Blue Duck Tavern

My trips back to America have become bicoastal. On my way to California, I now touchdown in DC to visit family and friends. This offers an entire new arsenal of restaurants, hotspots and foodie destinations to try.

Blue Duck Tavern is no novice in the DC dining scene. Serving up what they like to call ‘wholesome American fare’, the Park Hyatt resident has long  fed locals, visitors and political partiers alike. The restaurant’s design is stunning, capturing different aspects of historical American elements creating different pockets of varying ambiances throughout. The white marble bar top was hosting a girl’s night out, low cushioned seating by the window had casual meetings and after work drinks taking place, the main dining room had families and dates piling their plates with the soundtrack of the open kitchen and along the towering front windows overlooking their impressive herb garden and a moody sky overhead was where we were seated.

Our dinner started as all good meals should: freshly baked sourdough with whipped, salted butter.  Blue Duck Tavern We decided to share starters. Although, when dining with me, you don’t have much choice. Blue Duck Tavern The Wagyu beef tartar with morels and mustard seed was a stunning start. Blue Duck Tavern Just look that yolky goodness. Blue Duck Tavern Go on, have another look. I’ll wait. Blue Duck TavernThe coddled egg with guanciale, asparagus and almond was a balanced combination of fresh, light ingredients paired with heavy, hearty components. Blue Duck Tavern Our main courses arrived in silver pans with serving spoons, making sharing very convenient.  Blue Duck Tavern I chose duck breast served with rhubarb butter. Blue Duck Tavern And tried bites of tender Wagyu beef with chimichurri and suckling pig. Blue Duck Tavern We also shared sides of toasted faro with peas, almond and preserved lemon, roasted woodland mushrooms with olive oil croutons and beans with pickled blackberries.  Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck TavernBlue Duck TavernAfter dinner, I snuck through the kitchen on my way to the bathroom to say hello and ended up chatting away with a lovely CDP and Blue Duck’s Executive Chef, Sebastien Archambault. I was told that next time I was to try the hanger steak, as this is Chef’s favourite. Now he tells me.Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck Tavern I then spied the restaurant’s specialty set out to cool. There were rows of freshly baked apple pies, which I momentarily considered swiping off the counter using my dress as a basket and running. Alas, I composed myself and continued on my way. Blue Duck TavernI took a sneaky outfit snap which you’ve already seen on Instagram, but I’m loving this mustard yellow dress and these heels (which are annoyingly discounted, lucky duck) which have an awesome gold buckle on the side. Blue Duck Tavern I returned for green jasmine flowering tea and a browse of the dessert menu. Blue Duck Tavern Besides a very greedy order of desserts, I was surprised with a candle lit sorbet of passionfruit, mango and tangerine. Blue Duck Tavern Blue Duck TavernWe decided the apple pie needed a little something extra.  Blue Duck TavernSo topped it with an order of vanilla bean ice cream. Blue Duck TavernThe meyer lemon icebox cake was a thing of beauty and of taste. Blue Duck TavernA flavourful and delightfully textured lemon crémeux was topped with lemon gel, graham cracker cakes, cream cheese, blueberry pearls and tasmanian pepper meringue.  Blue Duck TavernAs we waddled away through the lobby, we discovered this cool piece on display. They nailed it, don’t ya think?

Our meal at Blue Duck Tavern was absolutely delicious and service was impeccable. The atmosphere is vibrant and decor appropriate for any occasion. I’d highly recommend a visit for an enjoyable evening out in Washington DC. If you make it there before me, be sure to tell me how the hanger steak is!


The Real Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Alright, alright. I’ll tell you about Dinner.
If you follow me on Instagram @Alessandra_LDN, you’ll know I promised a post from my fabulously romantic, surprise date at Dinner.

Now the title of this post doesn’t suggest I’ve been to a fake dinner by Chef Blumenthal. It refers to my lovely lunchtime visit with Ireland’s sweetest, Miss Katie Larmour. Both desperate to dine in the restaurant, but not able to plump for the full menu, we savoured every morsel of the meat fruit & tipsy cake on our visit last year.

This, however, was the real deal.
I put on my favourite lacy black dress and black heels before being whisked away to an unknown destination.
Now, I absolutely love surprises. Giving a surprise is one of my favourite things to do. Receiving them is equally enjoyable, but I always figure them out. I either convince (bully) the surpriser into telling me, or work like a detective to put together the clues. My date, however, threw so many curveballs to bury the tracks that I was left completely in the dark with a nervous excitement in my stomach. (Or was that hunger?)

You may know from my Fat Duck post that I am completely inspired and maybe even a little obsessed with Chef Heston Blumenthal’s food. The reinvention of Britain’s historic gastronomic past by Blumenthal and Ashley Palmer-Watts has been something I’ve longed to experience since before the doors opened.
As I was lead towards the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, I blurted out ‘are going to Dinner!?’ To which I received a smirk and the sarcastic response, ‘of course we’re going to dinner.’
The rest was a blur of giggling excitement until the bread arrived. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Warm sourdough and brown bread with a salty, creamy slab of butter brought me back to earth as I rambled on about the restaurant, the guests in the dining room and the impeccable service.

