Midsummer House, run by chef/patron Daniel Clifford, sits on the edge of Midsummer Common right in the heart of Cambridge. The restaurant was awarded its first Michelin Star in 2001, and has held two stars since 2005.
It would be a crime to have such a fine restaurant on ones doorstep and not give it a try. Still, it took me 6 months to get around to it. A visit from my friend Aaron, who travelled from Reading for the day, was the perfect excuse.
Three different menus were on offer: a lunch menu (excellent value at £35 for 3 courses), and a choice of two tasting menus, the 6 course Taste of the Market or the 12 course Taste of Midsummer. The lunch menu was tempting, but would have involved two decisions: which starter, and which main course? Much simpler to go for the tasting menu...
This started with a refreshing pink grapefruit and champagne foam, clearing the palate for what was to come. The first course was a white onion velouté with apple and scallions. Then a celery bavarois, a crisp beetroot tube filled with diced beetroot and an intense goat's cheese, horesradish ice cream on the side. Two courses in, and I was already thinking about coming back. But it kept getting better: sautéed scallop with truffled celeriac purée; sweetbreads with pistachio, maple syrup and mooli - contrasting flavours and textures, perfectly balanced; salt cod with pork belly and langoustine - by now I wanted to become a regular; pousse café (another palate cleanser, clearing the way for the main course); pigeon breast, sweet potato purée, cocoa nibs.
Next, a selection of artisanal cheeses from the trolley (an optional course, but how can you resist?); a light pre-dessert (lemon grass and Lady Grey); then warm kumquats with lemon thyme ice cream; finally, a tiramisu like you've never seen, with candyfloss and mascarpone ice cream.
I say finally, but we stayed on for coffee which was served with home-made chocolates and - quite unexpectedly - freshly cooked bottereaux (delicious fritters made from leavened dough - think doughnuts, only lighter) with little pots of crème Anglaise and apple compote for dipping.
This was a very well-orchestrated meal, playful and well-balanced, with each course leading smoothly into the next. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon...time to start saving for my next visit.
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