The Fat Duck's Tasting Menu
Nitro-green tea and lime mousse (2001)
Our first course was prepared at the table: a spoonful of mousse swirled around in liquid nitrogen until it kinda turned into a fun-looking meringue. One dash of green tea powder and straight into the mouth, where it just about melted straight away with a burst of palette-cleansing wonderfulness. What a start!
Orange and beetroot jelly
Two small but delicious squares of jelly to be eaten in a specific order... with a clever twist, of course. Never had beetroot before; not terrible.
Oyster, passion fruit jelly, lavender
Hmm, the first of the slimey ones. Oysters were new to me, but I'd tried passion fruit before and not liked it. However - and this was a theme for the whole afternoon - things that taste odd or unpleasant or scary on their own somehow just work together in Heston's world.
Pommery grain mustard ice cream, red cabbage gazpacho
The mustard ice cream tasted hot, but felt cold. The gazpacho cleverly took the edge off (from both angles) enough to let the flavour do the talking. Tasty and refreshing.
Jelly of quail, langoustine cream, parfait of foie gras and oak moss and truffle toast
A box full of oak moss sat in the middle of the table. Liquid nitrogen was poured in, which let its smell pour out and over the table throughout this course. First, there was a PocketPak-style strip of flavour to put on the tongue. Very oaky and earthy. Then, four layers of frightening new things in a pot with some wafer-thin truffle toast to add much-needed crunch. Very clever; very woodland; very impressed.
Snail porridge, Jabugo ham, shaved fennel
Never in my life could I have imagined I'd eat a meal called “Snail porridge”, but this was a surprisingly delicious course. The whole snails weren't pleasant to look at (nor, on reflection, was green porridge!) and it took me a couple of minutes to pluck up the courage to tuck in. By the end, though, I was almost disappointed there wasn't more. It was much meatier than I'd imagined with bags of juicy flavour.
“Sound of the sea”
So then three giant shells arrive at the table with headphones sticking out of them. Playing on the iPod Shuffle concealed inside were the sounds of waves crashing onto a beach and seagulls circling overhead. We were encouraged to shut our eyes and listen, during which time a big box of sand was placed in front of each of us. The food sat on a glass plate above the box, like it had just washed to shore: foam, sea weed, eels, mystery gravel. Brilliant presentation aside, taste-wise this was all a bit too much for me. Felt a bit queasy afterwards and was grateful for the break that followed.
Salmon poached in liquorice gel, artichoke, vanilla mayonnaise and “Manni” olive oil
Liquorice?!? On salmon? Sounded ridiculous and was pretty sharp on its own, but the mayonnaise and artichoke (another new thing for me) settled it nicely. My inexperienced palette thought the salmon was a bit underdone, but I'll put that down to me almost certainly always overcooking my own. Another very soft course though.
Ballotine of Anjou pigeon, black pudding “made to order”, pickling brine and spiced juices
The black pudding tasted right but was smooth and brown: the consistency of melted chocolate. Bizarre, but pretty cool. The pigeon practically fell off the bone - a taste sensation. Could have eaten the whole bird.
Hot and iced tea
Most incredible thing I've ever seen. Looked like a cup of tea, but the right-hand side was hot and the left cold. Stayed that way right through sipping to down in the stomach. Words don't do justice to such peculiar-yet-brilliant execution.
Mrs Marshall's Margaret cornet
We were then given a little booklet about pioneering work in the field of ice cream over a century ago, followed by an example of what it was talking about. Such a delicious ice cream cornet in miniature, like a scale model.
Pine sherbet fountain (pre-hit)
A slightly underwhelming sherbet fountain. Very refreshing and pine-y, but not very much of it. The vanilla pods we used to extract the sherbet were a nice touch.
Mango and Douglas fir puree, bavarois of lychee and mango, blackcurrant sorbet
Cold, sharp and the perfect follow-on from the sherbet. The sorbet was particularly tasty, reinforcing (where the other bits didn't) that this was definitely a dessert.
“Good morning. Time for breakfast.” And what better way to start the day than with a bowl of cereal? Parsnip flakes in a little box (like the old variety packs) with a wonderful cream. Wanted more.
Nitro-scrambled egg and bacon ice cream (2006), pain perdu and tea jelly
Once again, the liquid nitrogen was brought to the table and poured into a big silver bowl. Then special eggs were cracked open - it looked like they contained custard - into the bowl and swirled around. Spooned around until scrambled, the rest of the course arrived just as the perfect-looking egg was lifted out. The pain perdu was just the right sort of stodgy for a 'cooked' breakfast, the bacon was wafer thin and the egg on top completed the perfect breakfast. Weekend mornings will never be the same again.
Petits fours, carrot and orange lolly, mandarin aerated chocolate, apple pie caramel “edible wrapper”, violet tartlet
I suspect the Aero-like aerated chocolate was made using some sort of vacuum chamber. It was very mandarin-y, but a great accompaniment to the wafer thin lollies. The apple pie caramel (and wrapper) was very clever, but didn't taste much like apple pie to me. The violet tarte - the bit I expected to like least - was out of this world. That was the last thing I ate and not far off being either the nicest or most surprising.
Rid and dad had the wine throughout and loved it, but I know less about wine than I know about playing the clarinet so shan't attempt to describe the couple of sips I took.
Overall, this menu was much more about the taste than the texture. I shouldn't have been surprised, what with it being called the 'Tasting Menu' 'n' all. But that's not to do it down. I've never experienced anything like it in my life and probably never will. Amazing flavour combinations, a quite remarkable imagination and utter creative genius, I'd say. Shall be dining out on this for years to come.