The Fat Duck, Level 3 Crown, Melbourne
It was 6 months ago that we found out we were going to be dining at The Fat Duck in Melbourne while Heston’s Bray location was renovated.
With an appreciation for all things food, whether it be a Michelin-starred restaurant, the local noodle house down the road, or papa’s comforting and delicious home cooked meals, I could not wait to experience Heston’s highly acclaimed mutli-sensory phantasmagoria.
And sharing this experience with a group of friends, staying overnight at Metropol so we could fully enjoy the night, was a perfect way to start off a long weekend (we all took Friday off work!).
With a plethora of articles and write ups about The Fat Duck already over the net (this one is one of the quite detailed posts including videos thanks to Libby from Filled With Food blog!), I didn’t take my camera in and just took a few quick snapshots with my iPhone, spending more time in conversation with good company.
To give you even just a bit of an idea of how our night started and panned out, I’ll start off with the entrance. We arrived early and once it was time for us to be ushered into the restaurant we found ourselves walking down a long, dark, floor-lit corridor that seemed to get smaller and smaller as we reached the end where there were chefs rushing around doing their thing on a small screen. Our Alice in Wonderland slash Heston experience had begun.
We were pressing on the walls all excitedly trying to figure out how to get out, when out of nowhere a door on our right slid open and we were greeted with smiling faces of the people who would be guiding us through the 16 course menu that night.
Walking to our tables (we got a lovely table right next to the windows where the Crown flames periodically lit up our night!), I was so pleasantly surprised at how intimate the space was. Dark interiors with around only 50 seats per sitting during the 6 month pop up.
The Low Down
1. Aerated Beetroot (such a delightful start to our meal. I wanted more! Wouldn’t mind having a dozen of these to take home!)
2. Nitro Poached Aperitifs – Vodka and Lime Sour, Gin and Tonic, Tequila and Grapefruit (Disappearing as fast as the Cheshire cat, this was coolness on my tongue and was made beautifully in front of our eyes)
3. Red Cabbage Gazpacho – Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream (This brought back memories of L’Arpege, Alain Passard’s restaurant in which the hubby and I shared our first Michelin-starred meal together as husband and wife with one of our dearest friends, Noel – we had mustard ice-cream there. Oh the memories…!)
4. Savoury Lollies – Waldorf Rocket, Salmon Twister and Feast (Presentation, taste, perfection – loved this)
5. Jelly of Quail, Marron Cream – Caviar Sorbet, Oak Moss and Truffle Toast (Homage to Alain Chapel) (Such an entertaining dish with so many components. I really did feel like we took a stroll in the cool woods)
6. Snail Porridge – Joselito Ham, Shaved Fennel (This was a hearty dish that at first I enjoyed, but it got really salty, a bit too salty for my liking)
7. Roast Marron – Shiitake, Confit Kombu and Sea Lettuce (a satisfying seafood dish)
8. Mad Hatter’s Tea Party – Mock Turtle Soup, Pocket Watch and Toast Sandwich (One of the quite theatrical dishes of the night. Ticking pocket watches were presented to us with our waitress questioning us as to how they were fixed in Alice in Wonderland. We dipped them into the liquid, they dissolved and we poured this broth into our teacup creating our Mock Turtle Soup.)
9. “Sound of the Sea” – salty sand, seafood including abalone and an array of seaweed (Listening to the sound of crashing waves and seagulls as I ate the “beach” – such a creative culinary masterpiece.)
10. Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel – Endive, Vanilla Mayonnaise and Golden Trout Roe (I didn’t think I’d like the liquorice part but I actually really enjoyed this dish – a nice texture with flavours that went really well together!)
11. Lamb with Cucumber – Green Pepper and Caraway
12. Hot & Iced Tea (Mindblowing. Enough said.)
13. Botrytis Cinerea (I know it doesn’t sound very appetizing but this bunch of “grapes” was a beautiful dessert! Both to the eye and in the mouth)
14. The Not-So-Full English Breakfast (A box of Heston cereal with a puzzle piece inside, scrambled eggs and bacon on toast like you’ve never had it before! I wanted to take a box home of the cereal made up of dehydrated vegetables and popping candy it was so moreish.)
