Chop Shop

There’s something about a place that doesn’t even pretend to be good for you that I openly, unashamedly appreciate. A blunt show off, proudly catering to your filthy desires in a confined space of misbehaviour and indulgence. With a New York-cool façade, imported from our neighbours across the pond, Chop Shop is the Haymarket heartthrob tempting you to act upon your lustful inclinations.

Start at the bar, where Vlad will help you pick your poison and shake up a house cocktail, spiked with sweet and sour accompaniments.
P1020795The Passione Arrabiata is a sinfully sweet combination of chilli-infused tequila, tart passion fruit and a generous squeeze of lime. Ask nicely and you can have yours altered to be less naughty – or more! Chop ShopHaving sipped your liquid courage, venture past the wall of embedded butcher’s knives into the New York-inspired, London-embraced interior; a world of contradictorily edgy comfort. The obvious, exposed brick walls are lit by immense, reclaimed tiles, softening the warehouse feel.

P1020798P1020799But, you’re not here for the cool interior. You’re here for an indulgence of impressive scale with thoughtful twists on satisfying classics. And that’s exactly what you’ll get.
The menu is dominated by a tantalising list of chops and steaks, accompanied by a selection of jars, crocks, planks and other cutely named serving styles we’ve grown annoyingly fond of. IMG_1584A pretty pot of white onion mousse with parmesan and chervil oil is easily slathered on toasted chunks of grilled sourdough.

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As well as duck liver mousse, cut with fruit mostarda. These were a comforting introduction to the evening’s feasting, a toe in the pool before diving head first into gluttony.

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Crispy hot wings kicked in protest with their addictive, fiery sauce, made even more irresistible when drowned in Cashel blue cheese dip.

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The showstopper of all starters, if such decadence can even be labelled as such, was a wicked dish of cottage pasta pie. Hidden beneath a molten layer of cheese were tiny, tender bites of basil gnocchi accompanied by tender pieces of braised oxtail. This was one of those dishes you pine for once finished.

IMG_1602Temporary sorrow was soon replaced with predatory instinct as a carnivorous dream arrived at the table. A veritable feast fit for a table of ravenous kings and queens, complete with 35-day aged Cumbrian bone-in sirloin for two, a patty melt sandwich of dry-aged beef burger smothered in onions and cheese, market fish with pea and pancetta, and an immense pork chop.

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American-sourced Creekstone USDA hanger steak was tender perfection, an easy winner, which was subtly fought for with rapidly darting forks across the table.

IMG_1595The steaks and chops can be excessively topped with things like fried eggs, roasted garlic, red wine bone marrow sauce, and even a vodka bacon peppercorn sauce. However, none of this is truly needed for such finely sourced meat. An obligatory order of fried onion rings and rosemary chips played accessory to the mass consumption, as well as honeyed carrots and creamed spinach.
P1020815Even the vegetables are impure in this place.
P1020816Tempting coronary implosion, we stuck around for dessert. A glass of butterscotch custard with salted caramel and Chantilly cream was sweetly satisfying, but gobbled up too quickly for me to snap a shot. Chop ShopSticky date pudding was a necessary evil to end the feast, each bite a decadent squeeze dripping with warm toffee sauce.

Chop Shop is the cool kid on the block, looking to lure you and get you hooked. Service, lead by the charming Alastair Gallichan, is welcoming and knowledgeable, with friendly staff willing you to succumb to temptation. Give it a visit and tag me in your food porn @Alessandra_LDN so I can ensure you’re sinning correctly.

The Tommy Tucker

I’m not a pub kinda girl.
I know it’s terribly un-English of me to not yearn for weekend roasts and post-work pints in the sticky sweet atmosphere overflowing with chattering murmur, interrupted by outbursts of laughter and clinking glasses. And yes, I know it’s terribly un-American to not be enchanted by the familiar interiors, charming quirks and stories told by that local who can always be found perched upon his post. But, the environment aside, it is unsurprisingly, all about the food. The sad, repetitive menus listing average dishes are no less comforting to me than a lukewarm bubble bath.

