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The Fat Duck

High Street, BRAY, SL6 2AQ

5 rosettes

The pale-grey-painted former pub looks so insignificant and unassuming as you pass by on the main road through Bray, but how looks can deceive. Behind that neutral, understated frontage there are some mind-blowing culinary fireworks going off, and the momentum has been kept up now for some 18 years. Heston (we all think of him by his first name these days) may not be at the stoves in the tiny kitchen out back anymore, but despite his TV work and other commitments, he's often to be found in the 'laboratory' kitchen across the road, working on his next creation (some dishes take years in the planning and days to make for each service, so it's little wonder the cost of a meal now almost breaks the £200 mark). The small dining room is just as low-key as the outside of the building, with smartly-laid tables (only 14 of them) and a relaxed ambience helped along by the extremely efficient, friendly and knowledgeable staff. For those lucky enough to bag a table (bookings are only available up to two months in advance), a 14-course menu full of multi-sensory stimulation (smell, taste, sight, sound) and lots of fun awaits - and it's an experience you're unlikely ever to forget. Some dishes are fixtures, while others are swapped in and out or reworked to keep things exciting and interesting, not that many guests are likely to dine here more than once. The curtain is raised in typical Heston style with some 'nitro poached aperitifs': a flavoured espuma (your choice of vodka and lime sour, gin and tonic or Campari soda) is poached in liquid nitrogen at -196 degrees C, and as it dissolves on your tongue it releases an intense hit of clean, crisp flavour that really is the ultimate palate cleanser. There could be a deeply flavourful red cabbage gazpacho next, before a playful trio of savoury ice lollies - a Rocket Waldorf (walnut, celery, apple and grape), a Twister (smoked salmon and wasabi), and a foie gras Feast (an ultra smooth foie gras mousse with fig jelly and toasted hazelnuts). Snail porridge is a menu stalwart, the fine oats bound in a vivid green parsley and garlic sauce, with a couple of earthy-tasting snails, some finely shredded Ibérico Bellota ham, micro-herbs and shaved fennel. Roast foie gras with some nicely tart pink rhubarb and a salty and crisp crab biscuit is an inspired combination, while the short rib of Wagyu beef, slow-cooked and packed full of flavour, needs no other embellishment than its accompanying piccalilli garnish. Back at the zanier end of the spectrum, the 'Mad Hatter's tea party' - mock turtle soup, pocket watch and toast sandwich - is a piece of pure theatre, while 'sound of the sea' stimulates all the senses, with an iPod in a shell playing crashing wave sounds to heighten the enjoyment of a superb fish composition (a 'shoreline' of tapioca 'sand', deep-fried sardine, a foam of vegetable stock and milk, three varieties of seaweed, and ultra-fresh kingfish, abalone and mackerel). And that's just a handful of the culinary marvels on offer. Amongst the sweeter courses, 'the BFG' never ceases to wow with its clearly defined Black Forest gâteau flavours, while new creation 'the candle' (white chocolate, dark chocolate, passionfruit and popping candy) provides another dose of theatre as the waiting staff light it, blow it out, and then cut chunks off with cigar cutters to reveal the delicious contents.

Further information

Tel: 01628 580333
Please quote 'The AA'.
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Open/closed

Days closed: Sun-Mon
Dates closed: 2 wks at Xmas

Restaurant information

Cooking type: Modern British
Chef: Heston Blumenthal, Jonny Lake
Number of seats: 40
Steps for wheelchair: 1
Vegetarian meals available.
Children welcome.
Children's portions.

 
 
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Directions

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M4 junct 8/9 (Maidenhead) take A308 towards Windsor, turn left into Bray. Restaurant in centre of village on right
Nearest station: Maidenhead

Local information for SL6 2AQ

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