Posts Tagged Artichokes

Midranked…………MidSummer House** // Cambridge

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.

Light Colourful Bulb with Grapefruit and Champagne foam

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.

Pea Velouté with Seaweed Jelly

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.

Salmon Rillette, Pickeled Vegetable, Lime and Wasabi

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.

Confit Chicken Wings, Endive, Reblochon

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.

Red Mullet, Parmesan, Green Olives and Lemon

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.

Duck, Sweet Potato, Orange Purée, Cherry and Iceberg

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.

Lemon Posset, Raspberry Jelly, Lime

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

Strawberry, Elderflower and Lemon Sorbet

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.

FOOD = 7/10
SERVICE = 6/10
NOISE = 6/10

Midsummer House
Midsummer Common
Cambridge CB4 1HA

Tel: +44 (0) 01223 369299
Fax: +44 (0) 01223 302672

Midsummer House on Urbanspoon


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I’m a frenchman in London….by A. Ducasse*** at Dorchester

Alain Ducasse – Dorchester – Park Lane – London


Jocelyn Herland

After a long time, I am finally putting pen to paper to write about the world’s current second best chef, having the most three starred restaurants, including establishments in London, Paris and Monte-Carlo; Alain Ducasse seems to be a “3 star machine”. Simply because of this, I respect the man. You’ve certainly never seen him on TV, he is very discreet and even still, he is one of the most talented chefs in the world and is perhaps one of the best restaurant managers in history. He currently holds 24 stars on his own, second only to Joel Robuchon.

His foray into the restaurant scene in London was not, as many think at the Dorchester, but at ‘Spoon’ in the Sanderson Hotel in Fitzrovia. After five years of hard word, the restaurant won its first star. Then in 2009, the chef took a step-up into the world of fine dining and took over the direction of the main restaurant of Le Dorchester on Park Lane.

I’ve tested his restaurant in Paris at the Plaza Athenée (part of Dorchester group) and I’ve always loved it, so I wanted to find out if the Dorchester’s reputation was all it was cracked up to be. Ducasse, helped by his protegé Jocelyn Herland, won the Dorchester two stars in 2009 and within one short year they attained le Guide Rouge’ s pinacle – three stars.

So how do you get from two stars to three? I got a bunch a serious foodie friends together to investigate further; we weren’t sure what to expect.

Obviously in this freshly redecorated dinning room, we expected to find a sumptuous space, created by one of the world’s best interior designers. Patrick Jouin, who had  already decorated the Ducasse in Vegas had taken-up the challenge. As we walked in, an oval shaped waterfall of swarosky crystal welcomed us into a light bright, and generous space,  which was pure and calm against the frenetic, noisy chaos of Park Lane in the outside. I liked the chocolate and green spotted walls in the alcoves and the contemporary furniture, which added to the serenity of the room.

The main dinning room with the private crystal room

But what I really like in the London Ducasse is that this French master chef has somehow managed to create a unique environment by mixing British flair, with typically French elements and themes. He has more importantly, found a way to cleverly adapt his cooking style to the local palette with his usual genius. Not finding this cross over of French classic cooking to British needs has perhaps been Joel Robuchon’s downfall.

Delicate royale of FOIE GRAS & PUMPKIN, lapsang souchong emulsion

The “mise en bouche” was one of those example marking simplicity and softness. This is crazy how mister Herland can just be simple and realise at the same time the most exquisite creation in cooking art creation. This one was superb. A pumpkin velouté so soft and mixed that you could see your face in it by reflexion. In technical terms we could call that a “glacis”, glossy as a mirror can be.

Presented in a small old fashion soup bowl, the velouté was honestly like a chinese lacq, in an orange tone. In the middle a round spot of foam from the lapsang souchong emulsion, slightly darker, almost burgundy coloured.

Then you start to eat. The dream starts at this stage, when you realise that on the bottom of the bowl has been dressed with some foie gras dices. I presume the velouté has been served directly very hot on a quite good portion of foie gras cubes. Therefore you don’t have them mixed, which would have been too strong and boring. Nooooooooooooooo here the chef has just created a 3 layers sneaky unprediactable flavour and shapes…the cubes, the velouté and the foam. All mixed together was just a superb combination. Well done I have to say, and certainly a good start for diner.