For our first course, he ordered the savoury porridge of frogs legs with smoked beetroot, garlic and fennel. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe meat was tender and paired beautifully with the savoury porridge, flavoured with parsley and cumin. The beetroot, one smoked and one pickled, each had such strong, uniquely different flavours it was hard to believe they were both the same vegetable. It was a stunning dish, both in presentation and execution, but nothing compares to my mandatory order.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMeat Fruit.
This plump little sphere of charade makes me very, very happy.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal(sorry about photo quality, strange lighting and discreet snapping with iPhone) 
I won’t go on too much, as I know I’ve detailed it in the previous post, but the mandarin mocking meat fruit is an absolute must! (say that three times fast)
The mandarin gel encapsulates a decadently smooth chicken liver & foie gras parfait which is to be slathered on warm, crunchy grilled bread. I can safely say I would happily eat this for any meal of the day.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalFor our main courses, he ordered powdered duck breast with smoked confit fennel & umbles. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
The meat had been sous vide and was rendered perfectly tender. Duck is rarely my first choice, but this was a great dish and fennel was an excellent accompaniment.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMy roast Ibérico pork chop with spelt, ham hock & Robert sauce was… massive. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe flavours were deep and rich and although the meat was a little tough, it was still an excellent dish. I managed to get through most of the pork, even with an accompanying order of triple cooked chips and mashed potatoes as sides.

I know you’re wondering why the two types of potato as sides, but the charming server convinced me that mashed potato dipped fries were delicious. As I didn’t enjoy the much talked about chips on my previous visit, I hesitantly gave them another chance. I’m still not a triple cooked convert, but these were decidedly better than their chewy predecessors and mash dipped chips could become a ‘thing’.
(a very weird ‘thing’)

Enough about spuds, it’s time to get tipsy.
Another of Dinner’s signature dishes, tipsy cake arrives in a darling little cast iron pot. The rum soaked, cream filled brioche is a heavenly mouthful when paired with spit roasted pineapple.
As you may have noticed, there are only five segments in the cake. This is either a very cruel game or a very crucial way to sum up your dinner date. Good luck with that one.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalAs our final dessert (don’t give me that look, we shared the tipsy cake), we ordered ice cream. Like most things involved with Mr. Blumenthal, ice cream is not just ice cream.
Instead, it is table side, liquid nitrogen ice cream!
As the custom-made liquid nitrogen ice cream trolley rolled its way towards us, I wiggled with the excitement of a small child upon hearing the ice cream van enter the neighbourhood.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Our lovely, very knowledgeable server talked us through the process whilst putting up with my paparazzi-like barrage of photo snapping. I gave up trying to capture the magic and took a little video to show you.

The creamy, vanilla bean ice cream is then scooped into sugared filo dough cones before we were asked to choose our toppings.

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalThe toppings to choose from were chocolate coated anise seeds, freeze dried raspberries, chocolate hazelnut crunch and popping candy. Dinner by Heston BlumenthalMy date chose freeze dried raspberries & popping candy, which I sampled and posed with whilst mine was being churned.

Dinner by Heston BlumenthalDinner by Heston Blumenthal As it turned out to be an extremely difficult decision, when I finally settled on chocolate hazelnut & popping candy, the lovely server filled my plate with freeze dried raspberries and chocolate anise seeds for me to dip my ice cream into as I went. Another incredible touch of service leaving me grinning ear to ear as I dipped and licked my greedy way through the rest of my cone.Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

As if we hadn’t indulged enough, an earl grey infused chocolate ganache with a delicate caraway biscuit arrived as a chocolatey kiss goodbye. The perfect end to such an amazing evening. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal
I left happy, sugar high and a little food drunk.
Dinner by Heston BlumenthalI cannot recommend Dinner by Heston Blumenthal enough. It is the perfect venue for a special occasion with very special food.
Oh, and a safe bet for a very impressive date!

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Yesterday I met the lovely Katie for some lunch at Dinner.
We’ve both been dying to try Dinner and as she just popped over from Ireland, we decided to finally go.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner is Heston Blumenthal’s Knightsbridge creation that sits snuggly in the Mandarin Oriental with views of Hyde Park. It doesn’t mimic the theatrical experience that is The Fat Duck, it instead has been established as a separate, bold entity with whispers of Fat Duck whimsy.

Dinner is an ode to British history, serving dishes inspired by recipes from centuries ago. The interior boasts dark woods and leather and is lit by large open windows overlooking Hyde Park. It’s very masculine with hints of femininity from porcelain wall sconces in the shape of antique jelly moulds and small bouquets of flowers.

The minimalist design forces focus on the dishes themselves, a blank canvas in which to frame the art, but the ambiance could’ve been greatly enhanced by live piano or some form of music.Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal After being seated in the middle of the restaurant, the lovely maître d’ offered a window side table that had since become available. We now had the perfect view of both Hyde Park and the restaurant. Our waitress arrived soon after to introduce us to the menu, which has the sources of origin for each dish listed on the back.

