Heston Blumenthal has announced plans to launch a unique online reservation "experience" for his Fat Duck in Bray, giving prospective diners an exclusive animated tour of the celebrated menu.
On booking a table, diners will be sent an invitation ahead of their visit, to enter a secret location to view the animated world of the three-Michelin-starred restaurant's menu. The tour culminates in a trip to a make-believe sweetshop, with actor John Hurt as narrator and shopkeeper.
"The Fat Duck is the type of restaurant you may only ever eat in once and I wanted to create that almost childlike feeling of anticipation beforehand," explains Blumenthal.
"In order to achieve this, I needed to push the dining experience beyond the traditional time we spend inside the restaurant at the table. If I could use a metaphor to explain the feeling I hoped to create for my guests, it would be 'like a kid in a sweetshop,' so with that in mind an idea started to develop."
The concept, which has been in development for a number of years, aims to counterbalance the busy reservation process: the Fat Duck can accommodate 42 guests at 15 tables yet receives more than 30,000 calls a day.
Bookings can be made online or by phone and are available three months advance, but the new reservation process is designed to make the fun start immediately.
Blumenthal worked with Manchester-based creative studio the Neighbourhood and sonic branding house Zelig Sound to create an Alice in Wonderland fantasy animation world, which is described as reminiscent of falling down the rabbit hole.
Guests will receive an email around a month ahead of their scheduled visit offering access to the animation, and the link will allow a maximum of four visits.
Here's an example of the animations and intro: