Fat Duck

1 High Street, Bray, England, SL6 2AQ, United Kingdom

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The Fat Duck is one of just four restaurants in Britain with three Michelin stars, which it has held since 2004. Heston Blumenthal has carved out a global reputation as one of the pioneers of molecular gastronomy, applying science and modern kitchen techniques to his dishes. The menu now serves only a tasting menu.  Heston has a building opposite the restaurant in which there is a prep kitchen, as well as an "experimental" kitchen, with various devices more usually seen in a lab e.g. a centrifuge and a distillation unit. There are 46 chefs working here, a very high ratio ratio for a 42 cover restaurant.

The dining room of the Fat Duck could never be accused of being luxurious, but it has a certain cosy charm. The low ceiling has wood beams on display, and a few bright abstract oil paintings to brighten up its plain white walls. The carpet is grey and chairs are very simple with mustard-coloured leather upholstery, yet are very comfortable. Lighting is from directed ceiling spots and works fine, despite the lack of natural light. There is a display of orchids as you enter and a large brick fireplace in which stands an modern sculpture. Each table has white linen tablecloths and napkins, and a single protea in a glass vase, as well as a bowl of pleasant green olives. Crockery is plain white and there is no music to distract from the food except in one particular course on the tasting menu, where an iPod is provided in a conch shell playing seaside sounds in order to set the scene for a seafood dish.

The wine list is literally a weighty affair, with 53 thick pages in a heavy binder. The list changes periodically and generally shows an astute choice of producers, though there are some gaps, and mark-ups are aggressive and at time verge on absurd. As one would expect, France is handled in depth, though the classic regions fare better than a rather superficial coverage of the south west, which has just a handful of wines such as Chateau Simone 2001 at £65 (retail price around £20). The fine regional red from Mas de Daumas Gassac 1994 is a lovely wine, but £177 for a wine that retails at £24 is a pretty obscene mark-up (nearly ten times retail price once you add service). It makes the superb Burgundy Etienne Sauzet 1996 at £895 for a wine that costs £250 in a shop seem a bargain. Spain has high-end coverage with five vintages of Vega Sicilia Unico e.g. 1991 at £450 for a wine that costs around £130 retail. Italy also shows attention to the high-end rather than bargains, with Antinori Solaia 2001 at £230 for a wine that retails at £118. There is just one Chilean red, and yet there are two wines from Slovenia. California includes Kistler Vine Hill 2003 at £220 (retail price £72). There are six whites and nine red wines by the glass, the cheapest being £11 but most being significantly more than this. Wine pairing comes in different forms, starting at £90 and moving in price to £165, £195 or £285 for fancier wines.  Below are notes from my most recent meal.

The tasting menu is now (May 2010) £150.  Today I tried this new menu; it has many elements from the old one, so I will comment mainly on the new dishes. The bread supplier has changed to Boulangerie de Paris, and the single choice of brown slices has a good crust and texture (17/20). At the beginning some olives are placed on the table, which are fine but are not the best olives that I have eaten. 

The meal began with the “lime grove” palate cleanser of green tea and lime mousse poached in liquid nitrogen, then dusted with lime powder as the opening dish. Next was the red cabbage gazpacho with Pommery grain mustard ice cream. This was followed by my old favourite, the jelly of quail and cream of langoustine with pea puree with chicken liver parfait, the oak moss taste and truffle toast. Next was roast foie gras with gooseberry, braised konbu (Japanese seaweed) and crab biscuit. This dish worked really well, the crab biscuit giving a nice texture contrast to the foie gras, the konbu balancing the richness of the foie gras (19/20). 

Mock turtle soup is a new dish, and shows Heston at his most theatrical and imaginative. A watch fob of beef stock which has been concentrated and freeze dried is wrapped in edible gold leaf and shaped in a mould to look like a watch. This is placed in a tea cup, and diners are invited to pour the “tea”, in fact beef stock, over the watch fob, which melts the gold leaf and allows the concentrated flavour of the beef stock to emerge. Separately, a plate is brought which has ox tongue (in place of the turtle; mock turtle soup used to use a calve’s head) and a mock turtle egg made from swede and turnip. There are additionally some cubes of turnip, cucumber and black truffle, enochi mushrooms and baby parsley leaves. The “tea” is then poured over these elements to give the finished results. I liked this dish very much. The theatre of it was fun, and engages the customer, the Alice in Wonderland references are clever, and most importantly the end result tasted good, the stock having great flavour (20/20). 

This was followed by the Sounds of the Sea dish, then salmon poached in liquorice with artichokes, vanilla mayonnaise, golden trout roe and Manni olive oil, which I felt was never one of the better dishes here, but this is a lot to do with my personal taste rather than any technical issue. Next was a new dish that was being previewed, English lamb slow cooked with pomme puree and mustard, with on the side a "hot pot" made from the neck and shoulder of the lamb with its sweetbread, with cucumber juice, dill and onion confit.  The lamb was beautifully cooked and the sauce of the cooking juices had lovely flavour; for me such a rich dish could perhaps have done with a little more balancing acidity, but it was most enjoyable (19/20). 