She was incredibly knowledgeable and clearly passionate as she took us through the menu, a small detail that really adds to the experience. We debated over dishes and asked countless questions, trying to decide how to narrow down our choices. We eventually decided on the three things we’ve heard most about: Meat Fruit, Triple Cooked Chips and Tipsy Cake.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Whilst we waited, a board of bread and granite slab of butter was served.
The rustic, traditional start to a historically inspired British meal.
But this wasn’t your normal slab of Lurpak.
A beautiful, deep yellow hunk of unpasteurized butter sprinkled with sea salt sat before us.
You may find this an irrelevant detail, but I hail from a country that has made unpasteurized products illegal in most states.
And I tend to find that anything illegal seems to taste just that much better.

We munched our bread slathered in heavenly, forbidden spread and picked apart the decor, wishing Heston would walk through the wine cave entrance and pull up a chair. We watched the horse guards ride past, an unintentional injection of historic Britain.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

And then it arrived.
The famous Meat Fruit.
A perfect sphere, imitating a mandarin with a shiny, dimpled peel and green stem. The motivation behind this dish dating back to the c.1500 is from the old English habit of making one food appear as another.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

When sliced open, the supposed citrus reveals itself to be a creamy, smooth parfait of chicken liver and foie gras surrounded by a gel of mandarin. The flavour was incredible and meaty with an orangey kick, which although was very decadent, was also somehow light. The toasted bread added a nice crunch, and was quickly offered to be replaced as we finished our slice.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

We then tasted the triple cooked chips.
I have heard so much about these, that I was thoroughly disappointed upon my first bite.
You’d think being triple cooked would render it crispy and crunchy with just the right softness in the middle. Instead, they were all around rather chewy. And I can’t say I’m one for chewy chips. The flavour was good, a great saltiness that wasn’t overpowering and went well with the mushroom ketchup. But, I’m one for texture and this didn’t quite work for me.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Then came the Tipsy Cake, another of Dinner’s signature dishes.
This must be ordered well in advance to allow time for the gradual alcoholic basting.
A miniature cast iron pot contained the rum soaked, cream filled brioche. Upon first bite, all I could taste was pure decadence. Hot, creamy, vanilla and rum filled brioche with a crispy top melted in my mouth. We immediately decided we would like to wake up to this each morning.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal The sweet bites are accompanied with spit roasted pineapple which creates a caramelised exterior and a sharp but sweet fruity centre. This cuts the sweetness of the brioche, but still allows a warm, fuzzy feeling.

Food Porn Alert.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

As we had shared a clear enthusiasm for Chef Blumenthal’s genius, the waitress very kindly offered to take us on a tour of the kitchen.
The bustling kitchen whirred as I stood mesmerised by the prep line.
I spotted the Pineapple Spit Roast in the corner and blurted out a request to see it up close and personal. The waitress kindly obliged my child-like desire and led us through the maze of a kitchen.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal IMG_8Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 749 Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

It was all I could do to not skip through the kitchen with excitement, surrounded by brilliant chefs and stunning plates of food.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

We stared at the glistening fruits rotating next to the fire.
The chefs constantly coat them in a glaze to create their beautifully caramelised exterior.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

After a quick pose as a Dinner chef, and an excited hello to head chef Ashely Palmer-Watts, we headed to the Meat Fruit cave.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Here, the frozen spheres of chicken liver & foie gras parfait are dipped into a mandarin gelatine which solidifies instantly from the cold.

IMG_87Dinner by Heston Blumenthal 62Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

I took a little video so you can see the mandarin dunk.

After harassing the chefs, we were led down a hallway to the pastry kitchen.
Rows of chocolate ganache cups sat waiting to finish off lunches.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Tipsy Cakes sat cooling on wire racks, ready to deliver bliss to some unsuspecting diner. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal And Bohemian Cakes were given their finishing touches. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Thank you again to all the chefs for allowing us to slip through your kitchen during a busy service. We really appreciated it and the fantastic meal you served!

As we left the kitchen we spotted the Ice Cream Trolley.
One of Heston’s theatrical features which serves liquid nitrogen ice cream table-side topped with a selection of Heston-esque treats such as popping candy or freeze dried fruit. 
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

We were too full to taste it, so I posed as Ice Cream maker instead.
Next time I’ll be all over this.
Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

On the way back to the table I noticed a room for private meetings guarded by a pretty intimidating knocker. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal Sadly the room was occupied, but I am considering investing in this bad boy to deter any unwanted visitors. Dinner by Heston Blumenthal We went back to our tables, giddy with excitement from our behind the scenes tour.
A last little indulgence arrived, presumably served to soften the blow of the bill.
Luckily we had only shared a couple treats and the bill was bearable with or without the ganache.
But we wouldn’t have given up the ganache.
It was a deliciously smooth, silky chocolate infused with Earl Grey served with a caraway  biscuit.
A last little decadent kiss goodbye.

Dinner by Heston Blumenthal

Overall, the dishes were phenomenal and definitely crave-worthy.
The staff was incredibly gracious, knowledgeable and clearly passionate about where they work. Besides the unimpressive chips and my water glass being empty a few times, I cannot fault the experience.

This would be a lovely place for a special occasion or an impressive date.
I would definitely recommend giving this place a try and you can book here.

Duck & Waffle

For Halloween this year I was a Happy Foodie.
What does this costume entail? you ask. Take one foodie, place them in a restaurant they’ve been dying to try, throw in a stunning view of London, and allow them to order whatever they want.
Et voilà, Happy Foodie.

