24 August 2015
by Callan Boys

Fat Duck Melbourne closes and flies home

Heston Blumenthal says the Melbourne Fat Duck experiment was a success.

The "sound of the sea" has been switched off and the last snail porridge served. Fat Duck is flying home.

The last Fat Duck service at Crown Melbourne was on Sunday, a private lunch to celebrate exactly 20 years since the restaurant opened in the tiny village of Bray, England.

The incredible experience featured dishes Blumenthal hasn't put on a menu in many years such as crab risotto with crab ice-cream, and edible white chocolate candle filled with caviar. There was lasagne of marron with pig's trotter and truffle, hay-smoked veal sweetbread with cockles a la plancha, braised lettuce and triple-cooked chips and a mango and Douglas fir puree with bavarois of lychee and mango and blackcurrant sorbet.

Mango and Douglas fir puree with bavarois of lychee and mango, and blackcurrant sorbet from Fat Duck's 2001 menu.

It was also the last time some Fat Duck classics - snail porridge and red cabbage gazpacho included - will ever be served as part of the restaurant's regular menu - perhaps only ever making an appearance for special "Hall of Fame" style dinners. They will make way for a new dishes when the restaurant re-opens in late September in Bray.

Blumenthal, who was at Sunday's lunch, sported a grey Fat Duck Melbourne T-shirt and looked relaxed and happy.

Fat Duck's six-month residency at Crown saw nearly 15,000 diners experience Blumenthal's 16-course multi-sensory menu and more than 16,000 bottles of wine were opened.

The last ever snail porridge to be served at Fat Duck.

In spite of the $525 per person price tag (excluding wine) more than 300,000 applications were received for a table at Fat Duck when the ballot site went live in October.

"The amount of interest in the ballot and all the the media attention set up a big expectation," says Blumenthal. "I said to my guys, 'all that we can do is work as hard as we possibly can to make sure that it all goes well.'"

It went very well indeed with Fat Duck receiving almost unanimous praise by critics and, importantly, the public.

The Fat Duck 20th anniversary menu.

"In the UK we've had so many years under the shackles of French cuisine where there was a perceived right or wrong way to do things," says the celebrity chef. "You don't have that in Australia. Customers were coming to the restaurant in the ideal to state of mind to rub their hands together in excitement and it really energised my guys."

Blumenthal relocated Fat Duck to Melbourne so the Bray restaurant could undergo a refurbishment and redesign.
"For me it was a no-brainer moving Fat Duck here in the first place, and now having done this six months, it's even more of a no-brainer to have a permanent restaurant here," Blumenthal says.

Lasagne of marron with pig's trotter and truffle at Fat Duck Melbourne's last service. First seen on a Fat Duck menu in 1999.

The Fat Duck site at Crown will now be transformed and expanded into Dinner by Heston, scheduled to open in early November. Dinner will feature an a la carte menu similar to its London sister restaurant and Blumenthal says he expects the price point to be similar to London too, where a main course of roast turbot with mussel and seaweed ketchup, salmon roe and sea rosemary, say, will set you back about $80.

When Fat Duck reopens in the UK the new menu will be based on Blumenthal's memories of childhood holidays.

"Every table will have its own lighting system so it can turn from morning to night," says Blumenthal. "The courses will be like waking up, having breakfast, and maybe heading down to the rockpool. Then off to the beach or for a walk in the woods and eventually to bed and ending up in the sweet shop of your dreams."