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.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yesterday evening I met up with @milliepaw and @spodlife, two fellow twitter foodies who were kind enough to give me a lift to Tuddenham Mill, a small hotel in Suffolk near Newmarket with an excellent restaurant run by Paul Foster. I've been wanting to eat there for a while, especially since tasting some of Paul's food during the charity dinner at Alimentum last week.

When you arrive in the dark as we did, pretty much the only thing you see is this:
Chimney

Which is a shame, really, as they have beautiful grounds, too. Ever more reason to go back at some point, during daylight hours.

We were shown into the bar where we perused the menus and ordered a cocktail. Amusingly, they'd run out of ingredients for my first two choices (no fresh mint for Mojito, something else missing for The Forager) so I ended up encouraging the barman to come up with something else and he made a brilliant fruity and fresh cocktail incorporating Chase Marmalade vodka for me. :o)
Picking something from the menu was hard but I eventually settled for the mackerel as starter and the fallow deer as main, Sandi picked the pork carpaccio and the jerusalem artichokes and Tim went for the mackerel as well and the wood pigeon.

The dining room is upstairs, has a rather low ceiling with huge exposed beams and half-timber walls. The dark wooden tables are simply laid without cloth. The illumination is quite sparse with a few downlighters in the ceiling and a couple of tealights on the table so food bloggers who want to take photos should bring a camera with a fast lens and high ISO capabilities. Surprisingly, it was rather quiet, there was only one other occupied table. I'd imagine it's busier on weekends or more people need to know about it.

The first food item was an amuse bouche of "mushroom milk" with crunchy bits (I will find out what it was). A lovely start with a rather intense mushroom flavour.
Amuse Bouche


The bread, still hot from the oven:
Bread


The starter:
Mackerel

Mackerel, cooked at 52°C, served with alexander, salted cucumber and sea vegetables. A perfectly fresh, soft and beautifully presented fillet of fish, just warm enough to intensify its natural flavour. The other elements on the plate added nicely balanced sweet, sour and bitter notes, mellowing the richness of the oily fish.

The main:
Denham Estate fallow deer

Denham Estate fallow deer, red onion fondue, pearl barley, pear, Colston Bassett stilton. Game season is in full swing so I couldn't resist having my third piece of venison in only two weeks. Cooked perfectly dark pink throughout, the meat was soft with a lovely but not too strong gamey flavour which worked perfectly with the other elements on the plate. The addition of stilton might sound odd but worked well indeed but my favourite additional element was the slices dry cured meat with a slightly salty kick. I almost wanted to lick the plate afterwards but there was some bread left to make sure nothing went back to the kitchen.

Decision time again, for dessert: While the "bitter chocolate textures" looked alluring and the other choices were interesting, I - as you probably have guessed by now - went for the most intriguing and adventurous choice: Whipped sea buckthorn, beer ice cream, damson jam and crispy rice:
Sea buckthorn

It turned out to be the perfect choice as it was light and refreshing after the first two courses of rich fish and meat. The sea buckthorn tasted fresh and fruity but not sweet with a distinctive flavour, a bit reminiscent of rowan. The beer ice cream was a revelation. It sounds bizarre but it really works. It's not strong but rather leaves you with a real ale aftertaste. Remarkable.

My dining companions were equally oohing and aahing about their choices for all the courses (for dessert, Sandi had the chocolate textures with "rosemary tea" and Tim had the tonka bean ice cream).

With cocktails, wines and tip (no automatic service charge!) our bill came to £60 per person, a perfectly reasonable price for the quality and amount of food consumed. Cosy surroundings and pleasant service rounded off the experience. Tuddenham Mill is a bit out of the way but it's well worth the trip.
Paul Foster and his team produce inspiring dishes with the freshest ingredients, many of which are foraged, using modern techniques to extract the maximum of flavour. It's exciting and feels new despite going back to the roots. I love this development and hope that it will spread.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Last night I went to my local fine dining restaurant, Alimentum, for a dining event in aid of the charity Tommy's. Head chef Mark Poynton had the idea for the event after one of his chefs lost his baby boy who was born prematurely. The wonders of modern social networking meant a host of chefs from other restaurants, not just locally but from all over the country, were soon on board. In the end, eight courses, each cooked by a different head chef (with the help of all the others and some of their brigade, there were something like 20 chefs in the kitchen) were on offer. Needless to say, the food was stunning, each different, each unique and all cutting edge in terms of usage of ingredients and cooking methods.
Afterwards, there was an auction of such varied items as signed football shirts and a "food tour of Britain" to photographic prints and a set of Chroma knives, with all proceeds going to Tommy's.

The Food

One of the canapes

On arrival we were greeted by prosecco and a selection of Alimentum canapés: Salmon and horseradish cones (see photo), Salt cod Scotch egg, Salt and vinegar allumettes, Smoked eel, lemon and bacon bites and Beetroot and foie gras macarons. The last two were my favourites but all were lovely indeed. Only one photo, as it was a bit tricky juggling a glass, finger food and camera.