15. Whisky Wine Gums (You could taste the strong alcohol. Presented on a framed map of where the whiskies originated.)
16. “Like A Kid In A Sweet Shop” (Such intricate details on the Queen of Hearts card, aerated chocolate with mandarin jelly, apple pie caramel enclosed in an edible wrapper and the a block of wagyu nougat with Guinness and beef caramel – goodies to take home with us!)
Favorite dish of the night:
You’ll probably find this odd for me to say but I think one of my most favorite dishes for the night was the hot and iced tea! It tasted so good and I just couldn’t get my head around it – how could it be hot and cold at the same time!!!? Genius! Felt amazing in my mouth!
If you don’t want to count that as a “dish” then I’d have to say the Savoury lollies were my other fav! I particularly loved the middle one – the Salmon Twister. Brilliance! Oh and the salmon in liquorice gel was an unexpected fav of mine!…I loved the how all the flavours went so well together; toasted coriander seeds, pink grapefruit, vanilla mayo and the tender, tender salmon just melted in my mouth. it reminded me of a foie gras dish I had at L’Aubergade in Pyumirol, France way back in 2005…take me back!
Favourite sweet dish was the grapevine like Botrytis Cinerea. My kind of dessert. Texture, flavour, sweet and a little sour. Superb!
Most memorable moment(s):
For me it was all about the good food and company and, apart from enjoying each and every single dish in different ways, the thing that stood out to me most was the detail. All the little details in everything from:
– the little bookmarks with snippets from the Alice in Wonderland story giving us further insight into our mock turtle soup to,
– the way our plates were swiftly placed and taken away by what I would call “table choreography” (our dance friends would appreciate this one!) to,
– the little puzzle pieces that drew our eyes to the huge mosaic (8m x 2m consisting of 19,500 puzzle pieces!) behind us of Heston, giving us a chance to leave our mark to,
– the way certain dishes seemed to be presented in a certain way ie. snail porridge presented with an exclamation mark as the lid was lifted (ie. “Snail Porridge!”, waiter lifts lid) LOL! You get what I mean Susie and Chloe! 🙂
– all the details on our cereal boxes and our scented lolly bag menu cards, the caramelized pancetta and pain perdu accompanied by the jar of maramlade with an edible lid, down to the luxurious feel of the envelopes with the Fat Duck seal that held our menu for the night.
– And just when we thought our night had ended, one of the waiters heard us whispering on the way out “I wonder what the kitchen looks like!”. Without hesitation we were asked if we’d like to be taken into the kitchen. Everyone was so friendly and the chefs had just started to clean up the savoury part of the kitchen with only desserts left for remaining tables. The “Chefs table” that was part of the ballot was nicely placed to have clear view of the dishes being prepared. Hospitality at its finest and service at its finest.
I could go on and on and my intention for this post was to be short and sweet but of course here I am rambling as I remember more and more.
Was it worth it?
Totally worth it! We made memories that will last long after the meal ended!
The set menu was $525 not including drinks and for our table of 6 the bill ended up being just over $3400. Still not that most expensive meal (which was at Le Pre Catelan on our honeymoon in 2005). As I worked it out, when we found out in October that one of our friends was a lucky winner of the ballot, it would only cost around the price of a coffee a day from that day on leading up to our April dinner date!
So glad that we could stroll back to our hotel rooms for the night as the dinner was around 5 hours long. It felt like it went by so quickly and leaving the restaurant space I felt like we had just gotten off a ride for all the senses. It really was an experiences that “stimulated all the senses” using “smell to generate emotion” and “headphones to introduce the dimension of sound” to our dishes.
Thank you for a beautiful evening Heston and staff.