Three good friends and I took ourselves off to the Fat Duck last night to celebrate a couple of birthdays and generally be decadent. As a vegetarian, I was interested to see what was on offer. At the behest of many, I managed to take a photo of each course I was served and some of the meatier meals as well. The following post contains 24 photos, so click the link to read more.
Without further ado…
Nitro Poached Aperitif
We were offered a choice of three aperitifs; Gin and Tonic, Vodka and Lime, and Campari and Soda. Being the negroni fiend that I am, I chose the Campari. The alcohols were blended with egg white in an iSi whip and “poached” in liquid nitrogen to resemble a meringe and dusted with raspberry powder. To say I was terrified of the whole thing (especially with this going on at the moment) was an understatement. But I ate it, and it was a lovely mixture of creamy egg and bitter-sweet citrus melting on the tongue.
Mustard Ice-Cream and Red Cabbage Gazpacho
The mustard ice-cream was delicious. Savoury and creamy. The cold cabbage soup was also a nice touch, and who could resist that lovely shade of purple!
We were served the essence of Oakmoss. Then, our waitress poured warm water over a bed of moss, and a cascade of vapour started to escape. While the carnivores had layers of Quail, Crayfish and Chicken Liver mousse, I had a mushroom jelly topped with truffle cream. The pea sorbet was frozen into tiny pea shaped orbs - delicious! The truffle toast was crunchy and flavourful. I have to say in terms of taste, this was my favourite dish of the evening. But I’m a sucker for just about truffle-flavoured anything. Ethereal.
This smelled amazing, like basil and Japanese pickles and fennel. It took me a while to taste the oats through all the savoury flavours. The crusty bread served on the side was wonderfully crunchy by comparison. The carnivores ate a similar porridge with the addition of snails cooked sous-vide.
The carnivores ate sous-vide foie gras with barberry cream. I hope the foie gras was ethically sourced… My version of the dish was roasted eggplant (or aubergine in the UK…) topped with seaweed and sesame seeds and wafers. The seaweed/sesame combination was intense, compared to the blandness of the eggplant. But the wafer was lovely.
Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
The carnivores dunked gold-wrapped “tea bags” shaped like pocket watches into warm water. Once dissolved the liquid was poured over a tiny mushroom forest atop a jelly inside a glass tea-cup. By substitution, my broth came with gold foil already floating in it. It was delicious – reminscent of mushrooms. The tea was served with some really amazing sandwiches on the side.
Sound of the Sea
This was accompanied by a glass of the most beautiful sake. I had heard of this dish before and even seen a documentary on its construction, so I thought I knew what to expect. I had guessed that the wave-sounds hidden in the conch shells would be something of a gimmick, but they proved to be instantly calming. My pulse slowed down right away and I felt super relaxed. It was also an introspective meal, as none of us felt like talking over the headphones. The carnivores had shellfish, while I ate a variety cured mushrooms. Exploring the different seaweeds and sea vegetables was delightful. After my first spoon of sea-foam, I almost burst into tears – I was 12 again and splashing about in sun-drenched waves of Hervey Bay. Where the Oakmoss course was ethereal, this was nearing spiritual, as ridiculous as that may sound!
The carnivores ate salmon poached in liquorish, while I had bright beetroot risotto covered in delicate scales of finely sliced radishes. The dish was topped with a beetroot krupuk cracker and surrounded with foam that tasted like yoghurt and frozen pearls of sour cream. Very tasty. The colours of both the risotto and the beautiful sea-glass dish it was served in were very striking.
Daikon raddishes were carved out and filled with savoury cream and served with mushrooms and roast vegetables The subtle flavour of the cream was lost next to the bitterness of the boiled radishes and this course was served with no less that four pieces of cutlery! Everything sat in a Marmite broth that tasted much better than expected. The carnivores ate sous-vide duck, blood pudding and the creamiest mashed potatoes you have ever tasted.
We were served a pre-dessert drink of tea – one side of glass was cold and the other hot! Very novel to drink a beverage at both temperatures. The tea was sweet, with a hint of lemon and was gone too quickly.
This dish was a homage to the flavours of the Botrytis cinerea fungus that is responsible for the lovely flavour of many dessert wines. The “grapes” were flavoured with apricot, pear and yoghurt, while the dust was slightly salty and tasted a bit like blue cheese. The carnivores had a few extra gelatine-laden grapes which you can see above. We all agreed that the green grape, filled with liquor and pop rocks, was the star of the show.
Saffron Ice-Cream and Brioche
Before pouring liquid nitrogen into a pan, our waitress cracked open a seemingly normal egg, to reveal saffron custard hidden inside. The resulting frozen custard/ice-cream was served on top of a caramelised bit of toast and served with some very sticky wine. Meanwhile, the carnivores were served black forest gateau. It was a this point we all felt incredibly full.
The final course, Whisky-Flavoured Jellies, did not have a vegetarian counterpart, despite being on my menu at the beginning of the meal. So I sat in silence while my companions finished eating. The lack of a picture is testament to my pique.
To round out the meal, we were given a bag of sweets to eat as we wished. They were a white chocolate card printed to look like the Queen of Hearts, a chocolate truffle full of bubbles of air, coconut “tobacco,” and an apple and caramel toffee (“remove the edible wrapper, as it contained gelatine”). The accompanying menu card was scented with cinnamon and apple.
The meal was amazing, and I left feeling satisfied and full to the brim. The matched wines were all lovely and the flavour and quality of the food surpassed amazing. The many wait-staff were attentive and enthusiastic. They more than earned their “optional 12.5% service charge.” I’m sure I will carry the memory of this amazing meal, and the ritual and theatre accompanying it, for a long time.
I have however, never been to a tasting menu where my companion has been served a course, while I have gone without. It struck me as especially strange seeing as it had been listed on the alternative menu I was shown at the beginning of the evening. I received assurances from several staff members that substitutes would be provided, and that my fourteen courses would be just as amazing as those of my companions. I did try not be upset, but I felt this missing final course was anticlimactic as it was something I had been looking forward too.
Nevertheless, it was an enjoyable evening, and one I won’t soon forget!
This post was written by Bella Blithely (contact).