karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Friday I needed a quick dinner before my next engagement and as The Sea Tree on The Broadway section of Mill Road had been recommended to me by various people I decided to try it. The Sea Tree is part traditional fish&chip shop, part fishmonger (one of the very few independent places selling wet fish in Cambridge) and part eaterie with a handful of small to medium sized tables where you can order both from the fish&chip shop menu and their "alternatives" menu with pan-fried or grilled fillets of or whole sea bass, gilthead bream with a choice of sauces and sides as well as a specials board.
I picked the "whole baked Whitby crab thermidor" which was served with a mixed salad (leaves, peppers, red onions) and chips. The picked and mixed crab meat was served in the shell of the body and was carefully seasoned so the flavour of the crab still came through and it was cooked on the dot, lovely and moist. There was a nice crust on top, too. The chips were crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside and not soggy at all.
If they can cook something as tricky as crab so well, I'm convinced their other offerings will be just as good. It's a bit out of the way for me but I will definitely be back, most likely for one of their lobster nights. It's not a place to linger because the shop is unsurprisingly rather busy but if you want a quick quality bite before a night out, this is definitely the place to go. They even have an alcohol license and serve beer and wine but I only had orange juice and water because I had a night of cake and cocktails ahead of me.
The bill came to around 13 pounds without service.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On my way back from the recording of Kitchen Cabinet (more on that in a separate post tomorrow), I walked past St. John's Chophouse and having not been (and remembering I didn't have time to marinade that Barnsley chop I had bought in the morning), I decided to have early dinner.
The restaurant with its bare wooden tables and low lighting has a cosy feel to it. There's a huge fireplace which sadly didn't contain a fire but a selection of meat cleavers hanging from a rack(!). I guess that makes it a good place to be when the zombie apocalypse comes.

I wasn't that hungry so started with a main, a "t-bone" pork chop. The meat was cooked a bit more well than I like but was still reasonably juicy and flavourful. I guess they err on the side of caution as food authorities are still unconvinced about the safety of "undercooked" pork so that was fine. The combination of apple sauce on top and spicy mustard sauce around worked well with it, as did the bubble and squeak. The slither of crackling on top was excellent.
By the time I was finished, I was glad I hadn't chosen a starter but I had room for a pudding so chose the "Cambridge burnt cream" (in quotes as we had learnt just a few hours earlier during the Kitchen Cabinet recording that it wasn't a Cambridge invention, after all). This was a generous portion in a coffee cup, a bit dense but not curdled, good crunchy caramel topping and a crumbly, sugary biscuit on the side. With that I had a small glass of Pomona which is now a new favourite drink. It's basically a fortified cider, if you will.

The bill without automatic service charge came to just under 28 pounds for a main, a pudding, a pint of ale and the Pomona so about the same as you would pay for a similar meal at The Punter opposite but in my opinion The Punter is better. However, it's not a chain (part of a local restaurant group) and uses mostly local produce so definitely has its place as an independent offering, which are rare in Cambridge.

No photos as it was too dark and I only had the G10 on me.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
My last visit to this lovingly restored pub/restaurant was over a year ago as it's a little out of the way when you don't have a car and a taxi fare is just a little bit too steep so I have to wait until I can persuade friends to come along and give me lift on the way. Yesterday, Sandi and Tim were so kind.
We arrived a bit early so had a drink in the bar before being shown through the rabbit's warren of the building to our table in the cosy but sparsely lit dining room. The choice of mains on the menu was somewhat reduced by the time we got there as the lamb was not on (the delivered meat wasn't up to the chef's standard) so there had been increased demand for the pork chop so my friends opted for the steak for two while I chose the hake.

PSB and beignets

My starter of purple sprouting broccoli with beignets (more similar to Spanish croquetas than doughnuts) worked really well. I could easily have finished a bowl of those beignets. My friends were equally happy with their choice of ham hock terrine with pickles and smoked salmon respetively.

Hake, mussles chowder

My main of a perfectly cooked fillet of hake with mussel chowder was a wonderfully warming and satisfying dish while still being light.

Roasted Marrow Bones

This was the roasted marrow bone that came with the steak. I helped myself to a few teaspoonfuls. It was very rich but literally melted in your mouth. Very very good indeed.

Brownie

Hole in the Wall, 29/11/12

We'd heard lots of praise for the HITW's doughnuts so were eager to try them for dessert but sadly, there had been too much demand for those, too, so we settled for the sticky bread and butter pudding and the chocolate brownie which were both nicely balanced and not too sweet.

Despite being denied a few menu choices, this was a great meal and for the quality, reasonably priced, too. I hope to be back soon because I want to try those doughnuts!
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
One of the hottest new addresses in London is Bubbledogs, a joint venture by James Knappett (who used to work at Per Se, Noma and The Ledbury, to name a few) and Sandia Chang (most recently the queen of wines at Roganic), serving gourmet hot dogs in the main area of the restaurant. In the back, there is the & part of the restaurant, where head chef James has set up an impressive open kitchen surrounded by an U shaped counter with 19 seats from where the guests can watch the chefs at work. The daily changing menu lists no dishes as such, only the main ingredient but the dishes are described and explained by James as they are served. Being able to watch how dishes are being cooked and put together is great and the chefs are happy to chat and answer questions. Here's what I had, your experience will vary.

Shrimp
Shrimp (crispy heads with a dipping sauce including lobster coral). Great nibbles, almost like popcorn.


Kitchen action


Shrimp
Shrimp bodies, dill, frozen horseradish.


Chicken
Chicken skin, rosemary cream, bacon jam, a very naughty dish but oh so good. Just tell yourself they're biscuits.


Mackerel
Mackerel, oyster, cucumber, sea purslane


Kitchen action


Scallop
Scallop


Kitchen action
Shaving truffle


Truffle
Truffle pasta


Kitchen action
Rack of roe buck being seared in the pan


Duck hearts
Duck hearts, turnip


Venison
Venison rack and fillet, chestnut, sprout leaves, wild mushrooms


Burrata
Burrata, shallots


Kitchen action
Roasted figs


Fig
Roasted fig


Apple
Apple cake


Blackberry Blackberry
Tiny blackberry cake covered in chocolate


A few more photos on flickr. There are more to come but I currently have limited internet access.

