Given its three-Michelin-starred status, The Fat Duck couldn’t be more unassuming – its discreet entrance and simply furnished dining room give no hint of the astonishing cooking that takes place here. Heston Blumenthal’s 14-dish tasting menu is well worth its £195 price tag for the roller-coaster ride of thrills it delivers. Every morsel is pure fun, from the first palate-cleansing mouthful of nitro-poached vodka and lime sour foam to the last hurrah: a goodie bag entitled ‘like a kid in a sweet shop’. In between, there are extraordinary flavour combinations, such as the famed snail porridge, palate-tricking ‘hot and iced tea’, the Mad Hatter’s tea party (a mock turtle soup complete with a fake ‘pocket watch’) and an intense, perfectly formed Black Forest gâteau – all inventively presented and utterly delicious. Wine-pairing suggestions from the scintillating, gilt-edged list add to the pleasure, and spot-on staff know how to engage with diners while effortlessly controlling the flow of the meal – allow up to four hours for the whole show. In short, The Fat Duck has that rare combination of serving superb food in a light-hearted way.
Blumenthal opened The Fat Duck in Bray in 1995, initially serving classical French cuisine, but slowly developing the scientific approach for which he is now famous. His individualism paid off with the award of his third star in 2004, the same year he bought the Hind’s Head pub in Bray, where he showcases more traditional British cuisine. He was awarded an OBE in June 2006 for his services to the hospitality industry.