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Midsummer House Cambridge


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I've worked my way through most of London's one, two and only three star restaurant(s), but am finding London restaurants becoming too predictable.

Here's a little known secret - Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham in open for lunch on Saturdays. Its (probably) the cheapest 2 star in Europe and much much better than many a 3 star.

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I've worked my way through most of London's one, two and only three star restaurant(s), but am finding London restaurants becoming too predictable.

Here's a little known secret - Le Champignon Sauvage in Cheltenham in open for lunch on Saturdays. Its (probably) the cheapest 2 star in Europe and much much better than many a 3 star.

Many thanks BLH. There was a thread about Le Champignon Sauvage in which one Member had a bad experience. Kinda put me off.

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Many thanks BLH.  There was a thread about Le Champignon Sauvage in which one Member had a bad experience.  Kinda put me off.

Mark - was the one when someone turned up unannouced at half past one for lunch & wondered why the kitchen - full complement of two people - couldn't cook on demand food at that level & the person then sulked away in a huff, posting within the hour?

Don't let that put you off - food is stunning; as is front of house service. Food quite orignial & well worth the trip.

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Many thanks BLH.  There was a thread about Le Champignon Sauvage in which one Member had a bad experience.  Kinda put me off.

Mark - was the one when someone turned up unannouced at half past one for lunch & wondered why the kitchen - full complement of two people - couldn't cook on demand food at that level & the person then sulked away in a huff, posting within the hour?

Don't let that put you off - food is stunning; as is front of house service. Food quite orignial & well worth the trip.

Good oh - I'm booked in for lunch next Thursday with the wife and 2 year old. The infant is used to restaurants but this will be her first time in a starred place - not that she will notice. But life can't come to and end just because you have a child can it and hopefully she will behave impeccably? Anyway, fingers crossed - everyone says such good things and I was in that neck of the woods so couldn't not go.

Went to Cambridge at Christmas but Midsummer was closed. Stayed at the Hotel Felix and ate at their restaurant, Graffiti. It was poor beyond belief - a trip to Gardenias would have been better.

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Went to Cambridge at Christmas but Midsummer was closed.  Stayed at the Hotel Felix and ate at their restaurant, Graffiti.  It was poor beyond belief - a trip to Gardenias would have been better.

Not to totally knock the fine tradition of the gardenia chip butty but that is a truly horrible thought.... There have been enough complaints here about Cambridge restaurants that one needn't continue but the general malaise and low standards are pretty amazing. Still, must make it to Midsummer's current incarnation soon...

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  • 3 months later...

Went to Midsummer House a couple of weeks back to celebrate my wedding anniversary.

The restaurant consists of a small house with a large conservatory on the bank of the Cam. We were in the conservatory which is light with very generous table spacing. The first thing to say is the staff were fantastic. Very friendly and informal, but hugely knowledgable and proud of what the restaurant had achieved. If you want stuffy, unfreiendly waiting staff, don't go to this restaurant.

We opted for the Tasting Menu. To start was an amuse of pink grapefruit foam. Intense flavour, but an odd choice to start (I prefer savory amuse to start a meal). Would have been much better as a pre desert amuse.

Next came another amuse and one of the highlights of the evening. This was (large) shot glass filled one half with cucumber jelly, a layer of diced smoked salmon and one half of a warm cauliflower veloute. The hot and cold sensation in the mouth was wonderful. The veloute showed real skill in keeping the cauliflower flavour fresh, but the salmon neither added or subtracted from the dish. A real winner.

Up next was the first Course (well what a remember anyway). This was a a perfectly cooked, plump scallop with an apple salad and celariac puree. Again very good, but not outstanding.

Course Two was a foie gras parfait "lollypop". This was sensational and demonstrated the skill of the kitchen to its fullest extent. The foie gras parfait was "stuffed" inside a sweet red pepper tube, which was a tuile. It was bright red red, sweet and broke up in the mouth like thin caramel. A coctail stick was inserted into the parfait, hence the lollypop.

Course Three was a single langoustine skewered on a plastic syringe filled with a shelfish sauce. This you had to pop into your mouth and squeeze t o extract the sauce. This trying to be too clever and failing. My wife squeezed a bit too hard and expectorated over the table a bit. Hmm.

Course Four was a combination of pig's trotter and smoked eel. The trotter was simply fantastic. The trotter had been braised for four hours intill meltingly tender. It had then been compressed in a terrine and left to set. Finally it was cut into oblong shaped piece, paned and deep fried. This was nothing short of sensational. The depth of flavour was fantasic. The pairing with smoked eel did not work, as the strong flavours competed with each other.

Then came another amuse. This was a novelty. A very heavy bottomed shotglass witha maple syrup layer topped with some sort of chive flavoured cream (fraiche maybe).

