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1 High Street, Bray
“Words can’t describe how incredibly entertaining a trip to The Fat Duck is” – so writes a fan who was “made to feel like royalty” at Heston Blumenthal’s three-Michelin-starred wonderland. To say it’s pricey is an understatement: prospective diners currently have to shell out £325 up front for a ‘ticket’ that allows access to the 17-course itinerary. In return, the lucky ones are whisked away on an imagined day out, a holiday trip evoking lots of playful childhood memories with “incredible” staff acting as grown-up guides. It’s the “little touches” and personalised wizardry that really count, in fact the whole show is one gasp-inducing, side-splitting bonanza – although the theatrics are never at the expense of flavour. ‘Rise and shine’ means fun-pack cereal boxes (all crisp grains and jellies) as well as ‘cold… and hot tea’, while a trip to the beach involves the now-famous ‘sound of the sea’ (cured seafood nibbled while listening to the sound of surf through headphones). Later on, a proper three-course ‘dinner’ touts everything from hay-smoked veal sweetbread with baby gem to a boned and crisped chicken’s foot with red-wine mayo, before ‘counting sheep’ sees a meringue resting on a pillow floating above the table thanks to magnetic levitation. And we haven’t even mentioned the mushroom truffle log, the whisky gums or the sweets from the custom-built doll’s house. The verdict? “Five hours of sheer magic”. Yes, eating at the Duck is an immersive, multisensory fantasy, but we’re with readers who dub it a must-do “experience of a lifetime”.
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1 High Street, Bray
Maidenhead Station 1km
Taplow Station 2km
Braywick Golf Club 1km
Maidenhead Golf Club 1km
Tues-Sat 12N-2pm 7-9pm
Food & Drink:
Rate & Review
Food + drink: 3
Okay, so we’ve now been to the Fat Duck. Michelin by Bookatable (or the other way round) gives it three stars and it is an experience that is not possible to compare with anywhere else we’ve eaten. But after seventeen fairly generous courses, an equivalent number of technical and visual gimmicks, sometimes over-the-top presentation, partly compensated for by the superb wines and the very accommodating and generous approach of the front of house staff and a visit to the kitchen, where Edward Cooke was running everything with much precision, not to mention the expressions of delight issuing from surrounding tables, we found ourselves disappointingly ‘unwowed’ at the end of this four hour stint of theatricality. The journey concept is perhaps a good starting point for establishing a fine dining ‘itinerary’ but even just paying lip service to each diner’s memories is impossible given the range of age groups and backgrounds, especially with the variety of nationalities in the restaurant the evening we were there. So basically what is presented is presumably Heston Blumenthal’s imagining of what might have been experienced by as many of the diners as possible and his appliance of science in the kitchen. Our impression was that once the initial conceptual stage had been accomplished, minor adaptations could be made, but, rather like our judgement of Dinner by HB, this seemed to have resulted in almost a formulaic approach, both with the dishes and the repeated and audible spiel by the waiting staff, which produced what could be likened to a production-line effect, despite the attempt to surround it all with an almost fairy-story atmosphere, the latter not really working for us given the uniform drabness of the dining room, even though we realised that this was probably deliberate so as not to have any distractions from the presentation. The thing was that, apart from the ‘Table d’hôte menu’ served as part of one of the seven imaginings of eats at various times of the day, not much resembled “real food”, with the result that one ended up trying to identify the various elements involved in the composition of the tastes discovered in the items on the stick, on the plate, on the hovering pillow and so on at any one time and consequently being quite distracted from any of the memories we might have had of our childhood holidays. And where were the fish and chips? The myriads of elements making up the production are well documented, in the Good Food Guide inter alia, but it is still worth mentioning the memories we brought away - the tongue-tingling Campari and prosecco ice lolly, the whipped butter with the coffee-tasting jam, the variety pack containing flakes and crunchy bits giving a faint taste of a full English, the school lab experiment of simultaneously hot and cold coffee which reminded us of an instant brew, the “sound of the sea” dominated by screeching seagulls and one of the fishy components being kingfish from Japan, the brilliant crab and passion fruit “99”, the super strong crab (too strong for my wife) in the Rockpool with extra crab for me in place of cucumber, the multiplicity of tastes and textures in the “boroughgroves”, a puzzling mock mock turtle, then the dishes in the evening meal sequence with tasty cuttlefish cannelloni and scallop, coq au vin, the chicken for which was from the Loire to guarantee a full texture but with rather soggy skin, the alphonso mango dessert, the whisky bottle gums digestif which was lost on us non-whisky drinkers, the floating pillow, and finally the model Fat Duck premises with sweeties. So was it value for money? Let’s just say that if it’s theatre you want then Fat Duck can’t be beaten, but for less than the total we coughed up here we could have had three meals, one at each of three restaurants within 12 miles of Bray, each of which deserves a star, and we would have come away from each one vastly more content than we were on this evening.
Food + drink: 5
Words can't describe how incredibly entertaining a trip to The Fat Duck is.
From the moment we arrived we were made to feel like royalty. The atmosphere was so comfortable and not at all pretentious.
Every course was not met with gasps, laughs and excitement.
Without a doubt, this was my favourite dining experience. It is the little touches, especially the personalised features, that really set this well above and beyond any other restaurant around.
Every member of staff was a delight and so friendly and helpful. I'm certain that Heston is very proud of the tight ship they're running there.
It should be noted that, unlike other tasting menus we have had in the past, I was genuinely full by the end of this meal.
The culinary highlight for me was the rock pooling portion. I have a new found appreciation for roe (something I previously despised) and it really evoked some lovely childhood memories.
Worth every penny.
Everyone needs to go at least once.
I would describe an evening at the Fat Duck as a unique and exceptional experience with food rather than a delicious dinner at a 3 Michelin star restaurant. I don’t want to spoil it for anyone planning on going so I won’t go into too much detail. But it’s not just about food and taste.
There’s a lot of personalisation to the meal. You receive correspondence prior to your visit asking you questions about your party which are woven in to your visit. You can take things away with you that aren’t food. There’s props and theatrics. There’s a story with a beginning, middle and an end. It truly is a mesmerising experience and most importantly terrifically fun! The staff add to the experience, are exceptional and incredibly well trained.
It’s not faultless by any stretch. I was seriously annoyed when we arrived on time to be asked to wait outside (in the rain!) for 5 minutes whilst they got the dining room ready. But it doesn’t surprise me with hindsight. You’re not going to have your typical Michelin star meal, you’re going for the experience and the experience wasn’t ready yet when I arrived.
I left feeling really quite wondrous and unsure what to think. If you can afford it, I would wholeheartedly recommend you go and it is certainly something I’ll remember for the rest of my life. But was it the best meal of my life? Did I taste a dish and think it was divine, the best thing I’d eaten? Would any of it form part of my death row meal? Definitely not. And that’s not a criticism.
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