Friday, 8 June 2012

Midsummer House

Its three years since our last visit to Midsummer. An awful lot has happened in between those years and we have virtually eaten our way around England. London has and always will be the big draw for us but we just had to make the return here.

Ideally situated by the River Cam it has undergone a recent refurbishment with the conservatory being extended, and a rejig upstairs with a very pleasant private dining area. Its refreshing to look down from the approaching bridge to the house  below, and to see the rowing boats on the water. Of course topically we have just had the famous Oxford, Cambridge boat race.

The draw of course this year was Daniel Clifford's Great British Menu dishes, which yummy brummy Michelin starred chef Glyn Purnell marked up to 10 out of 10.
Can a dish be awarded full points? Is it perfect? Of course its all down to personal preference, but hey I'm not a chef so what do I know.

We arrived in good time with no traffic problems on the roads, to be greeted by Restaurant Manager Simon Warr who was here on our last visit.
First impression was good. Youngish staff front of house, same in the kitchen, which now has a large viewing window into the conservatory. It is a very pleasant place to sit, light, spacious and in touch with the verdant garden area.

Now then. We have been blessed with some excellent meals this year so I desperately wanted this meal to carry on in that vein.

Before I get on to the menu that we ate from,I would just like to point out that the other two that we looked at were equally, if not more appealing. Lots of meaty treats on them both that had us spoilt for choice, and truth be told we both really fancied the tasting menu.

Amuse was a dinky glass of "bloody Mary", some feathery light cheese filled gougeres, and a bowl of green olives.


Bread was made on the premises and was White and brown sourdough, of which I just slightly preferred the brown. As can be seen from the photo it has a fantastic salty thick crust. Mention also to the butter which was pretty good too.
Oddly the menu is not printed up as Great British Menu, its on as the Market Menu. So I was slightly confused at first, until I read its contents. Instead of the televised four courses it is now six, plus of course the little nibbly bits and bloody Mary at the start. You may also add in a cheese course at the bargain basement price of £7.50.

So a classic to get us started. What could be more classic than, Leek and Potato, quail egg and smoked haddock

The reason why classics have been around forever of course, is because they work. Here the translucent fish was perfectly cooked and the vichyssoise was perfect too. It all slipped down a treat.

Onwards to the first proper GBM dish which I think scored very well, Caramelised veal sweetbread, onion and cinnamon puree, burnt onions and wood sorrel

This presented itself well on the beautiful plate and was a joy to eat. Sweetbreads are underused but hold bags of flavour especially when caramelised like this. Note that only one asparagus spear has burnt onion ash on it. On the cinnamon bark, and nestling snugly below the wood sorrel is a veal tartare.

Straight down to the Med next and you perhaps could eat this anywhere along the Cote d'Azur, that's where the inspiration is from.

Stuffed Red mullet, Parmesan puree, confit lemon, roast artichoke, green olives, and Iberico ham.

This was a pleasant dish. Again nicely presented. Good piece of fish which still tasted strongly of red mullet even though it had a crunchy pork topping, which incidentally we thought worked very well. All except Oliver Peyton of the GBM judges liked this dish. We could not understand what he did not like about it.

The main event next, and I still can't believe Glyn Purnell said he almost cried when he ate this dish. For a chef to utter those words, I cannot think of any higher compliment one master craftsman could make to another master craftsman. If I were Daniel Clifford I would have been blown away.

Slow poached chicken, sweet corn, spinach with bacon and peas, chicken juices.

My photos can not do full justice to the impact of this dish when it arriving at the table.
Served on a stunning, massive JL Coquet porcelain plate all the way from Limoges it was picture perfect. We could not wait to get tucked in.
The only thing missing however from the dish was the "chicken spray" that was wafted in front of the judges. Still it was really not required as there was good aroma from the plate.

It was a divine plate of food. Chicken is such an everyday item at home, that we all tend to forget how a properly sourced bird should taste. Note the chicken skin cannelloni filled with chicken mousse and popcorn. From a chefs point of view I suppose this dish is technically excellent. From a punters point of view it most certainly ticks all of the  boxes.
Yes we can indeed understand the very high praise.

We took the cheese as an extra course and the chariot arrived table side laden with goodies.

We left the choice mainly to our server with a little interaction from us. We don't normally take the cheese course but having tasted some absolutely fabulous Bernard Anthony Comte and Gruyere at Medlar recently we were tempted here today.

So, we had a taste of compte, some very fine Stilton from Colston Basset, Harbourne blue goats cheese from Devon, Spanish Manchego from La Mancha, and some Turnworth from Hampshire made in the style of Camembert.
Grape chutney, walnut and raisin bread and selection of crackers completed the offering.

Pre dessert was a simple but effective transition into dessert,Fennel, black olive and lemon

Finally and perhaps to some,the most prettily plated of food of them all, the dessert.

Raspberry and tarragon roulade, white chocolate cookie dough, salt and pepper powder, tarragon oil

Eye candy of the highest order, and it tasted as good as it looks

Wow and we are not quite finished yet.

Daniel Clifford himself explained that the recipe for these little French inspired pastries are unique. Made with a high alcohol cherry eau de vie and served with apple compote from the garden and a basic creme anglaise they were quickly devoured.

And last but not least a selection of very fine home made chocolates with the coffee.

Well, well. This is a true destination restaurant for us in every sense of the word. Without doubt a truly great meal and high praise indeed for the generosity of the portions. In fact that is the one thing that shines out above all else, the generosity of it all. No tiny portions, no cutting corners, we like that very much in a restaurant.
Daniel Clifford eats, sleeps, breaths this business and his hospitality is immense. He is firmly of the opinion if you spend big money at a restaurant, it has to be a special experience and believe you me, this was special.
As you will imagine our bill was over £200 for two, however there is an easily accessible midweek dining option at about £40 so its very doable for quite a few people.

Service is a highlight here, perhaps as it should be of course, but you don't get it everywhere that's for sure. Simon Warr has a very good team to work with and looked after not only us but all of his customers on the day.

Finally, and perhaps because he knew that we were coming, the immensely charming Daniel Clifford who popped by to say hello at the end of service. We were flattered that he would spend so much time with us and it just rounded off a very special day and made it seem like it was an anniversary or birthday.

He did not mind me taking a photo of him in relaxed mode. In fact I think he relished it, he's a really fun guy to be with.

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