THE FAT DUCK by Heston Blumenthal: The Curious Case of Molecular Gastronomy

THE FAT DUCK by Heston Blumenthal: The Curious Case of Molecular Gastronomy

Cooking is a science and an art, and the man who puts all his heart into satisfying his fellow men deserves consideration. Auguste Escoffier

The Fat Duck is a three-Michelin starred restaurant run by the celebrated Heston Blumenthal. It is located in the picturesque village Bray on the river Thames just outside of London. The restaurant  is known for its tasting menu that features dishes such as nitro scrambled egg and bacon ice cream, an Alice in Wonderland inspired Mock Turtle Soup, and a dish called The Sound of the Sea which includes an audio element.

Borrowing tools from the science lab and ingredients from the food industry, the chef is creating surprise after surprise for his diners. The chef with no formal training in either cooking or science. Heston Blumenthal may sound like a nutty professor but the flavors he achieves are incredible and dining at the Fat Duck is as entertaining as attending a theatre performance.

While living in London about ten years ago, I remember making numerous attempts to reserve a table at The Fat Duck. I had to call exactly two months prior to the date I had in mind and there never seemed to be a seat available. Not surprising, since the restaurant was voted No. 1 in The World's 50 Best Restaurants in 2005. When I finally "got in," it felt like winning a lottery.

THE FAT DUCK by Heston Blumenthal

THE MENU

THE FAT DUCK by Heston Blumenthal

— LIME GROVE —

Nitro Poached Green Tea and Lime Mousse

The waitress brings in a flask that smokes and bubbles, she squeezes out a ball of what looks like shaving foam, dips it into the bubbling liquid (liquid nitrogen), and the ball transforms into a small round meringue that she dusts with green powder from the muslin pouch. A perfect refreshing starter, it is an airy lime dish with a dash of vodka, dusted with matcha green tea powder with a vivid chlorophyll green color, and sprayed with lime perfume (the scent was developed for them specially by a French perfumer).

— RED CABBAGE GAZPACHO —

Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream

Bright red cabbage juice is added to the traditional ingredients - cucumber, bread and oil - with more cabbage juice just before serving for even more flavor. Topped with mustard ice cream, and little cubes of cucumber for texture. The cucumber is vacuum-packed to intensify their flavor for denser texture, as well as to give it a beautiful jade-green color.

— JELLY OF QUAIL, CRAYFISH CREAM —

Chicken Liver Parfait, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast

In this dish, inspired by the French thee-starred chef Alain Chapel's Gelée de Pigeonneaux, the oak moss represents the moss that grows at the base of oak trees where truffles commonly grow. First, thin sheets of oak-flavored film are presented on a bed of oak moss. The waitress tells us to put in the tongue and the film is instantly dissolved, leaving an earthy flavor. Scented liquid nitrogen is then poured over the moss from an iron teapot, filling the air with the aroma of an oak forest and producing the effect of morning fog. The idea is that the diners taste, touch, see and smell the oak.

The foggy part is just for the show and scent, the dish itself is a bowl of pea mousse, turnip, quail jelly, and langoustine cream, topped with fois gras parfait. The side, pain de seigle (rye bread), is toasted in the oven with fois gras fat, then topped with truffle and oak butter, and thin slices of radishes.

THE FAT DUCK by Heston Blumenthal
THE FAT DUCK by Heston Blumenthal

— ROAST FOIS GRAS —

Gooseberry, Braised Kombu and Crab Biscuit

The foie gras, sitting on top of braised kombu, is served with a puree of gooseberry and waffle-thin crab biscuit. The fois gras is first frozen using liquid nitrogen which removes the graininess of the goose liver. It is then cooked sous-vide vacuum-packing the meat in a bag, cooking it at a low temperature in a water bath, and then browning it with a blowtorch.  Gooseberry adds acidity to cut through the fatty richness of the fois gras.

— MOCK TURTLE SOUP (C. 1850) —

"Mad Hatter Tea"

There was a time when serving real turtles was a sign of status in England and Mock Turtle Soup, made with calf’s head, became a substitute for those who couldn’t afford the real thing. Inspired by Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, the chef created a consommé of calf’s head and root vegetables in madeira and sherry. The consommé is reduced into a jelly, put into a rubberized watch mold, and then wrapped in gold leaf.

