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Bethnal Green to Holborn. Holborn to Knightsbridge. Destination: Dinner by Heston Blumenthal. My mind is going a thousand miles an hour: I have a slight buzz from a couple of beers a few hours earlier, we had to race to the restaurant and our party changed from four to two. Me and my brother step into the Mandarin Oriental Hotel. Not at all in the relaxed mind-set I thought I would have. The reason lies a few hours earlier in the day…

We arrive at RE Shoreditch Hotel in London from Moor Farm in Holyport. At the back of the hotel there’s an elevator to transport one car at a time to the parking space a few meters below street level. It’s a clean, modern, new hotel, a completely different atmosphere than our B&B in the countryside. At no point in the hotel I have to drop my head a meter to get through a door or take a shower. We relax for an hour before heading out to the streets of Shoreditch.

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The Fat Duck

‘A bit late, uh’. Johnny (chef of the restaurant) looks demonstratively at the clock, knowing perfectly well what time it is, and back at me. I notice a small smile in his expression. ‘Sorry chef! We rented a boat and went on the Thames to get the juices flowing. Sorry about the time. We’re real excited about lunch!’ Another smile. I’m back in the kitchen to say hello to the chef and all the cooks before lunch. Unfortunately we are a bit late. Isabelle had the wonderful idea to take a boat ride that day (the weather in England was much better than in the Netherlands where it was raining for two weeks non stop), but it all took a bit longer than planned.

At about 10.30am we left the B&B for Hurley. Isabelle found a small rental company at the river, where you can rent boats for 30 pounds an hour. We rent one from 11.00 to 12.00. Cruising, uhm, puffing away down the river it becomes even more apparent than riding to Bray. There is money here. Lots of it. We come across estate after estate only intercepted by the occasional, humongous house. I must say it’s all very stylish. Tasteful. Really important in my eyes when something is build from a mountain of money. The only exception is a small island, 30 puff minutes away from Hurley, where someone build a sort of shrine, Roman style, including a small statue you’d find on the most pompous of fountains in somebody’s garden. Now hope nobody who reads this has one in his or her garden.

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62. The Fat Duck: the Prelude

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I forgot to write down the names of everyone at The Fat Duck. Am busy getting them, so I will incorporate them in the post. May take a while, so I decided to put the post online anyway.

Staff lunch at The Fat Duck

Months of waiting. At some point I couldn’t take it anymore. I needed to see the restaurant, taste the food, talk to the chefs, explore the food lab and in general get away for a couple of freaking days. Not so long ago, the 27th of July, it was finally time to head out to Bray. I packed bags full of food and drinks, printed the Eurotunnel tickets and hopped in a car with two friends, Isabelle and Dion, and my brother David. To save everyone from a boring car trip report here are the key points: car, food, music, Calais, scary tunnel, Folkestone, funny reversal driving, Holyport, Moor Farm, a welcoming, extreme (unfulfilled) desire for a pint, some jokes, tooth brushing, sleeping dreaming of Fat Duck food (actually I have no idea what I dreamt of).

An alarm rings. Time to get up!!! Staff lunch at The Fat Duck, tour of Braymenthal, interview with Heston and dinner at The Crown are all waiting. We drive to The Fat Duck. It was obvious from the drive over and more so after entering the village – it reeks of money in this part of England. The cars seem to stem directly from the wishlist of little kids. Approaching the restaurant we decide to crash it with all four. To our surprise it is absolutely no problem if we all have lunch and take the tour of the kitchen, prep kitchen and lab together. Lunch consists of pasta with a meat sauce (sous vide) and a fresh iceberg lettuce salad. We sit down and a cook is so kind to bring the food, which as he jokingly says, he normally does not do. Normal situation: food = fight for it.

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61. Sneak Preview

Just got back from England. It was awesome! Laughed and ate a lot. I will sort the photos and start writing soon. Here’s a little preview.

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Not so long ago I was in London, knowing Dinner just opened and Heston would be in the restaurant to make sure everything ran smoothly. One morning I decide to go to Knightsbridge, walk into the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, hoping I can talk to the man himself. At the entrance one of the waitresses intercepts me and I tell her about my business: a little bit about the blog, I’m there to discuss something with Heston and if it would be possible to meet him. Taking my message into the restaurant she comes back after 20 minutes saying Heston is very busy and I can only talk Ashley Palmer-Watts. No problem, at least it’s a way in and who knows, maybe I can manoeuvre myself into a meeting with Mr. Blumenthal.

After a good 40 minutes the same waitress returns with the message Ashley is too busy and I have to leave a cart behind with my contact info and a brief explanation who I am. Not going into specifics before, I write down I’m not a crazed fan, just a regular Joe with a food blog, cooking dishes from the Big Fat Duck Cookbook, who would like to have a talk with Ashley and Heston.

The next morning I still haven’t heard anything. I check my voice-mail, my e-mail, no messages. Honestly, feeling a bit pissed, I say fuck it and decide to make the most of the day in London. After a few hours I realise they may have send an e-mail after I checked in the morning, so somewhere in Notting Hill I go to a shopping centre where I pay 2 pounds for 30 minutes of internet access. I dial in the code. I wait for the welcome screen to load. It doesn’t work. Trying different combinations, asking people around me, nothing is getting the computer to work. Again I say fuck it (stupid!) and head out to the streets before ending up back at the B&B some time later.

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