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Jul 16, 2010 07:24 AM

How can I score a Fat Duck reservation?

Going to be in London (from the US) in late September and we really want to get a reservation at The Fat Duck. I know they open their books 60 days prior so I already know the day I need to call and their website says the phone lines open at 10AM (which will be 5AM for the US East Coast). But does anyone know if they "really" open the phone at 9:55 or 10:05, you know what I mean, if I call at 10:00 will I be too late or knocked out because I'm calling too early? If anyone knows any tricks to get I'd really appreciate it.

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  1. No tricks available.

    They don't answer before 10. Ring. It'll be engaged. Ring again. It'll still be engaged. Repeat process until it rings. They will then answer - but it''ll take ages for them to do so and you'll start to think you are being ignored. Once you are speaking to a real person, they will be as helpful as possible but the odds are that they will then already be fully booked.

    I can only suggest that them having said they are booked for the day you want, you ask if they have a slot the following day. This may work better if the 2 calendar months hence happened to fall on a day when they were closed. Worked for us - it would have been nice to have been there actually on my 60th birthday but we'll be there 3 days after, which is close enough.

    It actually took us 2 days to get through. On Day 1, it had been constantly engaged for about 2 hours and we had to give up as we had other things to do. Day 2 took about another 45 minutes before they answered.

    10 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Thank you so much for the info. I fear we won't be able to get a reservation because 45-60 minutes on hold for an international call would be a bit restrictive.

      1. re: Spiritchaser

        I had a slightly different experience, two of us calling independently, we actually ended up with two tables, I had to call back (constantly engaged) to cancel one! Just keep trying!

        Have you not got a uk friend who can sit on the phone for you?

        1. re: stanleyk

          The people I know are via work and they would be at work at that time. We are still going to try because like they say, "nothing ventured..."

        2. re: Spiritchaser

          Bear in mind that lunch will be easier than dinner and, according to the website, you can reserve online for lunch (although only from a week after phone bookings open).

          I'm looking forward to our trip - although glad this a birthday present rather than me paying. I doubt whether I could really justify the drive there and back, the overnight hotel and the £150 a head.

          Good luck with your phoning.

          1. re: Harters

            My plan is to first try for a dinner rez on the day we want, if that doesn't work we will try for dinner 2 days later when books open for a Saturday night (yeah, good luck with that), and if neither of those pan out we try for a Sunday lunch. I'll report back in a couple weeks reagrdless of how it turns out. Thaks for the input everyone.

            1. re: Harters

              Where will you be staying overnight? That area was my stomping ground when I was darn sarf.

              1. re: mr_gimlet

                Maidenhead. Not sure of the name of the hotel - somewhere fairly decent that Mrs H found on TripAdvisor.

            2. re: Spiritchaser

              Harters is right, you need to ring at exactly 10:00 and keep re-dialling until they answer. We had a number of phones on speed dial going simultaneously - it worked, one got through. You are not "on hold" the phone is simply engaged i.e. you can't get through. I thought if it was engaged you don't get charged?

              John - best wishes for the 60th, I am certain you will like the FD after all you enjoyed Fraiche.

              1. re: PhilD

                I'm sure I will, Phil. When I was muttering about the cost, Mrs H said something along the lines of "Call ourselves foodies. Where else we going to go". Of course, she was blunter than that - but she's from Salford.

            3. re: Harters

              do they not have "ring back" oop north? if i dial a number and its busy, kindly bt offers to call me back when the line is free.

            4. Just a quick update for anyone that cares to know. I managed a reservation! So freakin' excited about this.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Spiritchaser


                We'll be there Thursday. Can't recall when I was last so excited about the prospect of dinner.

              2. Its a really poor and unfair system im afraid but unfortunately there seems to be only one way to get in.I tried to book 3 days too early and was told to phone back at 10 am on the monday , exactly 2 calender months before i wanted to eat.
                I tried at 9.50 .....answer machine
                i tried at 9.55......answer machine
                i tried at 10.00....all lines engaged , so i hung up and went on continuous redial for 45 minutes before i got an answer , my fingers were sore by then.
                15 minutes on hold listening to Alice in wonderland and only then i got through to a real person..........AND GOT THE LAST TABLE FOR 2.
                Good luck.

                14 Replies
                1. re: sped98

                  It's your basic supply & demand, Alan.