This excellent, flavourful food was accompanied by perfectly matching wines selected by Sandia. You are obviously free to pick your own wine from the list.
This experience went straight up into the list of the best meals I've had, currently fighting with The Ledbury and my two visits to Roganic.
Needless to say, this took some time, around three and a half hours so I was glad it was a seat at the 6:30 sitting that had become available or I wouldn't have been able to get home afterwards.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
After a number of friends and fellow food bloggers had only good things to say about it, a visit at The Ledbury had been on the cards for a while so I booked a table for lunch this Saturday. When I arrived at 13:45, the dining room was packed with a lively atmosphere. I had a table overlooking the dining room with the window in my back so I had both plenty of light and a good view of what was going on elsewhere.
The choice of what to eat was obvious: the tasting menu as that would both give me a good selection of Brett Graham's cuisine and had roast grouse, a game bird I had yet to try. As it was daytime, I didn't feel up to taking the flight of wines as well so asked the sommelier to recommend a glass of white (Alabrino) and red (Sequillo) wine that would take me through the menu which worked rather well.

The meal started with an amuse bouche of which I can't remember the details but contained scallop and wasabi among other elements. Really fresh and full of various flavours. Fresh bread was served as well, an excellent sourdough and one with bacon and onions that almost looked like a Chelsea bun. The rest of the menu follows in photos with a short description.

The Ledbury - Green bean, nectarine, hazelnut salad
Green bean, nectarine, hazelnut salad, grated foie gras. Crunchy beans, really strongly flavoured nuts with the nectarines not sweet but mellowing the flavours. The foie on top just melted on your tongue.

The Ledbury - Heritage tomato
Heritage tomatoes with fresh sheep's cheese (in the cigar). I'm not a fan of tomatoes in general but these were really nice as both the dressing and the cheese took off some of the edge.

The Ledbury - Mackerel
Flame-grilled Mackerel with avocado. This was my first highlight of the menu. The fish was soft and flaking, the skin crispy, most likely the best piece of mackerel I've ever had.

The Ledbury - Lobster
Lobster, leek, potato. Needless to say, this was perfect and full of flavour.

The Ledbury - Pork jowl
Next up one of the best pieces of pork I've had: They cook the jowl for 18 hours at 85 degrees with various spices which makes the meat wonderfully soft while preserving its moistness. The skin is then crisped up to make the crackling you see. I was actually presented with the whole cut before I received my portion which I thought was a nice touch.

The Ledbury - Roast grouse
Then, the main event: Roast grouse (breast, leg and the heart on a skewer), beetroot, red chicory and plums. It was my first taste of grouse and I loved it. I actually thought it would be more gamey than it was. Now I know what the fuss is about.

The Ledbury - Olive oil panacotta, damson, raspberry, sweet cicely
This pre-dessert of olive-oil panacotta, damson sorbet and raspberry was the perfect palate-cleanser after the rich meat mains.

The Ledbury - Figs, pistachio, lemon beignet
The first dessert: Figs, pistachio, lemon beignet. Fruity, nice and fresh. I could have eaten a whole box of those beignets...

The Ledbury - Blackberry tart
The last dessert was a smooth and crunchy tart.

To finish I had a cup of fresh mint tea with petit fours, the latter served in a dried cocoa husk on cocoa nibs.
The Ledbury - Mint tea and petit fours The Ledbury - Petit Fours










At that point, I had reached capacity and had to decline the cheese, as inviting as the trolley looked. So, in total an excellent culinary experience with a varied selection of perfectly executed dishes full of harmonising flavours. Service was spot-on, too, friendly and engaging, there when you needed it and left you in peace while you were eating. This obviously didn't come cheap, the tasting menu, two glasses of wine and tea at the end plus 12.5% service came to just under £150, and while I wouldn't call it a bargain I still felt I had received value for money.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yes, I know, another post about Alimentum but this one is a little different. Last Sunday was the first of head chef Mark Poynton's "supper clubs", an informal evening during which he trialed new dishes. Instead of the usual individual tables, there were three long ones which encouraged talking to the other diners about what everybody thought about the dishes.
Thanks to the efforts of Stagecoach, the bus operator in Cambridge, I was almost too late but got there just in time to grab a glass of welcome fizz before taking my seat. Proceedings started with a few nibbles, onion rice cakes, cheese puffs (neither of which I don't have a photo) and red mullet parfait on toast.

Red Mullet parfait
The parfait was soft with the fish coming through nicely.


Rabbit
Next up was braised rabbit with avruga. This might sound unusual but the saltiness worked well with the soft, sweet meat.


Whipped cep butter Milk loaf
The next item was a treat. Freshly baked bread (milk loaf) and whipped cep butter. You only needed to spread a thin layer of the butter to turn a slice of bread into a mushroom. Superb and one of my favourite dishes of the night.


Wood pigeon, liver on toast
The wild theme continued with wood pigeon, a perfectly cooked piece of breast and liver on toast.


Smoked eel, apple, cucumber, horseradish granita

Then, the fish course and my favourite: Smoked eel, apple, cucumber, goat's cheese, horseradish granita. I love smoked eel which is usually a treat around Christmas in my family but there was some apprehension among my fellow diners. However, this changed when the dish arrived and everyone I heard loved it. The apple/cucumber salad helped counteract the inherent greasiness of the fish, making it lighter. Horseradish is a classic accompaniment to smoked fish, anyway.

Beef cheek, variations of onion
The main event was braised beef cheeks with variations of onion, onion mash and onion juice. Soft, flavourful meat, excellent onion bits but not enough juice.


Tarragon, yoghurt
The pre-dessert was tarragon granita with yoghurt, a lovely palate cleanser and siimilar to a dish I had at Tuddenham Mill earlier this year.


White chocolate mousse, mango, black olive caramel
The final act was white chocolate mousse, mango, black olive caramel. I was apprehensive about the black olive having had a sweet dish with olive at Midsummer House but this worked as it had a similar effect to salt to bring down the cloying sweetness of the caramel. The white chocolate and mango harmonised very well, too. Loved it.