But, what about the rise of the gastropub! you shout at me through your screen, shaking with rage behind your mug of tea – which is fair enough, as I might as well have insulted HM The Queen, given the importance of this fine English institution.  

Now that I’ve finished shuddering at your use of the term ‘gastropub’, I will reluctantly agree that yes, the incessant turnaround of rundown pubs being seized by culinary crews and reborn with fresh licks of paint, creative interiors and friendly front of house have undeniably improved these tedious establishments. It’s not often, however, that the food shines through with creativity, elevation or elegance.

Well Londoners, I’ve found one.
A pub that aims to please, The Tommy Tucker has set up shop in the side streets of Fulham. Here, the perfect mix of rustic charm and culinary finesse is headed up by the band of boys behind Parsons Green sweetheart, Claude’s Kitchen. Tommy Tucker I’m sure you’ve heard of this much-loved local by now, as every West Londoner has been singing its praises. I decided to swallow my preconceived disdain, and skipped down to meet the lovely Seb and Jaia for supper. The Tommy TuckerThe menu is divided into meat, fish, fruit & veg, and on the side. Each dish is accompanied by a selection of thoughtful ingredients, including pickled beetroot, mushroom ketchup, lavender jus, Jerusalem artichokes and salsa verde, all of which make foodie me tingle. The Tommy TuckerTo start, I went for an obligatory order of pickled pumpkin and goats curd with winter herbs and spices. The pumpkin is crunchy with a sweet sharpness, perfectly paired with subtle flavouring from the goats curd.The Tommy TuckerThe Tommy TuckerMy dates went for girolle mushrooms on grilled sourdough with watercress and shaved Berkswell cheese. The Tommy TuckerAnd scallops with chorizo, radishes and its leaves, both of which were delicious, and prompt me to recommend you order all the starters to share between the table, as this left me greedily wanting to try them all.

Ready for more, our mains were served with a side of congeniality, present across all the staff here. The Tommy TuckerMy smoked beef short-rib was served with arrocina ‘baked beans’ and black olives, topped with salsa verde. The Tommy TuckerThe meat was so tender it was falling off the bone, and was lifted by the acidity of the salsa verde and olive.The Tommy TuckerJ went for ‘Rub-a-Dub’ Burger with smoked mayo and pickled vegetables, which somehow managed to look attractive with its pretty playmates of tart veg. The Tommy TuckerSeb completed our proper meaty feast with an order of pork chop served with charred hispi, bacon and apples. The Tommy TuckerOur bit on the side was several orders of deliciously moreish chips and a tad overly sweetened sweet potato mash. The Tommy Tucker Wander downstairs to the loos and find the namesake’s nursery rhyme. Be sure to also check out the ‘Tuck Shop’, a temperature controlled jewel box of fine wines painstakingly tried and tasted one sip at a time. The Tommy Tucker Because all good things end with pudding, (my new saying), we decided to check out the sweet treats. The Tommy TuckerAn adult version of choc ice is served with raisin and rum infused ice cream is sure to bring back wicked memories of childhood misbehaviour. The Tommy TuckerThis is far to difficult to eat in a civilised manner with a fork and spoon, so I advise you pick it up with your fingers and go for it. Offer any horrified neighbours a bite and I’m sure they’ll understand, or ignore their judgemental looks as they sound completely dull anyways. Be sure to dip in the accompanying salted caramel cream, almonds and their milk. The Tommy TuckerThe Cox apple and quince crispy pie is served with cinnamon and milk ice cream. This underwhelming title does not do the delicate dessert justice. I mean just look at it – it deserves more than its three-lettered moniker. I have decidedly renamed it ‘apple parcel of love’. This is accompanied by a spicy crumble, which everyone seems to enjoy. My batch was a little heavy on the cumin, so I happily scooted it to the side and focused on the pastry parcel. The Tommy Tucker The Tommy Tucker Poached red plums with spiced rye crumble, lemon posset and lemon curd is like a work of art. I love the vibrant colouring of the lemon and wintery vibes of the poached plums, but will be ordering mine without the crumble next time.

