The Fat Duck

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You wouldn’t expect one of the best restaurants in the world to be located in a small and unassuming village, let alone two restaurants. In fact, that is what you will find in the village of Bray — two of UK’s three Michelin star restaurants. The one I had always wanted to go to was Heston Blumenthal’s The Fat Duck. He also runs a one-star gastropub The Hind’s Head and a country pub The Crown, all within a stone’s throw away.

A visit to The Fat Duck isn’t just a meal but an experience. It started with a hard sought-after reservation four months before. A month’s worth of reservations are filled up within minutes of being released. A few weeks before our meal, we were asked to fill out a questionnaire which was then followed up by a phone call. The reason was to be revealed over the course of the meal.

The philosophy behind the restaurant is to recreate childhood memories and nostalgia through food. As such, the menu, or rather the itinerary as they call it, is structured around the chef’s childhood memories of going on a trip: first, waking up and having breakfast, going out to the sea and the woods, having a big dinner and then going off to sleep. Throughout the four hour journey, they included some touches that reflected our own personal memories.

The Day Before We Go: Are we nearly there yet?

 

A CHANGE-OF-AIR

Paloma, Campari soda, Pina Colada, Vodka Lime Sour - who will be the dragon?

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JUST THE TONIC WE NEED

Smoked cumin Royale, Jerusalem artichoke ice cream

Morning: Rise and shine, it’s breakfast time

 

EXCUSE ME, MY TEA SEEMS TO BE COLD…AND HOT.

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WHY DO I HAVE TO CHOOSE BETWEEN A VARIETY PACK AND A COOKED BREAKFAST?

Truffled egg mousse, jellied tomato consomme, bacon and toasted bread cream, cereals

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Mid-morning: First one to see the sea…

 

“SOUND of the SEA”

 
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“CAN I HAVE SOME MONEY FOR AN ICE CREAM?”

Waldorf salad “Rocket”.
Salmon, avocado and horseradish “Twister”.
Crab and passion fruit “99”.

 

THEN WE WENT ROCKPOOLING

Cornish crab, smoked caviar and golden trout roe, velour of white chocolate and sea vegetables

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Afternoon: If you go down to the woods today…

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DAMPING THROUGH THE BOROUGHGROVES…

Mushroom, beet and blackberry, scented with fig leaf, meadowsweet, melilot, oak moss and black truffle

 

…WE DISCOVERED THE MOCK TURTLE PICNIC

Mock turtle soup and egg, toast sandwich

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Evening: Are you ready for dinner?

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STARTER

 
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MAIN COURSE

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DESSERT

 
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DIGESTIF

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Bedtime: Off to the Land of Nod

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And then to dream…

 

COUNTING SHEEP

Malt, orange blossom, tonka, milk, meringue, crystallized white chocolate, pistachio

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LIKE A KID IN A SWEETSHOP

Oxchoc,
caramel in edible wrapper,
Queen of Hearts jam tart,
mandarin scented aerated chocolate

Montenegro

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Montenegro is definitely an up and coming destination. We see the country featured everywhere lately. The relatively new nation (it split from Serbia in 2006), is located in the Balkans along the Adriatic coast. We flew into Tivat, a small airport right in the Bay of Kotor, for a few days and drove around the southern region of the country.

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The Bay of Kotor

Along the Bay of Kotor are several old towns and villages. Herceg Novi sits at the entrance of the bay, not far from the southern end of Croatia. Perast is a very picturesque town with two small islands. The first is a natural island with a Benedictine Abbey from the 12th century. The other is the Lady of the Rocks, an Orthodox church built on a pile of rocks. We took a small boat trip out to the latter one. A little further in is Kotor with a well-preserved Stari Grad, or Old Town. We woke up early one morning to climb the fortress and city walls that overlook the rest of the town and bay. In contrast, Tivat is home to a marina full of shiny new yachts and Luscitica Bay is a new town being built as we speak to support the growing number of boats coming in.

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Lovcen Mountains

Not far from Kotor are the Lovćen mountains, which is where the country takes its name. From Kotor, narrow roads lead up the mountain, culminating in a series of a twenty-five serpentine switchbacks with amazing views of the bay. On the second highest peak is the Njegos Mausoleum, the highest mausoleum in the world. After entering the national park, we walked up 461 steps to visit the tomb of the famous Montengrin and take in views from the panorama. The road to Cetinje, the former capital, is a less harrowing experience and from there the road took us to Budva.

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Budva Coast

Like many of the other towns, Budva has a Stari Grad but it is mostly overlooked in favour of its beaches. Every square foot of sand was covered by people. We preferred the nearby island of Sveti Stefan instead. A small island that used to be a village for 400 people, the town was turned into a hotel in the 1960s until its decline as a result of the breakup of Yugoslavia. Since 2009, the hotel group Aman has restored the island into an exclusive property where the old houses are now individual suites and the market squares are restaurants. The only way to visit the island without staying overnight is to reserve one of ten spots in the twice daily tours. One of the best views of the island though is from above, up a steep road that eventually leads to the tiny and remote church of Sveti Sava.