We then had the “Christmas” dish as an extra course, which I have written about previously and I think is a real triumph of a dish. Following this was Taffaty tart (a recipe dating back to 1660) made with caramelised apple, fennel, rose and candied lemon; the flavours worked well together and this was prettily presented (18/20). This was followed by the well-established “breakfast” of parsnip cereal and milk, then scrambled egg “cooked” in liquid nitrogen, served with a thin strip of bacon. Finally chocolate “wine slush” (another ancient recipe) with “millionaire shortbread” was for me pleasant but not in the league of the earlier dishes (17/20). We finished with some wine gums of various flavours served on a framed map showing the historic trade routes of Britain. The last element were some sweets such as a much improved Aero chocolate. As ever, Eric Doerr was an excellent host, and the service was very good indeed.

Overall, it is good to see the menu evolving, and new dishes such as the Mock Turtle soup show real creativity, and the kind of effort on the plate that a staff of 46 chefs brings to a restaurant.

Below are notes from a meal in March 2008.

Maitre d’ Eric Doerr (who left in late 2009) is very impressive, carefully listening to customers and responding to their wishes in a low key way without any need for superficial charm. The service today was spot on, with even minor details such as the topping up of bread faultless. The Italian sommelier knows his list well and had sensible suggestions for pairing the wines, which at times must be a real challenge here.

Bread is not made here but bought in from the Bread Factory in London. Just white and brown slices are offered (as well as a walnut bread for the cheese) and although I am surprised they do not make their own bread they have at least chosen very well with their supplier: the bread had light, airy texture and an excellent crust (18/20). Today they were kind enough to let me deviate somewhat from the tasting menu and try a few dishes that were new to me here. As I have written at length about certain dishes before I won’t repeat myself, but concentrate on the (to me) new dishes and things that have changed. 

Overall this was the best meal I have eaten at the Fat Duck, and indeed over my last three meals here the cooking has steadily improved, with dishes that may appear the same on the menu being carefully refined, while the pigeon in particular today being a superb addition to the menu. I wanted to have multiple meals here before adjusting the mark, but I have now increased the web-site mark here to 19/20 to reflect what I believe is a sustained increase in standard, more consistency in technical execution and a greater maturity of cooking being demonstrated in what was always an immensely inventive restaurant. To me Heston has pulled clearly ahead of other UK Michelin-starred chefs.

Notes below are from a meal in May 2007.

We began with the egg white with green tea, lime juice and vodka poached at the table in liquid nitrogen; you end up with something with roughly the consistency of a macaroon, and it is quite refreshing. Next we had an oyster in its shell in passion fruit jelly with lavender and supposedly horseradish cream, which I am not convinced works that well as the passion fruit taste overwhelms the oyster. A cold red cabbage soup was next, poured around a mustard ice cream; this worked very well, the flavours clear.

The best amuse-bouche was a jelly of quail was topped a with wonderfully silky parfait of foie gras, some langoustine mousse and pea puree adding a further dimension of taste. Here the ingredients worked beautifully together and the technique was flawless, the quail jelly having lovely texture and having enough quail flavour to offset the richness of the foie gras (20/20). This is not an original dish; it was invented many years ago at Alain Chapel in France but the execution here was pretty much faultless. This was better than butternut squash velouté with truffle garnished with chives that in itself was very good but was a little cold by the time they had finished pouring liquid nitrogen on a piece of turf ("from Highbury") placed in the middle of the table which was intended to add a smell of moss reminiscent of truffle but added exactly nothing to the dish in my view (18/20).

A risotto of cauliflower showed one of the few technical flaws, with rice that was simply too hard and had not been cooked as long as it should have been to absorb the stock. Dusting the dish with cocoa and a layer of chocolate jelly could not distract from what was just poor execution, which was compounded by an overly dry carpaccio of cauliflower as garnish. This dish was really only 15/20, a surprising lapse from a restaurant that generally shows very high class technique.

Much better were three slices of good quality scallops, roasted lightly and still sweet and moist, served on top of very good scallop tartare and garnished with white chocolate and caviar, as well as a few pea shoots. This is a dish that has been on the menu for a long time and deservedly so, the treatment with chocolate and caviar again not original but effective (19/20).

We then had the "Ipod dish" - the Sounds of the Sea, where you are presented with Ipods served in conch shells which play sounds of the sea (gulls etc). Then you are presented with a dish that tries to echo the beach. There are clams, cockles, abalone, razor clams and seaweed, deep fried baby eels and even "sand" made with tapioca which has been made with a chemical used to stop pastry going soft, which then has fat introduced to it, ending up with something that tastes a bit like popcorn. Personally I am unconvinced by this dish. The sounds did nothing for me but it is an interesting idea, I just didn't think that sand and seaweed make great tastes.  As for the sound idea, I can't see it working so well with a lamb dish e.g. would people get in the mood with the "baa" sound of spring lambs just before they are slaughtered?  I am going to call this omission the silence of the lambs.