The dishes were paired with excellent wines, two of them English (a white and a sparkling rosé) and a superb sherry with the pre-dessert.
A very enjoyable evening indeed and I've already signed up for the next one.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Ceviche is another of the rather recent openings I wanted to visit and finally had a chance when I was in London and had enough time to go before a late starting gig. It's on busy Frith St. in Soho and the restaurant is equally busy with tightly packed wooden tables and chairs/stools. I was there on a Thursday at 6:45 and mine was the only free table, even the pisco bar (where you can also eat) in the front was packed so booking is highly recommended. There aren't starters or mains as such but the food is served as sharing plates (or non-sharing if you're on your own) and they recommend three or four plates per person. Have a look at the menu to get an idea. I had three and a dessert without extras and was thoroughly sated.
Now for the food. I obviously wanted some ceviche so I chose sea bass which I enjoyed. The fish is sliced and mixed with "tiger milk" (a mix of lime juice, chilli and spices) which tenderises the fish and basically cooks it without heat. A very fresh and light dish with just a little kick at the end.
The other cold dish I had was chunks of Pulpo (octopus) grilled on a skewer with slices of chorizo. Octopus is hard to get right and this was perfect, lovely and tender, the rich and chewy chorizo a nice contrast.
I also had Solterón, a salad of palm hearts, spinach, alfalfa, feta and olives in a lime dressing. Also very nice, although the flavour of the palm hearts is a bit odd at first.
For dessert I had the most disappointing dish, at least in value: Lúcuma ice cream with crumbled alfajores (a sugar confection). 5.25 for two scoops of ice cream is a bit steep, even in central London, I thought, but the taste was brilliant.
I couldn't leave without having a cocktail with pisco (the national drink of Peru, a grape brandy) and I chose one with passion fruit. Fresh and very enjoyable.
The bill for this meal (three dishes, one dessert, a glass of the house white and the pisco cocktail) came to 43 pounds which is OK for the location. With exception of the dessert, the food prices are fine and drinks were priced well, too (4.35 for the wine and 7.50 for the cocktail).

So, if you fancy something a little different (but apparently Peruvian cooking is up and coming) and don't mind to be packed into a place with a lively atmosphere (and the odd wobbly table), I can only recommend Ceviche and I will definitely be back as I want to try some of the other dishes.

Sorry for the lack of photos but I was going to a gig afterwards so couldn't take my camera. There are stunning ones by Paul Winch-Furness on their website.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
It had been a while since my last meal at Alimentum (my birthday at the end of March) and I had heard very good things about the new dishes Mark Poynton and his brigade have come up with so I went for a nice lunch on Bank Holiday Tuesday and wonderful it was. The new dishes are fresh and light while still being packed with flavour, some classic, some new and adventurous but always exciting. I had a Chef's tasting menu with matching wines to be able to sample most of the new dishes:

Gougères and popcorn Pea

Proceedings started with fresh gougères and crunchy popcorn and then a bowl of very light and fluffy pea mousse with cottage cheese and crispy Parma ham.

Asparagus

The first starter was asparagus (green and white) salad, hazelnut and truffle. I could have eaten this all day, so light and fresh (and slightly bitter) this was with the crunch of the hazelnut and the earthy slithers of truffle. Brilliant.

Pork

Pork: head (the round slices), cheek (the dark piece on the right), pineapple, acorn and chorizo. The cold ballotine of head reminded me of what is called Pressack in Germany (bits of pig's head cooked in the stomach and usually served as a cold cut). The cheek was braised and so soft you could have eaten it with a spoon. The pieces of pineapple added acidity and sweetness. All quite dark in flavour but not heavy.

Lemon Sole Veronique

Fish is always fantastic at Alimentum and this "Sole Veronique" was no exeption, perfection in a bowl.

Lamb

The main was lamb, rump and belly with broccoli and cous cous. Perfectly cooked meat, the rump soft, the belly crispy and the extras with the beautiful sauce pulling everything together.

Fresh ricotta

Palate cleanser: Fresh ricotta, pineapple and sweet cicely sorbet. Fresh, light, bitter, slightly sweet. Huge smile on my face.

Passionfruit

First dessert: Passionfruit (curd and granita), coffee ice cream and saffron meringue. The coffee might sound a bit strange but it worked really well with the fruitiness and the earthy saffron meringue.

And then, a bit of theatre:
Milk Jam Mousse Milk Jam Mousse

Smoked milk jam mousse, lime, banana and honeycomb. Just glorious, the smoke was really noticeable even minutes later. The dish looks quite substantial but it was really light.

Strawberry

Final dessert: Strawberry (mousse and jelly), apricot sorbet (inside the canneloni) and basil meringue. After the saffron with the passionfruit, the second savoury meringue. Basil goes well with strawberry, anyway, so this was spot on. It's rare that I like meringues as they tend to be too sweet for me but these were both lovely.

Every time I eat at Alimentum, the food is just getting better and their prices are hard to beat considering the quality of cooking. Even after having eaten at Midsummer House, I still maintain this is the best restaurant in Cambridge.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Restaurant Sat Bains has been on my "to do list" for a while because his food always sounded and looked interesting when featured on TV, reviews or food blogs. A couple of months ago I mentioned my desire to visit and a friend who lives in Nottingham offered to come along and a roof over the head for the night so I took the offer and booked a table for yesterday.
When we arrived we were shown to comfortable seats in the cosy bar/lounge for our pre-dinner drinks. Sat Bains only offers tasting menus, one with seven and one with ten courses with optional matching "wine packages". We decided on the full experience of ten courses with matching wines and we also chose to share the duck egg, ham and pea dish, with which Sat Bains won the starter in Great British Menu 2007, as an additional starter.
Now I have to admit I have a problem, I simply lack the words to describe what followed. The horseradish amuse bouche in two parts, the "ice cream sandwich" and the pannacotta, were already oozing with a variety of perfectly matched flavours. This theme would continue throughout the menu and quite often change while eating a dish, especially when having a sip of the matching wine. In the case of the main, the flavour of the venison tartare developed black pepper flavours when eaten with the treacle bread (the darker of the two you see below). A few dishes tasted differently to what your brain told you they should taste like, especially the chocolate/olive/balsamic dessert.
After our main we were offered a cheese course which I asked to be served at the end (my German genes, I guess). This was not a traditional cheese board but two prepared cheese dishes, both excellent.
Service throughout was spot on, friendly, unassuming and happy to discuss the dishes. The sommelier's wine pairings were also perfect, enhancing, supporting or even sometimes changing the flavours of the dishes in an entirely pleasant way.
We must have made an impression because we were invited into the kitchen to have a chat with Chef Sat Bains who showed us the surprsingly small kitchen, introduced us to his brigade and talked about the food and his philosophy/approach to cooking. Not only did we get to meet this thoroughly charming and gracious chef but were also served an additional off-menu dessert, a treacle sponge with parsnip and apple. The sponge was quite big but so fluffy and light it was almost not there. With this we had a glass of sparkling sake which was again a wonderful match.
It was only when we left the kitchen that we realised that it was already 11 o'clock meaning we had spent over four and a half hours eating and drinking without really noticing the time passing as we were so involved in the whole experience. It wasn't over yet as coffee and chocolates were still to come which we took again in the lounge going full circle around the restaurant if you will. Called "chocolate log" this was again not what you would expect as you can see in the last photo below. Each shard of chocolate (from white to dark) was flavoured differently, a beautiful end to a wonderful experience.
And now, the photos. Rather tricky as the light wasn't brilliant but I think they give you some idea of what we experienced:

Horseradish amuse bouche Horseradish amuse bouche
Horseradish amuse bouche


White and treacle bread
Bread


Duck egg 65°, peas
Duck egg, ham, peas


Scallop, leek (smoked, charred)
Scallop and leek


Jersey royals, dashi, onion juice, ham
Jersey royals, dashi, onion juice, ham


Duck liver "muesli"
Duck liver "muesli"


Loch Duart salmon, asparagus, asparagus gazpacho
Loch Duart salmon, asparagus gazpacho


"Waldorf" salad
"Waldorf" salad


Roe deer, mushroom, pine, thyme, chocolate
Roe deer, mushroom, pine, thyme, chocolate


"The crossover"
"The crossover"


Sweetcorn, miso, passionfruit
Sweetcorn, miso, passionfruit


Chocolate, coffee, olive oil, balsamic
Chocolate, coffee, olive oil, balsamic


Strawberry and cream
Strawberry and cream


Tamilworth cheese with beetroot Blue goat's cheese
Cheese


"Chocolate Log"
"Chocolate log" and coffee
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
The Pass restaurant is in Sussex and a bit tricky to get to from Cambridge so when I read that Matt would do a "popup" at Cinnamon Kitchen (a few minutes from Liverpool St. station), it sounded like an easy way of sampling his food. After a train and tube journey that took 40 minutes longer than it should have, I arrived at the restaurant in time for the welcome drink (a rather nice Bellini). The meal itself was at the "tandoor bar" in the main restaurant, a long low open kitchen counter with comfortable chairs (not barstools) behind which the chefs worked and were also happy to answer questions and explain what they were doing.

Matt Gillan Lewis Hamblet Matt Gillan

When we arrived the chefs (Matt Gillan, head chef at The Pass, Lewis Hamblet, executive chef at South Lodge and Sarah Payne, junior sous chef) were busy assembling the starter. I ordered a glass each of the recommended wines and after a short introduction to the dish by Matt, the starter was served.

Curried gressingham duck breast, braised leg, blackened onions, pink grapefruit

There were two elements of duck in the dish (Curried gressingham duck breast, braised leg, blackened onions, pink grapefruit), hot slow cooked leg in a parcel and rolled up slices of dark pink breast at room temperature. This might sound slightliy odd but worked perfectly and the additional elements tied everything together adding texture and acidity. The wine, a Pinot Gris, worked well with the dish, even if you would expect a red with duck.

Roasted stone bass, spring onions, chick pea, watercress

The fish dish (Roasted stone bass, spring onions, chick pea, watercress) was next and freshly cooked directly in front of me as were the spring onions. You could see how much are and attention went into cooking the fish and the result was brilliant: Crispy skin and moist, flaky fish with excellent accompaniments.

Main: saddle of lamb, slow cooked belly, lamb fat gnocchi, lemon curd, mushroom

The main event was saddle of lamb, slow cooked belly (sitting underneath the slices of saddle), lamb fat gnocchi, lemon curd, mushroom. The meat had been cooked to medium in a waterbath and was then freshly seared and sliced. The belly had been cooked overnight and then pressed. The gnocchi and mushrooms were freshly fried as well. This dish is actually fighting with the lamb I had at Tuddenham Mill I had earlier this month. The basic idea was the same, a prime and a "cheap" cut of meat with interesting accompaniments but rather different in execution. I loved the contrast of the two cuts of meat, the juicy saddle and the soft and crispy belly (which wasn't greasy at all). The gnocchi were crispy on the outside, soft inside, the mushrooms had great flavour and the lemon curd (as weird as it sounds) tied everything together and provided the acidity that came from the yoghurt in Paul Foster's dish. Genius.

Dessert: vanilla and lime cream, mint gel, cucumber, mango, coconut sorbet

The dessert was vanilla and lime cream (inside the cylinder), mint gel, cucumber, mango, coconut sorbet. Lovely fresh, fruity and not too sweet flavours, some soft, some crunchy with the surprising element being the cucumber balls which had been steeped in a light stock syrup to give it some sweetness. Brilliant.

You can find more photos in this flickr set which will be expanded with a few more shots when I find the time over the next few days.
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)
For my overnight stay I had more or less randomly picked a hotel just down the road from The Hampshire Hog, a "pub and pantry" I had been wanting to visit for while as I know the owner Ed on twitter and had heard good things about their food. Breakfast wasn't included in my stay so rather than subjecting myself to chain hotel fare, I walked five minutes to the Hog and I'm glad I did. The main room is bright and airy with rough wooden tables and mismatched chairs. When you look at the menu you realise it's a place where you could spend hours having brunch with a variety of dishes but I had lunch coming up at 12:30 and been told to arrive hungry so I only chose a portion of buttermilk pancakes with blueberries, banana and honey butter.

Buttermilk Pancakes, Blueberries, Banana, Honey Butter

The pancakes were crispy on the outside, soft in the middle and the fruit were lovely, too. With it I had a pot of excellent Earl Grey tea (loose leaf, no less, from The Rare Tea Company). As the light was perfect to read by and I didn't have to check out of my hotel before midday, I spent another hour or so with a large glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. A perfect morning.

My lunch destination was Axis at One Aldwych in Covent Garden. I live in this slightly bizarre world where as a "foodie" on twitter and other social networks I'm in contact not only with other like-minded people but also chefs from around the country. They regularly post menu updates and photos of new dishes and are happy to chat with their followers so I had "known" executive chef Tony Fleming for a while. I even booked my table through him and he promised me an interesting menu after checking for any allergies or dislikes. As I will try everything at least once, I love this sort of arrangement when chefs offer to "cook for me" and I don't necessarily know what I'll be having and the chefs love it when they can exercise their ideas without restriction.