By now we were at the heavy breathing stage, the giddy state of overfed and sugar high, basking in the candlelight and buzzing atmosphere. The Tommy TuckerSomeone in the kitchen happened to know I have a particular fondness for the salted caramel cream and naughtily sent us a plate piled high with the sugary cloud decadent  dreams are made of. We tenderly spooned several bites before surrendering.

The Tommy Tucker is deservedly becoming the adored local it so effortlessly emulates. They have a killer cocktail list pleasing the new generation of pub-goers who no longer search solely for beer stained nights, and a menu more than worthy of setting foot in a pub! Check out @TheTommyTucker and let me know what you think @Alessandra_LDN 

FEAST London

FEAST London is a glorious event that takes place a few times a year in different spots around London. Chefs, restaurateurs and food stalls join together to provide foodies with an epic spread.

This year’s first FEAST was located in Tobacco Dock, a cavernous tobacco warehouse which has since been renovated. With a much cheaper entry fee than some of London’s leading food festivals and its East London location, there was a fun, funky crowd wandering around to the alternative music streaming from the speakers.
WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTThe lovely Parissima and I entered with empty stomachs and excitement in our eyes, not knowing what kind of FEAST to expect.
And boy did we get a mouthful.
WEFEASTFirst stop, Coco Face.
Brilliantly branded coconuts with fresh, nutty coconut water inside.
The perfect nutrients to prepare us for the enormous task ahead: eating everything in sight. WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEAST
We wandered around the stalls, making friends, reading menus and checking out the goods on offer. The spread was unbelievable.

Mishkin’s had cheesy Rueben Hero Melts and Pickles on a stick. WEFEAST

Frederick’s offered fine-dining street food.

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Here we tried the Arancini, fried Sicilian rice balls stuffed with peas and ham.WEFEASTThe hot, crispy balls were the perfect warm up.

The sweet snap of fresh peas went perfectly with the salty ham and cheesy rice filling.
We were ready for more.
WEFEASTA quick stop at the Wine Cellar and we were on our way.WEFEASTWEFEAST

The Wright Brothers were there shucking big, meaty oysters, but it was far to cold to slither one of these down.
WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTThe Last Days of Pisco were serving up a beautiful Sea Bass Ceviche, but again, I was looking for bigger, warmer things. WEFEAST

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And then we came to Bone Daddies. WEFEASTThe much talked about Ramen restaurant seems to always be packed. So packed, that I haven’t bothered popping in to see what the fuss is about.

Luckily, they came to me and I could now sample the soup queue free.
We ordered a bowl to share and I snapped some pics of the terribly camera shy bonedaddies themselves.
WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTI was skeptical at first, but I must say, this is no ordinary bowl of noodles.
The ramen was absolutely delicious, with a spicy broth, crunchy bok choy, a perfectly cooked egg, and al dente noodles.
A heavenly combination which offered a nice warm hug in the freezing weather.
WEFEASTThe venue was filled with fire pits which left the smoky smell of winter in the air. I found the signs surrounding the pits quite funny:
Please do not touch the fire pits…. for obvious reasons.

The pits and heat lamps were scattered around the warehouse which we made frequent stops at to thaw our fingers and chat with other foodies to decide our next bite.WEFEASTThe venue had now started to fill and the atmosphere was great. There was live music playing, people laughing and chatting at the long, decorated picnic tables and as you can imagine, the most incredible smell of food in the air. WEFEASTWEFEASTWe made our way upstairs to the second level of food.

WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTBig Apple Hot Dogs were sizzling on the grill. 
WEFEASTHoxton’s new restaurant Beagle was serving up Buttermilk fried rabbit with black bean salsa, which I now wish I tried. 
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Beard to Tail was serving up BBQ Pulled Pork Sliders and Wild Boar Faggots, a traditional English recipe of meatballs made with belly pork and offal bound with breadcrumbs. WEFEAST Crêpes were cooking. WEFEAST Fried chicken rolls were frying. WEFEASTAnd samples were sampling. WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTAnna Mae was stirring up something good with her pimped up Mac & Cheese.WEFEASTWEFEASTCheesus, doesn’t that look good?!WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEAST

