Elegant riverside restaurant in Cambridge by Daniel Clifford serving consistently refined, clever and delicious 2 Michelin starred dishes that have always utterly delighted
My third visit to the haven in Cambridge and what I can only describe as a national treasure. It was a gorgeous day to visit and I don’t think I’ve seen Midsummer House looking so picturesque as it was yesterday (pretty much in its absolute prime) and the new pathway and garden furniture has made it look even more of what is basically an enclosed sanctury of excellence. The summary for this visit is that the menu was probably the most creative and theatrical I have seen it on any occasion and although it was always going to be difficult to trump previous dishes had to date, the whole show was just exquisite.
I was able to utilise the garden for the first time (for pre-lunch drinks) and this was lovely to do and it really did feel special to be there. Sometimes, I find myself being more excited over the canapés than the main dishes as every restaurant will have main courses, but only those with real class and love for the entire experience will stretch to pre-meal nibbles of the highest calibre and this was certainly the case with the bloody mary foam canapé to enjoy in the garden with our champagne (a very refreshing Bollinger as the house fizz). The mini eclair made of cream cheese inside with truffle sauce on the top to look like a normal, sweet eclair was frankly a masterstroke and so delicate, as were the crispy cheese puffs with lime that accompanied. I loved the liver mousse ‘lollies’ wrapped in strawberry tuile and all these treats just made one extremely happy and confident things were going to be great….again(!).
The whole 10-course tasting menu for me was the same as a day out to Thorpe Park for a 10-year-old and I will allow the photos to do most of the talking. I will obviously mention though, that the absolute fairground ride moments for me on this occasion (based purely on the mouth sensation) were the bloody mary canapés, nitrogen goats cheese to go with the ‘fillet’ of beetroot (carved and scooped at the table), egg with truffle and Jerusalem artichoke velouté, foie gras on fried sourdough, smoked quail egg wrapped in potato string and the strawberry ravioli dessert – so quite a few!
We were also guided and looked after superbly by the sommeliers who allowed us to try a taster for the follow up white and red before choosing and the standout wine was the creamy Chablis Beru which was utterly luxurious as the main bottle to accompany the first two hours of the meal. The red thereafter by the glass was well chosen (Faustine) to go with the lamb and the final star of the show on the drinks side being the wonderfully flowery and fresh, sparkling Asti which, again is just a knock out for the restaurant to recommend and was simply gorgeous – doubly so in the sun!
Although this was a lunch, I actually viewed this as a day out as we were able to dine (with breaks in the garden or upstairs) for the entire afternoon almost right up to half an hour before dinner and although the staff rarely get to feel it, I can say this is utterly appreciated as a diner, as you simply feel so welcome as opposed to be being pushed out to make way or another service. So thank you to Mr Clifford for having this approach, allowing a higher experience and to all the staff who sweated to keep the grand experience going for the whole afternoon – a strong effort from the team which does not escape me and was really appreciated by all of us.
Third visit and third magical experience at Midsummer House – the conclusion is that one is basically guaranteed to have an utterly sumptuous experience here and this will remain one of the highlights of my 2015.
Food grade: 91%
If it was possible, this was even better than the last meal as this was the celebration ode to Daniel Clifford’s Great British Menu victory in the special Olympic year of 2012. The dishes utilised the food combinations and balances that could not fail (delicate use of bacon and wafer thin Iberico ham with fish or surf and turf) with an absolutely memorable dish of his chicken wrapped in shoe-string potato with mock egg yolk centre, chicken leg, pea puree, incredible chicken skin with chicken liver parfait and popcorn filling and wonderful essence of chicken spray over the table. This dish was frankly knock out in terms of flavours and I consider it a life-food moment that was a privilege to have. The whole meal was a delight and the after meal sugared pastry soufflés as petits fours with custard and apple jus dip were yet another powerhouse for an addition to the meal. This was a magnificent meal and one I will never forget.
Food Grade: 95%
This is frankly one of the best places I have been to for consistently wonderful food. Located right by the river in Cambridge across from the main common and with a lovely upper-level area for pre-drinks and private garden area for drinks and coffees/teas in the summer, it is a charming venue. The food on this, my first opening occasion was ‘wow’ territory. The amuse bouche of a foamed and spice prawn cocktail was such a pleasingly and light modern twist on a classic that I believe only the minority do not like and this almost sums up Daniel Clifford’s cooking – he does things that he knows the majority of people adore and gives it a clever and modern twist – if only all chefs did this and not just do the latter!
The sweetbreads with syrup foam was an instantaneous love and all the dishes on his tasting menu were utterly enjoyable – there was not one dish that I thought was average, although if there had to be one in last place it would probably be the pineapple dessert, but even that with its candy floss and popping candy was such fun. Another note needs to be mentioned on his utterly sublime layered shot glass of maple syrup, egg yolk, Jack Daniels egg-white foam with chive, salt and pepper seasoning.
I have re-created this on dinner occasions and is exceedingly difficult to get to his level but even the amateur version is wonderful. And this was just a pre-dessert! It was a superb transition from sweet to savoury and unlike anything I have had before hence its special mention. The only negative if there is one is the lack of a more simple set menu at lunch or the ability to have something more simple on a Saturday making it not a quick drop in or saver option in terms of cost.
Daniel Clifford himself even spared the time to have a coffee with myself and best bud at the table after the meal as he could see good food meant a lot to us and was superb to have this on two levels: 1) it is rare these days to see celebrity head chefs and owners actually at the pass in the love of their original talent and 2) it was just lovely to meet the guy, talk about things, put the world to rights on food and for him to have the time to say hello. Overall, this was a marvellous meal and rates among the highest experiences in terms of joy of flavours I have had.
Food Grade: 91%
Location (Click google logo for directions)