Posts Tagged seaweed

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.

MY RATINGS :
 
FOOD = 7/10
DECORATION/AMBIANCE = 6/10
SERVICE = 6/10
NOISE = 6/10

Midsummer House
Midsummer Common
Cambridge CB4 1HA

Tel: +44 (0) 01223 369299
Fax: +44 (0) 01223 302672
Email: reservations@midsummerhouse.co.uk



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Lost in Translation…..Fabrice Giraud // La Grande Cascade* // Paris

La Grande Cascade front side by night

Back to Paris here for this post with one of the most beautiful “back in the 18th century” experience. There are rare places on earth where you can feel yourself transported radically to a different point in time and La Grande Cascade is one of them. This amazing “pavilion” built under the governance of Napoleon III by his well-known genius architect Georges Eugène Haussmann…has been transformed into a Restaurant for the Paris Universal exhibition in 1900. The restaurant been directed by many chefs (inc. Alain Ducasse 1995-1997) and was conducted by Fabrice Giraud back in the days I went.

First of all, when you arrive at the Grande Cascade (and especially in the evening) you feel the impression of serenity and chic. When the car drops you by the left side of the pavilion, after passing alongside the long terrace, you feel like arriving in a chic villa in on the French Riviera. No places in Paris can be similar, and this is certainly the force of the Grande Cascade. But the most impressive is when you open the door of the taxi and you see this massive marquee in a typical Gustave Eiffel style, made of shield screen and steel (fr = auvent) above you, then the really Empire style interior of the main lobby. When you get into the main entrance, you feel like entering into a palace or any other sumptuous castle.

Inside all is “luxe, calme et volupté¹”, …marble walls from Florence, high amazing and highly Napoleon III style decorated ceiling, the golden pelmet on the top of the windows, and the oversized hanging chandeliers made of millions of crystal prisms are reinforcing the feeling of luxury to a paroxysm.

The hosts are welcoming you and showing you to the table.Then you get into the famous and incredible main dining room.

At this moment you have this impression of turning back the clock to the 18th century, and you feel even a little bit disappointed of not having changed your clothes for a more appropriate outfit. You would feel like those “dandy” wearing a frill shirt and a pocket watch, and at some point you’re wondering how you can fit in this place. However, we’re not here for the atmosphere, even if it counts as well, and certainly more at La Grande Cascade than anywhere else.

For the little history, when Fabrice took the head chef position, the Grande Cascade was in a transition period. Nevertheless, the Grande Cascasde – like any other restaurant of this level – usually manage to provide the best creation at any time and even more, to serve always the specialties of the house. I perfectly remember that night. We were only three on the table and we had one of the best relaxing time ever. I’ve to say, this “lost in translation” feeling helped a lot to contribute to the full experience, as you can just watch the view by the window and appreciate the silence and the decoration around.

Coming back to the speciality I perfectly remember recipes here. They were technically very simple I’ve to confess, but the choice of the product hence their quality was just unbelievable. (They’re still served even nowadays “a la carte”)

The first speciality is the “cannelloni farci de truffes noires, foie gras et céleri, réduction de vieux porto” (eng : truffle stuffed cannelloni, foie gras and celery, old port reduction).

Cannelloni Truffle

OH MY GOSH….I think I honestly in my all life never had that much truffle on a plate at the same time. I perfectly remember very thin but long cannelloni coated with a simple emulsion of porto reduced. Sometime you think that the portion serve is not enough, too small. Here I can tell you it was simply the opposite. Each time I was cutting a small portion of pasta, then a flow of black mushroom crush was falling into my plate, surrounded by the foie gras which obviously was melting as well. The celery was just a “note” of bitter added to the overall main perfume of the port reduction. I’ve to say, this is not a very difficult recipe. But on this one you’re just please by the whole combination first and obviously by the amount of truffle. Worth it.

My second choise was very simple. My friend and I we love fish and especially good fish (of course!!). The second speciality of La Grande Cascade is among any other the whole Turbot for two.

At this point you must be wondering if I’m joking or not. You know the Turbot is a very big and we usually cook in restaurants what we call a Turbotin (i.e. a small Turbot). When the waiter arrived with a massive serving plate, it was almost like a bombshell. In the middle of a massive mist glass plate was dressed a huge light white green dome of salt with some dark green spots. From just turning around the table with the plate we could all feel the perfume of the ocean. The Grande Cascade special his actually to cook the whole Turbot for two within a coat of salt and seaweed. You would not believe it how the perfume of the seaweed was strong and still preserved even after cooking. As simple as it is, the waiter simply started to prepare to cut the “filet”, which basically turn into being not filet but literally two half of the fish. When the waiter started to open the salt coat it was like a treasure. I do remember all of us, suddenly attentive to the cutting. The fish was very simply served to fully preserve the flavor and to fully appreciate the product quality. This course is simply accompanied with fresh green asparagus and a ricotta “mille feuille”. And the dressing is a perfect Beurre Nantais made with some Riesling. And at this stage what can I say? nothing, I just stayed speechless and I was savouring the quality of the product and the perfect match of this very high quality Turbot. But above all, the most impressive is certainly the perfume of the seaweed. This is adding an outstanding flavor of iodine on the whole fish. You’re suddenly transported to the sea, I do remember just by smelling the steam from the plate when the waiter serve it in front of me, I just smell the vapor of the seaweed, but very strong, like one of those bath soap product. A freshness of ocean. Stunning and very clever. This course is the speciality of the Grande Cascade for decades now. I would recommend is seriously if you go there.

Interior Dining Room

La Grande Cascade is overall a very good address. I would say that it’s maybe a little bit overpriced compare to some other restaurant in Paris, nevertheless, this restaurant is more than food in a way. This is as well the atmosphere and charm of being transported to another moment in time. To some extend, you feel at the Grande Cascade like at the “Belle Epoque” time and you just don’t want to leave this place at all. The restaurant is the reflect of this period, when the modern french cuisine didn’t existed yet, hence the usage of really simple and quality product. No artifact, no high technical approach and technicism in cooking, but just the high standard selection of products, unlighted by some really good and wise flavor combination.

I’ll try to back there one day. I really enjoyed this moment. This is somehow one of the most romantic restaurant I did so far. ANd I would recommend it to any couple for Valentine’s day. ….. ;o)

My ratings :

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

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La Grande Cascade

Allée de Longchamp

75016 Paris

01 45 27 33 51

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¹L’invitation au voyage Charles BAUDELAIRE (1821-1867) Poem here in french

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