British celebrity chef Heston Blumenthal will close the Fat Duck, his three-Michelin starred restaurant, at Christmas and move the entire operation to Melbourne for six months.
In a crowded press conference at Crown at Melbourne’s Southbank, the globally recognised chef announced he would bring his entire British staff and parts of Fat Duck to Crown Resorts in February 2015 while his Berkshire kitchen is being upgraded.
Blumenthal's first restaurant outside the United Kingdom has been two years in the planning. "I love Melbourne, I have been coming here for quite a long time, and one of my close mates, Neil Perry, has restaurants here. He also has restaurants in Sydney so it was always the question: Melbourne or Sydney?"
Melbourne triumphed for many reasons, not least because Blumenthal had developed a relationship with Crown over several visits.
Blumenthal, as widely known for his geeky edible science experiments as for his cooking, said he would bring the Fat Duck's tasting menu to Melbourne - including signature pieces such as snail porridge, the "sound of the sea" seafood dish, which is accompanied by an iPod inside a seashell playing seaside sound effects, and bacon and egg icecream.
"It's somewhere between 12 and 18 courses, it's four hours of eating and it's pure, total theatre - like falling down a rabbit hole into a wonderland."
The Fat Duck is an expensive restaurant, Blumenthal conceded. The Melbourne restaurant will seat 45 people and have a staff of around 70. "It's not designed to come to once a week or once a month. I'd say it was once a year, once every two years, or once in a lifetime."
When the Fat Duck returns to the UK next August, the Crown restaurant would become a version of Dinner by Heston Blumenthal, his two-Michelin-starred London restaurant that delves into British food history. "However, what I'd love to do is try and come up with dishes that have a historic Anglo-Australian angle and that's what we're going to start developing."
Four hours before the public announcement Blumenthal broke the news to his British staff that they, and the renowned menu, would relocate to Melbourne when the restaurant opens at the former Breezes at Crown Resorts in February 2015.
Blumenthal said his friend Eddie McGuire had introduced him to the Australian expression "all duck [or] no dinner". This move, he said, "is all duck and it's all dinner."
Bookings for the Fat Duck Melbourne will open in September.
At last year's The World’s 50 Best Restaurants awards, Fat Duck finished in 33rd spot while Dinner by Heston Blumenthal came in 7th.
Blumenthal's annoucement follows a similar one by Danish chef Rene Redzepi who revealed on Twitter yesterday that he would relocate Noma to Tokyo for two months next year.