Amuse Bouche, James Knappet

The amuse bouche was by James Knappett (recently at Marcus Wareing, now at The Ledbury): Violina pumpkin soup, sorbe, king oyster, ceps, chestnuts, truffle rarebit. This was at the same time fresh from the light ingredients and strong from the mushrooms, an excellent combination. The pumpkin soup brought everything together.

Braddock White, Ben Spalding

The starter was by Roganic's Ben Spalding: Braddock White (egg), pickled roots, ox eye daisy, salt beef. This was similar to the egg dish I had during my first visit at Roganic and a typical example of Ben's style, having all the contrasts you want in a dish: warm and cold, soft and crunchy and beautifully harmonising flavours. It's hard to describe, you have to try it yourself.

Salmon, Paul Foster

Next up, the fish course by Paul Foster from Tuddenham Mill: Organic salmon, mussel soup, pink grapefruit and sea vegetables. A nice slab of gently cured salmon with a quite intense mussel sauce was a great combination but the surprise was the grapefruit. Its bitterness complimented the other ingredients really well while the sea vegetables added crunch. As it's not far away, a visit to the Mill is definitely in order. Incidentally, Lyndon Barrett-Scott, the Mill's general manager helped out in front of house last night.

Langoustine and Joselito ham, Alimentum

Home (surf and) turf now with an Alimentum dish: Roast langoustine, Joselito gran reserve ham, black olive and cauliflower. That seafood and pork go well together was proven by a visit to Alimentum earlier this year and this one was stunning, too. As with the dishes before, a bit of bread was needed to mop up the last bit of flavour from the plate.

Venison, Russell Bateman

The main course by Russell Bateman (Colette's at The Grove): Venison, chervil root, leek, Stilton and pear. This was probably the best piece of venison loin I've had (better than my own, for sure, although that wasn't shabby at all), cooked to the point evenly (sous vide, most likely) with great flavours, with perfectly matched accompaniments. Chervil root was new to me and took the place of the starch, quite similar in texture to a soft roast potato and neutral in taste, i.e. not like chervil leaves. Considering it was part of an 8 course menu, the portion was very generous indeed.

Cheese, Will Holland

Slowing down a bit, it was Will Holland's (La Bécasse) cheese course: Ragstone goat's cheese mousse, pain d'epice, beetroot and fig, liquorice jelly, bramble vinaigrette. As you can see, this wasn't just a couple of wedges of cheese on a plate, this was a proper, intricately put together dish (and one that would work equally well as a starter). Goat's cheese and beetroot are obviously a classic combination but this was something else with the added fruity and crunchy elements.

Fennel brulee, Matt Gillan

The pre-dessert was provided by Matt Gillan (The Pass): Fennel(!) brûleé, raspberry sorbet, lemon curd, raspberry and fennel salad. Yes, indeed, a combination of sweet dessert and rather savoury vegetable and it worked. Nice tangy raspberry sorbet and lemon curd were excellent additions.

Tiramisu (Midsummer House)

For dessert, a work of art by Daniel Clifford (Midsummer House) and Michelle Gillott (former Midsummer House pastry chef who's now running her own business): Simply titled "Tiramisu", this obviously wasn't just layered biscuit fingers, mascarpone, cocoa and coffee but the same ideas in a completely different format, delicately put together with wonderfully contrasting textures. Like me, everybody else on my table was desperately scraping their plate with their spoons to get every last bit of chocolate off. Wonderful.

Almost three hours later, we were well and truly stuffed and the chefs came out to get their just applause:
Mark Poynton, Lawrence Yates, Alimentum Matt Gillan, The Pass; Will Holland, La Becasse Will Holland; James Knappett (now at The Ledbury); Paul Foster Paul Foster, Tuddenham Mill; Russell Batemann, Colette's at the Grove Sommelier Kyle Simmons on the right Daniel Clifford, Midsummer House


The Auction


After mingling and chatting with the chefs in the bar, the second main event of the night kicked off: the auction in aid of Tommy's. There were a number of items on offer: signed football and rugby memorabilia, an iPad 2, a set of Chroma knives, a Cuba print by Jean-Luc Benazet, and a "Food Tour of Britain", dinners and overnight stays at various restaurants around the UK, including a foraging course with Matt Follas (Masterchef Champion 2009) at the Wild Garlic. This was slightly annoying for me as I'd hoped to get my hands on one or two of those but as they were sold as one lot, it was too rich for me (it went for £1,600 IIRC) so I came away with Jean-Luc's print and a signed Tony Christie tshirt+checked shirt combo.
Edit: The total came to a whopping £7150. Well done to everyone involved.

So, an excellent evening with stunning food with all proceeds going to a worthy cause. Events can hardly get better than this.
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