                  Priced at £150 a throw (which has gotta be more like £200 after drinks & tip), punters like you, me and Spritchaser are still prepared to cough up. Fair or unfair system, if I was Mr B, I wouldnt be giving a shit, either :-O

                  1. re: Harters

                    good luck with your trip - don't eat in Maidenhead (I say this having lived there, there is nothing, nada, natch) and if you need food go to the Royal Oak in Paley Street (5 mins drive)

                    1. re: mr_gimlet

                      No plans to, Mr G.

                      Motorway butty on the way down. Decent lunch on the way back - I travel the M40 a couple of times a year and have a list of pubs just off the junctions, particularly in Warwickshire.

                      Had been toying with the Hand & Flowers @ Marlow, for a bit of Michelin pubbery, but am leaving that for another time.

                      1. re: Harters

                        It has good and bad days. And inflated prices just because of location.

                  2. re: sped98

                    Think that is tricky - try booking "the" table for six.

                    1. re: PhilD

                      I know of a couple who recently walked into the FD at 1pm on a Saturday, on the off chance of a reservation. Someone had just cancelled, and they got seated immediately. Ditto another friend at Royal Hospital Road for a Friday night dinner. They both said that by then it was too late to call standbys, so there were free tables. If you are travelling for a special occasion, then obviously this isn't possible, but in a throw-caution-to-the-wind moment, quite fun (and decadent).

                    2. re: sped98

                      How is that unfair? Everyone has exactly the same situation to deal with which makes it completely fair, in my view. I'm not sure what they could do differently really. It's certainly a lot more transparent than the El Bulli system for instance.

                      1. re: timmy_s

                        a lot more transparent than the El Bulli system

                        What is the El Bulli system??? outta interest!

                        1. re: thefatpostman

                          It is on the Spanish board, and El Bulli is already fully booked for '011 which is the last year it will be open, I am afraid you missed the boat.

                            1. re: zuriga1

                              Better still there is the new "Dinner by Heston Blumenthal" at the Mandarin Oriental. It is open and has been running a soft opening for a few weeks now (surprised there are no reports on the board yet).

                              Looks like he is doing some of the dishes from his Feasts TV program rather than it being FD2. Reservations here:

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Phil, I'm not sure why, but I just can't get excited about the type of food that Blumenthal cooks... at Fat Duck or on his TV programmes. Maybe I am not adventurous enough or not that much of a foodie. However, I do appreciate his inventiveness. Maybe it's my age and all the years I had of eating wonderful food here or there... I just can't justify those prices at FD for what is 'food.'

                                His attempt to update and improve the Little Chef chain seemed to fall flat, and that was a shame. I wish him well with the new venture and am anxious to hear what people think.

                                Fat Duck
                                High St, Bray, Windsor and Maidenhead SL6 2, GB

                                1. re: zuriga1

                                  Well maybe Dinner will be more to your taste. The food appears much more traditional albeit with some twists. Have you read the menu or seen any of he reviews and photo's on blogs. Looks really good.

                                  1. re: PhilD

                                    I did read the Guardian review by Matthew Fort. He seemed very pleased with the food. The meat fruit did look fantastic! I'll do more reading.

                    3. I believe the Fat Duck is UK’s most frequently-reviewed restaurant out there. Additionally, the restaurant seems to serve the same dishes ‘forever’ (or at least 80% of them) regardless of the season. The often changed items are probably the main course and its desserts. Given this, I’m not sure how much fresh information or new insights I can add. What I’m about to write - it’s very likely has been written and discussed elsewhere. That being said, here was my lunch experience last month.

                      The Fat Duck’s popularity reached its peak in 2005 when it was selected as the world’s best restaurant by the Restaurant magazine. However, what lured me here was the fact that it’s a Michelin 3-star restaurant (I did not bother to visit Dinner by Heston although currently it ranked higher than the Fat Duck according to that same magazine); it gained its first star in ’99 and within 5 years, the Fat Duck was considered among Red guide book’s most elite dining place. I’ve heard how difficult it was to get a table here. So, I didn’t put that much hope. I asked my hotel’s concierge assistance to make a reservation, but at the back of my mind, I doubt they would put that much effort and it proved to be true (hey, it’s not the concierge of Japan’s hotels). Based on my Europe trip schedule, actually I only had one day in which my spouse and I could eat at the Fat Duck – our other days in London fell on Saturday afternoon, Sunday + Monday, the days where the restaurant was closed – yes, you could ‘judge’ that I did not make sufficient effort by sparing only one day in trying to dine at one of the most competitive tables in this planet. But the stars were aligned that after waiting 15 minutes for the online reservation to open (exactly 2 months before), somehow, I could secure a table for 2 at lunch. My struggle happened to be quite minimal, I suppose we’re lucky.