My loin of pork was roasted beautifully with a crispy top and has excellent taste, the macaroni it was served with having excellent texture and being enriched with a reduction of the pork juices, (including the trotter). The couple of mushrooms served with this seemed rather an afterthought, though green cabbage was very good. Given all the richness involved I was surprised not to see something to offer balancing acidity, but there was no arguing with the fine technique here (19/20). Sole Veronique featured very well timed sole, served with champagne jelly containing grapes and radish slivers, and a little parsley foam, garnished with a tasty trellis of fried onion and accompanied by a little stack of genuinely top class chips (18/20).

The cheese board is supplied by Premiere Cheese, and it is clear that the cheeses are selected carefully, without trying to pile too many cheese on at the expense of condition. I sampled Brie, a blue cheese from Corsica, Epoisses in very good condition (not too ripe) and St Maure that had no hint of chalkiness (19/20). The only false note was a poor, under-ripe Comte.

Chocolate delice was a very well made slab of chocolate, served with excellent dark chocolate sorbet and cumin caramel. The base of the chocolate had a layer of popping candy to add a little sparkle on the tongue (19/20). Tarte tatin of apple was classical and superb, the pastry having delightful texture and the apples cooked through perfectly and nicely caramelised. I found the vanilla ice cream a fraction on the watery side but apparently this is deliberate (why I am not sure). The tart itself was hard to fault (20/20).

Coffee itself has good, strong flavour, but the tea menu is worth noting. I had a jasmine tea which was sold at no less that £12.50 for a pot of tea, which seems excessive even for a tea that retails at £176 a kilo. Other teas were less but still mostly over £8 a cup, with Assam at £6.50 a cup. Petit fours were a chocolate in the style of an old Aero bar but coated with a layer of high quality chocolate, while two violet tarts were well made. There was also an apple and caramel mousse with an edible transparent wrapping made from caramel. An innovation which worked fairly well were little jellies made from five different brands of malt whisky (Glenlivet, Highland Park, Oban, Laphroaig and Jack Daniels) in which the particular whisky tastes came through clearly. 18/20 overall for the petit fours. 

Here are notes on the tasting menu in June 2005.

The tasting menu began with a "breath freshener" of an egg white infused with green tea and vodka and lime, which is briefly dipped into a container of liquid nitrogen. This causes the egg yolk to form a very delicate meringue coating, which needs to be eaten within seconds before it cracks; this actually works quite well, with the meringue being extremely delicate. An oyster was served next in its shell with a passion fruit jelly, lavender and horseradish. This sounds a pretty bizarre combination but worked better than I expected, the passion fruit in particular offsetting the strong taste of the oyster. Next nibble was a grain mustard ice cream, which had excellent texture and indeed tasted properly of grain mustard, served in with a juice of red cabbage, which I am not sure added greatly to the experience. Next was a "homage to Alain Chapel" and for me the best dish of the whole meal: a jelly of quail was topped a with wonderfully silky parfait of foie gras, some langoustine cream adding a further dimension. Here the ingredients worked beautifully together and the technique was flawless, the quail jelly having lovely texture and having enough quail flavour to offset the richness of the foie gras (20/20). Dishes like this make me wish Heston would cook more classical combinations.

Next was snail porridge, which while the three snails tasted fine, and the ham and shaved fennel gave some extra interest, was not in the same league as the previous course. Next was roast foie gras in an almond fluid gel, with cherry and chamomile. This was nicely made, but I’m not sure what the cherry, for example, really added here. Sardine on toast sorbet was preceded by a little film of oak, the idea being to sensitise your tongue to the oak prior to the rest of the dish. Well, the sardine element worked well, served with mackerel that was reconstituted without bones, served with marinated daikon, and I felt this combination was a good one. Salmon poached with liquorice was slow cooked and was lukewarm, which I do find disconcerting – I’m happy with salmon raw or cooked, but I just don’t think it tastes at its best lukewarm. This was served with the last of the summer green asparagus, pink grapefruit and olive oil. The final savoury dish was a poached breast of Anjou pigeon, the pigeon itself in nice condition having been well hung, wrapped in pancetta and served also with a pastille of its leg, with pistachio, cocoa and spices. The execution here was very good, the pigeon tender and moist thanks to the pancetta; again, were these nuts and spices really the best possible way of presenting it though?

A white chocolate disc with caviar seemed to me just a bad idea; both ingredients on their own would be better than served together in this way. Better was an ice cream cornet (using a very old recipe from 19th century cook Mrs Marshall). A pine sherbet fountain is part of the "nostalgia cuisine" that Heston is fond of. This is more than can be said of mango and Douglas fir puree, with a bavarois of lychee and mango and a blackcurrant sorbet. The sorbet was technically excellent, the bavarois very good, but the fir was one tree too many for me. Carrot and orange tuile was delicate and had good flavour, while a beetroot jelly was in fact stunning, with perfect texture. Here is an innovation that I thoroughly enjoyed. Smoked bacon and egg ice cream does indeed taste of what it is supposed to, and tea jelly and pain perdu are a clever accompaniment to this. 