Course Five was braised beef. This was ok but lacked flavour.

Finally, Course Six was a cone shaped peanut parfait topped with a thin chocholate tuile and accompanied by bananna sorbet. Again very good.

We learnt that Daniel Clifford was off the following week to El Bulli. Clearly EB and Fat Duck influences were in evidence.

To summarise, some clear winners showing deep skills and inventiveness. Some parings did not work, but that's the price to pay for frontier cooking. All-in-all, a fantastic experience and puts many two starred restaurants in London to shame.

9.5/10

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Did Mr Clifford also go to ElBulli in 2001 for the prawn sashimi and forget to bring the kellogs paella home. Is he calling in at Cinc Sentits next week for the maple syrup chupito perhaps?. It is one thing to have an influence or two as I am sure most top chefs will agree but I am at a loss to explain why a chef would simply copy a dish he has eaten Perhaps the braised beef was his idea. I've not eaten at Midsummer so difficult to comment on whether the execution is better than the originals but if he does have the technique I hope he discovers the imagination to match.

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Did Mr Clifford also go to ElBulli in 2001 for the prawn sashimi and forget to bring the kellogs paella home. Is he calling in at Cinc Sentits next week for the maple syrup chupito perhaps?. It is one thing to have an influence or two as I am sure most top chefs will agree but I am at a loss to explain why a chef would simply copy a dish he has eaten Perhaps the braised beef was his idea. I've not eaten at Midsummer so difficult to comment on whether the execution is better than the originals but if he does have the technique I hope he discovers the imagination to match.

Pourcel - sea urchin

Arzak - Rectangle sponge with quenelles of ice creams

foie gras and smoked eel is a famous starter from Martin Berasategui

'Roellinger certainly didn't invent salted butter caramel, it's probable that M. Roux of Quiberon didn't either, but the dessert in Roellinger's book and the desserts I ate at Roellinger's restaurant and the Fat Duck were the same; a thick disc of soft caramel acting as podium for a quenelle of chocolate sorbet crested with a fine outsize tuile and ringed with some also caramel-like sauce.' lord michael lewis

tobacco chocolates El Bulli menu in '98.

"What foods evoke childhood memories?" veyrat

'Gaspacho à la moutarde d'Orléans, crème glacée -- Arpege (note the Fat Duck's endearingly slavish adoption of Passard's misspelling of gazpacho.' lord michael lewis

Nimzo it happens all the time.

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  • 1 month later...

We visited Midsummer on saturday night, seems like forever since we went anywhere starred so i am not sure if it Jades you

Having read reviews in Time Out, Hardens etc alot of chat about stuffiness, napkin folding etc to be honest we found the opposite, there were Michelin type touches but generally it was very relaxed (i also was surprised at this @ Ramsays)

We were sat very quickly by a very cheerful but quite in loud member of staff, menus came quickly.

I was surprised that there didnt appear to be a sommiliear as such, a guy who could have been Maitre'd did offer some advice but also said "cool" when i selected the wine. Worringly i had emailed them to ask about a wine from the webisite and in the mail depsite asking about a NZ white he had added "We do have copious quantities of red Burgundy, and other special things to choose from" which i found odd in the 1st place...Anyway at the restaurant i heard the cool chap selling another table red burgundy as the all singing match everything wine..Ummm it just concerned me

Then we were given our 1st foam Pink Grapefruit & champers (same as mark donnelly's post)

It was very nice but a little to sweet to start, this was our 1st foam experience and not sure it really rocked my world

Next we were given butter but no bread

Then 2nd amuse arrived, a very nice pea veloute, pea foam and very tender king prawns...This was good

still no bread, i decided to ask

It looked like someone would be in trouble !!

To start i had

Scallop

Seared Hand Dived Scallop, Celeriac & Truffle Purée, Fresh Apple, Apple Reduction

: 2 decent scallops but nothing out of the ordinary. Apple jelly a bit weak

Andy had

Vichyssoise

Warm Vichyssoise, Poached Oysters, Leek Purée,

Jersey Royals, Sevruga Caviar

: This was good, lovely oysters

We asked to add on Tasting size version of the

Smoked Eel

Salad of Smoked Eel, Crispy Pigs Trotter,

Braeburn Pureé, Wild Cress

:Just had to try it, as Mark's post said the pigs trotter croquets were very good, tasted like a very rich braised ham, there were slithers of foie Gras

The Smoked eel with thick but a little mild if anything

For mains we had

Turbot

Braised Turbot with Peanuts and Pistachio,

Wilted Cos Lettuce, Fresh Asparagus, Squash Purée, Essence of Vanilla

: Everything was cooked to perfection, great piece of fish..Nuts didn’t work for me and the squash puree could have been sweeter. I always enjoy Wilted lettuce, the essence of vanilla was sprayed on, pleasant but not particuarly strong vanilla

and

Dover Sole

Sautéed Dover Sole, Cauliflower and Langoustine Purée, Cucumber, Samphire, Grilled Langoustine

