Thursday, 20 August 2009
Event: Dinner at the Fat duck, Bray, Berkshire (UK)
Date, Time: Sat Febr 7th 2009 7:30PM
2005 Best restaurant in the world
Ok, so as part of the series "The GRAND restaurants of the moment", I am posting here my review of the Fat Duck diner that Jannice, Anais, Teo, Rob and I had enjoyed earlier on this year). Exactly as what I did with the El Bulli's and Noma's review, my review of FD will cover some few dishes.
So, this was actually part of a tour of the Northern belt of Europe that Jannice, I, Rob, Teo and Anais had completed earlier on this year (Started this trip at the beginning of February 2009). It was basically a mix of culinary (for all of us..lol) /cultural (for all of us , as well) /archeological (just for me/Touristic-oriented travel. It's during that exact same trip that we had the chance to visit Noma (see my review on NOMA).
FD is located in Bray, small village of the Berkshire's county. The county is no stranger to me, since I had spent 2 years of my life there: this had, at that time, to do --- NOT with food (lol) --- but with my passion for old architectures and history (btw: if those are part of your interests, I'd suggest you include Berkshire county and it's surroundings on your spots-to-visit list / it's also imho an ideal setting for romance at the countryside!) . Although tiny and sparsely populated, Bray-on-Thames is a spot I knew so well. What I had not expected --- back then -- was that one day, this location would host one of the world's most acclaimed table.
Upon arrival, I noticed the low-ceilings, kind-of-simple decor with it's round table-clothed tables and casual mustard-greeny-yellowy chairs. In harmony with the simple outside decor. We were greeted warmly and I did like the down-to-earth general mood that shined from the start to the end of the dinner.
Ok..Ok.. the food, now:
Sardine on toast sorbet
When the dish appeared at our table, we found the idea of a sorbet with that meaty accompaniment to be plain odd. Everyone at the table asked me to try it first! lol! I guess Teo, Rob,Jannice and Anais had thought something like "ughhhh....raw meat with ice cream??...heu..heu..not a match "...lol! BUT nah, it was none of that -> the magic was in the way they had marinated the fish: it resulted in a tender meat with interesting taste. Jannice and Teo had turned it down complaining that it's glue-y feel (I personally haven't felt it to be that glue-y) was not their thing. Bottom line, the fish was neither memorable, neither bad. I was not enthusiastic about the sorbet: I do not like the idea of mixing up salty food with sorbets (even if your sorbet is salty, that doesn't make it a perfect companion to salty fares).
Ballotine of Anjou Pigeon
The meat was utterly tender, had the perfect texture and was ideally cooked. A deep bite of it, on it's own (without any accompaniment) had proven to be very savourish. Kudos to that chunk of pigeon! I used to perceive pigeons as public park's hang-around birdies...rfaol!..but now I will never ever perceive pigeons the same way anymore. The accompanied pudding was just ok (nice texture, ideal smoothness, tasty enough) nothing to write home about.
I once had, couple of yrs ago, at a restaurant that I do not --- unfortunately - remember the name anymore (not a famous one. Just one of those restaurants you run into by pure chance and tend to forget about), a dish that was mas o menos similar to this. I remember that restaurant had somehow marinated their snails to such a flavorful savor that I had yet ran into at any other restaurant since. Having that Snail porridge had reminded me instantaneously of that once utterly savourish dish...and naturally, comparisons emerged! So, back to this one I had at FD -> One method I always use is to pull out a piece of meat out of a dish and enjoy it alone, with no accompaniments. This was going to be no exception. The chunk of snail -- I did bite in -- had nothing of that savourish snail I was referring to earlier on. This one was plain bland! I indulged into the parsley porridge: I was not enthusiastic about it's texture, but it was flavorful on it's own. It's taste did not impress me neither: not that it was bad..no, not at all...just not the type of porridge that seduces me. I also didn't found the pair to match: neither the porridge nor the snail did enhance the taste of each other. As for the topping of fennel, it was actually the only part I did enjoy on that dish. But again, as a whole ... it was an average juxtaposition of food elements.
Beet root jelly
I was curious to see how this classic of the Brits would turn out on this table. It is actually one dish I had enjoyed on numerous occasions during my 2 years there in the UK. Being used to it, and having enjoyed it so many times, it was interesting to see how this highly creative table would re-invent it. When it was placed on the table, we were all in an awe of the beauty of those cute little beautifully-colored jellies. While the girls were impressed by it's cuteness, my first reaction was "how special could this be?". The texture was of perfect jelly-smoothness, firm, vibrant to the point that I had hard time moving on with the initial visual admiration step. I was surprised to learn that both jellies (one is citrus / the other is beet root) had to be eaten in a specific order (the beet root orange first)..wow! Anyways, they were tasty. But I was expecting a bit more fireworks: like, for ie, infusing different layers of surprising savory flavors within the jelly. That would bring that dish off predictable lanes.
Mango and Douglas fir puree
For the past weeks, I have been perfectioning this dessert -- over and over -- at home. This is my type of dessert (I am fond of tropical touches, like mangoes/Lychees/pineapple, in desserts) and this one was at the top of my favourite food items on that evening at FD: The so refreshing milky/vanilla fresh creamy flavor was heavenly aromatic. The accompanied sorbet was nice: I know..there's no big deal with a sorbet, but this one was well done and was a cut above the next door sorbet. The bavarois was rich, attractively unctuous, refreshingly tasty (I usually have a soft spot for mango bavarois, but the addition of the lychee's flavor kinda paired fine. Not the best pairing I could think of, but it worked and had a nice welcoming sweet flavor). Overall, very good!
I really like the way the savors and flavors are worked out here. I do not mind visual appeal in food, but I want TASTE!! And taste is, along with the appealing presentations, a center piece of the equation at FD. Sure, there are juxtaposition of flavors/savors that I do not buy (for ie, the idea of assembling food products that have major flavor components in common...worked fine with some dishes, but ended up being borying with others), but most of it all was exciting to the taste buds!