Mark has developed a very steady and loyal local following, as well as an increasing number of visitors keen to try his developing style. I was lucky enough to find myself in Newmarket for the races, and Alimentum went straight onto my list of restaurants to visit. The promise of such culinary riches also tempted along the very talented Paul Winch-Furniss, and it's his marvellous pictures you see here. We arrive separately, both windswept, but are quickly ushered into the warmth inside. There's a lobby bar, all very plush and smart, and giving way to the restaurant. By using the same scarlet colour palette, the two spaces are neatly combined, but are also quite distinct - two ends of the same spectrum, and very polished.
At the table we decide to have a tasting menu, and begin with a pea mousse with cottage cheese, lemon and ham - this is light, vibrant, with the acidity of the cheese balancing the creaminess of the pea mousse. The whole dish is topped with crispy Joselito gran reserva (one of the finest jamón ibérico de bellota).
This is followed by new season asparagus with a hen's egg: there's asparagus puree, raw green asparagus, barbecued white asparagus and a confit egg (in rapeseed oil at 62º for those of you who like these details, the same temperature as a water-bath egg, but here more delicate, silky and flavoured by its rapeseed bath). There is also a slice of truffle brioche, a pickled morel, a goats curd ice-cream and grated truffle to top the dish. I have eaten at least two other variations of this dish in recent months, but here the morel and the goats cheese take it in a different direction, adding depth and contrast to the overall composition.
Next sole, with a toast puree and a pickled fennel puree, silky leeks, pickled grapes, semi-dried pickled grapes, and soused fennel topped with a yeast foam. The yeast foam is piquant and lifts the dish, whilst the fennel and grapes add a sweet sharpness to the soft and delicate fish - a perfectly modern elevation of a classical sole Veronique.
The second dessert is a dark chocolate pavé, with a breadcrumb, maldon salt and olive oil crust, caramelised puff pastry at the base stuffed with popping candy, together with a pear sorbet and pear puree on cocoa nibs. The chocolate mousse was intense and smooth, and the textural elements cut through the density. Little cubes of pear scattered the plate and the pear sorbet refresh the palate in-between.
The service at Alimentum is professional and well-informed, and the proficient sommelier will guide you through the menu with appropriate pairings. It's a good-looking room, and I'm sure the intense scarlet silk elements look very rich in the evening, though they brought warmth during the lunch service too. Mark's cooking is accomplished and experimental, and thought has been put into the menu. The dishes change frequently with the season, with the chef always striving to achieve new heights - I think we can expect greater things from Mr Poynton in the future. If you're coming to Cambridge, Alimentum must be on your list of places to try. Indeed given that Cambridge is a scant 45 minutes from London by train, I'd argue it's worth popping up for lunch, and for a wander around the ravishing architecture of the old town just a few minutes away.
152-154 Hills Road,