Fat Duck – Intriguing and Intelligent

Fat Duck. Where do I start. To be honest I have actually only been familiar with this restaurant for months, not years. Ironically, a colleague of mine, who would never ever imagine to be inside any fancy restaurant, pointed me to the Fat Duck’s website.

Fat Duck

There was something about that website that intrigued me at first glance: The simplicity and the Fat Duck logo. Secondly, I liked the fact that I could find all the information I needed about the food, drinks, prices, how to get there and where to stay. The fact that the team behind FD had not just the physical enjoyment at the restaurant in mind but had considered the virtual experience of it also, provided me with an idea of something very well organised and above all clever. Too many restaurants use flash, which I hate, and think more of their own brand and promotion, than how to make it easy as possible for the user to find the right information he or she is looking for. But not Fat Duck.

After I in August last year read Laurent’s review of his Fat Duck experience, I knew that I had to go there too. Laurent had described a kind of restaurant that was unusual in a completely new and different way, which I found very appealing. Our taste in restaurants is very comparable.

House of FD

Early September I happily realised that I would get a opportunity to visit London and of course I wanted to book a table at Heston Blumenthal’s famous place – even if it would mean that I should eat rye bread sandwiches or pasta with canned tomatoes for a whole week to save up the money.

Fat Duck allows reservations up till two months in advance, but I was in Rome at the time and rang the restaurant when I returned to Copenhagen around the 1st of October. Boy, I was glad that I didn’t wait any longer than that. Although I was reserving a table for lunch, I got only two choices of either noon or at 1.45 p.m. It seems like Fat Duck mostly gets reservations from fine guests who have secretaries to book for them. There was a funny misunderstanding between the woman one the phone and me, she though I was such a secretary, but she finally realised that I was in fact making the reservation just for myself.

The Entrance

I arrived 28 November very early in advance by train from Paddington to Maidenhead Station and then with a taxi to Bray and killed time on strutting around the little village until the clock was 1.45. As you probably imagine, I was excited as ever.

The room is smallish and divided in two by a few joisters in the middle. It was full apart from a single round table almost under the stairs, which would take you to the first floor and the loos. The room was buzzing with people gathered around the round tables, 12-15 in total. Various types of people, the very elegant four past-middle aged women friends, who would much later on play tricks on each other by paying the bill before the other could do it. These ladies were probably the owners of the limos parked just outside the restaurant at the mini parking lot with the waiting drivers.


Then there was the four young charming French speaking friends, the young English brother and sister allowing themselves only water and no tea or coffee after the dessert. There was a fine French business man with his chic and slim wife dressed in a Diane von Fürstenberg. There was a companionship of other three French middle aged couples, who were drinking White Burgundy from the same fine glasses I bought not so long ago. A few other tables, and then there was Trine.

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé 1999

Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé 1999

The sommelier wheeled out the trolley with four different champagnes in front of the table for my selection. I knew from the wine list on the web that one of them was much more expensive than the rest, but naturally I had forgot which one that was. I therefore chose with my heart and selected the Taittinger Comtes de Champagne Brut Rosé 1999 and it’s the best champagne I’ve ever tasted as far as I can remember. I had never dreamed that champagne could be this seducing.

The Tattinger was incredibly nuanced in pleasing my palate, very very full in taste with fruit, so sophisticated with many tones and a gentleness so marvellous.

On a side note about wine lists, every restaurant should publish their wine list on their websites, really. They would save time at the beginning of a dinner because, then people wouldn’t need to study the whole book to find out what the wallet and the palate would be able to agree upon.

The first course was Nitro-Green Tea and Lime Mousse (2001) a little white ball, an egg shell with a soft middle of a sweet taste balanced with lime and that was cool and refreshing. Laurent has a small video of how this is created. Then a hailstorm of dishes followed:

Oyster, Passion Fruit Jelly,
Horseradish Cream, & Lavender

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream, Red Cabbage Gazpacho

Pommery grain mustard ice cream,
red cabbage gaspacho

Moss and Nitrogene

Oak Moss

Truffle Toast

and Truffle Toast (Homage)

Parfait of Foie Gras

Jelly Quail, Langoustine Cream,
Parfait of Foie Gras

I thought is was fun to see my table completely covered with smoke but I didn’t fully understand why they did that. The texture of the parfait was smooth in a firm way and taste-wise very intense and amongst the best dishes of that day.
Snail Porridge

Snail Porridge
w/ Joselito Ham & Shaved Fennel

Roast Foie Gras

Roast Foie Gras w/ Almond Fluid Gel,
Cherry, & Chamomile

The Sound

The Sound

The Sea

“Sound of the Sea”

My goodness. This dish could very well be the dish of my life. The whole sensing of it stimulated me beyond belief. It’s adorably and picturesquely beautiful. I have no recollection about the scent, but the taste and the feeling of the food in my mouth was fantastic and very tasty. I felt a slight crunchiness of the tapioca, softness and tickle-ness of the elusive foam. The ‘beach’ was hiding three fish and unfortunately I was only capable of catching that the last one was a superb oyster.