There is now a more classical section of the menu, which involved a very fine langoustine ravioli (18/20) though also a rather dry Sole Veronique, which had been through the same reconstitution process as the mackerel, but here did not work so well. This aside, the menu showed a high degree of technical execution, and some genuinely clever ideas like the beetroot jelly. I am glad that these classical dishes are available, as it shows what the kitchen can do in a way comparable with other places, as well as not involving any trees whatsoever in the food, which would be a relief to some. Service was flawless, with a newish maitre d’ previously at Le Manoir and a sommelier who worked at the Capital Hotel in the past. I should also say that bread, both white and brown slices, had excellent taste and texture. I do feel that Heston’s cooking has got better each time I have visited here. A greater emphasis on seasonal ingredients would be welcome amongst all the experimentation, and would help show off all the dishes to their very best.

Here is the version from my notes in 2003, which is perhaps interesting to compare to see how the cooking has moved on. The service has certainly tightened up considerably now.

We went for the tasting menu, which had several additional surprise elements. The first amuse-bouche was a lime and green tea "sour" which we were advised to "eat quickly before it separates": this was dominated by the lime flavour but had reasonable texture (15/20). This was followed by a grain mustard sorbet with red cabbage "gazpacho" – which was nothing more than red cabbage juice. The mustard sorbet had good texture served on a bed of tiny diced cucumber; the sorbet resonated with mustard flavour: this worked very well, but the red cabbage juice did nothing (16/20). Next was a gelee of three layers: langoustine, quail and pea – this had smooth texture and excellent concentration of flavour, the elements of the dish working well with the others (17/20).

My wife had maybe the best dish of the day, a simple glass of warm Puy lentils with finely diced carrot and apple in a balsamic vinaigrette on a bed of pea puree, which worked very well indeed (18/20). Bread appeared only now, a choice of slices of either home-made sourdough or brown bread, crusty and with good flavour, though lacking in salt to my taste. The first official part of the meal was a diver-caught scallop, roasted and served with a single wild mushroom (announced as a morel though it was clearly no such thing), a single black grape, a solitary white sultana and cauliflower puree. The scallop was gently cooked and was of very high quality, the cauliflower puree had considerable intensity (17/20). I then had foie gras on a salad leaf with two crab biscuits (16/20). My wife had cauliflower risotto topped with a thin round of chocolate gelee and cauliflower carpaccio topped with cauliflower crisps, the dish being dusted with cocoa at the table (17/20).

Our main course was sea bass with wild mushrooms, sweet peppers, baby onions topped with finely chopped chives and a vanilla and rosemary veloute (which did not really taste of rosemary). This was the only real problem I had with the whole meal, the primary issue being that the sea bass was significantly overcooked. Vanilla with fish seems a trendy thing at present - I encountered this a couple of times recently in German 3 star places, and my view is that it is a less than ideal combination. Notwithstanding my personal preference, the problem here was that the vanilla was too intense, smothering the other flavours in the dish. Hence I give this dish just 14/20, given its technical errors.

Desserts also had some surprise elements. A pomme puree topped with lime gelee was brought on a spoon by the waiter and fed to you directly: the puree was OK but this seems like a pretentious "El Bulli" like way to serve. Next was parsnip cereal with parsnip infused milk – sort of a breakfast idea that I actually felt worked OK. A more debatable offering was white chocolate discs served with caviar – sorry but there is no way that chocolate and so much salt are a viable combination in my view. Mango and Douglas fir mousse with blackberry sorbet (with a beetroot crisp) and a beetroot gelee was a disappointment, the mango flavour being obscured so much as to render the dish strangely tasteless (14/20).

Next was a plate of basil and fennel bavarois in a sweet pastry tart, with cubes of beetroot jelly coated in sugar. A lollipop of sweet red pepper also appeared, served on a cocktail stick. Much better was the main dessert. Here a chocolate sorbet had excellent flavour and texture, placed on a little biscuit. A dark chocolate mousse was served on top of hazelnut fondant made with "cracking candy" – which has a fizzing effect in the mouth. Here I felt the flavours were fine and the execution good (18/20). Coffee was £3.95 and was only fair (15/20). Petit-fours were chewing tobacco chocolate and a bacon tuile – I have to say that I won’t be rushing to make either of these ideas in my kitchen. The service was variable throughout: I had the option of wines to match the tasting menu, and yet the waiter on two occasions failed to bring the wines in time – on one occasion it was literally as I finished the dish; they also did a "needle in the haystack" routine at finding our umbrella when we left. Certainly very innovative cooking, much of which works well, but I was concerned by the overcooked sea-bass, which was a basic technical error. The price is hardly a bargain either. The wine list was excellent, with a wide selection of wines by the glass and some excellent producers, though the mark-ups are as steep as in London.

So, over the years the cooking has progressed considerably and this certainly has now become a landmark restaurant.





Further reviews: 24th Nov 2015

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User comments

  • Duncan McIntyre

    recently eaten at The Fat Duck following hard on the heels of L'enclume. Hestons team served what seemed like a "greatest hits" selection of old favourites that lacked cohesion as a group. Simons team seved a cohesive menu. A repeat visit? only to l'enclume

  • marcia mornay

    One of the most ridiculous restaurant in the world. And most of the food is really disgusting.. Period.

