Fat Duck, Bray

After the whirlwind of Harry Potter we all learned that to suspend one’s disbelief in reality and step into a world touched by wizardry and magic can be truly inspiring. Last Wednesday lunchtime I crossed over into Heston Blumenthal’s world and found a whole new normality.

We arrived in Bray 20 minutes early, and so after having read Heston’s advice on the importance of a cleansed palate we popped into the charming and friendly Hinds Head Hotel for a palate cleansing vodka and tonic. It was then a few light steps to the door of The Fat Duck where we were warmly welcomed. We found ourselves in the middle of the charming low ceilinged room, punctuated with beautiful artistic fixtures, so that you know you are in a place where every detail is carefully considered.

There are menus to suit every taste and budget, we chose from the exceptionally good valued lunch menu, and the regular a la carte. I asked the friendly french wine waiter for recommendations and he made some friendly choices, of which we chose a full bodied and buttery provencal white – unusual for the area, Chateau Simon, Pellet, 1996, which went on to live up to the complex flavours well.

To ensure our palates were thoroughly scrubbed we were served a procession of amuse geules, of varied textures and flavours, after which your tongue is tingling in long forgotten places.

Marion stepped bravely into the unknown with her choice of snail porridge for the first course – although after tasting this we were all spellbound!

I often find that after the taste sensations of the appetisers, the main course is prolonged too far – this was no exception, but it was the enjoyment that was prolonged. Lorna’s pigeon breast was exquisitely cooked, moist and succulent and rich. My saddle of lamb lived up to the rave reviews, and the green beans with it were split lengthways, to get the most flavour out. The green coffee bean’s sauce served with the blonde’s duck breast had the satisfying taste of something unusually savoury.

Before we were allowed into the parallel universe of desserts at The Fat Duck, we cleansed our palates with an intense shot of red pepper, held in a japanese handmade paper thin lollipop, accompanied with a beetroot (much underused flavour) jelly. Then we were ready.

The salted butter caramel was declared by the whole table as the only way to eat caramel, but the unsatisfying intense chocolate of the sorbet fell on deaf palates. The much lauded bacon and egg ice cream is interesting, but does outstay it’s welcome in the far reaches of one’s gullet. By now our palates were tingling and the fromage blanc ice cream didn’t appeal to enough of my taste buds to declare it great, but the nougat glace was a different thing altogether – textured, rich flavourful and served at the perfect temperature. A fitting end to our meal – unfortunately the real world was knocking at our window and we had to step over before coffee. We promised ourselves coffee at Starbucks, but as soon as we stepped out into the spring sunshine, we knew that no eating experience would ever be the same again, and Starbucks coffee is one bit of reality that we didn’t want to experience quite so soon!

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