ARTICHOKE RAVIOLI, in herbs consommé

This starter was just an unbelievable moment in time. This kind of moment you’ll never forget, mainly from the faces of my friends, and from the full emotion we had when we started to eat the large ravioli.

Here we reach the sumptuous of being in a 3*** restaurant. Except if you are a serious professional cooker – or maybe mad – you’ll never try to do this recipe at home. “Why not??” will you ask…just because it’ll take you ages and patience?


Alain Ducasse

Now to help you to understand, let’s come back to your imagination and when you were little.

Usually, we all love artichokes (Right??)…and what we love usually in artichokes is to scratch the leafs one by one with the teeth…after the artichokes being cooked….with either a vinaigrette or a mayonnaise.

Here J Herland create and invent, bring to us simplicity and brio. When you read the name of the course, you assume it’ll be again one of those artichokes heart (the inside)….and I wouldn’t say it’ll not be good….but I would say it’ll common or even boring.

But the master chef is sending you back in time and brings you the flavour of the artichokes. The bitterness of all those black-green part of the leaf that we love to suck, even just steamed. The raviolis are simply full of this crunchy and dark artichokes purée, which accommodate sumptuously with the herbs consommé. I can perfectly picture the “comis” in the kitchen meticulously scratching each leaf of the artichokes in the morning and preparing those large balls of artichokes purée, then coated with light simple ravioli pasta.

May seems simple, but most often simple ideas turn into a festival. Here, no “singing” oysters, no crystallized eggs, just the simplicity of the products and the brightness of the preparation. The Dorchester brings us into the past, using the simple sensation of our best moment. It’s something mainly used in those kind of restaurant, as it’s somehow giving the client a kick, a slap in the face, the thing they were not expecting. But this is the goal in achievement for such a quality place. Always pushing the boundaries.

Carpaccio of Scallops, beetroot and Truffle dressing

Artist? Yes mister Ducasse is an artist and his “protégé” seems to show it as well.  From the minute we saw the waiter dropping the large plates on the table we all of a sudden recognized the beauty of the picture frame we had in front of us.

Carpaccio of Scallops

The round flower made of really thin scallop slices, alternating with beetroot slices and spinach in a wonderful “rose-window” style art creation. But what we didn’t realize at all – as I didn’t read properly the menu as usual – is that there was some truffle in this recipe. And it was a real fascination when I looked at the nice cabalistic shape of black and thick foam on the side of the plate. By just smelling it you can recognize the strong and famous truffle odour. At this stage this was a sumptuous delicacy and very odd combination! Black truffles are mostly preferred to be associated with meat. Here we were somehow intrigued by this white and black association. But I’ve to say….it works…and very well.

The truffle must have been crushed and reduce with a sea food stock coming I must guess from maybe squids. Thie latter was combined with a light lemon and lime background flavour, making the black sauce just very light. We can’t be too strong in flavour with Scallops, they are delicate and soft… covering with too much strong ingredients, you’ll destroy their supreme perfume. Truffle on one piece of Scallops, add some beetroot (sweet and tender) and a little spinach. Yummmmmy

What a perfect spot……I loved it.

AN APPLE COMPOSITION… « Comme trois pommes »

This is as usually really rare from me to talk about the dessert selection, simply because I’m not a sweet person (!! Ah ah ah). I just prefer salty dishes. It’s a fact.

But I’ve to say, this one was just the apogee of the full diner. I’m usually skipping this part, or not really enjoying it. But this time, the waiter treated us with respect (maybe because we’re French – lol). On the top of the regular dessert planned on the tasting menu, the waiter dropped on the table a 3 way apples style tart. One tart with three various way cook apple. Tatin (obviously!!), Apple Crumble style, and a Apple Curd Jelly with a crunchy of Apple juice on top. What can we say at this stage? Nothing just that we can commend all at the same time and have a huge respect for the idea; and certainly more for the quality of the tart. Paradoxically the Tatin tart was somehow the less interesting of the 3 flavours. The Crumble style was just superb, with the slightly cooked slices of apple. The last one was a very surprising shortbread layered apple tart with a layer of tender apple jelly and an apple juice crunchy….just totally fantastic. It was ace. Seriously

To sum up, Alain Ducasse surrounded by his head chef Jocelyn Herland succeed his magisterial entry in the small – very small – world of 3*** restaurant in the UK. The architect of the “haute gastronomy” has now proven that there is a great adaptation of French cuisine with british food and I’m somehow looking forward to go back again and try some of the new creation.