                      The restaurant was located in the peaceful village of Bray. Despite the cloudy and gloomy day, our mood was good as we’re about to spoil ourselves with a very promising lunch. Like a few other guests, we did not directly enter the restaurant; instead many of us were busy taking picture of the restaurant’s façade. After that we stepped in to the Fat Duck (finally) and were warmly greeted and escorted by the staff. We were seated at the table near the staircase – the table was big and could possibly seat 3-4 guests. The degustation menu consisted of 14 courses and it meant the dish’s portion would likely to be small (3-5 bytes per course). The long menu could be tricky since it’s very difficult to serve excellent 10+ dishes all the time, but should the kitchen screw up early, they got plenty of courses to redeem themselves. Let’s dive into the menu …

                      The food symphony at the Fat Duck began with 3 small dishes at the 8’s level (out of 10)
                      -beetroot and horseradish cream (8.5): soft & airy with crispy shell, having sweet and earthy flavor. A good start
                      -the nitro poached aperitif (7.8): a good show and my wife loved it. Marc Veyrat spoiled it; the chef in a black hat prepared something similar with better and more interesting flavors 6 years ago in Annecy – so this was not too impressive
                      -cabbage gazpacho with mustard ice cream (8.2): making good cold soup was never easy and this one was refreshing
                      Then the kitchen up its game by delivering 3 consecutive high quality dishes. They’re supposedly among the restaurant’s famous classics
                      -quail jelly and crayfish cream with chicken liver (9.5): the cream & liver were smooth and intense, every layer was consistent and delicious - a high level French cuisine prepared near perfection. There was also a crisp truffle toast and the thin strip with oak flavor (decent)
                      -snail porridge (9.2): possibly Heston’s most well-known dish and it lived up to expectation. All elements were in balanced creating a delicious porridge with a right texture
                      -roast foie gras (9): the liver was creamy and rich, combined with some unusual side dishes (barberry, kombu and crab biscuit) that happened to work well together

                      We’re very pleased with the proggressed thus far. After that ... come probably the lowest points of this beautiful tasting menu at level 7 or below
                      -mad hatter’s tea (6.7): I enjoyed the theater but was not impressed with the dish’s subtances. The broth and its contents plus the sandwich were average
                      -sound of the sea (7.3): again, a nice show and quite liked the music. The food was the ‘problem’ – the edible sand and the foam had some Ok flavor. The raw fishes/seafood were not bad, but I’ve tasted better preparation & flavor of octopus, mackerel, & yellow tail in Japan
                      Sometimes the new high does not come until very low points. The next 2 dishes were kinds of stuffs that makes the idea of travelling far and “broke the bank” for food were worth the time & effort
                      -salmon in liquorice gel (9.7): I often think any elite fine dining/sushi-ya serving salmon was ‘cheap’ and I could not be more wrong this time. It was a masterpiece; perfectly poached buttery salmon was enhanced by the gel, trout roe, vanilla mayo etc.
                      -venison with truffled spelt (9.8): if there’s such thing to be close to perfection, one of them was definitely the Fat Duck’s umble pie. The deer was moist and delicious; even better was the spelt ‘risotto’ with some deer cube inside – exceptional in both taste and aroma

                      The ‘orchestra’ ended with similar notes as the beginning. I was not blown away by any of the pre-dessert, dessert and mignardises. A couple of them were meticulously prepared with beautiful presentation.
                      -hot & iced tea (8): fun and pleasant “two-face” tea
                      -egg in verjus and vice versa (8.4): a nice play of flavors – sweet, bitter and sour
                      -botrytis cinerea(8.1): wine grapes in different shapes and colors with decent flavor
                      -whiskey gums (7.9): cool presentation with distinct flavors
                      -sweet shop bag (7.6): very sweet’ mignardises’
                      My food description has been quite brief and if you want to know in greater details, you’re welcome to see them at the longer review (see the link below)