His take on the soup is particularly joyous: a teapot with hot water and a  "tea bag" on a string served in china cup and resembling a Mad Hatters' gold fob watch, is first presented to diners. When the cup is filled with hot water, the watch dissolves, creating an aromatic and richly flavored consommé. Once the "tea" is made, the server brings a large white soup plate with a terrine of calf's cheek and tongue cooked sous vide, along with truffles and vegetables, arranged into a scene from Alice in Wonderland, with a little "caterpillar" atop a giant mushroom.

— SOUND OF THE SEA —

In addition to shape and color, sound has a dramatic effect on our perception of food and "The Sound of the Sea" is served accompanied by a conch shell containing an iPod that plays the sound of waves and seagulls - diners are instantly transported to a beach.

The dish which looks like a meeting point between sea and shore, is composed of seaweed, razor clams, oyster, sea urchin, samphire, Japanese lily bulb, and drizzled with ponzu. The seafood slices then sit on a bed of “sand”, made up of tapioca, miso oil, panko breadcrumbs and grape nuts to give it a gritty texture, and some cod liver oil to give it a fishy flavor. The foam is the salty juices of seaweed, abalone, cockles and clams.

— SALMON POACHED IN LIQUORICE —

Artichokes, Vanilla Mayonnaise, Golden Trout Roe, and Manni Olive Oil

This is an impressive-looking dish and a flavor to match with licorice cutting the richness of the fish perfectly. The salmon (caught the same morning it is served) is made using the sous-vide method. Truffle slices are added, the salmon wrapped in clingfilm and refrigerated. It is then unwrapped and dipped into the licorice stock which solidifies before plating. The salmon is served with trout roe, artichokes, and dots of vanilla mayonnaise giving it a creamy yet fragrant flavor to counter the licorice coating.

— POWDERED ANJOU PIGEON (c.1720) —

Blood Pudding and Confit of Umbles

The dish has a rich flavor and the pickling foam's intense acidity gives it a lovely balance. The black pudding (made with fresh pig blood and spices) has a consistency of a chocolate ganache and topped with pigeon ballotines, then garnished with baby turnip and grelot onion (pearl onion). The spiced juices (made with pigeon and duck juice) and pickling brine (juniper berries, coriander seeds, liquorice root, malt vinegar) are spooned over and served with a pigeon and duck cracker.

— TAFFETY TART (c. 1660) —

Caramelized Apple, Fennel, Rose and Candid Lemon

The main flavors of this dessert recipe from the 17th century, that was found in the British Library, are apple, fennel and rose petals. It is a thin buttery shortbread, balls of fromage blanc, pressed apple doused in rose water, a sprinkling of fennel seeds and a scoop of intensely flavored blackcurrant sorbet and candid lemon.

— THE NOT-SO-FULL ENGLISH BREAKFAST —

Parsnip Cereal, Nitro-Scrambled Egg and Bacon Ice Cream

Hot and Iced Tea

Breakfast is served: the almost full English breakfast with parsnip cereals, bacon ice cream, toasted brioche and scrambled eggs cooked in liquid nitrogen in front of your eyes.

The dish is served with hot and iced tea.  Gellan, sodium citrate, calcium chloride, and malic acidave been used to create the effect of hot and cold that don't merge together.

— CHOCOLATE WINE SLUSH (c. 1660) —

Millionaire Shortbread

The slush is made of Maury red wine, Valrhona milk chocolate and skimmed milk and the Millionaire Shortbread is a small three-layer cake consisting of the shortbread base, salted butter caramel, topped with chocolate and fleur-de-sel.

A simplified version of this decadent chocolate wine recipe can be found here: Chocolate Wine Inspired by Heston Blumenthal

— LIKE A KID IN A SWEETSHOP —

After lunch, The Fat Duck presents each diner with a bag of sweets, including wine gums, apple pie-flavored soft toffee in edible wrappers, aerated chocolates, and white chocolate Queen of Hearts.