Following a spooky screening of Skyfall at the Barbican, I was whisked away in a cab to an unknown destination. I stared out of the black cab’s window at sexy skeletons, scary zombies, and naughty nurses lining the streets of a wet Londontown looking for a wicked night.

I was so wrapped up in after-movie chatter about James Bond’s most recent adventure, I hardly noticed where the cab had dropped us. I turned around to see Heron Tower literally towering over me. This could only mean two things: Duck and Waffle.

I had been wanting to go here for so long, I even made up a Duck & Waffle song.
How does the Duck & Waffle song go? you ask.
Take Wiz Khalifa’s Black and Yellow and replace the chorus with the words Duck n’ Waffle. Sing this repeatedly until your Duck n’ Waffle dreams come true.

I skipped into the building and wiggled my way to the glass window of the elevator, prepared for my rapid lift into the sky. The elevator rose above a sparkling London with butterflies in my stomach from a combination of the height, the excitement, and my growing hunger. This poor woman hid with her face tucked into the corner muttering obscenities and apologising profusely to the rest of us as her partner laughed and tried to point out their flat.

The elevator reached dizzying heights as it came to a stop at the 40th floor and the woman clearly willing to deal with her acrophobia in order to get a taste of Duck & Waffle shot out safely onto solid ground.

We had a few minutes to wait before our table was available so I took the time to be a bit snap happy with the edgy bar and stunning views. The bar is dark and moody with coloured beads in glass bottles as light fixtures. Flashy bankers sit on bar stools sipping overpriced cocktails enjoying the view. Multiple chandeliers hang over the staircase leading down to Duck & Waffle’s sister restaurant Sushi Samba, but we’ll talk more about that another day.

After a few minutes of picture taking with my favourite Swiss Re building and watching the bartenders mechanically mix up cocktails, our table was ready. We were lead to our table with the perfect view of both the beautifully lit skyline, and our fellow diners for a necessary spot of people watching.

We were seated by our lovely waiter and given our menus, which I hardly needed as I had been memorising and fantasising over the dishes for weeks. An intense journey of flavour followed which I can only insist you try for yourself.
I apologise in advance for the quality of the photos. As it was a surprise, I only had my iPhone with me to snap the food porn.

The Dark & Stormy cocktail of dark rum, lime, and homemade ginger beer is bottled and bagged as if you’re being naughty trying to conceal your drink. The concept was strange but different – and I love different. 

First came the BBQ-spiced crispy pig ears.
Pig ears?!
Pig Ears.
Thin strips of crispy, chewy pig ears coated in a spicy sweet BBQ powder were presented in a brown paper bag. They were incredibly moreish and surprisingly filling.

Then came bite size pieces of yellowfin tuna with a cube of watermelon, a drizzle of aged balsamic, a fresh basil leaf, and a sprinkling of rock salt. The textures and flavours were phenomenal. The soft tuna, sweet watermelon, peppery basil, sour vinegar, and flakes of rock salt all tied beautifully together to make the perfect light bite to prepare our palates for the dishes to come.

Our waiter glided over from the kitchen with a plank containing house bread and a sizzling mini cast iron skillet of duck egg en cocotte with wild mushrooms, gruyere, and truffle butter.
I wanted to pick up my mini cast iron skillet and walk straight out of the restaurant to hoard its decadent, sizzling contents to myself.
Instead, I took the spoon and ruptured the yolk to create an oozing, yolky, cheesy, buttery mess of deliciousness. The decadence is then piled onto a piece of warm house bread to create the perfect bite.
Pure. Bliss.
It was a perfect marriage of flavours that resulted in an incredible dish of comfort food.

As we recovered from our previous dish, I started wondering what a spicy ox cheek doughnut entailed. I don’t think I could’ve ever imagined what came from the kitchen next. An ox cheek doughnut bigger than the size of my fist sat menacingly next to a dish of apricot jam. I cut it in half to reveal oozing cheese and tender meat.
A layer of spicy sugar coats the crispy shell of the doughnut. Inside is cakey doughnut with gooey cheese and tender ox cheek which is then dipped into the tangy, sweet apricot jam.
This is by far the most decadent doughnut I’ve ever had.

Now you didn’t expect me to not order the restaurant’s namesake, did you?
Crispy duck leg confit served with a fried duck egg and mustard maple syrup. An epic twist on breakfast with a fried duck egg, a caveman sized duck leg of tender meat, all stacked on top of a fluffy waffle. The mustard seed gave a tangy hint to the sweet maple syrup which each bite was dipped into.
Can you say breakfast of champions?

After breakfast, or dinner rather, came dessert.
Warm chocolate brownie pieces with peanut butter ice cream and crunchy bits of caramel. The star of this show was by far the peanut butter ice cream. As such an indulgent treat on its own, you’d expect its ice cream form to be thick and overwhelming. This was completely the opposite. Light, creamy ice cream with full blown peanut butter flavour. Smeared around the outside was fluffy toasted marshmallow which somehow managed to all end up on my spoon.
The perfect dessert if you ask me.

Duck & Waffle is now open 24/7 and I’m looking forward to watching the sunrise over the city whilst dining on duck and waffle in the early hours of the morning.
The service was absolutely incredible and the food was outstanding as well as being affordable, which is always a major plus.
Visit their website here and be sure to make reservations during peak hours.