Axis is one of the two restaurants at One Aldwych and situated in the basement but has also its own entrance from street level via a sweeping marble staircase. The dining room is well lit and furnished with tables dressed in white and comfortable chairs. On my table was a personalised printout of my menu entitled "Surf and Turf Tasting" and it looked very exciting indeed. Again I asked the waiter to recommend a couple of glasses of wine to go with the majority of the menu and again his choices were perfect as was service throughout my almost three hour meal.
This was my meal:

Lamb, Lobster, Pea

"Lamb, Lobster, Pea" BBQ style piece of crispy lamb with soft meat and a piece of perfectly cooked lobster tail, brought together by the pea. The antenna, although inedible, was a nice touch.

Scallop, Pork Belly, Prune

"Scallop, Pork Belly, Prune". A soft scallop sitting on a piece of braised pork belly and prune puree. Rather soft and sweet but not overbearingly so and I loved the flavour combination of scallop and pork.

Turbot, Duck, Broccoli

"Turbot, Duck, Broccoli". This combination might sound slightly strange but it worked really well. The turbot was roasted on the bone, the duck cooked dark pink, just how I like it. Some of the best broccoli I've had, too.

Rabbit, Langoustine, Carrot

"Rabbit, Langoustine, Carrot". This was, to my mind, the most inventive dish. The loin meat was wrapped around langoustine which meant it was protected and remained perfectly moist. The other piece was slowly cooked leg meat. The carrot and beet leaves rounded off the dish nicely.

Veal, Crab, Asparagus

"Veal, Crab, Asparagus". The piece of braised rose veal had almost the flavour of beef and fell apart, a truly remarkable piece of meat. It sat on top of the best crab cake I have ever had, it was fresh and light with excellent flavour and flake. The asparagus was tender with a bit of crunch. Lovely.

Gingerbread, Banana, Salt Caramel

"Gingerbread, Banana, Salt Caramel". An excellent gingerbread soufflé, fluffy and light and cooked thoroughly. The piece of banana was crusted with lovely caramel, the ice cream and the salted caramel sauce brought everything together. With that I had a superb Australian dessert wine called Xanadu (the only one I remember, I need to get better at this).

Chef Tony Fleming came out for a chat and gave me a quick tour of the kitchen and the other parts of the hotel. Many thanks to him, his brigade and the front of house staff at Axis for looking after me so well. I walked back to the tube and then to my train to Cambridge a very happy man and didn't need anything else that day, despite clubbing all night and celebrating with friends.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
For my birthday I usually treat myself to a new gadget or some camera equipment but as I didn't need anything this year, I decided to visit a few more restaurants than usual. On my actual birthday I went with a group of friends to Alimentum in Cambridge who treated me to a tasting menu of new dishes. I've written extensively about Alimentum's food before so I won't write a separate post but you can see the photos here. While everything was excellent, the halibut dish was everybody's favourite.
The next day I took a train down to London to have lunch at Alyn Williams' restaurant at The Westbury in Mayfair. I had read quite a few reviews both by journalists and fellow food bloggers who were all praising Alyn's cuisine. No wonder, really, as he'd spend the last few years as Marcus Wareing's head chef at the Berkely before he decided to set up his own restaurant at The Westbury so his reputation was already excellent.
The restaurant is set in a windowless but well lit room on the ground floor of The Westbury. The setting with well spaced tables dressed in white is elegant but not overbearing. Service was equally pleasant, friendly, efficient and invisible when not needed.
Considering the setting and area, one would expect a rather pricey menu but this is not the case. The set lunch menu is £24 for three courses, à la carte is £45 for three courses and the seven course (with two options for main) tasting menu only £55. This, considering the level of cooking and location, is a bargain (a service charge of 12.5% is added to the bill). Also, you have the option of replacing dishes from the tasting menu with one from the a la carte in case one isn't to your liking. As I'm unlikely to have the opportunity to go back soon I chose the tasting menu to be able to taste a good variety of Alyn Williams' cuisine. There are also separate à la carte and tasting menus for vegetarians.
As it was lunchtime and I don't process alcohol well during the day, I did not choose to have the wine flight with my menu so instead the sommelier suggested a glass of white and red each that would go well with the main sections of the menu. Just before my first course was served, Alyn Williams dropped by my table and said Hi before he went back to his kitchen.
Photos and descriptions of each course:

Canapes Bread

Canapés and bread. The former were just little bites (incl. very cheesy gougeres and prawn crackers) but full of flavour and a wonderful indication of what was to come. The bread was lovely, too, especially the dark sourdough which was the closest to German bread I've had in this country.

Beef shin, crab, onion consommé

The first stunner: braised beef cheek, crab and onion consommè, served in a cocktail glass. The fresh crab worked really well with the strong beef.

Scallop, oyster

This was probably the most beautifully presented dish I've had. A perfectly cooked scallop with an oyster on top. It was fresh and yet deep in flavour. Truly high level cooking. Marvellous.

Smoked egg and truffle soldiers

A little extra course of smoked egg with truffled soldiers. Rich egg, crispy soldiers with added truffle flavour. Fun little dish.

Foie gras semi freddo, pickled carrot and liquorice

Foie gras semi freddo, pickled carrot and liquorice. I'm not a huge fan of foie gras for various reasons and briefly considered asking for this course to be replaced but I was intrigued by the combination so I tried it and it was fine indeed. The richness of the foie was cut by the liquorce powder which wasn't too strong in flavour and balanced beautifully. The pickled carrots were perfect with it.

Cod

This cod dish was another example of the high level of skill in Williams' kitchen. Simple in principle yet spectacular in execution and balance of flavours.

Pigeon

The meat main was pigeon, seared breast and a croquette of slow roasted leg. Needless to say, this was also cooked on the spot with perfect sides. I wouldn't have needed that rather mean looking steak knife.

Passion fruit cheesecake

My meal slowly winding down, the pre-dessert arrived, a passion fruit "cheesecake", a brilliant combination of crunchy, sweet and tangy. Just a little portion (that is a normal tablespoon next to it) but perfect as a palate cleanser.

Caramel, apple, walnut ice cream

The main dessert consisted of a button of very dark caramel covered in chocolate, apple and walnut ice cream. I'm not a big fan of caramel but this was outstanding as it wasn't too sweet. You can't just see it in the photo, the disc of apple wasn't solid but consisted of long strips wound into a disc. It was soft but still had a little crunch and was lightly spiced. The walnut ice cream was smooth and worked perfectly with the other components.

Cheese

At this point I was already thoroughly stuffed but on my way to my table I had walked past the cheese trolley which had a lot of the type of cheeses I love so I couldn't say no when the waitress asked me if I wanted some. The cheeses were perfectly ripe and kept in top condition. An excellent end to a wonderful meal. Now really full I had to decline the offer of coffee but the waitress kindly gave me a little box with four truffles to take with me.
After a quick tour of the kitchen and a brief chat with Chef Alyn, I paid my bill and staggered contentedly back to the tube which would take me to my hotel in Hammersmith.
In the evening, I saw the excellent Pokey LaFarge at Bush Hall and back at the hotel afterwards the truffles were a perfect night cap. Needless to say, I didn't actually need dinner that evening.
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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
I first had a taste of Russell Bateman's food when he provided the main for the Tommy's charity dinner at Alimentum last year and since then I'd been wanting to visit Colette's the restaurant he heads up at The Grove hotel in Watford. After a series of public transport failings (half an hour for a bus, signal failure outside Cambridge), I made it to the hotel just in time for my booking. Kyle (who used to be sommelier at Alimentum) kindly gave me the grand tour of the sprawling building with its various lounges, bars and restaurants, all held in a simple, elegant style. I also had a quick peek into the kitchen before taking my seat in the restaurant. This is also held in mostly white with very low lighting (fellow food bloggers, take heed) and widely spaced tables dressed in white cloths.

I'm going to keep this review relatively short as there is a lot to go through (counting all the extras, I had 16 courses) and let the photos do the talking. In every dish the ingredients were perfectly cooked/prepared, stood out on their own while harmonising wonderfully with the others on the plate and offered an interesting mix of textures, just what you want in a fine meal. The following spectacle of culinary delights took almost four hours. In addition to a glass of champagne with the canapees, I had a different wine with almost every dish (a few were paired with the same wine) so I think it was a total of 12 glasses. Not very big ones but definitely enough to make me very happy by the end.

Colette's - Canapes
Canapees: White ham, pork and mustard, crab, samphire on squid ink biscuit


Colette's - Bread

The bread deserves special mention. Not only is it freshly baked on the premises but it's served in a warm linen sack with hot baking beans in the bottom that will keep the bread warm. The butter and olive oil were superb, too.

Colette's - Pea amuse bouche
A pea based amuse bouche. Lots of clean, fresh flavours.


Colette's - Scallop
Scallop, peanut, radish, lime. If I had to pick a favourite dish, this would be it.


Colette's - Jerusalem Artichokes with Truffles
Jerusalem artichoke, truffle, truffled soldiers


Colette's - Pig's Cheek
Spicy braised pig's cheek, coconut. This was served with knife and fork but could easily have been eaten with a spoon so tender was the meat.


Colette's - Foie Gras
Foie Gras terrine with apple and celeriac


Colette's - Cod
Another fish dish: Cod with heritage carrots


Colette's - Pigeon
8 spice squab, Grove honey, apple


Colette's - Lamb
Salmon cut of lamb leg, Jalfrezi spices, sweetbreads, glazed aubergine


Colette's - Cheese
A small cheese course. just one variety (Colombier) but this had everything I love about cheese, elements of brie, blue and washed rind.


Colette's - Lid Colette's - Palate Cleanser
A palate cleanser: Mango and papaya salsa, yogurt foam, passionfruit


Colette's - Cheesecake
The tiniest slice of cheesecake ever but it was great. I couldn't have eaten a normal slice, anyway.


Colette's - Lemon Parfait
Lemon parfait and little meringues


Colette's - Chocolate
Jivara chocolate, thyme ice cream, Seville orange, black pepper to finish.


There were some petit fours, too but I had to pack up quickly to catch the last train from Watford Junction so didn't get a phot. They were pretty and delicious, like everything else. There are a few more photos on flickr.

Many thanks to the teams front and back of house at Colette's for looking after me so well. I won't forget this meal anytime soon.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
The last time we were at Alimentum, a friend said that she wanted to go at some point and only eat desserts. That gave me an idea so as it was her birthday last week, I arranged just that and it turned out the perfect way to spend a lazy Sunday afternoon.
We started proceedings with an Espresso Martini (which I neglected to take a photo of, oops) and we opted to have a starter so we didn't only have sweets.

Sweetbreads and Chicken Wing Confit

Sweetbreads and chicken wing confit with wild garlic. Brilliant little dish with crispy sweetbreads and very soft chicken wings. On to all the desserts.

"Black Forest Gateau"

"Black Forest Gateau" Obviously not the rich cake from the 70s but taking the various elements and presenting them in a modern way. The sponge was as light as a feather and the cherry elements varied from sweet to tart, all balanced beautifully.

Next, we shared a portion of the Battenburg which I had last time so have a look here for a description.

White Chocolate Parfait, Passionfruit Rhubarb, White Chocolate Panacotta

On to two dishes featuring white chocolate. On the left a white choc parfait (the ball) with passionfruit and on the right a white choc pannacotta with rhubarb. In both dishes, the tartness of the fruit/vegetable was counteracted by the sweetness of the white chocolate, creating a wonderful balance. Each element on its own would have been too sweet or too tart. We only had one of those and swapped halfway through.

The pernod foam with pineapple and fennel was next. Again, a photo and short description are in this post.

Chocolate and Passionfruit Terrine

Then, the killer: A chocolate and passionfruit terrine with honeycomb. A very rich, dark chocolate ganache with more passionfruit elements. The honeycomb crumbles on top provided a light crunch rather than sweetness. Superb.

Blackcurrant Crumble, Vanilla Ice Cream Crème brûlée

During the final course we again shared two dishes: On the left, a blackcurrant mousse with crumble and vanilla ice cream. Very light, very fruity and flavourful. On the right, a Crème Brûlée with caramelised cassia bark, black cherry sorbet and almond tuile was a sweeter dish but not overpowering. The layer of melted sugar on top was almost transparent. Beautiful.