FOOD = 9/10
SERVICE = 8/10
NOISE = 9/10

Alain Ducasse at the Dorchester on Urbanspoon

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The versatile master..from Classical to Modern….Guy Savoy***//Paris

Guy Savoy

Big warning for this post…….the famous sacred chef Guy Savoy will transport you into one of the best table on earth. Here is just PERFECTION. Full stop.

This is not a national choice at all or blue-white-red french preference, but I honestly believe this master chef his the most current talented chef on earth and I’ve ever had to experience the food.

When you arrive at Guy Savoy, you feel first of all like if you enter the Guggenheim or the Tate modern combine with the Louvre, this is a sumptuous combination of Modern art and classical atmosphere. Just sumptuous and relaxing. I can bizarrely remember the weird presence of “burgundy red” all around me during diner. Sometime your memory can be attracted by something you don’t really notice at first instance, however it stays in your mind for life. I’ve to say, this moment are in you memory forever and at Guy Savoy, i’ve to confess, this is definitely something I’ll remember.

Guy Savoy is for me a modern “designer” of cooking Art. He is able to surprise you at any courses. We talked about the Chiberta in another post, and I’ve been so surprised by the combination of food, than if you go the main Guy Savoy restaurant you’ll just be pleased and fulfilled.

We – as usual!! – took the tasting menu which includes many of the main chef specialities. I’ll there develop The Oysters “à la nage” and the Truffle soup.

This is really bizarre, but even if I do remember that this diner was overall just perfect, surprisingly I do remember only those two courses and one “mise en bouche”. I think this is coming more from the situation and the reaction of the people, on top of the quality of the courses.

I’ll not be too long on the “mise en bouche” but I had to mention it to you as it was just surprising. It’s almost difficult to describe it. As far as my memory goes, I do remember a floating small ball made of foie-gras in a conic glass the size of a shot glass. The ball was swimming in a juice made of truffle, foie-gras and veal stock. Simple, but just totally “superb”. The foie-gras was suddenly revealed to his entire nature by the veal reduction (cold of course) and the light flavor of truffle. Genius, light and Art. Well done for an introduction.

Then we move to the first course…speciality of Mister G Savoy. The Oysters “à la nage”.

Oysters "a la nage"

I’ve to explain exactly what means oysters “a la nage”. This is basically a transition between a raw oyster and a nice reduction of veal and the natural jelly out of it. I think at this stage I almost need to explain the course by using the recipe. Cook slowly one veal trotter – i know some people at this stage will just stop reading – with some nice carrots and leak. After cooking leave the juice to stabilise and turn into a jelly in the fridge.

Now let’s imagine the water from the oyster – full of iodine – being mixed with this nice natural jelly and some cream fresh mixed beforehand with some oysters crushed!!! The full oysters are just totally recomposed in the shell itself, but they just lie down on a nice bed of cream, lemon and spinach purée. The serving is usually 4 per person (“a la carte”, but only one for the tasting menu!!! otherwise you’ll not survive). On top of each oysters the chef spreads some of this iodine and veal jelly crushed and covered with some chives meticulously chopped to the thinnest ever possible level. The course is served literally very cold and you just have to eat the oysters as normal, without any need of a fork (even if you can notice one on the picture aside!!). Now I can tell you about the sensation all about sweetness and lightness and above all freshness. All at the same time reveal to you….veal, iodine, lemon, cream…..just sumptuous….

At this stage, I think the entire table was just recognizing some uplifting level in Guy Savoy and we were all just waiting for the second surprise.

One of the biggest force of mister Savoy is probably to have no real classification between the classical cooking and the modern european or any new funky “fusion” style. He is just feeling at ease in any cooking fashion. And this is exactly where you can recognize a “grand chef”. Savoy can jump from preparing the best “velouté Dubarry” you’ll ever have in your life to the most fusion exquisite “Truffle Vietnamese Nem” you’ll ever eat. The second Savoy’s speciality we had is the perfect demonstration of what I just suggested. As per the menu (still actual) the dish is simply an Artichoke Soup with Black Truffles, Brioche with Mushrooms and Truffles (fr : Soupe d’Artichaut a la Truffe Noire, Brioche Feuilletee aux Champignons et Truffes)

This is one of the numerous specials from the sacred chef.

