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After our recent visit to London, I decided that on the way home, instead of risking life and limb on the M1 and M6, we would instead risk it on the M11 and stop off in Cambridge for a bite of lunch.

The last time we were in Cambridge was to eat at double Michelin starred Midsummer House. What attracted us this time was the fact that one of their previous head chefs of two years Mark Poynton was heading up the kitchens here. Mark was at Midsummer for seven years in total. Before that he worked for Michelin starred Paul Kitching at Juniper. He joined Alimentum just over two years ago and I have been meaning to dine here since then.

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The restaurant is located at the southern end of the city in an area dominated by new build. The modern theme is carried on throughout the restaurant with bold colours to the fore.

Sunday opening is a new feature and surprisingly all menus are on offer, embracing a la carte, tasting, and an excellent value two or three course option.

We opted for the carte.

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We were offered an amuse of Butternut squash, ceps and chestnut.

Bread was, I assume home made, warm and a choice of multigrain or sage and onion.

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The menu is short and to the point with a choice of five starters, five mains, four desserts and a cheese course. Its fairly priced at £30 for two courses, or £40 for three. Although having said that a dessert at £10 to me seems overpriced, but thats just me I suppose.

My starter was Quail which is a favorite of mine. This also featured on the tasting menu, " A Taste of Alimentum " a seven course extravaganza for £60.

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The Quail was beautifully succulent, a nice eat which married especially well with the sweetcorn puree. The popcorn prettified the dish and added bite although popcorn being popcorn it is inconsistant of bite and I found this slightly distracting. The sweetcorn ice cream was interesting to say the least. All in all though not a bad dish.

The other starter was listed as Wood Pigeon, breast, creamed liver, cep marmalade, seeds.

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This reminded me of a similar Jason Atherton dish that we ate not so very long ago. Both resulted in a clean plate.

A surprise mid course arrived at the table, a dish from the extremely high value set lunch option ( 2 courses £15.50, 3 for £19.50 )

As sea fresh a piece of fish that you could wish for, the Sesame crusted Sea Bass was bursting with flavour. The sesame seeds apart from adding texture imparted a rich nutty hint. The chick pea ragout added sweetness and extra bite. The anchovy a burst of briney lift. The dressing at the base of the dish is yogurt and anchovy.

A very nice eat indeed, and enough reason to seek out that bargain menu.

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Main course proper next, and and another dish which featured on the tasting menu, Loin of Venison with juniper. In honesty I did not get the juniper, but I'm not a chef or have a chefs palette.

As you would expect from loin and dining at this level a wonderful piece of meat, full flavoured. We both loved the potato terrine with its slender slivers and deep rich buttery taste.

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My main course next,Duck, breast and presse, maple, turnip..

Perfectly cooked duck, sweet, good flavour, visually tempting. Whats not to like?

We both enjoyed the crunchy cubed polenta, which looking at them, I intially thought may have been swede, given that we also had baby turnips in the dish.

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Dessert next, and my wife generally skips desserts but in the interest of research I normally choose two in any event.

Nothing to do with the pricing mentioned above. We both had eaten a large amount of food the day before including a tasting menu, so we were happy just to share one.

I asked our waitress to ask the kitchen to send out their best dessert. This resulted in me getting a bollocking off my wife because she would not have chosen the Chocolate brownie, mousse and blood orange. She has strong feelings when it comes to desserts, preferring mainly to linger in savoury mode. Whilst I look forward to the sugar hit.

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We both enjoyed Alimentum and would return to give all of the menus a good bashing.

The pricing is fair, and that cheap set priced option is an absolute steal. It seemed to be a good idea to open on a Sunday as on our lunchtime visit the place filled up fairly quickly.

Although we don't know Cambridge we think that this place is the next best option to Midsummer House for quality food at quite a lot less money.

