Sunday, June 27, 2010
2 years = 14 courses, 3 waiters, 2 bottles of wine, and 1 grumpy sommelier at The Fat Duck
So I've been sitting on a little surprise for quite a long time as it was a surprise for The Irishman and he is an avid reader of Bloody Brilliant. Some of you might know it was our anniversary this past week, and last year The Irishman surprised me with a trip to Bruges to celebrate. This year, it was my turn to come up with a worth surprise in return and, if I say so myself, I done good. Two months ago, I sat on hold for an hour and secured a reservation at The Fat Duck.
For those of you who aren't foodies, The Fat Duck is the number 3 restaurant in the world. It holds 3 Michelin stars and its chef, Heston Blumenthal, is a genius at taking apart classic, nostalgic dishes and recreating them in new and exciting ways. Now, I've never been to a Michelin-starred restaurant, but The Irishman has and as a foodie he's wanted to go to The Fat Duck for quite a while. I knew he'd want to be a total nerd and read all of the blogs about the restaurant and the menu before we went, so I gifted him with the official Fat Duck cookbook last Monday and told him we were off to Bray on Saturday. Needless to say, he.was.thrilled.
Yesterday was hot and sunny and we got up early to get to Bray for a drink at The Hinds Head, also owned by Heston. The Irishman found a great website where you can find reduced train fares around England, so we got out to Maidenhead for £5 each (it's good for as far as Brighton, so go go go!). Once there, we sipped our G&Ts slowly but frankly we were so excited that we just kept looking at the watch waiting for our reservation time. Finally we could go and we literally ran into the restaurant, excited to eat eat eat.
The Irishman and I decided not to be nerdy and photograph everything we ate, but to just enjoy the food and the experience. We chose not to go with the paired wine tasting menu - I'd heard everyone who did it just ended up getting drunk halfway through the meal - so we chose an amazing Sancerre to start, and then moved to a really rich and fruity Malbec halfway through the meal. Our sommelier was really grumpy but in a hilarious way; he was much happier when we asked him for his recommendation for the red wine. The rest of the waitstaff were also impeccable and really really friendly - they joked with us and made us feel like we were special and belonged there. It was fantastic.
And, the food. OMG. I don't know how to accurately explain how amazing everything was. Each course got better and better, and topped the one before it. Only one I felt a bit like, okay, that's a bit out there, I'm not down with it, but even that was phenomenally delicious. Every bite you took gave you more flavors, more textures, and more to marvel at. Heston is really a genius to think of how to serve up experiences, rather than just food, and I think that's why I was so excited about each dish. It rarely was served just food on a plate - there were sounds, smells, and textures to accompany the tastes. My favorite was the Seaside - we were given a beach of sand, fish, and seaweaed to eat while listening to the sound of waves from an iPod in a conch shell. It really did transport you from the dining room to the sea. The Irishman's favorite was The Mock Turtle soup, loosely based on Alice in Wonderland - we received a gold watch that dissolved in a teacup of hot water, becoming the broth for soup based on a Victorian delicacy.
We were at the restaurant for nearly 4 hours, and when we were ready to leave the staff were more than happy to have the chef sign our menu (sadly, it wasn't Heston) but when we mentioned that we were there to celebrate our anniversary, they produced a Happy Anniversary card signed by the man himself. Such a nice touch. They then called us a cab to whisk us back to the train station, and I really did feel like I was back in the real world after falling down a rabbit hole... a rabbit hole of gastronomic delight. The Irishman has pronounced the meal one of the best he's ever eaten, and I have enough brownie points to let me off the hook for the rest of the summer!