  • Natalie

    I dined at the Fat Duck in 2005 and again in 2009. In 2005 we dined off the a la carte. My dining companion (whose partner is a high end professional chef) took one look at the presentation of the tasting menu being served at the other tables and said, "That looks really gimmick-y, thank goodness we're not having it". We had a lovely meal, I particularly remember the oyster amuse bouche and the snail porridge. When I went back in 2009, with a different dining partner, the a la carte had been abolished. We found that the experience was very gimick-y and focused too much on presentation, at the expense of the food. I know that presentation affects one's experience of the food, but you can go overboard on the presentation. Also when presentation feels gimmicky and patronising - which it sometimes did, e.g., with the "breakfast" of bacon and egg icecream and parsnip chips - that actually detracts from the food. I 100% agree with Andy Hayler's comments about the sounds of the sea dish. We also found the desserts, incl the wine slush, uninspiring and not particularly tasty. I have find memories of the lime amuse bouche. Also. on our visit, the moss vapour effect was being done alongside a film that you ate, tasting of moss - sounds horrible but actually rather lovely, and the standout dish according to my dining companion. Most disappointing was the libations (wine and coffee). We had the lower priced, but still expensive wine matching. It was all pretty low end, some of the wines could be bought in the shops for a tenner. The only saving grace was the pour size. We shared one between two and had plenty of alcohol, other tables were leaving a lot in their glasses. (Heston - can't you double the amount you spend on wine and serve half the amount?) The coffee is from a nespresso machine. I knew this in advance, having heard about it from staff at St John's (who, to their credit, relegated the machine to a basement after the San Pellegrino award dinner and were complaining that they couldn't get the company to come and take it away). Heston, however, is obviously being paid a lot of money by Nestle because it's the only coffee he offers, in contrast to a selection of carefully chosen high end teas. I asked one of the staff about what coffee they served. Instead of just giving the factual reply that it is nespresso he said, "We serve nespresso, we think it's very good". Either the staff have very low brow and poor taste in coffee, or they are being instructed to plug their sponsor, with a blatant disregard for truth. Surely Heston Blumenthal makes enough money from his restaurants, TV and journalism that he can afford to end this nespresso charade? The table next to us also asked an uncomfortable question of their waiter, namely how often Heston was in the kitchen. The answer, reading between the lines, is never but "he instructs the chefs carefully in the preparation of the dishes". The waiting staff are obviously instructed in how to deal with these difficult questions, I suspect that they had heard those two many times before. They must dread being asked them; the cool un-ruffled-ness of their answers was to their credit.

  • Adrian Fowell

    A phenomenal meal, probably the best I have had. We had cooked a lot of the dishes prior, but the skill iof Heston's team really shines through in the real thing. Service was hit and miss - too much bread, language barrier from a couple of members of staff. We felt the staff in The Hind's Head were better overall. However, it was a wonderful experience, the parfait and venison standing out especially. Wine list seems to be more reasonably-priced than many of these comments suggest which can only be a good thing. First three-star place I had eaten in but have visited many one and two-star places. Yes this was better overall, but not the leap I thought. That said, was fantastic, absolutely no complaints.

  • J N B

    Just had the meal of a lifetime at The Fat Duck last Thursday. Thought no restaurant could ever live up to the level of hype The Fat Duck received but still wanted to experience it. Wow, was I wrong, not only did it live up to the hype but it exceeded it. Girlfriend and I have diner at many many of the Michelin in New York, several of the 2 stars, and all the 3 stars. But this was truly in a league all it's own. The combination of food, service, theatricality all added up to a sum greater than it's parts. Cannot wait to get back. Total cost for the two of us was literally dollars under $1000 US and it was worth every penny.

  • Vincent Fabrice

    Hello , I dined here almost 1 and half years ago , I enjoyed it then but after my recent visit I was not happy because it was exactly the same except the foie gras. I did not enjoy the theatrical nature of the food as much because I see it before so it was boring a bit and not good enough flavor and taste wise to stand alone without the theatrics. Thank you, Vincent Fabrice.

  • Mark Skene

    I find some of the comments below baffling. The criticism of the theatrical nature of The Fat Duck's menu seems bizarre given that that is what it's famous for. If you'd rather eat classic French dishes cooked to a very high standard then The Waterside Inn is just around the corner. I can't comment on the standards of service or cooking in years gone by but when i visited in February '10 the welcome was warm, the service was excellent, charming and personal and most of all the food was sublime. Yes it's not a traditional 'meal' but it's a wonderful dining experience. The only dish i didn't care for was the jelly of quail, crayfish cream, pea puree and chicken liver parfait with truffle toast and oak moss tasting strip. Sorry Andy I notice this is a favourite of yours, but i found the quail jelly to be too strong. It overpowered the rest of the dish to the point where the flavour of the pea puree was lost. This is very much a personal preference issue though as my wife loved it and i fully commend the technical proficiency on display, especially the silky smooth and deep flavoured parfait. Personal highlights for me were the palette cleanser to end all palette cleansers, Lime Grove, and the Powdered Anjou Pigeon which was perfection on a plate. I think it's important to visit The Fat Duck with different expectations to a meal at a classic fine dining restaurant. It is a culinary experience rather than just a meal out. Ultimately restaurants at 3 star level should provide excitement and wonderful flavours and there's no doubt that The Fat Duck does that, just in a very different way to others near by. Having visited The Fat Duck, The Waterside Inn and Restaurant Gordon Ramsay my expectations of each were different and each met those differing expectations. My favourite experience was had at The Fat Duck however it would be third on the list for a return visit simply because, as others have stated, the menu changes so infrequently, and with only the tasting menu now on offer a second visit would be the same as the first. If the menu gets and overhaul anytime soon though it'd jump to number one again.

