Midsummer house is somewhere we have had in mind to go for about 3 years, but not living particularly near Cambridge, had not got round to it, despite absolutely adoring the look and sound of the food that Daniel Clifford creates. When we had an invitation through for a friend’s wedding in Kent and booked a long weekend off work, the cunning plan of working in a Friday lunch at Midsummer House came into being!
As that Friday grew closer, I got ridiculously excited – more excited than I had been about food since our trip to L’enclume, and was looking at the menus online on an almost daily basis! (extremely pathetic I know)
The restaurant is set on the edge of Midsummer Common and the River Cam, an idyllic location and on a gorgeous warm Friday we were lucky enough to be seated out in the conservatory, which was light and airy and looked out over the immaculate gardens.
At Midsummer there is no A La Carte Menu as such, but a choice of 2 tasting menu’s – a 10 course ‘Taste of Midsummer’, a 7 course ‘Taste of the Market’ or a lunch menu which is set out little like a tasting menu and gives you the chance to choose 3, 4 or 5 courses.
We went for the lunch menu and chose the full 5 courses, firstly because we needed to be down in Kent for 7pm, thus didn’t have enough time to go for the full 10 course tasting, and when comparing between the other two, we preferred the sound of some of the lunch menu dishes. The 5 courses quickly turned into 7 with the addition of some canapés and then an amuse bouche also, which was unexpected and delightful in equal measures! I noted that the amuse bouche course we had, was actually exactly the same as one of the courses off both of the tasting menus, which was nice.
I think canapés are really important, it gives you a taste of what is to come, and exciting, bold flavours, something that gets you talking definitely makes you more fired up about the rest of the meal. The canapés for this meal did just that. There were 3 elements – A deconstructed bloody mary which had a real kick, lovely gooey cheesy filled choux pastry, and lastly something which I just cannot remember, despite it being really tasty! This will teach me to either write things down or try to write my reviews in a more timely fashion (not 3 weeks later!)
Next up the amuse bouche, a dish which was also present on both tasting menus, English Pea, Tomato and Prawn. This was so fresh, with peas and tomato jelly nestling at the bottom, topped with a pea mousse with prawns hiding beneath.
The first of the ‘real’ courses was a Ravioli of quail, white onion purée, onion consommé. This dish was just sublime. Sometimes I think there are no words to describe quite how amazing some plates of food are, and this was one of those times! Every element was just perfect, a lick the plate moment!
Next up was Roast cod, wasabi, peas, mussels and lemongrass, this was served with a little cafetière of sauce, which had some lovely lemongrass in it, and needed to be plunged, just like a pot of coffee – a nice, quirky touch! The cod was perfectly cooked (although you would expect nothing less from somewhere with 2 Michelin Stars) and the combination of the wasabi and lemongrass was interesting and delicate and didn’t overpower the cod or the mussels. The 3rd course on the menu was Slow roast fillet of pork, confit belly, mushroom purée, girolles and Savoy cabbage. Again this was delightful, the pork was moist and juicy, the mushroom puree smooth with delicious little girolles dotted around the plate and a devilishly satisfying bit of belly pork to top it off.
After this came the cheese course, and while the cheeses were nice, they were’t spectacular. I think I was a little disappointed, and thus possibly my opinion is biased, by the fact that I didn’t get to choose mine from the amazing looking cheese trolley, whereas other tables who were having the tasting menus got to choose theirs! A little non tasting menu discrimination?! Onwards and upwards and the dessert was another triumph, Mango and passion fruit delice, lemongrass ice cream. I’ve never had lemongrass ice cream before but this complimented the delice really well, which was packed full of tangy fruit flavour.
I was dying to get outside and sit in their gardens, so we asked, as some other diners were doing, to have our coffees in the garden. Whilst watching some diners who had already finished their meal and were sitting outside having their petit fours, I could see that a large wooden box was being delivered to their tables with some goodies of some kind in it and then taken away again and I was itching to find out what was in it! My curiosity was soon satisfied when as well as our coffee and tea, and some fluffy french doughnut style pastries with a caramel sauce and calvados cream, a waiter appeared at our table with the box! It revealed itself as the ‘Midsummer Chocolate Box’ and had at least 10 different kinds of chocolates in it. We got to pick a few each to go with our coffee. A fantastic idea and they were all gorgeous. There were some really different and exciting flavours including bay leaf, pistachio, caramel, mango and passionfruit.
It was a perfect end to a perfect lunch, probably as good food as we have ever had, in both quality and imagination and fully deserving of all its accolades. I can’t wait to find a time to go back and sample the full tasting menu!
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Disclosure: We paid for our own meal, and all opinions expressed are honest and our own