:Again fish was excellent, and the samphire and langoustine went down well. Andy really didn’t enjoy the puree, he thought it was like butterscotch I thought it was like peanut butter, very odd and savoury

A Crème Caramel Foam

: could have eaten more of that

Andy had wanted the Farmhouse Camembert with truffles but none left so we reselected

Raspberry

Millefeuille of Vanilla, Fresh Raspberries,

White Chocolate Mousse, Champagne Sorbet,

Fresh Nettles

: Very tasty, crispy caramel tuille with beautiful raspberries

Apricot

Cannelloni of Apricot, Strawberry Sorbet, Fraise des Bois, Crystalised Mint

: Very similar to a dessert we had at Chantecler in Nice when Alain Llorca cooked there, the apricot/canneloni element was almost like sheets of melt in the mouth plastic wrapped around the filling...(tasted better than it sounds !)

We then retired to the small bar for a beer, the chocolate humidor was bought up. Selected 6 chocs

Took them home, not sure about curry chocolate and soft caramel one was amazing !!

It was also quite amusing when we told to give them to a girl called XXX she knew how to wrap well, they were presented to us in tin foil !!

Bill £200

2 x A'la Carte, 2 x aperitifs, extra course £20, 2 x beers, white wine from Loire £39, Service

************************************************************************

To summarise It was an enjoyable experience & meal

A beautifully decorated place, very friendly and happy staff

(We visited kitchen aswell, tiny and absolutely bustling)

I think in conclusion the more I eat out often the more simpler I want things, I hope this isnt age at 28 but sometimes I think places try to hard and there were too many foams.

All ingredients were of very high quality, cooked well, they have a lovely restaurant, enviable location (if you ignore pub next door) and staff who really seem to enjoy where they work..

I think a few refinment tweaks could be made (bread) & simplification (foam) and it would be very very good

I am not still not sure how they scale 2* places on but it be interesting to compare somewhere as different as Gavroche in august

Regards

Sarah

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P.S

Stayed at the Hotel Felix, lovely hotel

I think i have seen the Restaurant graffiti mentioned b4, we didnt dine there but chatted to some people who said it was really good and one of their dishes included a catcus like veg they had never had before

The hotel doesnt look immediately impressive when you pull due to annexe buildings near the car park but once inside the decor and ambience is lovely and our room was great....

http://www.hotelfelix.co.uk

about 15-20mins walk to town

Sarah

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they have a lovely restaurant, enviable location (if you ignore pub next door)

Whatever's wrong with the Fort St George In England? tsk...

I'd be a little wary of Graffiti btw, although I have to admit it was now a long time ago I went. Fantastic sounding menu but bad combinations and poor cooking. It may have improved...

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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I'd be a little wary of Graffiti btw, although I have to admit it was now a long time ago I went. Fantastic sounding menu but bad combinations and poor cooking. It may have improved...

This has not changed. I was there about a week ago.

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QUOTE

"Whatever's wrong with the Fort St George In England? tsk..."

**************************************************************

Ummm the people, the toilets, a bench table that said "do not enter" with crime scene tape wrapped round and the pricey sounding menu

Drinks were ok though

Sarah x

Edited by sarah w (log)
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Ummm the people, the toilets, a bench table that said "do not enter" with crime scene tape wrapped round and the pricey sounding menu

Ha ha! Not sounding too great, I must admit. It's been a few years since I lived in that area, it must have de-gentrified. :wink:

Nice old building though, shame it's such a managed pub. Bet their menu is less pricey than next door's...

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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I've tended to avoid the food at the Fort. I probably had my about 3rd ever pint there as a 15 year-old so it has a soft spot in my heart.. To give you an idea of the general atmosphere, ordering a mix of Abbot and St.Edmunds Ale - a combination favored by East Anglian teenagers who have no desire to be able to stand - the barman replied 'yep, one brain damage' (its colloquialism)... and I really did look 15 too...

Actually a very attractive building and a nice place to sit out when it isn't overrun by current versions of my past self....

Edited by alexhills (log)
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To give you an idea of the general atmosphere, ordering a mix of Abbot and St.Edmunds Ale - a combination favored by East Anglian teenagers who have no desire to be able to stand - the barman replied 'yep, one brain damage' (its colloquialism)

Wow, what a charmingly English way to get bladdered. As a confirmed real-ale drinker now, I can only lament a more snakebite-and-black youth. (v off topic, sorry, but this might amuse...)

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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  • 3 weeks later...