  • Tommy Jensen

    Have just booked a Saturday evening table...and what a success as it only took 15 minutes to get through - maybe I was lucky or because people are on holidays. In any case I find it hilarious as I have been trying in two months to get a table at Noma in Denmark - decided not worth it. I have read the comments below and regardless of critics I am still looking forward to this experience and to try and compare the experience level with that I have from the two stars restaurants. End of the day I take it as a treat and the company I am with will make it even more of a special experience...and how can you put a price on that. I will however come with my post Fat Duck comments in beginning of March...

  • Tzahy Lerner

    The best dining experience I have ever had.

  • Johan

    To Chris ,I couldn't agree more , this restaurant does not serve food to eat ,it is some kind of show ,its quirky all round ,constantly trying to show that they are of genius intellect , not sure how long this will last for Heston as more and more people now demand a restaurant changes its menu more often . It is indeed baffling why michelin rate this restaurant so highly as it is by no means seasonal and the menu does not change ,but remember michelin need to market themselves and Heston is a useful tool for them, it wont be long until michelin realise the marketing power of Marcus Wareing, this is a great restaurant but Marcus has no style of his own and certainly is not 3 star. It is amazing what a good P.R. company can do for you in the restaurant scene.

  • Chris Boarland

    I visited the Fat Duck for lunch a couple of days ago with my partner and my son. We are still trying to recover from the huge disappointment and extortionate bill arising from our visit. It feels a little like when you gear yourself up for your team being in a major sporting final, enjoying the build-up, anticipating the event and then on the day your team are soundly beaten and you have a long journey home to reflect on what might have been. Having been to both Restaurant Gordon Ramsey and The Waterside and had the most fabulous experience on both ocassions, the prospect of going to the third UK 3* restaurant as well as the joint best restaurant in the world filled us with excitement and anticipation. Unlike other reviewers, my experience of booking a table and then changing that reservation was great. Friendly and accommodating staff were a pleasure to deal with. On arrival we were shown to a nice table and the decor, furnishings and ambience, though not luxurious, were pleasent and comfortable. The tasting menu, obviously now the only choice, was creative, interesting and at times truly inspirational. But was this a meal? More of a culinary show or theme park where Heston and the team demonstrate their food as an art form - and very clever it is too. Also very clever is the way the bread is constantly offered with all the early courses, this can be the only way that diners could possibly feel replete - all a bit of a con really when you consider the accolades The Fat Duck has and the prices people are paying. As for the wines, I agree with earlier comments regarding the champagne trolley - yes, we could have declined, but there was no apparent offer of any other aperitif and at the start of what should have been a gastronomic revelation, we perhaps got carried away with the moment. Accompanying wines at £90 were expensive, but the right choice with this cuisine with some very good choices excellently explained by the sommelier. Service was fine and attentive, but nothing like as polished and engaged as that experienced at the other two 3* restaurants I've visited. Here it is reminiscent of a long-running stage play where the actors know their lines perfectly, but having spoken them and done their act so often, it loses sincerity and that personal touch. And that's understandable when they are repeating the same act, lunch and evening, with no variation whatsoever. It must also be an indicator as to why the establishment has so many chefs. To repeat the same menu day in, day out must be mind-numbing. Are we glad we went? Yes indeed, but overall bitterly disappointed and we still keep talking about what we might have spent that money on. What bemuses me most of all is that this restaurant is at the top of the tree in terms of Michelin and world ratings and is the only restaurant in the Good Food Guide to score 10/10. Has the world of restaurant reviewers gone mad? Or is it me as a 'lay' person missing something? I'm sure it's not the latter and I can only surmise that everyone feels the need to get on board the Blumenthal express train and daren't be the first to criticise and reduce the current ratings. Madness.

  • George

    I dined here recently, it was good but I was a bit bored the second time round ,3 items have changed on the menu from what I can recall which is not much of a menu change and surprising you did not comment on this Andy , the Lamb you had I did not get and got the same pigeon as before not sure if your status assisted in this . It is quite easy to be creative when you spend years composing dishes , I would like to see Heston change his menu completely at least twice a year or seasonal like the great French or German restaurants do and they execute it flawlessly every time . Would you agree Andy that something is lacking when you cannot do this with 46 chefs for 42 diners?

  • Andy T

    I know this place is hard to get in (I booked on the toilet) BUT once you are in this is culinary perfection. The service is excellent and this is a gastronomic experience which most people are not capable of understanding what Heston is trying to achieve. I have never tasted anthing like any of the courses and Mr Hayler's review I feel does the place justice. You don't need to go to France to achieve fine food !!!!

  • Papillon

    I tried to book a table a few months ago. Afer facing much "attitude" and rudeness over the phone I simply gave up... . They made me feel they would do me a favour by taking my reservation. Plenty of other restaurants around!!