Chimichurri Sauce

There’s nothing like a nice piece of meat.

There’s also nothing that spoils a nice piece of meat faster than steak sauce from a bottle. My heart sinks a little when I see a diner dump some brown, store bought sauce onto their steak, completely masking its beautiful flavour. Today I shall try to put the steak sauce massacre to an end, or at least give you a pretty little alternative bursting with flavour.

I have a tasty, smoky sauce to spice up your steak that adds flavour to your meat rather than covering it. It’s so simple that I can tell you how to make it in two steps!

8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1/4 tsp smoked hot paprika
120g fresh parsley
15g fresh oregano
25g chopped red onion
6 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp chilli pepper flakes (or you can go with a tsp like me, warning: I like it hot!)
Dash of sea salt

1. Set a small frying pan over medium heat. Heat your oil and paprika until the oil shimmers and paprika is fragrant, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove your pan from heat and let cool.

2. In the bowl of a food processor, combine parsley, oregano, red onion, garlic, and chilli pepper flakes. Pulse your ingredients together, then add vinegar and a dash of sea salt. Continue to pulse and slowly drizzle in cooled oil with the food processor still running. Chop until your sauce is emulsified and chunky.

Wasn’t that easy?

For perfect steak, use Heston’s Perfect Steak Recipe: here. Serve with a generous portion of your Chimichurri sauce and bask in the oohs, aahs and mmms! of your guests.

The Fat Duck

As you may have guessed, I am a foodie.
What gave it away? The Tweets of where I am and what I’m eating? The Instagrams of my soon to be devoured treat? Or, was it the fact I have an entire website that although pretends to be a Lifestyle Blog, ultimately reverts back to all things food.

Whichever of these hinted that this was the case, bravo, you’ve figured out what makes me tick: food.

I spend most of my days in a food daze. If I’m not currently eating, I’m planning what I’ll eat, where I’ll eat, what I’d like to cook, looking at recipes, reading restaurant reviews, and more often than not, scrolling through food porn. So where does the food obsessed, inner fat kid, chef groupie dream of going?
The Fat Duck.

I’ve been a fan of Heston Blumenthal for years. He takes playing with food to a different extreme. Although my adoration for rustic, simple food goes far, the element of surprise incorporated into a dish with full flavor is more than I could ever dream of. I think that every Chef’s goal with each dish should be to make the consumer utter, “Wow.” Better yet, to render them speechless, consumed by their mouthful, dissecting the different flavors, wondering to themselves, “How did they do that?” The real genius of Blumenthal is his ability to take the element of surprise and the intensity of flavors and combine them into a dining experience. His dishes tell a story, cause confusion, wonder, surprise, even giddiness, and the consumer is not only left with a stomach full of gourmet science experiments, but with a complete sensory engaging experience.

This isn’t a review or a critique, this is a narration of the best meal ever.

So, we’re in the car on the longest journey ever.
The trip was actually only about an hour long, but the butterflies flapping around in my empty stomach and my head dizzy with excitement were all too much to handle for the longest hour car ride of my life. As we pulled into the quaint little town of Bray, our eyes were peeled, searching for any sign of the famous three words: The Fat Duck. Nothing. No big words plastered on the wall, no signs indicating that this door lead to the culinary experience of a lifetime, nothing. And then I saw it. Three silver utensils dangling, each having been partially morphed with the anatomy of a duck, the famous logo that represents The Fat Duck.

We parked at Blumenthal’s pub, Hind’s Head, and tottered over the cobblestones to the unmarked door. Tentative as to what would greet me in the world of Heston Blumenthal waiting on the other side, I slowly opened the door to a simple, modern piece of glass and a friendly faced maître d’. He greeted us politely and requested we have a drink in the Hind’s Head as we were ten minutes early. Staff worked like clockwork prepping behind him in the simple room with low ceilings and white walls.

We walked back to the Hind’s Head next door and chatted to the friendliest bartender as she meticulously polished the wine glasses. She tells us that the cozy pub has been standing in this very spot since the 15th century and that the crooked beams supporting the walls and ceilings have been taken from a ship. All the while her hands move robotically, steam, polish, clink, steam, polish, clink. As the counter filled with a sea of sparkling glasses, we finished our chat, more than ready for what we had come for.

A smiling host greeted us and walked us through the dining room to what can only be described as the best seat in the house. With my back to the curtained windows, I had a view of the entire dining room. The kitchen is tucked away to the back, right of the room, obviously hidden to increase the element of surprise. The room itself is intimate, broken up by wooden beams, light, and simple. Our napkins are perfectly rolled with the stitched words: The Fat Duck Heston Blumenthal perfectly on display. A tiny vase of wildflowers guards a small slab of black granite, sitting unassumingly in the center of the table. Stage laid, bring on the performance.

Beetroot and Horseradish Cream Savoury Macaron 
A waiter appears at the table carrying a minute plate in his fingertips. Upon it are three red, round figures. The waiter explains our amuse bouche as an aerated beet shell with horseradish cream to prepare the palate for the dishes to come. Imagine the inside of a Malteaser(UK)/Malted Milk Ball(US). Now imagine that crunchy, aerated texture to not only taste like beets, but to be filled with a light, airy cream with the kick of horseradish. This is the Chef’s little way of saying, “Get ready.”