Back on topic, MH have just cancelled my reservation for tomorrow. Restaurant closed for the rest of the week due to, er... waste water problems or such like. I dread to think. :unsure: Perhaps the undiscovered bodies at the FSG have finally contaminated the Cam.

Ian

I go to bakeries, all day long.

There's a lack of sweetness in my life...

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Having comissioned the waste system there, I can belive it. The FSG would not let us go on using theirs (I bought the building fromt he landlord of the FSG), so we had to install a new pumped system all the way across the common. It mostly works, but when it goes wrong, or the plonger pours too much melted fat down the drain, you would not want to have to resturant open, as the main access is just to the right of the front door...

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  • 3 months later...

Midsummer House, November 2005 – Lunch

Amuse was a small cup of grapefruit & champagne froth – the siphon was brought to your table and its lovely pure white foam dispensed in front of you. Couldn’t help thinking that it’d only be a matter time until the liquid nitrogen is brought into the equation. Anyway – it refreshed the palate which is what its supposed to do. Grapefruit & champagne – great combination.

Pre-starters – powerful yellow foam of pumpkin/squash which sat on a puree of wild mushroom – small dice of pumpkin/squash & sliced wild mushroom (girolle, I think). This was just wonderful. My only quibble was that the square shape glass cup in which it was served didn’t let you dig your spoon or bread into the corners to get at every last piece.

Feeling greedy – I chose two starters.

First was two of the largest scallops I’ve ever seen beautifully caramelised with strands of apple & truffle on top. To accompany this was a puree of celeriac & truffle, some cubes of apple gelee and a powerfully sweet apple reduction. It looked good – the puree applied in a large energetic gesture across the plate. I bite into the scallop – it was cold & raw inside. I was a bit shocked – was this some post-modern/molecular gastro joke? Sheepishly, I cut into the other & it seemed OK – more tepid that warm but kind of worrying. Unfortunately the rest of the dish was a bit disappointing – there was no discernable taste to the celeriac puree & not a hint of truffle aroma or flavour. The apple jelly was also a bit flavourless.

So what went wrong? I guess they cooked the scallops straight from the fridge rather than let them warm up a bit – or – perhaps these were unusually large and needed a heck of a lot more cooking. dunno.

Second starter was pressed terrine of ox tongue layers between thin sliced of carrot. This came with a variety of carrots done in different ways – sliced, foamed etc. To accompany this was a some cured foie gras – this was rather cute: long slice of fg which was rolled and joined at each end to form a cylinder. But bugger me if could detect any flavour in anything but the foie & the accompanying capers. If was just horribly tasteless & unforgivable – the terrine was fridge cold and watery. It takes real talent to extract & remove flavour from ox tongue. At one point I looked for the salt.

Around this time I’m think of paying up & leaving – yup, that bad. I’m glad I stayed though as the main met my expectations: roast monkfish with cassoulet, pumpkin puree & jus gras. Another one of the foie gras cylinders was on the plate but melted very quickly due to the heat. A much, much better dish & the jus gras was stunning - what you’d expect from a kitchen of this supposed calibre.

Desserts – I couldn’t really have cared at this stage & went for one which sounded oddest:: gingerbread cheesecake with poached plums. A bit of a wreck for a dessert – stodgy cheesecake, flavourless but strikingly pretty plums & some kind of iced cream (to my mind it was more frozen & churned cream rather that eg based ice cream). I detected some popping sugar somewhere in the dish. Oh, and there were a couple of nettles for decoration & tuiles filled with more tasteless cream. (If you go – go for the soufflé – I looked much better)

Anyway – a sadly disappointing visit to a place which obvious has talent but fails on the execution. Do they taste the food before it come out – dunno – but I’m sure some basic flaws could be fixed if they did.

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Yes, but a cold raw scallop does sound like standards are variable. Cooking scallops is relatively straightforward (i like mine pan fried in bacon fat), it is their internal temperature when they go into the pan that is important. My fridge is set to 3 degrees (C that is) and take scallops out for 45 min before cooking.

Don't know how youcan do this in a kitchen when you don't know what people will order and the fierce heat of a commercial kitchen.

Stll, no excuses for a cold raw scallop in a 2 star restaurant.

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Don't know how youcan do this in a kitchen when you don't know what people will order and the fierce heat of a commercial kitchen.

If every professional kitchen I have been in, portioned fish and meat go straight from under-counter fridges to the pan when the order is called away, so there is no time it to come to room temperature. Scallops are cooked over a searingly high heat for a matter of seconds each side which is usually enough to heat them through perfectly. Monsters that size could easily come out cold in the centre if not allowed to come to room temperature before cooking. David at Le Champignon serves the biggest scallops I've ever seen and they've always been perfectly cooked there. I wonder how he does his?

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