If you have the opportunity to go to Cambridge for a weekend, or even for the day, you should maybe have a stop by the MidSummer driven by Daniel Clifford.
It seems that Midsummer is the only 2 Michelin starred restaurant in the East Anglia, hence by flying by Cambridge on the way to New Market, we had to stop try the lovely MidSummer House.
What to expect here? the level of a two stars? not really….I would be honest. I’ve been slightly disappointed. But I need to elaborate here to be frank with you. I’m maybe as usual very picky and demanding, but isn’t it the level of the two star we’re looking for here? let’s be taking the comparison with the Ledburry maybe in London, or le Gavroche, or maybe perhaps the Bristol or Senderens in Paris, I would say we’re not really on the same level.
Why, would you ask me?
Unfortunately I’ve to say, if the rating of service is for some people not contributing much for the whole appreciation, I’m putting the treatment on a higher level of importance. For a two stars michelin you have almost to expect perfection, and here I’ve to say, I’ve landed into the nice but unexpected succession of errors. From forgetting to move pull the chair for you on the table when you seat, to the usual “can we have some more bread” and not being ask if I need more?! how rude. This very small attentions may seem not worthless for some people, but it’s usually the reason why you have two or three stars. You would not imagine the level or precision that you have to reach for a three star michelin. No question, No noise, No default, everything is flowing and works like a “swiss watch”.
We decided to go for the Market Menu, a kind of lighter tasting menu composed of seven courses. I’ll take the chance to develop all the courses here, as I’ve to say I think it worth the explanation.
The menu started by a very clever and light “mise en bouche” made of a foam of Champagne and Grapefruit, serve in a superb bowl looking almost like a colorful bulb. This foam was a kind of interesting approach compare to the usual savoury little canapé or mini “verines” filled with cold soup which are so common. Here, the surprise comes from the dressing itself as the foam is poured directly in front of you in the bowl out of a syphon and dropped onto the table. Very simple, but chic. Maybe too simple!! …but it was light and sweet.. interesting start for a meal.
And then the big things starts with a try on a classical, with a Pea velouté, with prawn and seaweed jelly. I’ve to say it has been the best pea velouté I had since I enjoy British food. I don’t know if the syphon as been abused again, but the velouté was light as a foam, full and intense of air. As you drop your spoon in it, it starts to fall like a soufflé. Wicked. The prawn was perfectly cooked i.e. almost raw, cracking and soft. Disappointing on the seaweed jelly, maybe not the most interesting thing. Tasteless and just funny to find those cubes hidden in the bottom of the beautiful cup. One remark here….I’m not a fan of dishes serves without dressing plates. The bowl dress up like this was too plain, too simple, not chic…almost a soup in a candle glass? very odd. Let’s be more creative at this stage.
The second one was the Salmon rillette as said on the menu, vegetable pickles and wasabi. Very interesting concept of rillettes should I say. I would have understood a carpaccio, but here, either I don’t know what are rillettes , or maybe I missed the point. I must admit I’ll pass on this one and consider a late change on the menu (not announced thought) from a Rillette to a carpaccio. As Rillette of salmon would have been more creamy and thick and spreadable on a nice toast.
The global balance of flavour didn’t work for me as well. Why adding vinegary pickles radish and courgette all very strong with the nuance of a very nice salmon? Hence, the fishy element disappear to leave the flavor fully exposed to the pickled veggies. Overall, refreshing, but I would admit is was a washout. Didn’t worked for me, not that it was not good, but just not balanced.
Two courses passed, interesting, full of ideas but not really worked for me.
But now here we are, reaching the level of the two stars. The following three courses were absolutely spot one, full of creativity and talent.
First the simple chicken wings, reblochon and endives. I’ve to say, from the title on the menu you can’t really guess what will land on your plate. Here it was spectacular, beautiful and tasteful. What a weird association. The chicken simply comfit style, falling off the bones (maybe too small). then the red endives, some round spot of endive purée with apple (i think). Then the jus reduction, nicely done (maybe too thick). And then the glassing on the cake was this decent size spot of purée based of reblochon in a sort of “aligot” style, covered of a simple slice of reblochon, soft and matching perfectly the “farmed” chicken. Wicked. And then the finale, an amazing chicken dry skin slice, all over simplicity but perfectly executed. I would love to have that again again…crispy and full of salty flavour.
