15 Apr 2012

karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Saturday I finally had the chance to go back to Tuddenham Mill near Newmarket. My first visit was brilliant but in the evening the lighting is so low you can't really appreciate the prettiness of the food and we only ate a la carte so deciding what to have was really hard. So this time I went for lunch on a bright spring day and had an 8-course (counting extras) tasting menu designed by head chef Paul Foster.
As I was just a bit early I had some excellent elderflower cordial (made on site) in the bar, nibbling on parmesan twists and pork crackling.
Parmesan twists, pork crackling

As you can see, those aren't your regular pork scratchings but it's what's left when you render a piece of crackling fat very slowly indeed so all the fat disappears. Very light and crunchy.
Then I took my seat upstairs and the meal proper started:

Bread and Butter

Freshly baked bread and Lincolnshire Poacher butter.

Watermelon, Feta, fried pumpkin seeds

The amuse bouche was very thin slices of watermelon with feta and fried pumpkin seeds and did its job (exciting the palate) perfectly because of the contrast of sweet/acidity from the melon, the saltiness of the cheese and the crunchy seeds.

Organic salmon 40°C, asparagus, peanut, chickweed

Organic salmon 40°C, asparagus, peanut, chickweed. The fish was just cooked and especially when it's this good quality, that's all it needs. It is soft and retains its natural flavour. The asparagus was equally simply cooked and the peanuts added the crunch it needed.

Slow cooked hen's egg, hake brandade, bacon, watercress Slow cooked hen's egg, hake brandade, bacon, watercress

Slow cooked hen's egg, hake brandade, bacon, watercress. What a way to raise the humble egg to new heights. It sounds quite rich but was surprisingly light. Lovely combination of flavours and a nice crunch of bacon on top.

Duck hearts, rhubarb, celery, wild rice

Duck hearts, rhubarb, celery, wild rice. I'm a huge fan of poultry giblets and offal in general so this was great and one of the few instances I liked celery. The rhubarb was really interesting in this, too. This was one of those dishes that just keeps growing in flavour as you eat it.

Lamb rump and shoulder, yoghurt, fennel, quinoa

The main event was lamb rump and shoulder, yoghurt, fennel, quinoa. The piece of rump was cooked on the spot pink and very flavourful indeed. There was a nice bit of fat on it, too. The piece of shoulder was slow cooked and fell apart at the touch. The braised fennel, quinoa, yoghurt, wild garlic and a leaf I couldn't identify tied everything together beautifully. Very easily one of the best lamb dishes I've had.

Goat's milk, tarragon

Goat's milk, tarragon. After the rich lamb dish, this was the perfect palate cleanser. The milk was set similar to a pannacotta but almost like curd cheese in texture and very light. The granita on top wasn't too strong in tarragon flavour and worked really well.

Bitter chocolate textures, sea buckthorn, hazelnut, mint

The main dessert was bitter chocolate textures, sea buckthorn, hazelnut, mint. There was soft mousse, crumbs and more solid bits of really excellent dark chocolate. The bits on the other side added a really good fruity tang and some texture. Sea buckthorn seems to a controversial ingredient as people seem to either love or hate it, a bit like coriander or marmite. To me it's fruity and tangy (I'm not a huge fan of just sweet desserts) but fellow Cambridge foodie @ythos doesn't like the "aftertaste of month-old corpse". ;)

At this point Chef Paul invited me to have a look around the kitchen where we had a chat about the meal while I had my final dessert, an egg custard tart with butermilk, apple and nutmeg (this is the reason there's no photo as I left my camera at the table). The salted Granny Smith apple brought down the sweetish taste of the tart again. The perfect, light finish to a fantastic meal.

Tucked away in a village outside Newmarket, Paul Foster is really pushing the boat out in terms of flavour. While he does use modern cooking techniques, there are no molecular gimmicks, foams or other nonsense. Paul demonstrates that you don't need luxury ingredients like truffles and foie gras to create a luxury dining experience as long as you treat the ingredients well to bring out the maximum of flavour. It's a bit of a shame this fine restaurant is so far out of the way but it's worth the effort and I encourage everyone to try it. Paul Foster's appearance on Great British Menu on BBC2 this week should help boost awareness, too.

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