dines at Midsummer House...

Midsummer House in Cambridge is the star attraction of Cambridge's growing food scene. Owned by Chef Patron Daniel Clifford, the restaurant has held two Michelin stars since 2005, and has recently undergone renovation.

I've wanted to eat Daniel's food for some time now, and the Craven meeting at the Newmarket race course nearby provided the perfect opportunity to visit the restaurant.  Midsummer House is set in a Victorian villa, perched neatly between a river and an open park.  As a result you have to approach it on foot - but this gives you time to take in the restaurant's lovely setting... Tables are predominantly set in the rear conservatory, and overlook the charming garden, the trees hung with fairy lights.  There's even a Misdummer House Pashley propped up in the garden, adding to the slightly old-world romantic feel of the restaurant.

We began with a tomato and celery sorbet, olives, and cheese gougère made with parmesan, and filled with smooth warm gruyere, by far the best gougère I've had in terms of texture.   The sorbet was clean, a culinary virgin mary, and very refreshing.  We opted for the tasting menu, and for once I've remembered to photograph most of it.

Leek and potato, a quails egg and smoked haddock
The quails egg had been just dipped in burnt onion powder and was perfectly soft and luscious. The fish was cooked exactly, and the translucent flakes broke easily into the leek and potato. I've had onion ash at Roganic, but this is much more intense and flavoursome, though much grittier in texture.

Rillettes of salmon, pickled vegetables, lemongrass sorbet and wasabi puree

Succulent moist salmon, balanced carefully with the soused vegetables, and the clean refreshing sorbet.  The wasabi doesn't overpower the dish, but adds depth and gentle heat, and the effect of all three accompaniments is to lighten and refresh the palate, and most importantly to allow the salmon to shine.  I could eat this all day long. The micro leaves also serve a function, highlighting the spice.

Slow roast quail, salad of fresh pea and wild garlic, sautéed morels, quail jus    

Alongside the quail breast, a ballotine of quail leg wrapped in potato offered an extra textural dimension.  The quail was perfectly cooked and offset by the rich clean earthiness of the pea and garlic.  The morels added a level of unami'ness which counterbalanced the delicate sweetness of the meat.

Cauliflower cooked under pressure with squid and rice crackers

What could possibly elevate cauliflower cheese to a gourmet dish? Include some squid!  Of course Daniel's dish was much prettier than this, but yet again I was so fascinated by the combination that I'd tried it before I remembered to take a picture.  The combination of the squid and the cheese hits that umami button head on, and allows the menu to continue to build in depth.  Barely visible in the picture is a squid ink sheet of jelly, and diced squid buried deep in the dish.  The metallic tang of the squid ink contrasts with the seaweed like greens, and the rich depth of the cheese.

Unsurprisingly I managed to miss the photograph of one dish - well - I was really enjoying the menu by then!  But my notes have a dish of slow roast duck, with braised swiss chard, sweet potato and pink grapefruit.  I've noted that the dish just lifts your palate back up the umami scale after the last two, with the pink grapefruit adding a note of acidity, and cutting through the meatiness of the duck.

Artisanal cheese    

The Hubby was offered a variety of cheeses, including some very nice Exmoor Blue, Roquefort, and Manchego.  

A pre-dessert of fennel, black olive and lemon came as fennel cream and jelly, with lemon sorbet, shards of black olive tuille, and black olives.  The combination of sour and savoury acted as a good palate cleanser after the cheese, but I can imagine it wouldn't be to everyone's taste. Personally I loved the combination.

Caramelised apple, cinnamon ice cream    
Absolutely lovely dessert - the various combinations of apple an cinnamon made for lovely contrasts. There were crisp mille-feuille like disks, hot apple spheres with cold apple disks, jelly disks on top of smooth mousse, a raisin jus, a cinnamon puree, and cinnamon ice-cream.  Tart and light in texture, yet with the sweet cinnamon depth of flavour.  The cool and warm contrasts, the smooth and the crisp, were all delicately balanced.

Midsummer House is one of the few restaurants I've eaten in where I felt the chef had truly constructed a menu, rather than a random combination of dishes. The meal is structured in depth, and increases in intensity as you progress.  The rooms are newly renovated, and the staff were attentive.  During the summer guests are able to spend time in the garden, which given its setting, would be charming.

I was lucky enough to not only go into the main kitchen, but into Daniel's development kitchen too, and the attention to detail is evident everywhere. Delicious food, a beautiful setting, and the added incentive of the stunning architecture of Cambridge on its doorstep.

Midsummer House
Midsummer Common

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