Following lunch service on 21 December 2014, The Fat Duck in Bray will close its doors, pack up the pots and pans, and relocate to Melbourne, Australia. But panic not, it won’t be forever. We caught up with the man responsible for it all, three Michelin-starred chef and owner Heston Blumenthal, to find out more…
Why are you moving?
It’s going to be a six-month relocation and the only reason we’re doing it is so we can renovate the kitchen in Bray. It’s an old 1980s breezeblock structure inside a Grade II-listed building which has caused quite a few planning permission nightmares. The only access in and out is through the front door of the restaurant, which means a minimum of four months building work. I simply couldn’t afford to close for that long.
We had three offers in Las Vegas and two in Dubai. We got really close to securing one spot in St Tropez but it fell through at the last minute. I was going to be in Australia working on some television projects and it just made sense to open there. We’ll be based at Crown Towers, a great hotel on the city’s Southbank.
And you’re taking all the staff with you?
We’ve got around 100 people working for us and some of them have been on board for over seven years. I couldn’t just tell them to go and come back when we reopen. We gave them all the option of coming with us to Australia, and most said yes – it was a pretty special moment when we told them all.
You’re opening Dinner by Heston out there, too?
Yes, once the Fat Duck residency has finished, Dinner will go into the space as a permanent restaurant. The restaurant fit-out is like a Russian doll, The Fat Duck will lift up and underneath there’ll be Dinner. Ashley Palmer-Watts [executive chef for The Fat Duck Group], who currently oversees the kitchen at Dinner
in London, will be there for the opening.
What do you hope to achieve with The Fat Duck in Oz?
One of our guys went out there for two months beforehand to get as much information as possible from buyers, producers, farmers and food writers. We want to make The Fat Duck in Melbourne as close to the one in Bray as possible. The only difference will be us using Australian produce.
Is there a big difference between the food scene in Australia and the UK?
On the whole Australia is more of a foodie nation and the restaurants are incredibly diverse. From our point of view it’s the produce that is the most obvious difference (along with the weather!). We recently cooked at the Western Australia Margaret River Gourmet Escape, which was a great chance for us to use the amazing ingredients available.
What should we expect from the new Fat Duck in Bray?
Much of the same, maybe some new furnishings in the dining room but we’re looking into that now. The most important thing is the kitchen and making that bigger as we’re so strapped for space. We want to start developing dishes in the new kitchen.
This feature was published 19 December 2014