I am going to amend this with the wine list if I manage to find out what we had (a different one with each course, except the pernod foam), I can't remember them all, my memory became kind of hazy after a certain point. I think I have to take photos of the bottles on my phone to help my memory along.

Huge thanks go to the staff at Alimentum who not only went along with this crazy idea (apparently this was the first time somebody had requested an all dessert menu which I find hard to believe) but made it a very memorable afternoon indeed.
karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
On Wednesday I attended a special dinner at my "local" restaurant Alimentum where Stuart Smith of Torea Wines in New Zealand introduced their range of wines while Alimentum's chefs had designed a tasting menu matching dishes to those wines.
Before each dish was served, Stuart Smith talked a little about how each variety was grown and made which provided some interesting insight for wine novices like me.

Stuart Smith

Sauvignon Blanc in the glass

Here are the dishes and the accompanying wines:



Salmon, squid and ink

Salmon, squid, squid ink risotto, pink grapefruit and roast salmon broth. The fish was beautifully, just barely cooked and the rest of the ingredients offered good contrasting flavours and textures, all tasting fresh and light. The wine was the 2010 Sauvignon Blanc, light and fresh, yet quite a few things going on there.
Rabbit lasagne, tarragon and mustard puree

Rabbit lasagne, tarragon and mustard purée. Another light and fresh dish with subtle and soft rabbit meat. The purée wasn't as strong as it sounds so well judged. With this we had the 2009 Chardonnay, a bit heavier and deeper than the Sauvignon but still light, another good match.
Spiced duck breast, pastilla of leg, cumin and carrot, pomegranate

Spiced duck breast, pastilla of leg, cumin and carrot purée. The menu also said golden raisins but I had pomegranate seeds. I didn't mind because they worked really well with the soft meat, best piece of duck I've had in quite a while. The wine was the 2010 Pinot Noir, also a good match as it was a little bit spicy but not heavy.
I didn't take a photo of the palate cleanser as it was the pernod foam with fennel that's currently on the tasting menu and a bit hard to take a good photo of.
Baked apple terrine, Granny Smith sorbet, Aspall's cider foam

The dessert was Baked apple terrine, Granny Smith sorbet, Aspall's cider foam. This was another brilliant dish with different textures and temperatures and varying flavours from cinnamony and sweet in the terrine to sharp in the sorbet. With this we had the 2010 Pinot Gris which while a good wine on its own was a bit too sharp with the dessert. Most people at the table agreed but that was just a minor negative point to the whole evening.
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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Quite a few friends and foodies I follow on twitter have raved about José Pizarro's authentic Spanish cooking. Last year, he first opened a traditional tapas bar in Bermondsey St., London and a few months later Pizarro, a sit down restaurant with a starter/main/dessert style menu. This is the one I visited. I'd heard they were popular lunch spots so I arrived early at 12 o'clock and was the first customer but the place soon filled up nicely. As I wanted to take a few photos, I picked a window seat (regular chairs facing a bar parallel to the window, ideal when you're on your own to watch the world go by or when you want good daylight). Next time I'll most likely pick a seat with a view of the open kitchen.
For starter, I had a portion of croquetas and a small plate of Jamón Ibérico, the most flavoursome cured ham I've ever tasted. Such deep flavour, with the fat melting on your tongue. No wonder this stuff is so expensive. I forgot to mention that a full plate of Jamón is £20 but I only wanted a taste and they were happy to provide the small plate you see here (for £7.50) so excellent customer service.

Jamon Iberico


For main I had sea bass with roasted winter vegetables and salsa verde. Crispily fried skin, flaking flesh with excellent accompaniments.

Sea bass, root veg, salsa verde


For dessert, I didn't have to think about what to choose: Crema Catalan, the Spanish version of Crème Brûlée. Lovely soft custard cream, crunchy caramel on top (which was almost a bit too well done but I liked the contrast of the bitterness with the sweet cream).

Crema Catalana


Next time I'm in the area I hope to gather a few friends to José and share some tapas.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Mat Follas, head chef at The Wild Garlic in Dorset (and Masterchef 2009 champion) held a one-off "pop-up" restaurant at Ben's Canteen in London (part of the Canteen's guest chef nights).
As The Wild Garlic is a bit out of the way for me currently (there are no trains to Beaminster), this was the perfect opportunity to taste Mat's cooking so when I read about it, I signed up immediately.
I got there early to chat to Dave Ahern, head chef at Ben's Canteen and try one of his famous Breakfast Scotch Eggs (and it really is stunning, you can taste all the elements). Mat joined us and asked me if I would take some photos in the kitchen as well and of course I jumped at the opportunity. However, let's first look at the menu:

It started with a bowl of "Pesto Popcorn", which was nice and one of the few times I enjoyed a savoury popcorn:

Pesto Popcorn


The starter was Smoked Queenie Scallops, served in their shell. These were only morsels but the taste was superb, the smoky flavour enhancing the sweetness of the scallops. I could easily have had a dozen of those.

Starter: Smoked Queenie Scallops


Now the first meat course: Confit Duck Leg with orange and tarragon. The meat was perfectly cooked and so soft it fell apart. You could pull out the bones cleanly. Surprisingly, the orange sauce worked well for me and really loved the dish.

Confit Duck Leg


Another small course was next but by no means small in terms of flavour. A delightfully and strongly flavoured mushroom velouté that tasted like a pound of good mushrooms compressed into an espresso paper cup. Wow. When I was in the kitchen, I'd smelled this soup as it came out of the Thermomix and that already blew me away.

Mushroom Veloute


Then the main: 12 hour triple cooked pork belly, served in slices off the rolled piece with sweet potato and miso puree and pickled vegetables. Another slow cooked dish that let the simple but very flavoursome meat shine. The puree was an excellent substitute for gravy.

Main: Triple Cooked Pork Belly


The next course was a palate cleanser in the shape of a ball of beetroot (yes, you read that right) sorbet, served on a little china spoon. It sounds bizarre but it worked really well. This was hard to photograph on the table so here's a shot from the kitchen:

Palte cleanser: Beetroot Sorbet


Then, there was only dessert to go but what a stunner that was: Lavender panna cotta with berry compote, salt and pepper ice cream and crumbles of honeycomb. Each part was lovely on its own but a bit of everything on the spoon made my tastebuds dance, a perfect balance of flavours.

