The restaurant The Fat Duck is run by celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal in Bray, Berkshire, England. The restaurant is based in a 16th-century building which was previously the site of The Bell pub. Initially, the menu at The Fat Duck served food that was similar to that of a French bistro, but it soon shed that reputation and acquired one for both precision and invention. The restaurant has undoubtedly been at the forefront of many modern culinary developments, such as food pairing, a concept which has been copied by many other restaurants since, flavour encapsulation, and multi-sensory cooking, a signature concept of Heston Blumenthal.
When The Fat Duck opened on the 16th of August 1995, it only had four staff working in the kitchen. That number has dramatically grown over the years as the complexity of the food has increased. Currently, there are around 42 kitchen staff, resulting in a ratio of around one kitchen staff member per customer, something that remains rare in the restaurant industry.
The Fat Duck managed to gain its first Michelin star in 1999, just four years after it opened, won its second in 2002, and acquired its third in 2004, making it the restaurant that earned all three stars the fastest in the United Kingdom, a record that may take some time to beat. For a brief period of that time, the restaurant lost its three-star status due to renovation work in 2016, meaning that it was unable to be assessed. The restaurant did, however, regain all three stars in the following year’s Michelin guide.
One of the things which The Fat Duck is best known for is its fourteen-course tasting menu, which features such dishes as nitro-scrambled egg and bacon ice cream, which has proven particularly popular amongst critics. The taster menu also has a recipe inspired by Alice in Wonderland, which is a dish of mock turtle soup and involves a bouillon packet which is created to look like a fob watch dissolved in tea, as well as a meal that takes on an audio component called the Sound of the Sea. The restaurant also has an associated laboratory, where Heston and his team develop new dishes and experiment with the latest cooking tools and techniques.
In 2009, the establishment suffered from the largest recorded outbreak of norovirus at a restaurant, with over 400 diners falling ill after eating there.