We watched as countless waiters danced around each other, serving the other guests their amuse bouche and preparing them for their adventure. The dishes served are staggered and seeing glimpses of performances on the other side of the room only heightened the anticipation. We were handed a leather bound menu detailing the dishes to come. When reaching the end of the menu, the page can be flipped to reveal the beginning again, like a magic wallet. Incredible detail for the easily amused. Although we were sad to see our leather bound books go, they were replaced with a small, paper version which sat in the center of the table as a guide to our adventure.

Citrus Grove
We began to hear coos of excitement across the room and could see the unmistakable hurried flow of smoke billowing from a bucket. The anticipation was building and I could hardly contain my excitement when trays holding canisters and different colored bundles were placed on the table. Our waiter began to prepare our Nitro Poached Aperitifs table side. As he poured the liquid nitrogen into a lined bucket, he described the ingredients and the science behind their cooking method. We had three options: Gin & Tonic, Campari Soda with Blood Orange and Proseco, and Green Tea with Vodka and Lime. I requested my Blood Orange Aperitif and watched as he squeezed the creamy mixture onto a tablespoon. This was then dropped into the liquid nitrogen to poach until crunchy. The frozen puff is then sprinkled with Blood Orange dust and served to be eaten as quickly as possible. The waiter sprayed a citrus oil over me and I placed my Nitro Poached Aperitif in my mouth. I squeezed it gently against the roof of my mouth and smoke shot out of my nose. It originally consisted of the temperature and texture of ice cream, but as I began to crush it, it disappeared. As I breathed in the citrus spray, the bitter taste Blood Orange flooded my taste buds.
An edible science experiment.

Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream
Next, a different waiter appeared with three oversized bowls. In the center, a Quenelle of Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream sitting on a bed of minute, perfectly diced onion. Another waiter appears and pours the magenta liquid of the Red Cabbage Gazpacho into the bowl. Each bite was a cold mixture of flavour with an added crunch of the onion. The Mustard Ice Cream cut the bitterness of the Red Cabbage Gazpacho leaving a sweet, tangy aftertaste. The combination was strange but worked well together.
With these fascinating displays and delicious tastes, we were ready for more.

Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, Chicken Liver Parfait, with Oak Moss and Truffle Toast
I began to see smoke billowing over another diner’s table and was pleased to see more trays emerging from the kitchen. A waiter appeared and placed a bed of oak moss on the table. Upon it, were three tiny cases, similar to those of Listerine strips, containing what were described as Fat Duck Films. A dish containing the Jelly of Quail, Crayfish Cream, and Chicken Liver Parfait was then served to each of us with a block of wood displaying the Truffle Toast. Our waiter then prepped us for our journey through the forest. We each placed our Fat Duck Film on our tongues to taste “earth”. The waiter then poured water onto the bed of Oak Moss and scented smoke rushed over the table. The taste of the earth mixed with the smell of wet forest prepped our palates for the next dish. A spoonful of the creamy, flavourful mixture completely blew me away. Each element could be identified with the different consistencies of jelly, cream, and parfait. With the creamy mouthful, I took a bite of the Truffle Toast. A nice crunch packed with the flavour of truffle to cut the richness of the cream.
Definitely the most interesting walk through the forest I’ve ever taken.

Snail Porridge
Our next dish was presented in a tiny white pot. The dish title sounds like something out of a storybook that the evil character would try to feed its captive. The waiter removed the lid to reveal Snail Porridge. A pile of crunchy, shaved Fennel topped a bright green Porridge. The Porridge had oats, strips of Iberico Bellota Ham, and perfectly cooked, meaty Escargot. Although it wasn’t exactly your average breakfast bowl of porridge, the flavor combination was incredible. There were spicy notes of Green Curry which tied the different ingredients together beautifully.

My empty bowl was whisked away and left nothing but the scent of Green Curry in the air. Two waiters appeared soon after with a tray and a basket. There was never a lack of waiters nearby, but the service was attentive, not robotic. The waiter with the basket offered a choice of Brown or White Sourdough bread. I know you can’t believe that I’ve come all the way to The Fat Duck and am filling up on Bread, but this was freshly made, bubbly, Sourdough Bread! The waiter with the tray then revealed three yellow slabs of what appeared to be Cheddar Cheese. He then selected one with his silver tongs and placed it onto the black slab of granite that had been sitting unassumingly on the table up until now. Guess what it was?

Unpasteurized, Sea Salted, Butter. Now are you going to try and tell me not to fill up on the Bread? No, I think you’d grab your butter knife and slather the forbidden spread onto your fresh slice of Sourdough just like I did. Twice. I obviously had to sample both the Brown and White Sourdough for comparative reasons.

Roast Foie Gras
Where to begin. A massive portion of Roasted Foie Gras was served as a piece of art. It lay on top of pieces of braised Kombu, a type of kelp that gave each bite a sweet and salty note with a similar texture to seaweed. It was also served with Barberry sauce, a sauce with the tartness of tomato sauce, but the sweetness of a berry. Last but not least, wedged between each bite of Foie Gras, Crab Biscuits. That’s right, Crab Biscuits. Wafer thin flakes that literally contained the flavor of Sweet Crab. I could happily snack on these all day and would like to make a formal request to Chef Blumenthal, because you’re reading this of course, please make and sell these as your next snack available in Waitrose. Forget your Hot & Sour Nuts and your Smoked Salts, it’s all about the Crab Biscuits.

