Don’t you just love Great British Menu? It has a special place in my heart because it’s really what introduced me to fine dining. I’ve always loved food but before I started watching GBM in 2006 I didn’t really know much about the fancy end. I’d had some good meals out but what the chefs were cooking on GBM seemed to be out of this world and very unobtainable. At the time I couldn’t really imagine ever eating in a Michelin star restaurant. Now, if I am entirely honest, I’ve eaten in more than I would like to admit to most of my friends and family. It’s like my dirty little secret – although having this blog is certainly outing me!
In 2009 I lived in Nottingham and when Mr E qualified that March, he took me to Sat Bains as a special treat. It was one of the most spectacular meals I have ever eaten and marked the start of my Michelin star fetish. Everything was perfect, I was dressed to the nines, we had champagne to start, followed by the full tasting menu with matching wines and of course we opted for the ham, eggs and peas (winning GBM starter course in 2007) as an extra course.
I had the bug and shortly afterwards I pursuaded Mr E that we should go to The Kitchin for my birthday – what I wouldn’t give for another taste of that beef wellington!
In the summer of 2009 things started ramping up, we joined forces with another couple and decided that we would all choose a restaurant to visit during the course of the following 12 months. Due to the huge success of Kenny Atkinson on GBM, I chose Seaham Hall, Mr E is obsessed with South-East Asian food so he went for Nahm, Mr N chose Maze (an especially memorable trip as we stayed in a hostel called The Generator!) and Mrs N went for something a bit closer to home, the wonderful Purnells. We pulled the restaurants out of a hat to decide the order in which we would visit them and then started making reservations. That was a fantastic year, which I’ll never forget. Good times with good friends. We felt utterly extravagant and enjoyed every moment.
In October 2010 Mr E and I moved to London and much to our delight, the world of Michelin star restaurants became more accessible than ever. We had some amazing meals in our first few months here and that’s what really prompted me to start the blog. It seemed a shame to be eating such wonderful food and not recording the experience or sharing it.
Fast forward to April 2012. I’m sitting on the sofa with a mug of tea and a Kit Kat watching the GBM central rounds on the planner. Daniel Clifford, a chef whom I had never heard of before, is doing something very interesting with sweetcorn. He is making an egg out of it to place inside a chicken ballotine so that it looks like there is an egg in the chicken! I am mesmerised and when Glynn Purnell tastes it I just know it’s good. He gives it a perfect 10.
It’s not often a dish gets 10/10 on the Great British Menu and Cambridge really isn’t that far away so, within 24 hours of watching it, my willpower had failed me and I was on the phone making a reservation. It seemed rather a lot of people had the same idea as I couldnt get in until 9 June.
By the time my reservation arrived I was even more excited. The chicken and sweetcorn egg had made it to the banquet as the main course. The judges were all over it and the lovely Daniel Clifford shed more than a few tears. This was going to be good!
I was a little suprised when we arrived to find that Midsummer House was just that, a house. There’s no parking, you just have to find a space in a residential street nearby and make your way over the footbridge to this charming restaurant overlooking the river.
We slightly upset the maître d by going for the classic menu but asking to swap the lamb for the chicken. It didn’t seem like an unlikely request to me given the publicity of the chicken dish and I’d have entirely understood if he’d said no. Instead he said yes but with an attitude that I’ve never encountered in a Michelin star restaurant before. We didn’t let this get in the way of our enjoyment though and what followed was a really fabulous meal.
To start we were served with some nibbles: a celery and bloody mary sorbet;
plump green olives; and
some cheesy choux pastry puffs filled with delicious gooey cheese.
Next an amuse bouche of leek, potato, quail egg and smoked haddock.
Then a celery and watercress parfait, beetroot cannelloni filled with goats cheese and horseraddish ice cream.
Crispy hen’s egg, asparagus, burnt onions and asparagus velouté.
Dorade stuffed with squid and served with wilted spinach, fennel, squid ink and tomato.
Slow poached chicken, sweetcorn egg, spinach with bacon and peas.
A plate of artisinal cheese for Mr E,
with a great selection of goodies.
Caramelised apple and cinamon ice cream for me.
A wonderful trolley full of chocolates to choose from. All different and interesting flavours ranging from bay leaf to Turkish delight to salted caramel.
Then when we thought we had finished and couldn’t possibly poke another thing in, warm french pastries (like donuts) arrived with creme anglaise and caramel sauce for dipping. