Sunday, May 03, 2015

The Magic Of Fat Duck In Melbourne

When it was announced that Heston Blumenthal was going to bring his restaurant to Melbourne for just six short months, my sisters and I clammered for the ballot - and all missed out on a table in the draw. I promptly forget all about it, until one of my sisters messaged out of the blue and said we had a call up for a dinner seating, due to a cancellation. Hello! We were in!

A short video was emailed around from the restaurant, to give hints and create some mystery and excitement about our dining date - as if that was needed!

Fat Duck Melbourne is situated in a small room on Level 3 of Crown Casino, at the classy end, and whilst set intimately with just 14 tables, was full of sleak and simple elegance.

The view along, across the Yarra River, from the high windows along one wall of the room, allowed the occasional glimpse out to the dusk approaching, and darkness falling on the city outside. In between the 16 courses served to us across the 5 hours of dining.

First was the ridiculously pretty and delicate Aerated Beetroot. A little morsel packed full of flavour, balanced on the most beautiful plate. The plating of each dish was a feature of the night, in addition to the food and presentation of each.

Next our waiter steered across a trolley to our table, and commenced with creating each of our chosen flavours of the Nitro Poached Aperitifs. A puff of flavour, made in front of our eyes with dry ice panache.
Each dish arrived to our table with a flurry of activity, with plates landing on the table together for all four of us. Dramatic and exciting, the wait staff were also really happy to be there, and enjoying there work. And were happy to answer questions, and marvel in the awe they were creating.

Next was the Red Cabbage Gazpacho, with Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream - such unusual textures, and mustard ice cream! Where do these ideas come from!?

The Savoury Lollies were next, which looked like mini-ice creams from childhood, but again in the twist of flavours, were Waldorf salad, sushi-style salmon and rich liver pate as the unmistakable Gaytime.

Placed in the centre of our table for Fifth Course, was a bed of Oak Moss with tabs for each of us to take and place on our tongues. Next, a china white dome was placed at each setting, with a wood block upon which sat the Truffle Toast. Inside the dome was the Jelly Of Quail, with layered parts including Marron Cream and Caviar Sorbet. The waitress then poured dry ice from a teapot onto the moss in the centre of the table, covering the table with fog which filled the air with the moss smell, to create the full effect of this course.

The Snail Porridge landed next, bringing a bright green soup with Shaved Fennel and bits of Joselito Ham. Things we don't usually eat, these tastes and the presentation delivering such delight and surprise!

On another gorgeous plate, the Roast Marron arrived, on a bed of Shiitake, frills of crunchy Sea Lettuce and Confit Kombu smeared on the plate. This dish was delicious, with little dots of sauce adding extra punch.

Eight was a palate cleanser, and was an enchanting Mad Hatter's Tea Party. A fob watch of gold, melted into a turtle soup, swirled as instructed by our waitstaff. In the middle of the table for this was placed a tier of tiny toast sandwiches, which were delicious. I seriously never need to eat another sandwich again, as nothing will beat these little morsels of delight!

The "Sounds Of The Sea" experience started with a shell each, with headphones. Placing these on, we each had some quite time as we were transported through our ears to the seaside. Once the tray of glass-covered sand arrived, we were relaxed and far away in our minds from where we actually were. After tasting each of the components on the plate, we were challenged by our waiter to guess what we had tasted. Anchovy sand was correct, and the delicious seafood morsels we were hit and miss with the guesses. Foam and seaweed added to the themed dish.

Course number 10 was my favourite of the night, being the Salmon Poached in a Liquorice Gel. The salmon fell away, and the liquorice was a surprise flavour. Endive and Vanilla Mayonnaise, these tastes were incredible, the cooking so clever.

Lamb medallions, served with Cucumber was the last of the "main" dishes, and was plated on beautiful plates. A work of art on it's own.

Breaking up the meal to sweets was the Hot & Iced Tea - which was just that. As you drank, half your mouth felt the warmth, the other the cold of this tea. We discussed as we drank and marveled at what science was going on here, in sheer delight.
Another very pretty, and a favourite dish of mine from the night, was the Botrytis Cinerea. I have no idea what that means, but essentially the plate had a bunch of grapes-like collection of balls of flavour. Our waiter suggested leaving the bigger green one to last, which was a great tip, with the tastes building to this final one. Such an array of textures, temperatures, and tastes. Another magical delight!

Next was the weirdest course of the night, the Not-So-English Breakfast. First, we were each given a cereal box, and a little jar of white milk...which turned out to be parsley flavoured. The box contained a cereal of sorts, with a puzzle piece. This puzzle peice was each individually placed on a board, which was completed by each of the people dining for the sitting. This would then be added to the huge puzzle forming along the wall of the restaurant.

Breakfast not yet complete, the next part was very weird indeed. Scrambled eggs ice cream, made before our eyes, candied pancetta, and french toast. A marmalade was added, which had a white chocolate edible lid. So many details!

The big fanfare dishes done, we were each presented with a board with a map and four Whiskey Wine Gums from Australia and Ireland. These were to be peeled off, and tasted in order.

Finally, we were presented with our "Like A Kid In A Sweet Store" bag of treats as a finale. Four handmade lollies, including Aerated Chocolate, and amazing Apple Pie Caramel. These were hinted at in the video we watched before our night, and ended the night with added delight.

A once in a lifetime dining experience, with a price tag to make you know you are getting someone extrodinary. Worth it as a treat for anyone who loves food, magic, experimentation and mystery, with science and the enchantment of wonderland. All five senses were tickled with the food, for full delight.

The wait staff really added to the experience, as well as the setting, and all four of us emerged from the experience in awe and wonder, and totally food sated.

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