                      What a fun and memorable gastronomy adventure. The food has been fantastic overall (97 pts in my note) and it fully deserved the Michelin guide’s highest honor. My impression that UK has no great restaurant has been dismissed by this meal. The restaurant was full as expected and the guests were quite diverse. There were a couple flying from Germany next to us and 2 (unrelated) groups of Indian families/relatives occupying the restaurant’s biggest tables. The service was relaxed and impeccable, but not personal; the staffs surely were in the top of their games – always ready to re-fill our drinks, answer any questions about the dishes and fold napkins whenever we left the table. The “worst” part of this meal was probably the restaurant’s decor. Excluding Japan’s kappo kaiseki and sushi places, as far as I remember, the Fat Duck has the simplest/humblest ambiance with relatively low ceiling. Thus, the upcoming renovation for the building is surely a wise thing to do. I would love to return here again but the staff informed me that the restaurant did not usually change the menu; this can be a challenge since when I re-visit a restaurant, I would love to eat new dishes – about half of them ideally. However, if any gourmand has not visited here, I really recommend it. Heston is truly the chef who knows how to cook both ‘molecular’, modern and old school stuffs well and most of the times they’re delicious. The other chef I know who would come close to do what Chef Blumenthal’s doing was Alinea’s Grant Achatz

                      More detailed reviews: http://zhangyuqisfoodjourneys.blogspo...

                      8 Replies
                        1. re: zuriga1

                          Yes, and I thought it's quite ordinary
                          A solid 1-star place in London, better than its peer at the same level; about equal level with 1-star restaurant in Paris/Tokyo
                          However, it's definitely not a 2-star quality yet

                          The bread was good, maybe the best in London; the meat dishes were solid - that's about it. The scallop was not worth an additional GBP 10, and even the famous liquid parmesan ravioli was kinda average
                          Mikael worked very hard on the night we ate; he's hands on pretty much the whole time

                          1. re: Bu Pun Su

                            You have very high standards Bu Pun Su, but that's OK. I thought the meal at Hedone was more than just ordinary, but maybe you don't eat, 'ordinary,' all that often. Not many chefs go to France to learn how to make that bread, and it is very, very good indeed. I had never had a liquid parmesan ravioli before, and I didn't think it was average at all, but that's what makes horse races.

                            1. re: zuriga1

                              Many things are perhaps relatives
                              My meal at Hedone would've been better had I had them before 2008 when my gastronomy experience was still limited. Also, I had lunch at the Fat Duck in the same day of my late dinner at Hedone - so it's like "heaven and earth" comparison. But, Heston has been cooking at high levels for more than a decade and Hedone's is still at an "infant stage"

                              Again, the bread, by the standard that London offers, is probably up there. But then, it's for sure (at least for me) not better than the bread at l'Arpege and Le Louis XV. Actually, Robuchon's fine dining places in Tokyo and Singapore have good bread quality and selection

                            2. re: Bu Pun Su

                              I suspect there needs to be cross over point between personal taste and objective criticism and that objectivity becomes vital in such forensic reviews, Tricky to achieve for even the best professionals.

                              1. re: PhilD

                                Well said. My budget is not such that I consider 1* restaurants ordinary; ordinary is my local cafe. And the higher you go, the more personal it becomes - I don't think 3* restaurants can be compared with each other as they are unique expressions, and so I think it is unfair so somehow rate them against each other.

                                1. re: mr_gimlet

                                  Any comparison tends to be subjective
                                  There's hardly any right or wrong answer
                                  But based on my experience, it's kinda helpful when I read other people's reviews, preferences or comparisons. Some of them suit to my taste better and I might agree when they said "A" better than "B". This way I kinda know which place to visit though it's not always right like my case with Hedone

                                  Well, not sure if it's a right analogy
                                  If we see an academy award, they can decide what the best picture is or who the best actor & actress are despite the fact that the panels would compare movies with totally different genre and/or budget. Likewise, similar thing can be said about restaurants and their food I think

                                  1. re: Bu Pun Su

                                    I've always thought comparing food with another person is like comparing an artist's work with. We all bring our own palate to the table, and what works for one of us, doesn't necessarily taste or appeal to someone else.

                                    If only one critic or person doesn't like food somewhere and many others do, I usually go with the majority opinion.