I ate it while I was listening to huge breaking waves splashing lappingly onto the sand coming from the iPod’s head phones. I was in my own private world, shutting out the ambience – just focused on enjoying the sound of the sea.

Salmon and Liquorice

Salmon Poached in Licorice, Artichokes,
vanilla mayonnaise, & “Manni” Olive Oil

This dish was the only one that didn’t reach perfection. The salmon inside was wonderful, moist, very pure and clear in taste, a lovely quality, but the liquorice package didn’t work for me. The artichokes were exquisite and the vanilla mayo too much and too rich.

Anjou Pigeon

Ballotine of Anjou Pigeon
Black pudding “made to order”, pickling brine and spiced juices

Hot and Iced Tea

Mrs Marshall’s Margaret Cornet

Mrs Marshall’s Margaret Cornet

Before the server brought me the ice-cream, I had got a small booklet introducing the cook Agnes Bertha Marshall, who was the first ever to write about the ice cream cone. Tasting this crisp cornet ginger ice cream afterwards, I couldn’t deny the affect and the sentiments that the read and the tasting had on me. I was really moved to tears and for the first time of my life.

Vanilla Stick w/ Citric Powder

Pine Sherbet Fountain (pre-hit)

Mango and Douglas Fir Puree

Mango and Douglas Fir Puree
Bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet


Parsnip Cereal

Icing th Egg

The Toast

itro-Scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream

Nitro-Scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream (2006)
Pain perdu

The woman waiter Good Morning Madame’d me and explained that I would have scrambled eggs for dessert. With liquid nitrogene she turned the egg into ice-cream. The bacon was made of sugar and didn’t taste like bacon but added sweetness to the ice cream and to the toast. An entertaining and tasty dish, but a bit too rich for my appetite after that many dishes.


and tea jelly

Whisky Wine Gums

Whisk(e)y Wine Gums

I know this looks kind of strange, but it was actually a whisky tasting. It was clear and easy to distinguish them from each other, and each had different flavours and degrees of smoke to it. I know just about zero about whisky but with this map I learned where each type of whisky originates. I was amazed at how much taste the staff had been able to encapsulate in those tiny gums.

Petit Fours
Carrot and orange lolly, mandarin aerated chocolate, violet tartlet
Apple pie caramel “edible wrapper”

What was absolutely striking about this meal was the way that each dish was distinctly designed in taste. What I mean and love about this is that each dish was composed to stimulate the ability to identify flavours, a bit like when I’m tasting wine. A good wine makes me taste different aromas when the liquid passes through the tunnel of my mouth, the tip of my tongue, the middle, my palate, my gums and finally the back of my tongue. I experience sweetness, sour, bitterness and spices. Each bite at Fat Duck was like this. A designed tasting perfection.

Chuck wrote about FD that you can sense the chef’s enthusiasm for food *and* experience; instead of his cash register. This is true. There is a lot of gaming around with the extensive use of the nitrogene wizard at your table, the use of the iPod, but I found it sincere curiosity and the desire to share that. To me it wasn’t show-off.

A little word about the service which was fine and perfect (of course). In the beginning the staff was very formal, but after a while they mellowed. When ordering the champagne I also asked for a glass of white Burgundy to be served when I would have finished the rosé. At the instant of my thinking OK now please pour me more wine as my glass was empty, the sommelier came and suggested me a red one instead to accompany the more heavy courses. He also suggested to drink only water with the Sound of the Sea dish. I appreciated this guidance and got a 2002 Gaja La Maranca di Magari (in a Riedel glass btw.) offering a fat fruit scent, a fruity taste balanced with heavy tannins with hints of wood. The finish was restrained and long, and I really like it. The Magari matched the salmon/liquorice dish very well, because the pepper from the black shield made the wine’s flavours evolve in my mouth.

FD Menu

The look and feel of this envelope with the black stamp with the Fat Duck logo was so perfect, delicate and luxurious that I didn’t dare to open it during the lunch. I know this sounds silly, but I wanted to wait until I would start writing this post and providing me with the last sensing enjoyment of it. The paper has a soft outer skin like the feeling of velour whereas the inner side is sensed more rough. It’s a fine souvenir.

Fat Duck knocked me sideways and I have to go back. Some day.

Bravo Mr Heston Blumenthal!

13 Responses to “Fat Duck – Intriguing and Intelligent”

  • Hei Trine!
    Elsker din blog! Jeg har også vært på Fat Duck, men vi fikk ikke den nyyyydelige lille iskremen dere fikk, desverre! Vi fikk derimot en pose med godterier + noen andre sweets. Du kan se bilder her: http://thingsidowhenyoulookaway.blogspot.com/2010/01/blog-post.html

    Gleder meg til å lese mer her inne,

    Smil fra meg 🙂

    • Hej Kris
      Tusind tak for de søde ord, det er jeg meget glad for! Og tak for linket til dine billeder fra Fat Duck! Det er utroligt at så mange retter er de samme år efter år.

  • glad you enjoyed it Trine – as you say, a really theatrical and (at times) thrilling experience.

