The Fat Duck was relocated for a few months to Melbourne, Australia, while the original restaurant in Bray was undergoing extensive renovations. The restaurant just re-opened and, with the most recent transformations in the space and the menu, it is clearly becoming a league of its own. Heston Blumenthal, who defined the way we think about modern cooking, has reinvented himself and is opening new avenues in culinary excellence and the dining experience overall!
The charming English pub has maintained its character, but the changes have made the space more functional and aligned with the menu. When entering, the guests are greeted by the host in a small corridor with holograms from the menu being projected on a side wall. The kitchen has at least doubled in size, and now the staff have more space for their creations!
The traditional menu has now been replaced by a map guiding you to a journey down the path of nostalgia, childhood memories, and innovative concepts. There is a distinct story-line taking you through a day in Fat Duck time. This includes a dining experience (with a real table d'hôte menu!) and ends with drifting off to sleep. As the figurative time changes, the light on the table (yes every table's light is regulated individually) changes in color and intensity to reflect the appropriate time. The contribution of light gives a new dimension to the experience. This innovative new concept, where food becomes a vehicle, has brilliantly achieved Heston's goal to create a memorable experience by allowing the most precious memories of the guests to surface and be connected with the food!
In terms of specific courses we were really happy to see the evolution of the "walk in the forest" dish. It really integrated all the flavors in one dish instead of the multiple that it used to be, while maintaining the mystique of the dry ice generated fog. The outcome was spectacular! We also thought that the new crab dish (transforming in a caviar dish in front of your eyes) was phenomenal, both in presentation and in taste. It was really one of our favorite courses! We loved the new trolley for the nitro poached aperitifs (the lighting complemented it perfectly). The bowl is now transparent and you can witness the poaching process in real time! The boxes of cereals were also an amazing new addition! Heston has been able to enclose the taste of full English breakfast in this creation, while with the playfulness of the hidden gift in the package he makes the guests travel back in their childhoods and act like kids again! The "sound of the sea" was great as always. The staff take extra care to record every guest's favorite memories and try to bring them to the forefront during this journey. I received a personalized postcard during this course to reflect my most candid memories by the sea as a child... A really sweet and thoughtful gesture that personalizes the experience and sets this restaurant apart from all others. The wagyu beef and the duck were mouthwatering as usual!! Overall, head chef Jonny Lake again masterfully orchestrated this spectacular experience!
We have written before that the sweet part of the menu is superior to any restaurant we have visited. The new menu continues this tradition! We were very happy to see that the Botrytis desert survived the changes. It is one of the most complex, innovative and perfectly conceived and executed deserts we have had. The "counting sheep" desert was a really positive surprise and now one of our favorites. The tastes and textures were really evolved and we could see that a lot of work went into this creation. A floating pillow added to the simulation of a dream state and took the whole experience to another level. The "kid in the sweetshop" is now presented with a complex trolley that works with coins that are offered as part of an earlier course, giving a nice closure to the meal. Great concept and execution!
The front of the house staff set the standard against which every fine dining establishment should be judged! Masterfully led by general manager Dimitri Bellos, they contribute to a seamless experience. The staff is friendly and always responsive to the guests' needs, and at the same time extremely attentive to detail (even changing the way they set utensils for left handed guests)!
Once again, a phenomenal and unforgettable experience!
3 Michelin stars