What sort of a chef can take you on magical journey evoking childhood memories that engaged all 5 senses? Well if you are a Master Chef fan or at least a little bit of a foodie you will know the answer to that question. I hope this post conveys the wonder and fun we had the night we dined at The Fat Duck.
Excitement levels were high for our dinner at the three Michelin Star restaurant of Heston Blumenthal. We were sharing this dinner journey with Grace and Ben. I was Grace’s nanny for many years and she is Harry’s Godmother. She and Ben are living in London at the moment and it was a good way to catch up with them and make some fun memories!
Before arrival we had been sent questionnaires from Heston’s staff asking about childhood memories. Somehow these would be incorporated into our dining experience. We were looking forward to how they would do this.
“The whole experience is a Journey, centred around a nostalgic trip full of playful memories, filled with curiosity, discovery and adventure. This nostalgic trip is based on a collection of some of my favourite childhood holiday memories, taking place over the course of a day. The menu is your itinerary for the day, represented on the map you’ve just seen on the homepage.
I don’t know about you, but I always got really excited in the build up to going on holiday; for me, this is where the journey begins.
My story is only there to act as a catalyst to help bring your childhood holiday memories to life: where you were, who you were with, what you ate and how you ate it. Hopefully, it’ll get you reminiscing, making connections, sharing experiences, and bringing back some wonderful memories.
In fact, why wait until you arrive to start the nostalgic ball rolling?
Here we go!
The front of the restaurant is nothing fancy but it is a 16th century building so that is pretty special!
We were ushered into a mirrored room and given a map. I had no idea what was going on!
We were seated at our table which had water glasses laying on their sides, minimal cutlery and a large magnifying glass for our map! We sipped water until Grace and Ben arrived.
Grace and Ben arrived smiling and excited and just as we had received the bad news that the divine rum spiced cocktails from The Hinds Head could not be made on site or brought up to us. It would have been a lovely memory for them of their wedding but never mind!
After choosing some champagne and wine we were off on our gastronomic journey!
Mine resulted in a blast of cold air coming out as I bit into it. I was the dragon that we were searching for
Then it was time for breakfast:
Hot and cold coffee!
Remember fighting over these as a kid?
Heston had his own selection for us to fight over! Fortunately they all contained the same dehydrated cereal for our breakfast which magically tasted like a full English Breakfast: Bacon, eggs, tomato, beans. Amazing.
A full English Breakfast?
The boxes also contained a puzzle that became a little money box. When completed our story teller gave us a coin to spend at the candy store later.
Sound of the Sea:
Probably the most famous of Heston’s dishes and been around since 2007.
The seafood dish is presented on a glass-topped wooden box containing sand and seashells and consists of what looks like sand but is in fact a mixture of tapioca, fried breadcrumbs, crushed fried baby eels, cod liver oil and langoustine oil topped with abalone, razor clams, shrimps and oysters and three kinds of edible seaweed.
The final touch is an iPod inside a sea shell so we could listen to the sound of the sea while we ate.
This dish also reflected Ben’s childhood memory of trips to the seaside.
A visit to the Ice cream truck!
“crab-shaped biscuit in the midst of a rockpool-shaped plate with a garnish of seaweeds to which a mussel broth is poured over the biscuit to melt the crab shell away and leave behind a soup with white crabmeat and sweetness from the melted biscuit.”
Cornish crab, smoked caviar and Golden Trout roe, veloute of white chocolate and sea vegetables
Gracie’s childhood memories of Christmas trees came to life in our centrepiece. Our story teller sprayed the scent of pine needles to further enhance the experience.
Josh’s childhood memories of holidays on the Murray River were also incorporated into this dish with a post card from The Murray!
Into the woods we go!
Damping through the boroughgroves
Mock Turtle Soup:
A bit of whimsy was added to the experience (if there hasn’t been enough!) with the incorporation of Alice in Wonderland and Mock Turtle Soup.
The Pocket watch:
A toast sandwich which tasted EXACTLY like a sausage in bread with sauce from Bunnings!
Bread and Butter
This is the only thing I would not try. Establishing that sweetbreads are not testicles or kidneys, but adrenal glands, did not help. Josh had a nibble so even that is saying something. Our story teller joined in our irreverent discussion of the dish when she asked if she could ‘take the glands away’. Why, yes you can! The sooner the better!
The BFG – Black Forrest Gateau
Digestiff: Whiskey Gums
I decided against eating these in the order on the map as Jack Daniels is not a fav AT ALL and rather cheap compared to the others. I ended on smokey peaty flavour of the Highland Park from the Orkney Islands.
Then it was time for bed:
Part of the dish was presented on a pillow hovering above a cloud. The spoon was wrapped in a flannel that smelled of baby powder. Reminder of Harry’s baby bottom!
Two Horlicks flavoured meringues with liquid centre’s on top of a levitating pillow that took our story teller a few tries to get hovering!
Like a kid in candy store!
Before we could leave we needed to spend our coin in the sweet shop.
“The final curtain. A huge doll’s house is wheeled up beside your table and all eyes are back on you again. The coin that was given earlier is needed to drop into the house which randomly selects a draw containing your petit fours. The Queen of Hearts, Oxochocolate from the perfection series, apple pie caramel and aerated mandarin chocolate. It’s the perfect end to the perfect meal.”
The little drawers opened and closed automatically, revealing a selection of sweets to take home in a little candy striped bag
Our ‘lolly bag’ contained the following sweets as described by The Fat Duck:
Pie Caramels: Satisfyingly chewy, a soft, buttery toffee with an appreciably ample apple pie flavour. But that’s not all. Credibly edible, decidedly devourable and singularly swallowable, this is a completely eatable sweet – right down to the wrapper!
Oxchoc: Luscious layers of nougat, delicate shortbread and soft caramel encased in subtly but seductively intense chocolate. Back in the 1890s, Rowntree made Oxchocolate, a bar of chocolate beefed up with meat extract. Inspired by this Quaker creation, the Fat Duck have infused these layers with a Wagyu beef consommé, to create a choc that’s rich, robust and extremely good.
Mandarin Ball: A magical, mandarin scented, suoer shiney, lighter than air, wafer thin chocolate casing filled with impossibly BIG bubbles and a little mandarin jelly hidden within. Complex to construct, it involves a cream charger, nitros oxide, a vacumn oven – and patently, patiently professional chefs armed with cotton gloves and tweezers, inspecting every inch for imperfections. (Probably wasted on us as we threw it straight in our mouths and devoured it!)
Queen of Hearts: “When is a playing card not a playing card?”
When the Fat Duck chefs craft sheets of well tempered chocolate, impress the Red Queen’s image on top and skilfully squeeze the thinnest jam tarts in the world between them, of course. Curiouser still, the seal is surprisingly toothsome. Just don’t eat the envelope!
Oh and because we booked as a celebration of our birthdays, we got an incredibly creepy birthday card!
And I know you are all wondering what the toilet is like in a fancy place like this, so here it is:
The Clock from the Melbourne Fat Duck:
While the restaraunt in Bray was being renovated, The Fat Duck came to Melbourne. This was clock installed in the premises and no sits at the top of the stairs on the landing. The Melbourne Fat Duck is now Dinner by Heston and if you have not been – you simply must! Heston is literally a magician with food.
Five hours later we were done and heading back to London on a train, laughing and reminiscing like little kids – making more happy memories with each other. I get the feeling this is just the way Heston wanted us to feel.