The following course was simply the winner of the day. The Mullet “en croute” of parmesan, artichokes slightly roasted on the side, almost caramelized, just superb. Then those slice of “poivrade” cut very thin, some other kind of jelly made of lemon and other slices of lemon pickled and some thin “julienne” of parma ham. On top of that, those superb spots of tiny olives purée. The combination was just spot on. The acidity of the olive and the lemon was amazingly matching the fishy flavor of the mullet, cooked to perfection. This has been the best piece of fish I had for a long time I would say.
The last savoury dish was finally a superb “deconstructed” Canard a L’orange (Duck a L’orange) if I may say. Indeed, let’s take the basis of the canard a l’orange and diverge from it a little bit. The creativity here was just superb, those nice light orange scoop of sweet potatoes and orange purée, cooked to perfection duck “magret” and then this very surprising iceberg salad, quickly cooked. I’ve to say i’ve not been a fan of the cherry, but it’s ok, it’s not like if you can’t put it on the side.
So far I’ve been fully pleased by the last three courses. And I was expecting the same level for the desserts. Unexpectedly I’ve to say, the desserts were not been at same level. I would say it was nice, but compare to other two stars, I’m sorry to say that the level was not there.
Landed on the table in front of me another verine (no plate) of a Lemon posset, raspberry jelly and lime. What to say, first of all the emulsion or foam on top was really inconsistent, we had to literally ask what it was. I thought it was a foam of wheat or hop, but the waiter confirmed is was Lime?? at which extend I thought it was maybe lemongrass. However, it didn’t work for everyone apparently, and we had to send it back to make a new one without the foam (bad). The posset itself was nice and rich looking more like a fully rich custard full of vanilla seeds. Very good idea of the crushed frozen raspberry. Somehow, nice….but very risky in a way.
And the final dessert, I was seriously not expecting that. Seriously too simple for a two stars michelin. Strawberry, Elderflower and Lemon Sorbet?? Even if it’s nicely rendered, I don’t understand the strawberries with an elderflower syrup and some meringue fragments and some kind of sponge cake cubes?? very disappointing on this one. Not the level of two stars. Sorry
We finished our journey at MidSummer House by having the coffee on the terrace outside. Lovely attention from the waiter. The service at this stage was perfect. Mignardises and coffee, and delicate attention from the chef to prepare some “bugne from Lyon”. Nice
One last remarks, I know sometime starred restaurant are “showing off” but some little details can make a huge difference. Hence this maybe sound silly, but can we have a better selection of bread?! Only two choice of bread? very surprising, even a Business Class on US Airways will do better.
So overall MidSummer was a nice experience, but I’ve to say an up and down flight. Some real “smashes” and some real downfall. I’m becoming more and more picky with the age, and the service seems to be more and more critical and important for me. On the food side, I can’t say I was fully transported as well. Some dishes were really creative, but I will remember the bad ones. I think I’ve not felt the “sparkle” of the unknown product like at GreenHouse recently, or the service quality of a Gavroche.
I’ve to say, compare to other two stars I’ve done, you can’t put the MidSummer at the level of Gavroche, neither Taillevent for instance.
Maybe was it a bad day! I’m doubtful….I just think that the midsummer house had a great potential, but need a push on the management side.
I would recommend the Mid Summer house, but for the same price (forgot to tell my Negroni was cheaper at Alain Ducasse @ Dorchester***) ….the competition is wide open…
By the way, one good tip…if you’re coming by car, even is usually two stars restaurant got a valet, here you gonna have to park your car.MY RATINGS : FOOD = 7/10 DECORATION/AMBIANCE = 6/10 SERVICE = 6/10 NOISE = 6/10
Cambridge CB4 1HA
Tel: +44 (0) 01223 369299
Fax: +44 (0) 01223 302672