The Fat Duck ballot: I got a reservation – now what?

By
Hannah Koelmeyer
Added
18 November, 2014

The ballot for the 6-month Melbourne residency for Heston Blumenthal’s Fat Duck has been drawn. Cooked editor Hannah Koelmeyer was lucky to win a reservation – but she’s not sure whether she should take it.

‘You have a reservation at The Fat Duck Melbourne.’ I was one of just 14,000 out of 89,179 hopefuls to see this in my inbox last Monday.

Heston

Heston Blumenthal announced in March that he would be relocating the Fat Duck and its entire staff to Melbourne while the Bray site undergoes renovations. In what may well be the world’s most hyped and highly-anticipated pop-up, the three Michelin star-restaurant will hold court at Crown for six months before making way for the more permanent Dinner by Heston.

Due to the limited places (the restaurant seats fewer than 50) and the profusion of interest (at one point the Fat Duck in Bray was receiving more than 30,000 phone calls a day from prospective diners trying to wrangle a booking) reservations were doled out through a ballot system which was drawn last Monday.

After the initial elation of winning wore off, cold, hard, fiscal reality set in.

The fact that I work in food media may inadvertently lend some credence to the current outcry of the ballot being rigged favouring VIPs and shunning “regular people”, so I will state that the ballot win was actually my boyfriend’s (who works in IT and isn’t exactly rolling in Silicon-Valley billions), and that my own ballot entry was unsuccessful (don’t they know who I am?).

After the initial elation of winning wore off, cold, hard, fiscal reality set in. The email informed us that someone would call us in the next 4 weeks to confirm our booking and arrange payment of $525 per person. Our booking is for a table of six, so that’s a whopping $3150 hit. (I’m still not certain we have a credit card between us with a limit that high.)

Most of the friends we had discussed sharing a table with quickly stated that they were out (we always assumed it would be a long shot), and I’m on the fence. My boyfriend is the only one of our group still completely committed to the idea, and I’m having trouble justifying the expense. The $525 is for food only so matched wines will jack up the cost significantly (and if I’m spending that kind of money on a dining experience, I’m not going to do it unless I’m going all in).

Someone would call us to arrange payment of $525 per person. Our booking is for a table of six, so that’s a whopping $3150 hit.

Once you’ve paid for your reservation, the Fat Duck does allow for cancellation with a refund up to 14 days before the date of your booking (but cancellation after this point will see you waving goodbye to your dollars).

My inner rationalist has become agitated: that amount of cash gets me a good way towards an overseas holiday or cover plenty of other more ‘responsible’ expenses. Is blowing a not-insignificant percentage of my monthly salary on one meal complete madness?

I know that’s not the way to approach high-end dining, especially the type of experience that Heston and his team are offering. And I certainly don’t think that the prices are unduly inflated – the overheads in a restaurant like the Fat Duck must be astronomical. But it is a level of expense so far outside of my personal budget that I wouldn’t normally dream of considering it, were it not presented as such a limited opportunity.

Am I just being sucked in by a perfectly-engineered FOMO generator?

Is this a once-in-a-lifetime chance to experience the work of one of the world’s most innovative and inventive chefs that I’d be insane to turn down, or am I just being sucked in by a perfectly-engineered FOMO generator?

I still can’t decide. Does anyone have a spare 500 bucks?

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