  • Thalia Blogs

    I find it hard to credit the multiplicity of poor experiences here. We visited in March 2007, having been given via a cancellation a Saturday lunchtime table just a week after I had called. We had an absolutely sublime meal and the staff could not have been nicer. For example, I was pregnant at the time and they were very flexible in offering me alternatives to the set menu - including being horrified at my suggestion that the salmon be served without the mayonnaise, instead substituting a different dish. They were also very flexible, when I decided just a few minutes before a dish was due to arrive that I wouldn't risk the Foie Gras, they again cooked a whole new dish for me despite the short notice. My husband had the wine tasting menu to go along with his meal, and every glass was topped up on a regular basis, none of the 'one glass and you're done' thing that happens elsewhere. The wines were delicious and very creative choices. I agree some of the dishes were more successful than others, but overall it was a delicious meal, one of the best I have ever had. By the way, in response to other comments here, I think the Waterside Inn is horribly overrated, I had a very average meal there, and was horrified to find nothing on the wine list under £200. Now that is a rip off!

  • Carl Pettman

    I tried to book, but the woman on the telephone was rude and unhelpful. I booked the Waterside instead.

  • Athena Lin

    I visited Fat Duck last Friday. Meal was great, but one thing i cant stand was the coffee.........I cant understand why top end restaurants can never do coffee right. The coffee is clearly from nespresso cheap stuff, not from fresh coffee bean, plus...the foam on top looks like dish washer foam....When milk got beaten up to that's overcooked, it got a smell, and the texture is horrible...........

  • Fabien Petitcolas

    While reading the comments below, I was badly reminded of my visit in August 2005. The arrogant service and its ‘lectures’ before each course. I had concluded at the time that the Fat Duck was just a pale copy of El Bulli but at higher prices. It looks like this has not changed much.

  • Alex Chambers

    Following a good meal during a pleasant Sunday service, I'm prepared to concede that The Fat Duck is cooking at a far higher level than on previous visits, and that service has improved immeasurably. However, I still believe this is far too inconsistent to warrant Andy's 9 score, or indeed three Michelin stars. A few of the freebie dishes were excellent, notably the quail jelly and a novel Christmas dish (in mid-April?!) but both my main of Sole (tepid and bizarrely matched with champagne jelly) and a starter of langoustine lasagne (far too rich and needing acidity- maybe a stronger apple crunch?) were one star at best. Other diners did fair better, but not dramatically so. Desserts were sublime across the board, showing real imagination and talent (go for the Rhubarb) but as with Ducasse in London, it's not enough to warrant the slips elsewhere. A thoroughly pleasant experience when one is not subjected to the tedious tasting menu, but without the freebies and drinks thrown in thanks to my rather more illustrious dining companion, the bill would have been hard to stomach. If Sketch is a one star and Gavroche and Le Manoir have two, I can only conclude that Michelin maybe well own property in Bray. It is the only reason I can fathom for giving this village more than four stars in total. Vastly improved however.

  • Steve Pickard

    Feburary 2008. This proves to me that the Michelin rating is to say the least, bizzare. We went for the tasting menu, but without the associated wine choice. Service started very badly - after declining the British Rail style Champagne trolley we waited 5 minutes before finally summoning over a waiter to order an alternative aperitif. Wine list was vastly over-priced with no choice under £55. Once the meal got under way the service did pick up, although the introduction of each dish followed an blatatly oft-repeated script, which lacked a personal touch. The flavours were on the whole exciting and innovative, personally not keen on the salmon with licorice - but everything on the menu was certainly interesting. But was it a meal? I felt like I'd been through a long conjouring act - all smoke and mirrors. Far too gimicky - all this iPod and alternative breakfast stuff - did it actually add to the meal? Sadly my conclusion was that the Fat Duck was utimately unsatisfying. Came out and met my brother for a pint and a bag of crisps! To my mind, this does not stand up well against Restaurant Gordon Ramsey, where the tasting menu was not only innovative, but also satisfying, with exemplorary service.

