So, yesterday I brought you The Fat Duck part 1, my experience of the first nine courses of the fourteen course tasting menu at Heston’s Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. By that point in the menu I didn’t believe I could be amazed any more. I was all amazed out! Until…. Hot and Iced tea. Pictured below left a small glass of this golden liquor was laid in front of us and we were told to drink it from the side that was laid towards us. I had no idea what this was going to be but had assumed the “hot” part would be spice. Oh no, the hot part was hot liquid and the iced part was iced liquid, both at the same time, either side of your mouth. How does he do that? My left side was experiencing a warm fruity tea and my right side an icey cold version of the same. Talk about messing with your mind?
Tenth course - Hot and iced tea and Eleventh course - Botrytis Cinerea
After the mind game that was the hot and iced tea came another experience for the senses. Course eleven Botrytis cinerea. Botrytis cinerea is known in the wine industry as a mold responsible for fruit rot in many fruit plants. Grapes are especially susceptible to this fungus. Generally it causes bunch rot commonly known as botrytis rot or grey rot. Sounds gross right? Wrong. This dish is a fairly new addition to the menu, I think they started serving it around October time. I can only describe it as a medley of different flavoured, different textured, different temperatured fruity balls of awesomeness with some other bits thrown in for for. It was just so complex and this was definitely up there with my favourite dishes.
Apparently the various elements of this dessert represent the deconstructed flavours of Chateau d’Yquem, a wine that is often described as the greatest sweet wine in the world. Whatever it was meant to taste like I can tell you that it was both beautiful to look at and beautiful to eat. There was so much going on on this plate my mind was yet again blown. Each ‘grape’ on the plate had a very different texture and flavour, from simple sorbets to an insanely elegant and complex transparent gold blown sugar grape filled with a delicious creamy citrusy filling. There was a green coloured chocolate grape which I have no idea what it contained but there was definitely popping candy there somewhere. Edible soil. Raisins soaked in something scrummy, and even something that looked like snow. As well as the grapes there was a spun sugar twirl, oh so delicate “leaves” and a savoury tasting cinnamonny “stalk”. It was simply a masterpiece.
By this point I was getting really full but I knew that one of Heston’s most famous desserts was to come. The BFG or Black Forest Gateau course twelve. I had seen them create this one on Masterchef recently and knew how much work went into it, from the assembly of all the different layers to the spray gun painting of the chocolate. Before this dessert was served the air was spritzed with a kirsch smelling spray that had a hint of the smell of a forest too. This was enough to get my taste buds going again.
It was boozy, it was tart from the cherries, it was sweet from the chocolate, it was smooth, it was crunchy, it was dark, it was silky, it was bubbly. Even the cherry stalk was edible. A tied slither of vanilla pod I think. Again, it is a carefully constructed work of art.
Nearing the end, thank goodness, course thirteen and the course I had been looking forward to the least. Whisk(e)y wine gums. I am not a fan of Whisky (or Whiskey), AT ALL. But I knew I had to try these. They were very whisk(e)yey (I know that’s not a word but still) and I have to say I didn’t enjoy them one bit. BUT I’m glad I tried them. Even though I didn’t like them I could taste the differences in flavour as I worked my way around the map of Scotland and Tennessee. It was so cleverly presented to us in a frame that stood on the table and had a key of which gums to eat in what order. I really could taste the peatiness in one, the smokiness in another. It was very, VERY cleverly done.
However I do kind of wish I’d gone for the alternative (or optional extra) cheese course. I mean look at those choices. As a cheese lover I think I’d have enjoyed this far more. Though I’m not sure I’d have fit it in.
And finally, the grand finale. A pick and mix bag of Heston’s own sweeties. I was like a “kid in a sweet shop”. The final course is very aptly named. Prior to our visit we had received an email with a link to what I can only describe as a sensory experience that we had to watch. I wouldn’t want to spoil it for anyone who is going to visit but it is an audio video and this course (along with all of them in fact) takes you back to the things you have seen and heard (and even smelled – not possible I know but I did) as you watched it. Just A-MA-ZING!
Contained within the crisp candy striped bag there was a menu that smelt of coconut, caramel, strawberry, sherbert. Everything you’d expect to find in a sweet shop. Then when opened we found an aerated chocolate with mandarin jelly, a pouch of coconut baccy – strips of crystallised coconut infused with black Cavendish baccy, an apple pie caramel with an edible wrapper and finally a perfect little edible Queen of Hearts – white chocolate and strawberry that tasted like a jam tart.
The extensive tea and coffee menu had also been brought to us, with some cups of tea coming in at £16.50! I opted for a double espresso to try and wake me up from the food coma that was setting in.
It is a totally amazing, once in a lifetime experience. I can’t believe I had the opportunity to go and would definitely go back again when the menu has changed, not that I wouldn’t eat all of this again but once you’ve experienced the magic I can’t imagine it would be as magical the second time – though knowing Heston anything is possible. It is truly magical and you leave knowing you have experienced something that most people won’t ever get the chance to experience.
When I first saw the menu price of £195.00 per person, I was astonished that anyone would pay that for a meal. But it wasn’t just a meal. It was 5 hours of theatre and an experience that I will never forget. And actually, when you see the level of work that has gone into each and every dish and the number of attentive staff who are at your side, without being invasive, throughout it is worth every penny!