Newly Michelin starred restaurant as of the 2023 Guide, set in a Victorian Townhouse on the outskirts of Cambridge
Restaurant Twenty Two (taken from its numbered road address) is a Victorian townhouse with stained glass dating back to 1892 and parts updated in 1982 when the building converted to a restaurant. In 2018 husband and wife team Sam Carter took over as head chef and Alex Olivia. Sam Carter is formerly of my well regarded Hambleton Hall. Lunch on Wednesdays and Thursdays represent the best value for money at £55 for a quality set lunch, short tasting menu of approx 5 dishes for £95 and full tasting menu of approx 7 courses for £120. Based on the set lunch I had, I would merrily come back to here for the longer, tasting menu options and I enjoyed the nice touches that the restaurant has, all expanded on along with all details of the meal as usual in the expansion button below.
The restaurant is split between two levels with the ground floor affording seating for 20 covers to give an idea of space. Hospitality was immediately accommodating and each waiting staff were very knowledgeable on the dishes which is always a good sign in any restaurant. I also liked the rather nice touch of simply scanning a QR code to gain wifi connection without a password (rather a bonus when dining on one’s own). The stained glass that adorns the front of the dining room is rather impressive and was sorry to have run out of time to not have a peak at the upstairs on this visit – another reason to return.
On to the snacks, a savoury gougere with 60 month-aged Parmesan cheese, black garlic and honey was a fantastic start. The choux pastry was warm and with good crunch on the outside, bursting with lovely, soft cheese and had lovely texture and flavour all round. Next up came a pale ale croustade with Brixham mackerel, pear, pear gel, shiso gel and shiso garnish. The croustade had a delightfully light crunch in texture but I was not hugely convinced by the combination of the smoke (from part of the mackerel preparation) and pear as an unusual coupling. I love pear and I love mackerel, but didn’t quite fit with their pairing (personally I have found mackerel to be better paired with rhubarb or fruits / lightly pickled vegetables but this may just be me).
The first amuse bouche of asparagus with a savoury custard, wild garlic oil, green asparagus from Abington, Iberica ham and asparagus foam was an absolute knock out on the other hand. I have lost count how many foams I have had that have had absolutely zero flavour, but this was one of the rare foams that actually did, with very good asparagus flavour. The warming, subtle, flavour and texture of the savoury custard combined with the delicate feel all round made this an outstanding introductory offering to enjoy.
Home made Brioche, laminated with 24 layers was extremely good and served with whipped cultured dairy butter from Ampersand in Oxfordshire with a chicken liver parfait. The parfait was deep with red wine in flavour and the butter was extremely good. My only observation here was that it was quite butter intense even for me as a butter lover – as the brioche already had 24 layers of butter, I felt the menu could afford to have another or choice of a less buttery sour dough or simple grain roll to allow the butter to be enjoyed more fully without overdosing on butter, but this is a small point.
Another amuse bouche was afforded with Chalk Stream trout (a slightly less impressive fish to the heights of wild, Scottish salmon), ponzu and yuzu dressing, pickled cucumber balls, mooli radish, habanero, cucumber sorbet and coriander oil. This was a fresh dish indeed but it packed a strong punch of the habanero which even the sorbet could not quite cool. As nice as parts of the dish were, the overarching impression was the heat which dominated everything else, which was surprising.
The starter was Newlyn cod, brassicas, dill, anchovy; lightly cured and steamed, romanesco, purple spiriting broccoli, broccoli purée, crispy kale, mint and lemon gel, boquerones pieces (Spanish anchovies), dill and mustard beurre-blanc sauce with dill and seaweed oil drops. This had beautiful balance of sweet from the lemon gel and lightly pickled turnip (pickled in Chardonnay vinegar), to assist the rich sauce, dill and seaweed. There was also a lovely touch and texture from the crispy kale and blow-torched romanesco. The tiny pieces of Spanish anchovies added pleasant seasoning of salt and seafood essence and these were all lovely elements to grace the simple cod which was also perfectly soft and flakey.
The main was 50 day salt-aged Waterford Farm beef (Sirloin and braised ox cheek) with asparagus from Great Abington again, (barbecued and then brushed with beef fat), celeriac purée and morels done three ways – diced, as a ketchup and as a powder; asparagus spears, sauce Bordelaise using additional pickled mustard seeds and capers. Now, this was a particularly good ox cheek and the dish had beautiful components all working well together, with the only aspect being not my favourite was the actual Sirloin which was quite tough and with a subtle flavour. The surrounding sauces, purees and additional elements were basically the highlights above the main component.
A pre-dessert of yoghurt sorbet topped with steamed Swiss (soft) meringue was hollowed with a elderflower jelly covered with a thin lemon jelly sheet of apple-marigold oil, Amalfi lemon and then decorated with almond granita. This was certainly a palate cleanser no doubt with quite sharp tartness of lemon sorbet and large quantity of the granita. The chocolate dessert however was as smooth as they come. This was a Valrhona Araguani, ganache (from Venezuela) with a hazelnut mousse, salted milk ice cream, frangipane base, caramelised banana gel in centre, mushroom infused shortbread and shaved Australian winter truffle on top. This was an entirely elegant and silky, salted chocolate dessert and overall, very pleasant way to finish of the meal. Although I did not have coffee, this appeared appealing from the Brew Project company along with choice petit fours which were boxed up for me in another very nice touch as I needed to hit the road.
There is a lot to like about this restaurant and I would say its craftsmanship is certainly at Michelin starred level however with one or two tweaks I would have wished for on this menu in terms of sourcing or dosage. It is a homely and hospitable venue in a charming setting and the effort gone in to the menu is clear to see. I will come back another time to try a fuller menu.
Food Grade: 71%