  • Neil White

    To us, this restuarant was a very good example of taking your eye off the ball once your restuarant is famous - especially with regard to service and hospitality. We ate at the Fat Duck last night (January 2007) and, after a cool reception on arrival, were treated to some of the worst service ever. On reflection a day later I can only call it arrogant. The entire place seemed to revolve around the needs of the restuarant and its staff rather than us, the client. All four of our party were forced to have the tasting menu as two of us wanted it and two wanted to choose from the a la carte menu. We were rather briskly told that this was not possible - the entire party had to have the tasting menu or none could have it. This was quantified by the reasoning that the tasting menu takes about 3 hours to serve whilst a la carte would be 3 courses and served and eaten in far less time. My daughter explained that this should have been explained at the time of booking and got yet another frosty reply. What the client wanted here soon gave way to the expediency of the restuarant, once again. If two of the party wanted to eat a la carte, finish eating and enjoy the company and have a drink was just not an option. This was beginning to feel like a sitting for dinner at Mrs Jone's B&B rather than 'the best restuarant in the world' Course one burned my daughters mouth badly. It was a mouse made in liquid nitrogen and we were told to eat it immediatley. Another course (hot and cold tea) was served as my daughter was standing to go to the toilet and the waitress, rather than serve another on her return, stood and almost argued with her that she should eat (drink?) the course before leaving. By this stage we were becoming increasingly annoyed at the behaviour and arrogance of the staff who would challenge you if you dared leave all or part of a course. At any restuarant, let alone one as prominent and expensive as this, I do not choose to be challenged over whether or not I have eaten something. The attitude of the staff here was confrontational rather than enquiring as to whether or not the food was to my liking. With over 15 courses there would obviously be some things I would choose not to eat. I was by now getting ready to write 100 lines 'I must eat all my food, I must eat all my food' Overall, dining here was an experience to erase from one's memory bank. Whilst many of the dishes are original and created with undoubted skill, the whole experience and mix of dishes did not blend in any way whatsoever and were completely disjointed. A tasting menu at Ramsey's demonstrates a journey of superbly conjoined tastes which this menu completely lacked. A total mismash in our view. When the ice cream cornets were served my wife was presented with the plate of four and 'told' in no uncertain terms to take only one, another example of being treated like a naughty child who would grab at a treat. I would add the word condecending here to arrogant. The outrageously expensive wine was tempered by excellent service from a superb sommelier, the only saving grace to a staff who did little or nothing to make our evening as special as it should have been. Oh, did I mention the overall atmosphere? Hmmmm, maybe not. Ramsey's at Old Hospital Road 6 Fat Duck 0

  • Marcus Pook

    A group of 6 of us went with high expectations a few weeks ago. What a disappointment. We opted for the tasting menu and £90 fixed wine option and by the end of the evening I have never felt so ripped off in all my life. This is no 3* restaurant it is more like a circus act. The staff were surly and there was no sign of Heston who we were told was at home (Friday night). On the following night we went to The Waterside and had a fabulous meal with first class service. I think it's in a different league to The Fat Duck. Dear old Heston seems to have lost the plot - get back to basics, serve proper food and ditch those ipods!

  • Graeme Donalson

    Ordered the tasting menu + £90 wine option but about three quarters of the way through wished I’d gone a la carte. Favourite was the Roast Foie Gras, least favourite the Oyster and Passion Fruit Jelly (why would you want to do that to an oyster), the famous Snail Porridge bland. The Sound of the Sea brought five minutes peace from the hubbub, not sure about the Salmon & Liquorice combination. The pureed black pudding (to order) with the Ballotine of Anjou Pigeon just turned to blood gloop. Bread I thought was well, just bread. I prefer the white sliced at my local Italian. Service excellent as was the wine matching. I agree (29/06/2007 Alex Chambers) about the bizarre toilet situation, friendly enough though chatting in the queue. Seems like a lot of negatives here but maybe I would return for the A La Carte without the theatrics but isn’t that why I went in the first place or maybe I will just stroll passed to the Waterside. The final bill £285.19 a head, wow.

  • Alex Chambers

    I find it hard to believe that someone (Michael Lindsay) who can rightly proclaim Hof (no second F) Van Cleve as a gastronomic find (and crucify Comme Chez Soi in the same breath) can salute the likes of The Fat Duck, unless iPods and hype are a seasoning of preference. This is effectively a hole that has upgraded itself to a 2* at best; the toilets are still a shambles, though nowhere near as bad as they were 8 years ago. The menu still consists of 10 year old creations that Adria would shun and quite frankly, more enjoyment can be had with the triple cooked chips at the Hind's Head down the road. Don't get me wrong, Heston has talent and there are a few great dishes here, but this is catergorically NOT a 3* restaurant. Even the improved dishes such as the bacon and egg ice cream are still average at best when compared to genuine 3* classics or the front end of molecular testing. Let's ignore incompetent waiters and forget clever tricks - grab anything that comes out of this kitchen and tell me it's better than Roux's ginger broth of lobster that can be had about 50 yards away at the Waterside Inn and I'll concede my stance. Or laugh. Emperor's New Clothes perchance? Very good, by no means great. The Fat Duck doesn't even have the sense of adventure El Bulli manages - improved yet tired and staid dishes still dominate the menu. For the absolute top end of molecular gastronomy, try Wylie Dufresne at WD-50. Very similar but doing it far better. Albeit in an equally podunk restaurant. The only way this has three stars is because it IS worth a special visit, if only to verify that Michelin has gone mad. Try Midsummer House if you want funny food, perhaps even Sat Bains - The Fat Duck is wildly overrated. Noma, El Bulli (my least favourite example) and many others are doing this stuff far better.

  • Michael Lindsay

    Ridiculously expensive and worth every penny. There is not really much than can be said about this restaurant that has not already been said. It is fantastic. A very modern décor and approach to service that translates to a relaxed friendly atmosphere. The staff we great and explained every dish which having selected the taster menu kept on coming. These we complemented by a great selection of wines by the glass and for my partner a selection of champagne by the glass (in for a penny in for a pound was the excuse). A great experience and well worth saving for.

  • Daniel

    Dined there last month Jan 07, service profesional food fantastic bill colossal but all in all a great experience.