I have “Christmas” at the Fat Duck

Thursday, April 17th , 2008

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The Fat Duck delivered another theatrical and skilled meal. The details are in the review, but I was particularly impressed by the superb desserts, in which all five of us eating had a superb experience. Those of you who saw Heston’s Christmas TV special may recall the Christmas dish that he made with an apple and whisky sorbet floating magically in a flaming pool of liquid, with a dry ice poured over logs giving an aroma of an open fire, pipe smoke and, well, Christmas. They kindly made this for dish for us as a surprise, and very successful it was too. There are still some dishes which don’t quite hit the heights here (a sole Veronique that was lukewarm, a merely nice cauliflower risotto) but there were nice surprises like a butternut squash soup that had dazzling intensity, an amazingly rich macaroni with excellent pork, and the perfect chips. It would nice to see more seasonality in the menu, but you cannot fault the technique. The famous snail porridge is pictured.
E&O retains its trendiness, with no shortage of pretty young things dressed in black who all look as if they work in TV, advertising or professional posing. Fortunately the food has also mostly not lost its touch, with tasty rock shrimp tempura, tiger prawns and crab roll all excellent, though a slightly overcooked sea bass and rather over-sticky noodles suggested some fraying at the edges. I have dropped this one mark to 3/10 based on this rather uneven experience.
I had a second visit to Giusto , the simple Italian restaurant that I mistook for a pizzeria on my first visit. A dish of scallops, beans and chilli ended up mostly beans, though they were cooked properly, while a risotto of asparagus was properly made but was not as good as it might have been since the stock they used lacked much flavour. My friend fared a little better with a nice pasta dish, and a little offering of home-made tomato bread from the wood oven was lovely. It was a shame that service was marred by an unusually inept waitress, since the manager there is excellent.
It is about ten years since I went to the Pimlico Chinese restaurant Hunan. We had a surreal service experience where the very pushy waiter/manager kept trying to get us to try things we did not want from the menu, eventually resorting to turning up with a small dish of food, picking a sample up with chopsticks and trying to literally force-feed Stella with it (a braver man than me; he was lucky to escape with all his fingers). They seem to have gone the whole hog now since the manager this time claimed now that there is no menu at all and that they only serve a “surprise” tasting menu. Sadly this just meant one poor dish after another turning up in a stream, with utterly dried up salmon followed by chewy beef and burnt belly pork, with just the odd edible dish in between. Wine topping up was a farce, and eventually I was just glad the meal was over. The place was busy so some people must like it, but the meal we had was of a very low standard.
In other news, The Straits Times reported this week that Singapore will be the next Asian city to get a Michelin guide. It sounds as if this is under consideration rather than confirmed, but would certainly be interesting. There is a distinct foodie culture in Singapore, and though it has been some years since I last visited Singapore, the fusion of culinary influences there make it a plausible candidate for Michelin.
This blog is not on its usual Saturday schedule as I am off to Barcelona for a few days, taking in 3 stars Sant Pau and Can Fabes on the way.