Dessert: Lavender Panacotta


This was a fantastic meal. Simple, rustic dishes which high quality ingredients were the stars of the meal. If this is the food Mat Follas and his team are cooking every day at The Wild Garlic, its customers are in for a treat and from what I hear that is indeed the case. Go there now! :)
More photos after the cut.

A few more on flickr.

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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
Yesterday evening I finally managed to go to Fitzbillies for dinner. This legendary cake shop and café was closed early last year but resurrected by Tim Hayward and his team later in the year. The Guardian has a good overview of the story. I'm almost ashamed to say that despite having lived in Cambridge for 16 years, I'd never been but I'm not a big fan of cakes and exceedingly sweet things (their house specialty is Chelsea Buns). However since they now also offer dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings, I had to go. The menu changes weekly and offers a selection of rustic dishes at for its location very reasonable prices.
Something most people have mentioned when talking about the refurbishment is the decor: off-white wood panelling and light blue tiles which make the place look more like a swimming pool than a café or restaurant but while I found it a little odd, I didn't mind it. The low, indirect lighting probably helped there. The downside to the low lighting was that it was hard to take decent photos.

Interior Quince Fizz


I started the evening with a glass of "Quince Fizz", quince puree topped up with sparkling wine. Tart and refreshing. Next up was a cup of crab bisque which was fantastic. Creamy, full of crab flavour with a nice little kick of chilli at the end. Tim Hayward tweeted: Christ, @Rosiebluebell s crab bisque tastes like a suspension of Higgs Bosons in liquid diamond... With unicorn stock. and that wasn't far off. :)

Starter: Smoked pigeon

My starter was smoked pigeon with blood orange, chicory and almonds, basically a salad. The pigeon meat was soft, the chicory crunchy but the citrus dressing - for my taste - just a little overpowering. It still worked and I enjoyed it.

Main: Braised Rabbit

For main I had braised rabbit, winter lettuce and mustard potatoes. This was a perfect dish for a dreary winter evening. The meat was still juicy, very flavourful and went well with the accompaniments. The gravy was outstanding, too and I used the rest of the homemade soda bread to mop it all up. With the first two courses I had a glass of nice Bordeaux.
Despite feeling quite stuffed I couldn't possibly leave this temple of sweetness without having dessert so I picked the Eve's pudding with pear:

Dessert: Eve's Pudding with pear

Baked in a large coffee mug, the cake topping was crispy and the hot pear filling soft with a hint of spice. Delicious.
So yes, if freshly cooked, rustic food is your thing, Fitzbillies is for you and a welcome alternative to the endless sea of chain restaurants in the centre of Cambridge. The only downside is that they currently are only open for dinner on Friday and Saturday evenings. Booking a table in advance is also recommended as by the time I had arrived at dessert, the restaurant was fully seated and word that you can have a fab informal dinner with friendly service still needs to spread.
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karohemd: Gentoo penguins in Antarctica, by me (Hungry)
A new month means new dishes at Alimentum so I went yesterday to try some of them. I was told a menu had been created for me (things like this happen when you're friends with the chefs on twitter) so I didn't even know in advance what I would get (or choose from a menu) and that it would turn into a 8-course extravaganza.

The canapees came in a funky double bowl:
Canapees: Popcorn and Cheese&Onion Macarons

Alimentum popcorn and Cheese&Onion macarons. Both had an excellent flavour combination of savoury and sweet. I could happily devour a box of those macarons.

The amuse bouche was a small bowl of frothy cauliflower veloute, with little bits of pickled cauli at the bottom.
Amuse Bouche: Cauliflower veloute

This style of soup is one of Alimentum's staples and there's a new flavour every month or so. A nice way to get the tastebuds going.

The next dish was smoked haddock with a fried egg and a fluffy potato veloute.
First starter: Haddock and potato veloute, fried egg

Definitely the first highlight in my menu, the different textures made this. Flaky haddock, frothy soup, rich egg and some crispy bits. Oh, and served by the head chef himself. :)

The first meat dish was a duck terrine (smoked leg and foie gras) with sorbe and fig, and liver parfait on toast.
Second starter: duck terrine, sorbe, fig, liver parfait on toast

The only thing that was a bit off for me here was the "BBQ sauce" that was a bit strong for me but that's a personal preference as I'm not a fan of BBQ sauce. Still, with only a little, it was a great addition.

Back to fish: mackerel with a teriyaki glaze with avocado puree, cucumber and radish.
Fish: mackerel, teryiaki glaze, cucumber, radish

Mackerel is one of my favourite fish, you don't need to much to it, only barely cook it and this is what I got here. The glaze wasn't overpowering and the salad was nicely refreshing. The second highlight.

The main act was a duo of beef. Roasted sirloin with carrots and onion ash and in a separate little copper pot a beef cheek ragu and a generous blob of horseradish mash with more onion ash.
Main: beef, carrot, onion ash

Needless to say, the sirloin was perfectly and evenly cooked, deeply flavoured and soft, perfectly matched by the carrot, the jus and the onion ash adding a bit of zing. The ragu had clearly been cooked for a very long time as the meat was reduced to tiny slithers with jus the right amount of sauce. Deep and rich, I was almost tempted to just dig in with the spoon but didn't in the end. While writing this, I remembered I had a rather similar dish at Pollen St. Social last year and thinking back, I prefer Alimentum's version.

By that time, I was thoroughly stuffed but there were two desserts to come:
Luckily, the pre-dessert was very light: a smooth pernod foam, with bits of pineapple at the bottom and fennel crisps stuck in top (yes, this works, very well).
Pre dessert: Pineapple Foam

The only criticism I could find was that it could be a bit more colourful, especially when served in a white bowl.

The final dessert was a slice of Battenburg cake with apricot icecream on one and a cylinder of amaretto foam on the other side.
Dessert: Battenburg cake, apricot ice cream and foam

The apricot things were light but I couldn't finish the cake after that generously poritioned main before. It was, however, very nice indeed and I'm not a big fan of this sort of cake. The natural light from behind me had faded by that point so this photo didn't come out quite as planned.

So yes, another great meal at Alimentum. The restaurant had a little facelift and a window to the kitchen has been added so you can watch the chefs at work. Immediately behind the window is the cold section where desserts and cold elements of other dishes are assembled but you can also see the stoves further in.

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