Two two course a la carte @ £30, one dessert @ £10, bottle of Chilean carminere, one StreetSmart, Finest Cambridgeshire tap water., no coffees etc, dreaded discretionary 12.5% service charge, £105.75.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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That skinless fatless duck breast looks like the worst example of sous vide in action. Did it really taste any good?

maybe you should try it for your self before passing judgement?

and thank you for coming David nice pictures what do use to take them? hope to see you both again soon

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Is this going to be another example of a chef from a restaurant dipping into forums/ consumer websites when a comment dares to question his or her food? Respectfully, I suggest that it does you no favours. Nor, I suggest, does chiming in with thank yous to a reviewer to whom you have sent freebie courses. Others may disagree. Others may think it is I who is speaking out of turn. That is fine - their opinion of my personality will not impact whether or not they come to my restaurant.

I have had my fair share of sous vide meat that looks exactly like the duck shown in David's photos. Almost invariably, I have wished the meat was cooked differently. Particularly where that meat would normally have a prized layer of skin and fat sitting on top. They become grey, joyless pieces of protein.

If you read my question - I was suggesting that the duck looked like another example of this. David is likely to have had his fair share of sous vide meat too. He may like it more than me, he may not. I was simply pressing him to see whether the method was really a success with the duck.

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not at all I often read this forum and others to see whats going, then go to the places if they get good write ups, and make MY own judgement after tasting what they have on offer,

and we actually cook the duck in the rendered fat mixed with maple syrup then lightly glaze it in the syrup FYI

and chiming in with thank you's it is called manners

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Well guys this has stirred a bit of a debate :laugh:

Good though, as this post has had nearly three hundred hits already today.

Andy Fenn

Posted Today, 12:53 PM

That skinless fatless duck breast looks like the worst example of sous vide in action. Did it really taste any good?

Andy, I stick by what I said in the write up. People who know me accept that I am a spade is a spade man, and if something is not right I will say so. I have nothing against sous vide, it has its place and if thats what a chef wants to serve, great.

The amuse was not compted as such, it was served to at least one another table also. Which makes me assume that they also had the carte. The other dish may have been, but if anyone thinks one compted dish would sway my opinion they should stay on the planet they come from.

MarkAli

Posted Today, 01:32 PM

View PostAndy Fenn, on 08 November 2011 - 12:53 PM, said:

That skinless fatless duck breast looks like the worst example of sous vide in action. Did it really taste any good?

maybe you should try it for your self before passing judgement?

and thank you for coming David nice pictures what do use to take them? hope to see you both again soon

A very warm welcome to egullet Mark. A bit of a rough ride to start with for you, but from a personal level its good to have chefs on here. Some strong personalities on this forum and I have come in for more than my share of stick, but persevere with it.

Glad you liked the photos, I try my best. :wink:

I have two cameras. A Nikon which is big and bulky and bought to see if I could up my game and take better photos than with my little Canon S95 point and shoot. The Canon wins hands down, its also very discrete and I never use flash with it at all. Highly recommended. I don't much use the Nikon now, if at all.

Next time we come over I will pop my head into the kitchen to say hello. :smile:

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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I can see my ex-colleague Kyle in that second picture! :smile:

Yep, pleasant guy Kyle. Nice relaxed manner.

I forgot to mention the service, I assume Kyle is the Maitre D, and good with it too.

Just an observation though and its purely personal (and not only here) I would like the dishes explained in detail a bit more. When a dish is busy I miss stuff.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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I have been here 3 times now and the last time I had the tasting menu. I thought the old patisserie chef they had was very good though but I was told on the second visit he had left. Other than that, I found the food to be mostly unmemorable and a little on the bland side but had the occasional wow with a couple of dishes. Oddly the most memorable thing I ate from there was a desert that tasted like Toothpaste off the tasting menu.

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I have been here 3 times now and the last time I had the tasting menu. I thought the old patisserie chef they had was very good though but I was told on the second visit he had left. Other than that, I found the food to be mostly unmemorable and a little on the bland side but had the occasional wow with a couple of dishes. Oddly the most memorable thing I ate from there was a desert that tasted like Toothpaste off the tasting menu.

