Fat Duck has had the title of best restaurant in the world (by Restaurant Magazine in 2005), and is currently only one of four 3 Stars in the UK. But after spending months trying to get a reservation, hiking all the way out to Bray, and even heading there twice, I’m not so sure about a third trip.
The first time blew my mind away. It was the first time I had perfume sprayed in my face while eating a green tea and lime mousse that had been dropped into liquid nitrogen just seconds prior. It was also the first time I had an iPod playing ocean sounds accompany a seafood course. And of course, my first time having an egg crackled into a frying pan of liquid nitrogen to create a bacon and egg ice cream.
Dry ice and liquid nitrogen stunts aside, dishes like the “salmon poached with liquorice” and the “jelly of quail, langoustine cream, parfait of fois gras oak moss and truffle toast” were flawless. Even three years later I can still recall the softness of the salmon melting on my tongue and the smell from that moss like it was yesterday. I raved about Fat Duck for months afterwards.
My second time at Fat Duck was pretty much the same experience, but in a bad way. While you find most Michelin 3 Stars changing their menus with the seasons and experimenting with new dishes, the tasting at Fat Duck hadn’t changed a bit.
Novelty and gimmicks only take you so far, and without the same “wow” factor as the first time, my taste buds started to realize that the famous “sound of the sea” (the dish where you listen to ocean sounds with an iPod) might have been better if you didn’t have to actually eat the dish. I noticed the hyped up snail porridge was unmemorable at best, just like the foie gras, lamb, and mango and Douglas fir puree dessert (all of which could have come off the menu of any generic 1 Star, even in the U.S.).
Maybe I need to go back to Fat Duck a third time and see if the menu’s evolved, just like how El Bulli changes its menu yearly (btw, El Bulli leaves Fat Duck in the dust for that first “wow” factor). But to be honest, it’s a pain heading out to Bray from London, and if Heston Blumenthal is pulling the same tricks out of his hat, I can’t really be bothered heading back.
So in conclusion, if you’ve never been, you’ve got to check it out. It’s worth even a transatlantic flight, and I think it definitely deserves its 3 Star rating (unlike over half the 3 Stars out there like Paul Bocuse, Guy Savoy, etc.). Otherwise, out of all the 3 Stars worldwide, not in my top 10.