The fat duck. Try saying it when you're drunk, though preferably not to me.

 

Of course it's a restaurant, not an insult. A cutesy, olde worlde picture postcard kind of a place tucked away on Bray's pretty main street, a short Alfa Romeo hop away from London. It's so perfect that you feel they must employ kitsch police to move along townies such as ourselves, lest our grey city skin and whey faced, drones-at-desk look should bring down the chocolate-box tone of the scene.

 

Inside the restaurant, however, it's just London away-day land. Mobile phones at every table and loud men talking about their bore.com shares. My own mobile phone is mostly for show and the occasional lie (I'm coming home in a taxi now) but just as I was sneering at the number of people surgically attached to their very small antennae, it actually rang. Oh goodness, how very important I am, I thought. A family crisis - one of the kids wondering where we kept the whisky. For the baby-sitter, she said.

 

Happily, the interior is comfortable and unpretentious. The ceilings are low with head-clunking Cadbury's flake beams and the dirty cream walls are hung with table-sized mirrors that I was glad not to be sitting next to. Really, no woman passing through childbearing age should own a mirror that won't fit into her handbag. Full length versions are like nasty traffic accidents. You don't want to look but you just can't help it.

 

The food here is not the for the faint-hearted. Be prepared to be challenged. Each dish yields a fairly preposterous list of ingredients - all solemnly described by a knowledgeable waiter whose serious demeanor would make him an equally good undertaker. The menu reads like a stud book, or a Debrette's peerage of food. It's almost a parody of its own inventiveness - Veloute of celeriac and tapioca, cabbage stuffed with pig's cheeks and choucroute, or Veal sweetbread roast in salt crust with hay, confit parsnips, cockles a la planca, lettuce and truffle cream.

 

But, actually, it doesn't matter a damn. You can take chef Heston Blumenthal's elaborate food on any level you choose. Though a bit on the far-side of fussy - it's simply beautifully cooked edible entertainment - and definitely worth the walk from the car park. If you just can't face making a roast pig's ear reduction of yourself - fear not - everything arrives looking fairly normal.

 

Parker, my chauffeur for the evening, started with Crab feuillantine with foie gras, marinated seaweed and oyster vinaigrette. The many different flavours and textures seemed like an exercise in multi faith bigamy but married harmoniously on the plate.

 

I had lasagne of langoustine with pigs trotter and truffles which thankfully arrived without the air of savage reality I was fearing. It was a voluptuous tortellini stuffed with big chunks of langoustine and other completely unidentifiable yet sublimely delicious thingies.

 

Our exceptional waiter explained every dish in patient detail. Sadly, it was like O level chemistry - in one ear and out the other. I just wanted to eat it not learn it off by heart. Maybe they should have performance notes to read along with the meal, or to study later on a slow night, when it's ER and beans on toast.

 

Next we had cuttlefish cannelloni, made very painstakingly from tenderised, thinly sliced cuttlefish, stuffed with duck and maple syrup and served with a grassy parsnip broth. Also, a roast scallop of the Botero family with a fudgy caramelised cauliflower puree.

 

Then Parker had an amazing plate resembling something Jean Paul Gaultier might have made for Madonna - red mullet with two red pointy things sporting lewd frills round the top - Piquillos peppers stuffed with a brandade of salty salt cod.

 

I had pigeon with, god help me, chocolate. Well I had to. I just couldn't go to my grave without knowing how chocolate and cherries went with pigeon. I grow older and wiser. It wasn't for me. If you cut out the curl of milk chocolate laying across the pigeon breast, the individual flavours were interesting, but as a taste - like life insurance and a respectable credit rating - something I have yet to acquire.

 

Pudding was a triumph of will power over waistband. A tart tatin made with caramelised bread dough served with fragrant vanilla ice cream. A few bites each were all we could manage. Great coffee and gorgeous petit fours - amongst others, carrot jellies and a chocolate ganache flavoured with cigar infused milk. Strangerer and strangerer.

 

By eleven the restaurant was empty - the country locals tucked up in bed in preparation for their early morning commuter run. Time for Parker to take the wheel and drive M'lady back to London in style.

 

Now, to me a car - even an Alfa Romeo - is little more than a handbag on wheels. But I do admit to a stereotypical thrill when old Parker put his foot hard on the accelerator. Mrs Parker should watch out. He is a very nifty driver - and unfortunately, I'm no lady.

 

Signature dish: Crab feuillantine with foie gras, marinated seaweed and oyster vinaigrette - phew.