Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck restaurant is one of the very best in the world, with not just three Michelin stars, but an almost mythical status in the catering industry.
What’s it like to eat there? A fascinating YouTube video has emerged that gives viewers a seat at the table. It was shot by Alexander Varga, the co-owner of one-Michelin-starred restaurant ’42’ in Esztergom, Hungary.
As part of his ‘mission to find inspiration in gastronomy’, he visits other Michelin-starred restaurants and creates spellbinding videos of his experiences at them.
They’re uploaded to his YouTube channel, ‘Alexander The Guest’, with his Fat Duck video so far garnering over 365,000 clicks.
Alexander treated his teenager daughter to a meal at the restaurant – and the video begins with them trying to locate it. He says: ‘We arrive at the address, but there is no sign, only clues.’
Alexander Varga, co-owner of Michelin-starred ’42’ restaurant in Hungary, filmed a meal he had at The Fat Duck in Bray with his daughter. They are pictured above at the restaurant before the meal began
As part of his ‘mission to find inspiration in gastronomy’, Alexander visits Michelin-starred restaurants and creates spellbinding videos of his experiences at them
The 42-seat restaurant is housed in a white building in the village of Bray, Berkshire, with a spatula in the shape of a duck’s foot hanging outside and a coat of arms on the wall inscribed with the instruction – ‘question everything’.
‘We’ve found it,’ says Alexander.
Inside there are 42 seats – and 42 kitchen staff. One for every guest.
On Alexander’s table is a book called ‘Heston’s World of Curiosity’ and a magnifying glass.
‘The book has a story about adventure,’ reveals Alexander, ‘and the magnifying glass helps you find hidden information.’
Their waiter comes to the table and introduces himself as their ‘storyteller’.
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The first offering at The Fat Duck is a ‘nitro-poached aperitif with Campari spritz’ that’s ‘hard to describe… crisp on the outside and soft and refreshing on the inside’
Alexander opts for the ‘top-of-the-line’ Wonderment wine pairing, which costs £990.90
This approach, says Alexander, ‘is unusual, but interesting’.
There is just one tasting menu, priced at £395 (plus service).
However, there are five wine-pairing menus to choose from – ‘Playfulness [non-alcoholic], Curiosity, Exploration, Discovery and Wonderment’.
Alexander opts for the ‘top-of-the-line’ Wonderment pairing, which costs £990.90.
Then the magic begins.
First up is a ‘nitro-poached aperitif with Campari spritz’ that’s ‘hard to describe… crisp on the outside and soft and refreshing on the inside’.
‘Surprises like that keep happening during the meal,’ says Alexander.
Heston’s team then rustle up ‘Aerated Beetroot’, ‘Red Cabbage Gazpacho with Pommery Mustard Ice Cream’, ‘Oyster with Passionfruit Jelly and Lavender’, a Waldorf salad that’s actually two savoury lollies in the shape of a rocket, and a golden pocket watch that turns to soup when immersed in boiling water.
The Fat Duck Waldorf salad is actually two rocket-shaped lollies
Alexander told MailOnline Travel that the experience was ‘really magical and memorable’ for both him and his daughter
ALEXANDER VARGA’S 42 RESTAURANT
The name of Alexander’s restaurant – 42 – comes from The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams.
In the first novel, explains Alexander, a supercomputer is built to answer to the ultimate question of life, the universe and everything. After seven and a half million years of computing and checking, the supercomputer answers: 42.
The other co-owner is the head chef, Adam Barna, with 42 one of nine restaurants in Hungary to make the Michelin guide.
In May 2023, the restaurant took home The Most Innovative Kitchen of Hungary Award.
‘Every dish has something magical,’ says Alexander.
And of course there’s the famous ‘Sound of the Sea’ course, seafood – some of the best Alexander has ever eaten – enjoyed to the sound of crashing waves, supplied via a music player hidden in a shell and in-ear buds.
Alexander told MailOnline Travel that the experience was ‘really magical and memorable’ for both him and his daughter.
Did it live up to the hype?
He said: ‘I don’t know how big the hype is around the restaurant now, but for me, it was a defining experience. Although it might not be considered progressive anymore, Heston Blumenthal has created one of the most influential chapters in gastro history, and I would definitely recommend it. It doesn’t matter if some dishes have been on the menu for more than 10 years, they are still really exciting to this day. The service is a huge part of the whole experience. It absolutely deserves the hype, because the whole thing is simply brilliant.’
The Fat Duck is extremely expensive – but did Alexander feel it was worth the outlay?
He said: ‘Absolutely. It is really hard to review a restaurant in the aspect of the price-value ratio, since we get calories, art, feelings, ideas and theatre, which teach, inspire and entertain at the same time. Those who just want food might not agree, but for me it was well worth it. It was an amazing experience, and worth every penny.’
The famous ‘Sound of the Sea’ course is seafood enjoyed to the sound of crashing waves, supplied via a music player hidden in a shell and in-ear buds (above)
Alexander said: ‘Heston Blumenthal has created one of the most influential chapters in gastro history’
Above is a doll-house version of The Fat Duck, containing handmade sweets
Heston Blumenthal outside The Fat Duck
What does he think the secret to Heston’s success is?
Alexander said: ‘If I had to guess, it would be his open mind, out-of-the-box thinking, experimenting nature and bravery. Aside from those I think he has a very serious organizing ability and strong character. He is also thoughtful and takes inspiration from art and science.’
How does The Fat Duck compare to other three-star restaurants he’s eaten at? Would he say it’s the best restaurant?
Alexander said: ‘Of course this is subjective. I’m not even sure I can decide if a restaurant is “the best”. I’ve been to more than 40 three-Michelin star restaurants around the world, and in my head I list them in three categories. There are some that I don’t like, some that I do and some which are special. The Fat Duck definitely goes into the special category.’
For more fascinating foodie videos from Alexander visit www.youtube.com/@alexandertheguest and follow him on Instagram at www.instagram.com/alexandertheguest and on TikTok at www.tiktok.com/@alexandertheguest. Follow his restaurant on Instagram at www.instagram.com/42restaurant.