Mad Hatter’s Tea Party
The Mad Hatter’s Tea Party was quite possibly my favorite part of the feast. It’s really difficult to choose a favourite, and now I’m wrestling with my decision, but it truly was an amazing experience. A white and silver bookmark was placed on the table depicting the part in Alice in Wonderland where she is asked if she has seen the Mock Turtle yet. The back of the bookmark describes the Mock Turtle’s story and its popularity in the 19th century. Soon after reading our bookmarks and discussing what was to come, a two layered, clear teapot was placed before each of us. Before trying to guess what was in the teapot, another waiter appeared with gold Pocket Watches which we were to repair by dipping in our tea. We each dipped the Pocket Watch into the top tea pot of boiling water, and swirled it around until it dissolved, creating Gold Leaf and Mock Turtle soup. This was then poured into our teacup below containing Beef, Cucumber, and Turnip pieces surrounding a Mock Egg Yolk made from Mushroom. The soup was absolutely delicious with incredible flavor from the Beef Stock Pocket Watch and the crunchy textures of the Beef and Vegetables. To accompany our Mock Turtle Soup, a Mad Hatter Tea Stand was placed in the center of the table. Besides containing elements of other Tea Sandwiches such as Cucumber, and Egg & Cress, a slice of toast filled the sandwiches. Such a simple, unimpressive element gave such an incredible texture to the sandwich that I secretly wished this could be my lunch everyday.

“Sound of the Sea”
It can’t get much better than that, you’re thinking. Chef Blumenthal has pulled out all the stops, you’re mumbling to yourself. But then, a waiter appeared and a massive conch seashell with headphones was placed on the table. We were told to place the headphones in our ears and relax with the sounds of the seaside for our next course. Rolling waves and seagulls calling played and my setting was completely changed. I was still in the same dining room surrounded by the same diners, but I felt completely different, completely relaxed. The waiter then placed boxes of sand covered by a glass plate in front of us. On top of the glass plate was a beautiful arrangement of Edible Sand, Sea Foam, Various types of Seaweed from Europe and Asia, and Mackerel, Halibut, and Yellowtail Sashimi. The Edible Sand was made from Fried Anchovies and added such an interesting texture to each mouthful as it morphed into a flavourful powder when consumed. The different types of Seaweed popped with flavour, and added the perfect crunch to each bite of fresh Sashimi. The Sea Foam literally tasted like the ocean with a salty flavour enhanced by the sound of the rolling waves. This dish was not only beautiful, but engaged several senses creating another amazing dining experience.

Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel
The dish was followed by lots of chatter as our Seashell headphones were removed. We watched other diners deep in concentration around the room, enjoying their “Sound of the Sea.” Our next dish arrived in the centre of the most amazingly textured plate. A perfect piece of Salmon completely coated in a Liquorice Gel rendering its appearance to that of a brownie. Golden Trout Roe was perched in the centre of the Salmon which was on top of a bed of Grapefruit pieces. Two Roasted Baby Artichokes were placed at the other end all guarded by dollops of Vanilla Bean Mayonnaise. The Roasted Artichokes were beautiful with a strong flavour of both Artichoke and Lemon which paired nicely with the Grapefruit Pieces. The bite of perfectly cooked Salmon with its hint of Liquorice Gel, pop of Golden Roe Trout, tanginess of Grapefruit pieces, and sweetness of the Vanilla Mayonnaise was perfection. The combination of textures and flavours was phenomenal and innovative and I will never look at a salmon dish on a menu the same.

Lamb with Cucumber
Now for the main course. As if you haven’t had enough already, you may be thinking. But of course, you’re wrong. An elegant plate of tender looking Lamb was placed before us. Chunks of Grilled Cucumber and an Onion and Dill Fluid Gel garnished the plate. The presentation was beautiful and we were ready to try our dish, but that wasn’t all there was to it. A piece of wood was placed next to our Lamb with a glass bowl of Lamb and Mint Consommé and a spoon with Lamb Tongue, Fried Sweetbread, Quinoa Crisps and Onions Caramelised in Balsamic. The Lamb itself was the best I’ve ever tasted, perfectly cooked, tender, and full of flavour. The Onion and Dill Fluid Gel and Chunks of Grilled Cucumber paired perfectly with each meaty bite. The Consommé was rich in flavour adding an interesting element to contrast with the actual Lamb. The Quinoa Crisps, Fried Sweet Bread, Lamb Tongue, and Caramelised Onions were all phenomenal, each giving a different flavour and texture to the dish.

Are you full now? Because that’s all.
For the food, that is.
Now for the desserts!

Hot & Iced Tea
We chatted away happily, intoxicated by good food, watching the other diners munch away on Chef Blumenthal’s creations. A waitress appeared with a double walled glass cup for each of us. Inside was Hot & Iced Tea. With each sip of the syrupy concoction, I could feel both hot and cold liquid simultaneously. It was completely bizarre but tasted delicious. Besides the different temperatures, I could identify notes of lemon, honey and orange in the tea. It disappeared a little too quickly and I decided I would like to enjoy some Hot & Iced Tea along with some Mad Hatter Tea Sandwiches on a regular basis.

