One of the more controversial restaurants in the U.K.--no, make that anywhere--is Heston Blumenthal's Fat Duck. Located in the quaint village of Bray-on-Thames, about a 45-minute drive out of London, the Fat Duck is just around the corner from one of the other three-star Michelin restaurants in the U.K., the Waterside Inn. I guess Blumenthal must subscribe to the adage that "birds of a feather..." because the odds against two restaurants of this calber being so close together in a rather large country must be staggering.
The Fat Duck is housed in an old beamed building that could have been built in the 1500s, and feels like it might have been a simple inn where weary travellers could rest their bones and grab a warm meal when travelling from, say, London to Bristol. With whitewashed walls, it is elegant in its simplicity, and is one of the smarter dining environments I've been to while completely lacking in ostentation. This was my fifth visit to the restaurant, although my first since January 2004. Since this was my last meal of a long trip where I did a significant amount of dining, I had some concerns that my palate would be shot. But I was leaving on a late-afternoon flight from Heathrow, and given the restaurant's location, it made sense to have lunch and then get dropped off at the airport. We decided on the tasting menu, but I asked the kitchen to replace one dish with the Snail Porridge which is a favorite of mine.