After enough wandering around, we followed our noses to the famous Pizza Pilgrims.
After a 6 week pilgrimage around Italy, the two brothers, Thom and James, set up their pizza venture selling authentic Neapolitan pizza in London markets.WEFEAST
WEFEASTThey make the pizzas with simple, fresh ingredients and then pop them in their van-turned-pizza oven to bake.
Talk about multi-functional. 
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Just look at that steaming slice of heaven.
It was absolutely delicious. Chewy, crunchy crust with sweet marinara, melted mozzarella and a sprinkling of fresh basil. I doused mine in chili oil for an extra kick.
WEFEASTAfter finishing our pizza, we eyed Elliot’s gourmet cheeseburger. WEFEASTThe burger consisted of a collection of gourmet ingredients squeezed onto the tiniest burger I’ve ever seen. If we were getting technical, this should’ve been called The Elliot’s Slider… or The World’s Tiniest Cheeseburger. WEFEAST
WEFEAST The meat was cooked to perfection, flavours were incredible and I loved the home-made dill butter. But, it definitely left me wanting more. WEFEASTOn the other side of the Tobacco Dock, a self-proclaimed posh violinist was playing Bulgarian folk music. But, we weren’t there for this show.
WEFEASTWe were there for this one.
Er… the one behind the naked Ron Jeremy. WEFEASTPatty & Bun is London’s newest answer to the burger craze.
A stone’s throw from MEATliquor, they’ve brought some serious game to the burger competition.
Yet again, I wasn’t willing to wait in a queue or dine at obscure hours so I’ve missed out on the early Patty & Bun hype.
But strike two on the ol’ foodie bucket list, another one has come to me! WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTA mastered conveyor belt-like prep line was at work before our eyes.
Sauce, sauce, sauce, ketchup, ketchup, ketchup, lettuce, lettuce, lettuce, picked onion, pickled onion, pickled onion… 
WEFEASTWEFEASTWEFEASTIMG_4085We were mesmerised as our masterpiece was created.IMG_4088

WEFEASTWe went for the Ari Gold.
A monster compared to The World’s Smallest Cheeseburger… I mean Elliot’s.
A juicy creation with incredible flavour and the perfect balance of smoky, sweet and sour toppings all piled on on a brioche bun.
I’m debating this even as I type, but this may just be my new favourite burger.
Gasp.

WEFEASTThis funky two piece band decked out in purple velour suits were up next and really got the crowd going. Thoroughly drunk by this point, the crowd was singing along to every word and some ladies even went out on the dance floor. 
IMG_4081IMG_4082Too cold and too sober to continue watching, I was on the move for something sweet.
WEFEASTThis little macaron maid was serving up macaron milkshakes.
I so desperately wanted to try this, but my shaking body and frozen fingers insisted I stay away. IMG_4066IMG_4067 We each got a few macarons to nibble as we made our final trip around FEAST.
The macaron maid herself couldn’t resist a bite of her cookies.
One for the jar, one for me…IMG_4070We stopped by the lovely Meringue Girls stall to purchase some parting gifts. The colourful meringues temptingly line a crate on display. WEFEASTWEFEASTIMG_4071 I selected a few to take away in a delicate box and Paris chose the darling package of mini meringues. I’ve previously been a bit bitter I didn’t come up with this first as I now see them everywhere, but flavour and texture of these are divine and I would definitely recommend trying them. IMG_4075IMG_4077We came, we saw, we FEASTed.
It was a spectacular event and I waddled away with an ache in my tummy and a smile on my face.

The next event has yet to be announced, but you can bet I’ll be there.
Keep an eye on their website and twitter for upcoming events and be sure you book ahead as tickets sell out quickly!

Taste of Christmas 2012

As you may remember, I visited what I call “Foodie Christmas” earlier this year at Taste of London in Regent’s Park. For foodies, this “Christmas” happens to come twice a year.

Every holiday season, a massive space in Excel is decked out with Christmas trees and filled with food stalls for a weekend of getting into the holiday spirit by stuffing your face. There are restaurants serving miniature versions of their signature dishes, stalls selling gifts to get some Christmas shopping out of the way, and samples of booze, chocolate, and cheese galore.

