Typing out the list of courses -- the FD handily gives you a copy of the menu to take away if you're having the tasting menu -- has made me realise why we were in there for a bit over three hours ;)
I had the wine tasting menu to go with this lot; rotwang stuck to water as he was driving us home. (I owe him. ;))
Glass of Tattinger '96 Blanc De Blanc to start off with. (You can have a champagne tasting menu to go with the food instead of the wine tasting menu, if you like.)
- Nitro-Green Tea and Lime Mousse
- This is one of the FD's signature dishes. It's prepared at your table; the waiter explains that what he's just poured into the insulated bowl in front of him is liquid nitrogen at -190°C, and that what he has in the soda-siphon-squirty-flask is egg white mousse, flavoured with green tea, lime and vodka. These are supposed to stimulate your taste buds.... He squirts some of the mousse onto a spoon and drops the ball thus formed into the liquid nitrogen, swishes it about a bit and then places it carefully on a plate. You are supposed to pick it up with your fingers and eat it whole.
This works a lot better if you're less clumsy than I am as mine came to bits in my hand, but it certainly tasted marvellous. Light, fluffy, fading to nothing in short order. Probably not an easy one to do at home without a ready supply of liquid nitrogen ;)
- Orange and Beetroot Jelly
(With this and the next three courses: Manzanilla En Rama, Barbadillo, Spain)
- Small, carefully cut squares of jelly, one orange, one purple. (A little more to it than this which I shan't reveal here.)
The Manzanilla was an interesting accompaniment to all the starters, as they had such different flavours; mostly they were quite rich, though, so the very dry wine worked well.
- Oyster, Passion Fruit Jelly, Horseradish Cream, Lavender
- The lavender was a garnish, though I'm sure it could also have been eaten. This was stupendously good; the passionfruit and the horseradish and the slight saltiness of the lobster -- and I usually can't stand horseradish. Fabulous contrasts.
- Pommery Grain Mustard Ice Cream, Red Cabbage Gazpacho
- Beautifully served -- actually, scratch that, you may assume that everything on this list was gorgeously and carefully presented. Another great flavour combination.
- Jelly of Quail, Langoustine Cream, Parfait of Foie Gras
- This may have been my favourite thing on the menu. Ohhh, the flavours. Oh, the combination of flavours.
- Snail Porridge (w/ Joselito ham and shaved fennel)
(Collioure Rose, La Goudie, Domaine de la Rectorie, France)
- Another signature dish. It's not so much snail porridge with the snails mixed in, it's snails served on an oat sauce base (which is a disturbingly-vivid green, apparently from parsley). However weird it might sound, it tastes fantastic. (That's another general comment.)
A very robust rosé wine to go with this; none of your wimpy Mateus crap, this was a wine that was secure in its own identity and didn't want to hear anyone telling it that it didn't know what colour it wanted to be. Good stuff.
- Roast Foie Gras (w/ almond fluid gel, cherry and chamomile)
(Tokaji Harslevelu, Szepsy, Hungary)
- I was a little worried about this as rotwang isn't a big fan of foie gras, almonds or cherries. It vanished completely but for the halved almonds used as a garnish, though. Me? I had no such issues. I adore foie gras, especially when lightly roasted as this was, and the rich almondy sauce was superb.
Neither of us had ever had a dry Tokaji before, and apparently they're a fairly recent phenomenon. Must keep an eye out for one to feed to rotwang's parents sometime.
- Sardine on toast sorbet (w/ ballotine of mackerel 'invertebrate', marinated daikon)
(Taisetsu, Takasago, Junmai Ginjo Sake, Japan)
- This put me in mind of the scenes in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory where Violet Beauregarde is testing out the dinner-flavoured chewing gum. You take a little bite of the sorbet and then sit there thinking "yes, it really does taste like sardines on toast. How the hell does he do that?". Incredible. (By this point in the meal I was vacillating between being inspired to new culinary heights and throwing away all my cookbooks as I'll never be able to emulate this stuff.)
