reading