Macerated Strawberries with Olive Oil Biscuit, Chamomile and Coriander Jelly, and Ice Cream Cornet
A waiter appeared with a block of wood, filled with little metal beads. Propped up in the beads were three delicate Ice Cream Cornets. The cone had the texture of crispy Phyllo Dough and was covered in Strawberry Sugar. It was filled with an amazing Earl Grey Ice Cream with such an intense tea flavour, and at the bottom was Fresh Strawberry Jam. It was the perfect mini treat to start off our picnic. A long plate arrived with our mini, edible picnic. Underneath an edible White Chocolate Picnic Blanket was an Olive Oil Biscuit with Chamomile and Coriander Jelly. I absolutely loved the flavour combination and this was probably the best Tea Biscuit I’ve ever had. Sweet, macerated Strawberries surrounded the plate as well as a sprinkling of Edible Flowers and Crushed Pistachios. There were also Aerated Puffs that tasted like Strawberries and a delicious Strawberry Sauce. Definitely the best tasting Picnic I’ve ever had.

The “BFG”
The edible picnic was a delightful pre-dessert.
If pre-dessert is not in your dining vocabulary, you’re not dining correctly. And you probably have a smaller waistline.
The waiter then brought a plank of wood displaying The “BFG.” To those of you that are expecting Chef Blumenthal to be serving up edible pieces of Roald Dahl’s Big Friendly Giant, I’m sorry to disappoint. The “BFG” in this case stands for Black Forest Gâteau. The Chef’s take on this classic German dessert was far from the boozy cake with sickeningly sweet preserved Maraschino cherries and globs of whipped cream. A perfect rectangular prism of BFG was positioned on top of a trail of Cherry Puree and Chocolate Crumbs leading to a Quenelle of Kirsch Ice Cream. The BFG had a crunchy Madeleine Biscuit Base, a centre of Aerated Chocolate and Flourless Chocolate Sponge, surrounded by Kirsch Cream, and a Chocolate Ganache with Sour Cherries. The outside appeared as if his Chocolate Paint Gun trick had been used with its perfectly flocked exterior, and it was topped with perfect, macerated Cherry. My plate arrived with a White Chocolate Calligraphy Congratulations as we were celebrating both my Birthday and Graduation. The waiter sprayed a Kirsch scented spray over us before telling us to dig in to the delicious, intricate dessert.

Whisk(e)y Wine Gums
As a wind down from our epic feast, we were brought a picture frame with a map of Scotland  and Tennessee thrown into the corner. A Whisk(e)y Gum was stuck onto the map above each different Scotch-producing Region. They had a softer consistency to Gummy Bears and really packed a kick. They each had the exact smoky flavour of the named Whisk(e)ys and were strangely enjoyable.

“Like a Kid in a Sweet Shop”
The 14th course of The Fat Duck Feast was presented as a parting gift. A custom Fat Duck, pink striped Sweet Shop bag was given to us with a tiny menu inside that smelled like the sugary sweetness of a Sweet Shop itself. Also in my Sweet Shop bag was a signed birthday card from Heston Blumenthal himself, making my heart skip a beat. Inside was an Aerated Chocolate and Mandarin Jelly, Coconut Baccy, Apple Pie Caramel, and The Queen of Hearts. The Aerated Chocolate was lovely and strangely reminiscent to a Jaffa Cake. The Coconut Baccy was cleverly packaged as Tobacco with Coconut Infused with an Aroma of Black Cavendish Tobacco inside. The Apple Pie Caramel was wrapped in an edible wrapper and had a delicious flavour of real apple, versus the sweetened artificial flavouring. Lastly, an edible Queen of Hearts playing card made from White Chocolate with a Raspberry Centre.

I didn’t want it to be over. My foodie dream come true was a masterful five hour performance of the most innovative, delicious food I’ve ever had. It exceeded my expectations and I couldn’t have asked for more. (Except being invited to spend the day being official taste tester to Chef Blumenthal. A girl can dream.)

As we slowly walked out of The Fat Duck, graciously thanking the incredible staff, drinking in our last moments in this legendary room, I decided I wasn’t ready to leave. I knew Chef Blumenthal’s laboratory was just across the road, and I couldn’t fight my overwhelming desire to go knock on the door. I just wanted the chance to thank him for my experience and possibly offer him a drink at The Hind’s Head. As we wandered around the back of the lab, following the sign directing Fat Duck Deliveries, I found an open door. I popped my head in to see three Chefs, cleaning the kitchen and preparing for the dinner service. As I caught the eye of one of the Chefs, I casually asked if Chef Blumenthal happened to be in the building. Sadly, he wasn’t. But, they invited us in to their kitchen and we began to chat about all things culinary. We couldn’t praise them enough for their incredible cooking. Thank you again Marcus, Cornelius, and Marniya for chatting with us.

I hope you enjoyed my narration of the longest, most incredible dining experience, and if you have just flipped through the food porn because it looked a little too long to read, I hope you’re hungry.