Blimey,

So you visited three times just to make sure that it was "mostly unmemorable and a little on the bland side"

And out of seven courses on the tasting menu you did not enjoy one of them citing the most memorable as tasting of toothpaste. :hmmm:

Why bother?

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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I do apologies I had no clue that I had to explain my reasons for visits.

Visit 1, I wanted to try it out as I had heard it had opened too much expectation.

Visit 2, My mothers birthday (had an amazing desert on the first visit so wanted to try it again)

Visit 3, I was on a night out with a friend and this was our pre night out dinner.

And I also said nothing about not enjoying the dishes. I found it to be mostly bland and unmemorable so I would guess that is why a desert that tasted of toothpaste stood out. As long as the food is edible and the result is me not being hungry at the end, I would generally not say I didn't enjoy it. If I were to elaborate on the bland comment I guess it would stem from most of the dishes being soft textured with over use of puree's and mouses with light sauce and soft meat.

On my first visit I had a desert served in a jar with smoke and it was one of the finest things I have ever eaten. I also like to revisit some restaurants to see if they improve or get worse. I will generally do this until I feel it is not worth revisiting or until I get bored of the menu. I eat out a lot.

On the last visit I also found the service to be terrible with the waiter not knowing what any of the dishes were as they came out. We even started to have fun, asking on one occasion if it was salt marsh lamb, knowing it was beef. He replied with a yes.

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Thanks for taking the time to post a detailed reply. I was initially bemused by your comments.

From a personal point of view if a place is not up to scratch on a first visit I never return. Perhaps I'm fortunate to accept that if a place is just not for me, then so be it. Having said that its far easier for me because every restaurant that we eat at is not local and involves long distance travel.

As a point of interest I searched the forum and another couple of threads exist under "Restaurant Alimentum". Your review on one of those threads states "The food went from above average to spectacular" and "some amazing main dishes" "recommend it".

I'm still bemused.

"So many places, so little time"

http://londoncalling...blogspot.co.uk/

@d_goodfellow1

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Bloody toothpaste? Must be a good brand!

Mark don't worry too much about some of comments you read on here. You are dealing with very opinionated, self important folk who wouldn't have clue how to run a restaurant on any level. As they say talk is cheap!

David is one of the more genuine good eggs on here.

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Mark don't worry too much about some of comments you read on here. You are dealing with very opinionated, self important folk who wouldn't have clue how to run a restaurant on any level. As they say talk is cheap!

David is one of the more genuine good eggs on here.

Cor, that was patronising!

We were at Alimentum the other week too. We had a really enjoyable night, and special thanks to Kyle for letting us try a free glass of the Northamptonshire white wine. And not being upset that we didn't like it and recommending a cracking Domaine de L’Arlot instead :)

I particularly enjoyed my wood pigeon starter which came with a superb liver pate. And the plate of English cheeses were perfect. Our fish mains (halibut and stone bass) were nicely cooked too.

I have to say though I would have preferred not to have the live music, ideally (it was a Friday night)

I'd definitely recommend to others if ever in Cambridge (unfortunately not much of a food town).

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to be honest I am bemused too?? desert that taste like toothpaste???

Hey whats the fuss, as you may well know Paul Kitching used to serve a dessert that tasted like tootpaste was served on a tooth brush and was accompanied with mouthwash ;-)

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It's that ridiculous old canard that you have to be able to run a restaurant/be a chef to have an opinion about whether you enjoyed a restaurant.

Whats ridiculous or patronising about sticking up for a chef who puts his heart and soul into his cooking, to then have some half arsed remark that his food tastes like toothpaste etc. I've never met Mark and don't owe him anything but some of this food blogging is out of line. Have people forgot to go out and actually enjoy themselves?

Its got fuck all to do with cooking for a living. :hmmm:

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  • 2 weeks later...

who wouldn't have clue how to run a restaurant on any level.

So absolutely true and accurate in my case. In fact, I wouldnt have a clue how to run any business.

But then I'm just a customer. You know customers? We're the ones in restaurants with wallets and credit cards. And opinions about what we've eaten.

John Hartley

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