Chef Heston Blumenthal's Bray, England restaurant Fat Duck will tell a whole new dining story when it reopens in October. Last winter, Blumenthal relocated his 20-year-old restaurant to Melbourne, Australia for a wildly popular, six month pop-up. Fat Duck served 14,966 covers before wrapping up on August 15.
In an exclusive interview with Observer Food Monthly, Blumenthal says he's allowing the Duck to mature by retiring longtime dishes to a "Hall of Fame" menu. Snail porridge, orange and beetroot jelly, egg and bacon ice cream, mustard ice cream with red cabbage gazpacho, quail jelly, and salmon with licorice will go. "Sound of the Sea" — a shellfish dish served with a headphone soundtrack of waves — and the savory ice lollies will stay.
"I'm morphing into my food. My food is morphing into me."
Blumenthal is working with an illustrator, a coaching psychologist, a font designer, and Lee Hall, the writer of Billy Elliot, to reimagine Fat Duck's tasting menu into a story "from childhood holidays in Cornwall between the ages of five and seven." He adds: "I'm using myself. I'm morphing into my food. My food is morphing into me." The menu will start with breakfast and unfold like a chapter. The eccentric vision is all apparently laid out on a drawing board that the writer describes as "16 or so images, is simply called ‘The Story'" that include cereal boxes, a wafer that looks like a log, and a sheep representing sleep.
Among Blumenthal's strange innovations is a $235,000 USD doll house-shaped automated trolley that delivers sweets to guests at the end of the meal while puffing smoke rings out of its chimney. The chef also plans to use "auto-suggestion techniques" gleaned from British mentalist Derren Brown to elicit personal details from guests for improved service.
Fat Duck will also introduce a new online ticketing system to manage demand and prevent bills from detracting from the dining experience. Fans can expect prices at the restaurant to rise too. The tasting menu was already $350 USD in Bray and received an even bigger hike in Melbourne that instantly made Fat Duck one of Australia's most expensive restaurants. To critics of the exorbitant price tag Blumenthal states: "Something can still be expensive but value for money."
In the meantime, Blumenthal notes that he's working on a new television show about astronaut food and is trying to get a British astronaut to drink the first cup of tea in space. "We were sending some samples up to the space station recently but the rocket exploded on takeoff." When the Fat Duck exits the the Crowne Melbourne hotel, Blumenthal will replace it will a new outpost of his London restaurant, Dinner.