I do remember, just after having this incredible “farandole” of oyster, presented in a very modern style plates and decoration, jumping into a very middle-age style. Unbelievable, here comes the copper sauce pan and the classical soup vintage bowl. Very disturbing, as some people could find it very tacky, however we were all very suspicious at this stage, we were just waiting for what will happen next.

Then the waiters arrive with some simple dressed plates with some brioche made with mushroom and truffle, hidden in some nice proper cotton napkins. The flavor of fresh brioche started to spread in the dinning room like a fresh bakery perfume of Paris street early in the morning. Yummy. I’ve to say, usually you never remember the full list of the menu when you go for the tasting menu, the list is too long and you just don’t care as you can’t choose anything….you just eat (lol).

Burgundy wood atmosphere

So at this stage the surprise is total and intact. One of the sous-chef (unfortunately not mister Savoy himself – he will arrive later) arrives with this massive casserole, in copper again, and started to fill each of our soup bowls. Amazing theatrical scenario, totally unexpected. Smiles on the faces, questioning sometime, we were all trembling on our chairs to taste the light green elixir.

Here we come, the sous-chef disappear, and then in a very relaxed manner the head waiter just said…..”enjoy it like you want, crush the brioche if you want, spread it, eat separately, ……oh well… like you prefer…feel at home”….friendly and so true. How would you be complicated for a soup? never, just enjoy. I remember some very thin slices of aged parmesan on the side as well, some raw crystal salt,…..mix and enjoy. This is your soup and you appreciate the way you want.

But first of all, just taste it…..UNBELIEVABLE.

A stunning flavor of Artichokes, but not just the heart of it, same as at another place I’ve went to recently, the soup was made of the bottom of the artichokes leafs. This part when you eat the leafs (either with vinegar or mayonnaise) which is more bitter than the heart. This is it, the soup is a revelation of work, the chef must have been grating the leafs of all the artichokes to gain this amazing and so particular flavor. And then the second essence comes, the truffles, not too strong….not to fade. Just perfect. A note of cream of course. A stock of veal or chicken on the background to link the texture and the ingredients. An ACE, just spot on and so simple in a way.

And then you do what you want….spread the brioche, … it separatly….it’s almost like a game. The brioche, made with mushroom, was adding a buttery taste in the soup…I try with and without….totally different, but in each cases, just wicked. A second serving of the soup is offered in the tasting menu, just like for the a la carte option. I did take advantage of the second serving this time, as any of the people on the table.

Another restaurant, another memories……

This is really weird, when people ask me which restaurant is you best experience, I’m always coming back to Guy Savoy. I would honesty would like to work one day with him and experience the way he is creating. Every dish sounds like a pure piece of Art. He would remind me some singers, comfortable with singing Jazz, Pop or Rap. Guy Savoy is part of this exclusive and restricted group of chef in the world to be able to switch from a style to another. And I’ve to say, by choosing the tasting menu, you just can confirm this. In somewhat 8 courses, you jump from classical to modern in a very nice way. We had the chance to see mister G Savoy coming to the table at the end, maybe to congratulate us for having finished the full list of courses, but certainly to get some “bravo” from the table. No default, no issues, no false note…..just PERFECTION.

Front door Guy Savoy - Paris

I will love to go back again there…..

Just one big issue nowadays. G Savoy has become incredibly over priced and the current tasting menu is nearly 300 € per person without wine!!! maybe an extravaganza at this price. I’m not sure I’m supporting this kind of prices, even if the result is awesome. One good thing to notice, maybe the crisis effect impact, G Savoy is suggesting for Lunchtime or after 10 pm from the 15th of July to the 15th of September a 5 Courses with 5 vines for 130 €….great value. I’ll go next time I’m in Paris. For sure.

My ratings :

Food = 9/10
Decoration/Ambiance = 8/10
Service = 9/10
Noise = 9/10

Guy Savoy Restaurant

Rue Troyon

75017 Paris, France

01 43 80 40 61

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