This year there was a combination of Restaurants and Street Food Vans serving up their best dishes at very high price. Taste Festivals have their own currency called crowns. I’ve explained this all here, but two crowns is worth £1 and most dishes are around 10 crowns, which you nerds have already worked out is equivalent to £5.

The space is a bit overwhelming and doesn’t exactly have that intimate Christmassy feel. The live band playing Christmas hits does however make you wiggle around the room, ready for more edible Christmas cheer. If you plan on visiting next year, you could wander around the stalls and have breads and oils, cheese and dips, and crisps and roasted garlic spread as your appetisers before working your way around the mains. However, I prefer tackling the restaurants and street food vans first, and then working my way around the stalls to ensure my favourite dishes aren’t sold out.  Taste of ChristmasMy first sample was from Peruvian restaurant Lima. A woman greeted us with a large plate of Sea bass ceviche, with white tiger’s milk, glazed sweet potato, and Inka corn. The sea bass was incredibly fresh and went beautifully with the texture of the sweet potato and crunchy Inka corn. Leche de tigre, or tiger’s milk, is the Peruvian term for the citrus-based marinade that cures the seafood in a ceviche, which gave a lovely citrusy hint to the dish.

IMG_6714Next to sample was Salt Yard, a tapas restaurant with Spanish and Italian influenced flavours.

Taste of ChristmasHere I tried the Truffled Mac & Cheese, the perfect foodie comfort food. The dish was hot and cheesy with incredible flavour, a cheesy breadcrumb topping for texture, and the perfect hint of truffle.

Taste of ChristmasMark Hix, chef and restaurateur, brought his food truck to the festival.

Taste of ChristmasHix’s Fishdogs consist of a fried coley fillet in a bun, with minted mushy peas and tartare sauce. The fishdog was good, but nothing too exciting as I couldn’t taste the minted mushy peas.

Taste of ChristmasAs Jamie Oliver had opened Taste of Christmas, he of course had an enormous stall covered with Christmas decorations serving up traditional British food.

Taste of ChristmasFrom his fabulous feast stand, we tried the Christmas Dinner sandwich, complete with turkey, stuffing, rocket, and a tangy cranberry sauce.

Taste of Christmas From The Lawn Ranger, a grass-covered street food van, The Bowler’s meatballs were rolling out.

Taste of Christmas I sampled the Jingle Balls made of free range pork shoulder and beef chuck balls winter spiced with red onion and tomato sauce, cumin, soured cream, and fresh coriander and the Excithai Balls of free range pork shoulders and beef chuck balls with a coconut curry sauce, crispy onions, sweet chilli jam and fresh coriander.
Although they were a bit cold, the flavours were marvellous and the meatball itself was incredibly tender.

Taste of Christmas

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Taste of ChristmasComptoir Gascon, a gourmet bistro, was serving up something that particularly caught my eye. Taste of ChristmasA foie gras and truffle burger.

Let’s just say, I wish I had ordered the duck burger instead.
The amount of foie gras was overwhelming, bun was too dry, and truffle seriously lacking. Not impressed. Taste of Christmas

We then wandered the stalls looking for gifts and sampling everything in sight.

Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasI may have stolen a sample or two…or 10 from the Ferrero Rocher Man.
I was more than happy to celebrate their 30th birthday with them.
Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasHow adorable is this little lady!? Don’t you just want to steal her and set her up in your kitchen to make all her magical, grandmothery comfort foods all whilst wearing her little apron and hat?

Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas One of the most innovative things I saw at Taste was 2grams Christmas Cards. It’s the Christmas card you can have and eat, too. They’re made from gingerbread with messages stamped onto icing. Find out more about them here. Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasEdible Chocolate Candlesticks would make a nice talk-piece for the dinner table.
Taste of ChristmasHow realistic are these edible Chocolate socks?
Perfect for a stocking stuffer.

Taste of Christmas Taste of Christmas Taste of ChristmasAs always I left with a skip in my step and ache in my tummy. 
This year wasn’t as good as previous years due to the lack of restaurants participating, but it’s still one of my favourite parts of the holiday season.

Did anyone else visit the festival?
What was your favourite dish?

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.