It was amazing. Surreal. Straight out of Alice in Wonderland. As I expected? Every little bit and add a lot more. Oh boy! But you know what most made it such an unforgettable day? The people I met. Everyone was so friendly, nice, fun and so, so, soooo passionate about what they are doing. They made me feel so very very special even though I know they must be so busy. I was hoping to be like a kid in a sweet shop all day- I still am buzzing from it days after having come home!
[This was the post that won it]
I think I truly started grinning from ear to ear without respite when I drove past my office in Windsor and realised that I have arrived at my destination only 15 minutes later. I bet staff lunches will never be the same! lol.
- The Fat Duck started as a brasserie type restaurant back in 1995, serving classic bistro dishes and already the famous triple cooked chips.
- Very little can be done to alter the building external appearance or extend it since it's a Grade II property. Makes running a restaurant extra tricky!
- Unusually, the wine cellar is on the first floor.
- The restaurant has 14 tables. It caters for 40 covers lunch and dinner from a really small and neat professional kitchen.
- There's a new clever little machine that makes sparkling water out of the mains water, and can even control the size of the bubbles by...GPS!!!
- The kitchen is like a galley kitchen on a boat. It's small and need to accommodate a lot of chefs during service- Everything has a place and there's a place for everything.
- Over the years, the team has carefully maximised the available space to ensure each section has adequate space. All the nooks and crannies are used with maximum efficiency
- When they put back the snail porridge on the discovery menu after ending the A La Carte, they had to build a mini pass in the back kitchen to make the plating possible.
- The (real) sand at the bottom of the presentation plate for Sound of the Sea dish comes from Venezuela...and was sent in by Otto's parents (Otto is Heston's senior development chef specialised in pastry- you might have seen him on "Cook like Heston"- he was the one ironing the goat cheese!
- The staff carefully time the spacing between each time to a carefully thought pace to ensure each guest has a smooth, continuous experience at the restaurant.
This is another Fat Duck's classic. Jocky talked me through the steps involved in making this signature dish: Stock is made from scratch, frozen in huge batches, defrosted through a mousseline - frozen again, extracted from the ice for maximum flavour concentration before being poured in bespoke made silicon moulds and dressed in gold ready for serving- the whole soup process takes 5 days and space in 3 fridges / freezers. The attention to detail is second to none. Each step is carefully measured, timed and recorded on a sheet then signed by the chef who worked on it. No room for error here. If someone messes this up, it would set them back 5 days!
The precision in the cooking is unbelievable. What I love is that this utter attention to detail in the cooking is matched in the guests' experience every step of the way. It's not about personal glory or ego in there. Everyone I met was down to earth and cooked for guests first- as it should be!
How to start working at The Fat Duck
So if you imagine this was what we talked about whilst visiting the ground floor of the original development house......now up the stairs to....
OMG! So Sweet. No pun intended. But really. I had stepped into Alice in Wonderland, deeper down the Rabbit Hole. I was a little child again. In my local village in France. Walking to the Patisserie with my "mamie" to buy a handful of liquorice wheels with my "piece de 50 centimes" (50 p). The smell was lush.The sweets fantastic. Can't tell you more really. Need to keep the magic going. But it was awesome.
What I can tell you is that the edible wrappers on their sweets looked a million times better than mine! but you'd expect that.
So, so, so much food fun.
What can I say? I'll never cook in the same way again.
Jocky and a team of several other chefs brought a series of ingredients somewhat different from your average supermarket basket:
- liquid nitrogen
- cherry blossom
- a whipped cream maker- on my list for Christmas #justsaying
- a beaker full of a bright pink coulis
- Loads of little bottles with weird labels
- a bag of tea
- a bowl of orange
- a bottle of essential oil
- little dishes filled with quartered lemons, Haribo sweets, parmesan cheese, chocolate chips and assorted salted nuts.
- a black polystyrene box
then the fun really began:
- We tested the work of the liquid nitrogen on cherry blossom- instant freeze making them into paperlike flowers. Awesome!
- We made instant vodka and green tea meringues.
- We made instant freshest ever rhubarb ice cream.
- we played with dry ice and a bowl of oranges
- We did the taste v flavour- taste comes through your mouth and you can only taste 5 things: sweet, sour, bitter, umami, salt- sense sat. Flavour comes from your nose and the range is huge.Don't believe me? Pinch your nose and eat a Haribo sweet. Pretty bland and chewy. Now, unpinch your nose and keep chewing to get the flavour coming through. See?
- We did a mysterious wine test too! But I can't tell you about it...
A very special thank you to Otto for sparing time to spend with us as he was working on several complex tasting projects to present later that week and the following week. Hope it all goes/went well.
We headed for The Hind's Head, even managing to avoid the April showers.
For starter I had the Ham Hock and Foie Gras terrine with Picalilly.
I then swapped halfway through with my hubby who had chosen the Snail Ash. Both were delicious.
Again I did also taste my husband's choice: Oxtail and Kidney Pudding. It was melt in the mouth perfection. Let's not forget the triple cooked chips. Simple pleasures are the best, and this certainly is one!
It comes with a card explaining the Wassailing tradition.
It was so yummy. I'll be singing to our apple tree each spring from now on!
The afternoon moving in quickly, we left the Hinds Head for a quick drink at the Crown Inn (coffee for me- a long drive home awaiting me), where Otto met up with us again for a tour of Bray. Just what we needed after such a rich lunch. We went past the Village Hall, where Heston met up with the local Morris Dancers to taste their versions of potato mash.
Down the street to the river and the Waterside Inn. Back to the village through the church grounds, tales of a little girl's ghost and quaint little cottages with names like Christmas cottage and bright colour little doors. Such a sweet place.