We've just got back from what is now the top of our "most expensive meals ever" list and I felt compelled to blog about our experience.
The previous list topper was the cheap sounding Roy's at the Marriott Financial Center in New York (not sure if it survived 9/11) when we got engaged. A great meal for a great day.
Today's venture was to the 2 Michelin starred Midsummer House in Cambridge. K had eaten here before when some business contact took her out to lunch and she raved about it then. Much talk of foams, jellies and exciting pastry ensued. We were planning to go last week when we were on holiday but I'm glad that we waited until we were both feeling much better.
The place is sat just by the river and we had a bit of a job getting there as the directions provided were a little ropey but we arrived in plenty of time (despite going round a one way system 3 times) and sat out by the river watching the rowers while using up our precious lunch conversation topics! Even got a sight of some boobs as one of the rowers changed into her wet suit.
We were the first to arrive and were quite close to where the staff gathered in an alcove watching the room making sure everybody was alright so it was a little intimidating at first. Fortunately a few more people arrived and the general hubbub disguised whatever comments we were making ("aren't all the staff thin?", "we didn't need to dress as smartly as we did" etc).
After some deliberation we went with the tasting menu which is designed to demonstrate the variety of dishes and is something the whole table has to partake in. It's essentially lots of micro courses. We avoided the wine as we had to drive back but K did have what is possibly the best G&T I've ever tasted. The menu had a few things on it that I was wary of but it also threw up some surprises.
Before any of the courses arrived we were offered bread (mine was white and tasted of toffee with the sweet crust) which was duly taken (K managed to scarf all hers but I was a little more restrained!)
Dish 1. Not on the menu but we started with Pink Grapefruit & Champagne foam. This was served into a glass via a soda syphon at the table and was delicious. K loved the tiny, tiny spoons!
Dish 2. Again not on the menu, Pea Veloute with tiger prawns was next. This was very foamy, served in a deep glass, warm with a bread stick stuck in the top. Thick pea puree at the bottom getting foamier towards the top with some tiger prawns hidden in it, it was absolutely top notch.
Dish 3. The first dish actually on the menu! "Sauteed Scallop, Bay Leaf, Pigs Trotter" Was a little wary of the trotter but it was served in a little breaded cube sat on the best onions I have eaten and a really sweet sticky balsamic vinegar. Oh and then there was a delightful scallop cooked in a bay leaf...it was great!
Dish 4. "Parsley Risotto, Snail, Yeast, Jabugo ham". Now I was worried about this one , especially for K but I needn't have. It was served on a marble slab and had a sake sized cup full of risotto (with some sort of foam) and the snail was sat at the end of a plastic pipette full of sauce. You had to place the snail on your tongue and then squeeze the pipette to get the full experience and it was bloody lovely! The snail was like a cooked mushroom in texture and the flavours of garlic were wonderful! The risotto was delicious as well.
Dish 5. "Cannelloni of Red Pepper, Jamaican Jelly" Another marble slab affair with a very thin canelloni on a stick and some sauce with cubes of jelly in it. The sauce was nice as was the cannelloni but the filling left me feeling a little queasy, very, very rich. I think it was the foie gras in it that was turning me off.
Dish 6. "Comté Soup, Foie Gras, Roasted Grapes". Foie Gas was the other thing on the menu that I had concerns about. I don't much like the idea of it but I thought I would give it a go anyway. To me it was the worst dish of the meal. Everything but the foie gras was delicious. But the FG itself? Very very rich with no real taste I could identify. We both left most of it and am glad that I didn't like it. We were little concerned that the chef would come and throw us out when he saw our plates (we'd heard much swearing and shouting at junior chefs from the kitchen up to this point!)
It was at this point that I saw a couple of familiar ladies walk in and I realised that across the way was my old general manager and the current President of Strategy & Development for Global Services! Fortunately she spotted me and came over and said hello so didn't have to keep avoiding her gaze!
Dish 7. "English Asparagus, Spring Truffle" Another first for us (truffle) and K's favourite dish so far. Different types of asparagus (dice, puree and stalks) altogether in a crisp shell wtih some truffle flakes.
Dish 8. "Red Mullet, Coconut and Lime" This was awesome! Mint & lime jelly, lime sauce, pureed artichoke, fantastic fish, cubed coconut and the surprise mint & lime ice-cream in the middle of it made for a fantastic main course!
Dish 9. "Cassoulet of Pork Belly and Carrot". After some discussion of what a cassoulet was (a little cast iron casserole dish with beans and a pork cheek in it) we were served with my favourite dish so far. Belly pork with a red foam, pureed carrot and roasted cloves of garlic with the aforementioned cassoulet on the side. The cheek sounded daunting but was just some very tender pork meat. Couldn't fault this dish!
Dish 10. "Apple Test Tube" We skipped the optional Artisanal Cheeses and went straight onto the desserts. Before the test tube arrived we had been supplied with 2 sets of cutlery and a straw! Displaying my 'white-trashiness' I giggled in delight at the straw and couldn't wait for the test tube to arrive. The tubes arrived in a rack and were in three layers, Apple Puree on the bottom, Apple Granita for the middle layer and then some other kind of apple thing on top. A dinky fork helped with the top 2 layers and the the waiter informed us to use the straw for the bottom and the maitre'd chimed in that we should try and make some noise. K kindly obliged!
Dish 11. "Mango, Passion Fruit and Lychee" Mango & passion fruit delice, lychee ice cream, toasted pine nuts, freeze dried mango, and honey make a fantastic dessert! I don't really need to say any more!
Dish 12. "Moroccan Cous Cous". A bed of caramelised cous cous, yellow pepper sorbet, an apple, cinnamon and raisin ice cream, some odd cucumber stuff and a caramalised cherry tomato! K's tom vanished pretty quick and her blunt description that it was just cherry tomato in sugar sent me sightly hysterical but her description was spot on. Slightly odd to taste but nice nonetheless! But the ice-cream was fabulous...truly delicious.
Dish 13. We followed this with the bitterest espresso I've ever had (which I put a tad too much sugar into) and K was convinced that it was only the a la carte menu that got the pastries and chocs. She was wrong! Out came the pastries (think deep fried triangles of puff pastry dusted with caster sugar with pineapple and toffee dipping sauces. To finish off we got to select 2 chocolates each from the handmade selection. I had eucalyptus and caramel and K had banana and greek yoghurt!
We finally paid the bill and made our way back to the car!
Now usually K and I can be in an out of a restaurant for a 3 course meal in under 45 minutes...this took us 3 hours and I thoroughly enjoyed every minute! The setting was perfect and the staff were a delight, explaining the dishes, never patronising, pouring more drinks and remaining discrete at all times, you couldn't really ask for more! I think it was telling that besides the foie gras we literally ate everything put in front of us...truly a great meal!
The cost means that you can't go every week (or even every quarter!) but we're already planning our next trip! Now I must go and lie down...nicely full without being stuffed and the only thought of food will be some coco pops much, much later!