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Heston Blumenthal's temple of molecular gastronomy, The Fat Duck in Bray, reopened on 29 September following (in our opinion) a well-deserved refurb'. The world famous Berkshire pub conversion has never had an extensive remodelling in its almost 21 year history and the kitchen and dining room were perhaps a little out of date – especially when compared to the experimental, multi-sensory cuisine, not to mention the monumental prices.
The restaurant went on a nine-month hiatus in January this year, in which time Blumenthal moved his baby lock and stock, including staff and their families, to Melbourne Australia for six months. The closure allowed not only a face-lift for the interior and brand new kitchen (or should that be laboratory?) but also enabled work on the structural integrity of this ageing (16th century) inn.
With the new look comes a new menu which takes the form of a map and is inspired by the chef's nostalgia for his childhood holidays, rock-pooling and eating ice creams at the beach. “It will be a journey from the minute you book your ticket” he says. Which, by the way, costs £255 per person and must be paid in advance. So presumably the journey begins with a trip to see your bank manager!
New dishes feature and iconic creations such as Snail Porridge and Bacon and Egg Ice Cream have beeen archived in a “Hall of Fame” with potential reoccurrences for special requests. Reservations are available via www.thefatduck.co.uk. Guests can purchase their “ticket” for the restaurant at time of reservation, which covers food costs only – wine and service to be paid for on the day.
The Fat Duck is open Tuesday-Saturday, lunch noon-2 pm and dinner 7-9 pm. Reservations are also available for the first three Sundays of December.
The restaurant first opened in 1995 and, whatever your opinion of Blumenthal or his cooking, truly changed the face of gastronomy in this country, influencing chefs across the world and introducing diners to a completely novel eating experience. He was really the first chef to strongly voice the opinion that cooking was a science in the truest sense of the word. Mingling gastronomy with neurological science and collaborating with research centres and universities, Blumenthal sought to show us that food triggers a plethora of responses in the brain – and he played with those responses (sound, nostalgia, perception) to great effect.
Of course nowadays molecular gastronomy and visual/taste trickery has become almost run-of-the-mill among fine dining establishments. But Blumenthal's trail-blazing in this area has seen him awarded multiple doctorates, an OBE and a Fellowship by the Royal Society of Chemistry. He is even considered by the Royal Society of Chemistry to be one of 175 most influential scientists of all time.
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