Sake's a slightly unusual thing to find on a wine tasting menu but since some of this was very nearly sashimi and it included daikon as well, I guess it fits...
- Salmon poached with liquorice (w/ asparagus, pink grapefruit, 'Manni' olive oil and vanilla mayonnaise)
(La Crola, Allegrini, Veneto, Italy)
- I don't like liquorice much. This was marvellous; the salmon was melt-in-the-mouth tender and the liquorice coating subtle to accompany it, rather than overpowering as it might have seemed. The vanilla mayonnaise was particularly good, especially with the asparagus.
A lighter red wine to go with the salmon. Blended well with the rest of the flavours.
- Poached breast of Anjou pigeon pancetta (w/ pastilla of its leg, pistachio, cocoa and quatre épices)
(Cote-Rotie, Domaine Duclaux, Rhone Valley, France)
- Pigeon itself: superb, cooked to perfection. The pastilla (pastry) stuffed with minced pigeon leg etc.: so, so good. Another contender for "top item".
A more robust red wine; also very good.
- Mrs Marshall's Margaret Cornet
- This came with a little biography of Mrs Marshall, who invented a better icecream maker back in the 19th century. The cornet itself had apple icecream and orange (and something) sorbet underneath that, and was luscious.
- Pine Sherbet Fountain
- A manual on how to eat this might have been an idea; we variously dabbed, sucked and licked our way through it. Thankfully fairly small as I surmise it might have been a bit overpowering in larger quantities.
- Mango and Douglas Fir Puree (w/ bavarois of lychee and mango, and blackcurrant sorbet)
(Riesling Beerenauslese Scharzhofberger, Reichsgraf von Kesselstatt, Germany)
- *drool* (Running out of adjectives here.) Another stunningly presented and superbly-judged set of flavours. And a lovely German wine, not too sweet to accompany it.
- Carrot and orange tuile, sugared beetroot jelly
- Just a couple of nibbles -- carrot and orange on a (cocktail) stick, and a little piece of jelly that I would not necessarily have spotted as beetroot had I not been told of its provenance.
- Parsnip cereal with parsnip milk
- And at this point we slide gently from dinner into breakfast...
Here is your bowl, with a "Fat Duck Cereals" box resting in it. Inside the box is a little plastic sachet containing dried parsnips (maybe slightly sweetened, but only slightly). And here is a jug of "parsnip milk" (apparently an infusion of parsnip into milk) to pour over the cereal.
This was the course that seemed to confuse the next table the most ;) (they were also wondering aloud how one milked a parsnip).
Bizarre. Nice -- well, unless you don't like parsnip ;) -- but definitely on the weirder end.
- Smoked bacon and egg ice cream (w/ pain perdu, wild mushroom caramel and tea jelly)
- One more signature dish (the bacon and egg icecream). And very, very tasty. Sort of a fry-up in dessert form; bacon, egg, mushrooms, fried bread... The caramel could maybe have done with a little more mushroom flavour, but otherwise marvellous.
- Hot and cold tea
- More of the chilled tea jelly, this time with some hot tea alongside it -- in the same insulated cup. Have I already used the phrase "taste sensation"? If not, I'll do so here -- though to be honest it wasn't really the taste that was the odd but excellent thing about this, it was the combination of hot and cold in the same mouthful that was so impressive.
- Coffee and chocolates
- Two of the chocolates involved fresh mint, two of them involved something else which we couldn't quite identify. But they were great. There were also little violet tarts with the coffee -- also very good, though rather keener to stick to the back of my throat than I might have wanted...
All in all, the best meal I've ever eaten. Yes, some of the food is a bit pretentious, but it's amusing as well (and I don't mean that in the oh yes, this is an amusing little wine sense), and they really are inviting you to join in the fun -- they're not expecting you to take it all seriously. Truly stunning. I am very lucky to have a husband who takes me to such great places ;)