Monday, June 12, 2006

Travel: Friday, 26 May 2006 (1): Gastronomy is not studying farts through a telescope

Since she first read about it, my better and more significant other half has been raving about the ideas and ideals behind The Fat Duck restaurant. Its owner is one of cuisine’s innovators, forcing flavours into textures and forms not normally associated with each other. His menus read like the unlikely foods of twisted future. His plans, such as attempts to make leather-flavoured chocolate, sound like the plans of a demented scientist. Or culinary dominatrix.

With such an interest expressed, we could not go back to the UK without visiting the place. Even on the plane over there was an article in the in flight magazine on the place and Catherine re-expressed that it was her dream to go there, but in a way that suggested it was impossible. I said “oh” the same nonchalant way men do when they haven’t really forgotten that today is an anniversary. I already knew that there was a table for two waiting for us the morning after our arrival.

Sample Menu (similar to what we had).

The meal starts with a palate cleanser. Not a glass of mineral water or crisp salad or anything as conventional like that. No, of course not. It was an infusion of ice cream, tea and vodka solidified in liquid nitrogen - the waiter solidifies it at the table in front of you. And the thing is, it really works. From now on I demand my palette cleansed this way every time I eat.

The surprising thing is how much of it works. Bacon and Egg Ice Cream is a true wonder of modern culinary technology and Snail Porridge should become a standard on any serious restaurant’s menu. The other thing is how playful a serious chef can be. There were rounds of Orange and Carrot Lollypops, Pine-Flavoured Sherbet Dib Dabs and Parsley Flakes served with Radish Milk in the style of a breakfast cereal.

I have never paid so much for a meal in my life but on the other hand this was no ordinary meal. If most caf├ęs are a bus ride, a good restaurant a limousine ride, this was a full luxury adventure holiday for the tongue. The sitting took 3.5 hours and was finished off with tea which was hot on one side of the glass and cold on the other.

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