'I still worry every time the door opens that they won't understand what I'm doing here. This award means they get it.' There is, to be fair, a lot to get; the menu at the Fat Duck reads like no other.
The current tasting menu, for example, includes both sardine on toast sorbet and snail porridge. There's white chocolate and caviar buttons, or bacon and egg ice cream. He makes basil blancmange and beetroot jellies, pairs salmon with liquorice and cauliflower with chocolate. To a restaurant-going public, grown weary of media-hungry chefs trying to manufacture their 'unique selling points', this could look like just so much innovation for innovation's sake, but it isn't.
Here, I should declare a greedy interest: I am a huge fan, both of Blumenthal and his cooking. There's no doubt his menus read curiously, and the chef is not beyond chal lenging us with language. There would be far fewer raised eyebrows if that snail porridge was listed as a muesli of oats and escargot (even though his description is more accurate) or the mustard ice cream as a frozen mustard cream. But the linguistic tricks are part of the fun, the challenging curtain raiser to the main event, which is the exquisite dishes he cooks. Or, as he puts it, 'Everything has to come down to "does it taste good?" If it doesn't taste good it doesn't go on the menu.' Snail porridge and mustard ice cream both taste very good indeed.
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