I have been wanting to visit Midsummer House long before Daniel Clifford made it to the Great British Menu banquet last year, let alone after this year’s bang. Since eating his food at Ludlow Food Festival in 2011, to be precise.
So when my friend @Kiwijoblogs announced one of her new years resolutions was to eat at a Michelin starred restaurant I asked her to join me on a day out to Cambridge to finally eat Daniel’s food in his own venue.
We chose Good Friday for our outing – the coldest March in decades, we wrapped up warm and made our way across Midsummer common, leaving behind the bustling historic city centre. As we approached, I recognised the building from photos – otherwise it would take more than a glance to realise it’s actually a restaurant and not a private home! A period villa, perched right on the edge of the water, it certainly is a pretty location and with the sun, we imagine, even better. Manicured gardens, bright conservatory areas and a relaxing first floor bar / lounge area make Midsummer House an elegant yet relaxing place and it was just perfect for our bank holiday trip.
We enjoyed a glass of bubbly and delicious amuse-bouche while warming up: bloody mary foam, cheese beignets and olives. While we savoured the welcome, we chose the menu we’d go for, one of the fixed priced options (Taste of the Market, at £75) and we also chose the wine pairing (£55) not being able to pick a wine from the extensive wine list.
We were escorted downstairs to our table, and soon we started with a Smoked salmon, cauliflower and cucumber starter where the cold flesh of the fish and cucumber jelly contrasted the hot foamy cauliflower soup. Loved it and polished it off way too quickly.
The next course was oddly beautiful.
Ham hock, parsley, celery branston and celeriac cooked on open coal. The celeriac was actually cut open table-side, and it was cool to see how burnt it was on the outer layers but soft and beautifully mellow once scooped out and added to the dish. A clear consomme blended the textures together and a sprinkle of burnt celeriac powder added a strange looking but great tasting finish to the composition. @kiwijoblogs does not eat pork (nothing to do with religion, she assures me) so she had instead Quail raviolo, and she said it was one of the best dishes of the day!
The next dish was actually my favourite, or so I thought before trying the rest… Roast quail, shallot purée, grapes, celery and sour dough was divine. The quail meat was roasted and cooked perfectly but once eaten with the shallots puree, the sourdough slice and the fresh grapes thins, it reached another level. Wow.
One of Daniel’s signature dishes came next – and one I had tried at the Cube in the summer. As great as before, Roast hand dived scallop with fresh apple, celeriac puree and a generous shaving of fresh truffle. Delicious even for one who is trying not to eat fish at all (but that’s another story).
Room for more? Oh yes.
The Pan roasted cod, Borlotti, tomato and parsley was actually also my favourite. Can I have two? Perfect portion size, roasted but not dry, the pairing with beans worked really well. A light, well thought out dish and a visually striking touch of colour with the pea crumbs.
The Roast Duck, Cheltenham beetroots, creamed polenta and blood orange followed. We were certainly getting just a little, slightly full. Only just! Duck is a fairly hefty meat, but we still loved the textures, particularly the braised pieces inside a crunchy, super thin and delicate ‘cannolo’. The blood orange reduction added the right level of sharpness.
So we reached dessert time.
The first one was my favourite, absolutely, yes this was it. Baked yogurt, vanilla and apple was just pure delight. Light, with deep intense flavour of apple.
A very aptly wintry dessert came next: Figs and dates, mulled wine, gingerbread ice cream, cinnamon. Once again, a great combination of textures.
By now we were truly satisfied. Each wine paired with the many courses was great and of course I did not note the actual vineyards nor vintages but we loved in particular a New Zealand Pinot Noir, a Franciacorta and a french Chardonnay. The (Dancing) sommelier was very friendly and despite us not exactly being wine connoisseurs, made us feel very much at ease.
We were the last diners for the lunch slot, so we leisurely moved upstairs to enjoy the coffees and hand made chocolates (from the ‘tea box’…) in the comfy lounge, overlooking the timid, late afternoon sun and the life on the river Cam.
While sipping our coffees Daniel popped in – fitting that we visited on the day the Banquet of this year Great British Menu would be aired. Daniel shared a few anecdotes with us, once more making us feel very welcome.
Sadly it was time to head back towards London. We had a great day visiting Midsummer House.
The food is phenomenal, the service professional and friendly and well worth a trip.
We are already planning another visit, of course. No need for a new year’s resolution.