Tel: +44 (0)1628 580333
Address: High Street, Bray, Berkshire, SL6 2AQ
Cuisine Type: Eclectic Modern
Maidenhead (five minutes by taxi to Bray)
Hubby and I struggled deciding where to celebrate our three-year wedding anniversary… I mean, what is it for three years – leather? Just short of buying each other boots or wallets, taking a tour of a tannery or something more risqué, we resolved to visit the eatery named ‘best in the world’, The Fat Duck in Bray. Here we could (rather unbelievably) fulfil our leather requisite by feeding on leather chocolates – just one of a wealth of tantalising treats to be found at this kitchen-cum-laboratory.
Fortunately, we were organised enough to call for reservations exactly two months before the day for which we hoped to book a table – this is the way it works. No complaints though: Michelin stars, 5-star ratings and global endorsements earn you the right to impose a bit of structure in my view. And all cleverly done without the hint of pretence and with the utmost professional casualness – relaxed fine dining at its best.
Now to the food: Extraordinary. Truly. Simply perusing the menu fills you with excitement and anticipation… what on earth could bacon and egg ice cream taste like? Nitro-green tea and lime mousse? Sardine on toast sorbet? Your mind inevitably ends up wrestling with your taste buds – surely something eggy tasting should be warm and scrambled?
I must say, to enjoy the full experience at The Fat Duck, you should have a sense of adventure, and must be able to embrace what initially seem like the most insane food combinations. But that’s not to say that everything on the menus (£97.50 for the 11-coursedegustation; £67.50 for the three-course dinner à la carte; £37.50 for the 3-course lunch à la carte) is completely off the wall. We thoroughly enjoyed poached seabass with Borlotti beans, and lamb with gratin of potato and confit lamb shoulder… seemingly unassuming, but the exceptional touches and refined craftmanship were clearly evident.
After a few courses, we were so in awe that we found ourselves not only intensely examining our plates, but also trying to slyly peek at all of our fellow diners’ dishes. Looking back, probably not as subtle as we’d hoped, sitting in a low-ceilinged cottage with 15 tables.
I don’t want to spoil any surprises, so I won’t give away the full details of our experience. Your visit will invariably feel like an event from start to finish, with attentive, yet never in-your-face service, and gastronomic memories and revelations around every corner. Loads of credit to Chef Heston Blumenthal for raising the culinary bar, and uncovering a new breed of diners who, refreshingly, now look at their meals with wide-eyed and child-like amazement.
Bray itself is a tiny and quaint village, which clearly owes its tourism activity to the popularity of the restaurant. If The Fat Duck sounds a bit too daring for you, you can always try the Hind’s Head Hotel next door (simple, excellent pub grub found here), also operated by Chef Blumenthal. Visit Bray for the perfect weekend getaway – foodie heaven and riverside bliss!