    Any return to the Fat Duck would become more tempting to me if I heard of some exciting new dishes – so perhaps we’ll meet there one day? 😉 😀

  • Trine,

    In order to know how old the NV-champagne is, you have to know the disgorgement date. Disgorgement is the final process in the Champagne making. The deposit, which has been contained underneath the cork, caused by the upside-down racking, has to go in order to present a clean wine. The Champagne goes into a brine bath of -28 degrees and the deposit instantly freezes and when the cork is released it literally flies out of the bottle. From there the bottle is refilled with wine + some sugar. This process is called dosage and now the Champagne is born to life.

    But it actually differs, when the producer released his NV Champagne. I think – the law states that the NV Champagne has to be released one year after it’s made. But I know some producers know that their NV benefit from bottle age and don’t live up to this rule. But the disgorgement date reveals this and a NV can actually be quit different from year to year. But to make it even harder – not all producers print the disgorgement date on the back of the label.

    The best NV on the market is IMHO made from Jacques Selosse and is called “Contraste”. Made from 100% Pinot Noir. It’s a bold Champagne and perfect match to a cheese plate. Unfortunately only 35-50 bottles arrive in Denmark each year.

    Even though there is some spectacular NV Champagnes on the market a Vintage Champagne/Cuvee Prestige are where the treasure is buried. First of all – the material to make a vintage Champagne will almost always be better – only first pressings and better selected vineyards…etc. As a consumer it’s easier to buy a certain vintage as you have a better feeling what you have in the bottle and what storage potential it holds. The disadvantage is the price – which these days are climbing at rapid speed.

    Good luck….


    PS. The normal Comtes de Champagne is also spectacular – especially the 1996 vintage.

  • Dear Thomas

    Thank you! It’s funny how different two *** experiences at the same price level can be. I’m comparing La Pergola and Fat Duck. FD was so much better – to me.

    Going from Paddington station is not long, about 30-40 minutes (from track 13 or 14 as far as I recall). I was worried about that too but I found it very easy, although I am quite indolent. You can check the schedules here: http://ojp.nationalrail.co.uk/en/pj/tt. Good luck.

    Rosé champagne is good. I had the NV Deutz at Nouveau last year. I’m sure I liked it but I don’t remember it. A pity I didn’t write it in my post.
    Uumm, vintage champagne. I’m not very familiar with those, so thank you for listing the best vintages. Do you know how old a NV usually is? I know it’s a mixture of vintages but how long do the producers store the bottles before they start selling them, do you know?

    Hope you’ll have a great trip to London!


  • Dear Trine,

    Wow – what a ride. Fantastic coverage.

    I travel to London in 14 days time and have already begun to suck up to my business associates to take me to the Fack Duck. I fear that I have the journey from the “city” to the restaurant will be a problem – how long is the journey from Paddington station?

    Ahhh…so you like Rosé Champagnes. If you want to spoil yourself someday do try the Deutz Cuvee Willam Deutz Rosé – go for the 1999, 1996 or 1990 Vintage.

    Once again – fantastic report – thank you.



  • i’m with you on the salmon/licorice dish – inside, the salmon was excellent but i just don’t get the licorice coating. otherwise, i’m glad to see the Sound of the Sea dish as part of the main menu – it looks like he’s slowly adding to what others have complained as a never-changing menu.

  • Yes I know it! But I haven’t tasted the Rosé with age. I have only tried the Blanc de Blancs Comtes de Champagne with some age: 1990, 1989, 1986 and 1979. I tell you it’s one of the best Blanc de Blancs Champagnes on the market. Not cheap by any means, but I guess you know that by now 😉

  • Eh Walter, 🙂 Isn’t it?

    You’re welcome, Soussuvivor! It really was amazing, and it must be very special to work there, I imagine. Please, can you share some a stick or two? 😉

    Laurent, thank YOU for making me go there! :o) I’m not sure it would have been reality if it wasn’t for your rambling on about how fantastic Fat Duck is.

    I realize, Lord Rodney, that I forgot to mention that I chose the tasting menu. I also had a dessert wine, a 2006 Göttelmann, Münsterer Rheinberg Riesling Auslese that suited the passion fruit dessert like a hand in a glove! Sweet and intense, and very nice. I have wondered why the sommelier recommended the Gaja Magari, because it wasn’t one of the selections from the wine menu. Clever guy 🙂 Do you know the 1999 Comtes de Ch. Rosé? (of cause you do…)

  • Amazing! How I would love to go there some day! Also I think that you made a outstanding choice both food and drink wise in the 1999 Comtes de Champagne Rosé!!

  • Yes yes yes and again yes !

    Reading your post was like transporting me back one year in the past… and now … geez, i wanna go back there again ! :o) (thank you for that !! :o)

    I feel quite happy you loved it.. (as i did). It’s so unique, in many ways, that you need to be quite open minded and receptive to such talent.

    This Mister Blummenthal is simply a food genius… like Mister Gagnaire (see what i mean ? :o).

    Lovely pictures… as usual should i say !


  • sounds amazing trine! I worked with a chef who had staged there for awhile…. he told me all about the working inside that amazing kitchen. thanks for the post

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