Friday, 19 December 2014

Midsummer House, Cambridge

We visited Cambridge on a bitterly cold day a couple of weeks ago and had a few hours to wander around the numerous Colleges and attractive buildings. The main reason for the long journey from the North West was for the first leg of Mrs Nom’s birthday weekend, beginning with a visit to the critically acclaimed Midsummer House, a 2 Michelin starred restaurant run by Chef Daniel Clifford, a regular on TV food shows such as Great British Menu. Midsummer House is located in a standalone building next to the River Cam on Midsummer Common.
My mood was nearly ruined as I discovered a parking ticket had been issued when I returned to the car to top up before the meal. However the residents parking only sign was obscured by bushes and a subsequent appeal was successful, which was a first for me. As a word of warning for anyone visiting and parking on Aylestone Road in the future, beware as the same stretch of road has pay and display on one side but residents permit only on the other and it’s not very clear for visitors!

A choice of 5, 7 and 10 course menus are offered during lunch service and as if reading our minds when we ordered the 10 course the charming maitre’d asked Mrs Nom if she was sure. We had been pondering but out of the earshot of staff whether we could choose different menus but most places tend to be pretty adamant that the same menu is to be served to all guests at the same table. Without hesitation the full 10 course was offered for me and 7 for Mrs Nom and the maitre’d said it was not a problem and would even tell Chef we were two tables of one otherwise!

All of the courses from the 7 were on the 10 course menu and Mrs Nom welcomed the break in between as I had the additional courses. The meal began with a medley of amuse bouches and canapés, beginning with a bloody mary and celery sorbet followed by chicken liver parfait and red apple roll, mackerel wafers, sour cream with chives & lime gel and a decadent truffle cheese éclair.
The first course was an attractive ring of smoked haddock and pickled onion with the centre filled with a grilled cheese foam at the table.
The next course of beetroot baked on open coals, quinoa, frozen goat’s cheese & mizuna was theatrical and prepared at the table. Interesting textures from the frozen but light goat’s cheese with the hot soft beetroot.
Suckling pig, turnip, buttermilk, Iberico ham, one of the highlights of the meal for me.
Roasted sea scallop, tartare, Jerusalem artichoke, black truffle. A selection of impressive truffles were paraded at the table before being shaved onto the dish.
Roast quail, shallot purée, grapes, celery and sour dough. Served in three parts with a quail’s egg, quail breast and on toast.
Roast monkfish, salsify, bacon, cabbage and mustard.
Slow roast venison, Swiss chard, sloe berry and blue cheese. The sloe berry and blue cheese worked well with the venison deep in flavour from the slow roasting.
Pousse café – Jack Daniels cream, chives, pasteurised egg yolk and maple syrup. An unusual but interestingly layered shot.
Lemon posset, blueberries, lemon espuma.
Passion fruit, yoghurt & dark chocolate, very rich but balanced up by the tart passion fruit.
Butter pastries with apple brandy crème anglais and caramel sauce. As if we needed more after the desserts the pastries were surprisingly light.
The consistency of the dishes was incredible, judged by the fact that our 10 and 7 course menus had different running orders and as I had dishes Mrs Nom had enjoyed prior to me were exactly the same despite the multiple components, the quail dish being the prime example. Although expected of course from a 2 star restaurant. Each of the courses was enjoyable and the journey through them all was very memorable. At £105 for the full 10 course menu it is not excessively priced for the quality.
Daniel Clifford is a very hands on chef and we noticed when he walked past a couple of times to another kitchen or storage area in the garden separate from the main kitchen. Midsummer House is a special restaurant delivering top class food in a beautiful city.

Midsummer House on Urbanspoon

Thursday, 18 December 2014

Eleven Madison Park, New York

The last night of our trip to the Big Apple was spent at Eleven Madison Park which holds 3 Michelin stars and is rated the 4th best restaurant in the world by San Pellegrino.

We arrived early and were led to the bar to enjoy some cocktails as the team briefing with a huge brigade was held on the dining floor. The restaurant is set in an impressive art deco building with a high gold leaf ceiling.
A long tasting menu at $225 per head is served for lunch and dinner service alongside a limited menu in the bar area. The meal began with a small envelope containing a card with four choices, coffee, celery, cherry and strawberry. We were asked to pick one each and the choice would feature in some of the dishes during our meal, we chose cherry and strawberry. Our meal consisted of the following dishes:

Cheddar – savoury black and white cookie with apple.
Oyster – baked potato ice cream and caviar.
Melon – salad with cucumber and lemon verbena.
Tomato – two parts, first with tea and thyme and second as a salad with lobster & garlic. The second part of the tomato with lobster was a knockout, simple but one of the dishes of the year.
Beef – pastrami with peppers, rye, mustard and cherry/strawberry soda. A story accompanied this dish and it paid homage to the deli’s of New York. 
Foie gras – seared with chanterelles and plums.
Apple – Waldorf salad with celery, walnuts and grapes. This was prepared at the table alongside a story of the history of the Waldorf salad. By this point Mrs Nom was rather merry and commented that the apples were extremely shiny, they were normal. This course I felt was a bit gimmicky and normal compared to what came before but the interaction was welcomed.
Halibut – slow roasted with pickled daikon and radishes.
Sunflower – braised with sunchokes and sunflower seeds.
Duck – roasted with peaches and fennel. A whole roasted duck with lavender was presented to us at the table before carving for serving. Another star dish.
Fresh cheese – pretzel, parsley and tomolives. A DIY course presented in a picnic basket with a bottle of brown ale.
Whey – sorbet with caramelised milk and milk foam.
Almond – baked Alaska with rum, caramel and cherry/strawberry. This was set alight at the table and was the pick of the dessert courses.
Pretzel - chocolate covered with sea salt.
Chocolate – sweet black and white cookie with raspberry ganache – aesthetically the same as the first cookie but a sweet version.

We were left with a bottle of apple brandy to end the meal and told to drink as much as we wanted. Prior to the meal we were discussing how much we could drink, in the end I struggled with one small glass due to its strength!
The standout courses were the lobster filled tomato, roasted duck and baked Alaska. Some weaker courses including the Waldorf salad and the picnic but with any extended tasting meal not all dishes will be equally enjoyed by everyone but the quality of the ingredients and cooking was first class.

Service was slick with well-versed staff as expected in a 3 star establishment. There was a lot of interaction and conversation which was probably led from the top as Chef Proprietor Daniel Humm made his way around the tables conversing with diners. He even gave us some recommendations for lunch the next day. 

Eleven Madison Park on Urbanspoon