It’s 11pm, and outside the Fat Duck in Bray, Heston Blumenthal is being pursued across the road by a young Mancunian chef. He has brought his girlfriend down south on a culinary pilgrimage and is not leaving without a souvenir. “Can you sign this for the lads in the kitchen?” he asks, thrusting a menu into Blumenthal’s hands. The Fat Duck’s proprietor takes the menu, scribbles his name and draws a sketch of a chef’s knife. “Thanks, Heston, that’s wicked,” the gastro-fan beams and disappears off into the night.
Blumenthal is getting used to the autograph hunters. When a panel of international food pundits voted the Fat Duck the world’s best restaurant in April, the 39-year-old chef found himself elevated to the status of gastronomic messiah. In the past six years, his tiny cottage restaurant in the Berkshire commuter village has picked up three Michelin stars, wowing critics and diners alike with a menu that includes white chocolate and caviar, sardine-on-toast sorbet and green-tea and lime mousse “poached” in liquid nitrogen. After the best-restaurant title, even the tabloids sat up and took notice. The Sun sent a couple of readers along to sample the £97.50 tasting menu under the predictable headline “Snail porridge? I’d prefer a Big Mac”.
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