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stay

Astoria Hotel Kotor: A boutique hotel in a former palace within the Old Town of Kotor.

Safari Part Two: Londolozi

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Londolozi Private Game Reserve was the second and final destination on our safari in South Africa. Our previous three days were spent at the Lion Sands River Lodge. It was a ten-minute flight from the Skukuza airport near Lion Sands to Londolozi’s private airstrip. The plane turned out to be a ten-seater that was only occupied by us and another passenger.

We stayed at Varty Camp, one of five lodges at Londolozi. The reserve is family-run and had a very different feel from the lodge we were at before. Dinners were held outside around a fire where we chatted with the other guests. One night our guide joined us for dinner and we got to know more about life in the bush.

Londolozi is known for its high number of leopard sightings. We only had a glimpse of a male leopard in the first half of the trip and were really hoping we would see more leopards here. Little did we know we would see a total of three leopard sightings over the next two days. We were also fortunate enough to catch a rare sighting of a cheetah one evening. All in all, we were very happy with our first safari and felt like we saw everything we wanted and more.

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Safari Part One: Lion Sands

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GREAT KRUGER

One of the best areas in South Africa for game viewing is within the Great Kruger, which consists of Kruger National Park and the private reserves neighbouring the park and the private concessions within it. The main difference between staying in the park and the private reserves or concessions is professional guides can go off-roading in the private reserves and concessions so that you are much closer to the animals. In addition, a limited number of vehicles are allowed in an area at any given time. In the park, you can self-drive but must remain in the vehicle and stay on the roads. To visit the private reserves and concessions you must stay in one of the lodges on the property. 

We decided to visit two private game reserves on our five day safari to ensure we had sufficient viewing opportunities and to also experience different areas and lodges. The first was the Lion Sands River Lodge in the Sabi Sand Reserve for three nights and then we finished with two nights at the Londolozi Varty Camp

Daily Programme

06:00 Wake-up call
06:30 Tea/coffee & game drive
09:30 Breakfast/brunch
~ Activities/Leisure
14:00 Lunch
15:00 Afternoon tea
15:30 Game drive
19:00 Dinner

As this was our first time doing a safari we weren't sure what to expect. We were assigned a guide and tracker for our entire stay who would take us on game drives in an open-top Land Rover. The game viewing at these reserves is amazing. We saw all of the big five (elephant, leopard, lion, rhino and water buffalo) multiple times, as well as many others during our five days there. It was interesting to see the guide and tracker track down the animals and we learned a lot about the wildlife and plant life. 

WHEN TO GO

We went during winter which is a great time to go for a safari. Winter is drier so the bush is less dense which makes it easier to see the game. It is also not as hot during the day although it can get chilly in the early morning and late afternoon drives. This wasn’t a problem however as the vehicles had blankets and hot water bottles ready to keep us warm. 

LION SANDS 

The Lion Sands Game Reserve has four safari lodges; two in Kruger National Park and two in Sabi Sand Game Reserve. The lodges have exclusive traversing rights on all the properties. We stayed at the Lions Sands River Lodge, which is located on the banks of the Sabie River. One night was spent at one of the treehouses in a remote area of the reserve. We were given a radio and a mobile phone and left on our own for the night. A generous dinner was packed in a picnic basket along with champagne and wine. We fell asleep under the stars with nothing around us except for the wildlife below.

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Babylonstoren

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Located outside of Paarl in the Cape Winelands, Babylonstoren is a historic Cape Dutch farm dating back to the 17th century. The property is massive and we were overwhelmed with all that it had to offer. 

First and foremost are the gardens. There are over 200 hectares of fruits, vegetables, citrus trees, flowers, poultry, bee hives and herbs for every ailment imaginable. Garden tours are available daily and as guests we were also allowed to wander at our own leisure. 

Then there's the food. Their signature restaurant Babel is housed in an old cow shed and also serves a beautiful breakfast spread. The food is picked fresh from the gardens every day, cheese is made in the Cheese Room and fresh bread from their own wheat is baked in the Bakery. Their other restaurant Greenhouse shares the same food philosophy with lighter fare in a picnic-style. And of course there's wine. We did a tour of the cellar and finished with wine tastings of their Chenin Blanc, Babel Red, Shiraz, Candide and Viognier in the new Tasting Room. 

The best part was being able to stay at the Farm Hotel. Former worker quarters have been transformed into large guest cottages while retaining the Cape Dutch architecture. There is even an outdoor swimming pool and spa. You can take one of the bikes around the farm or row in one of the canoes at the dam. At sunset, a hike up the small hill or koppie across the farm gives amazing views of surrounding mountains and vineyards. 

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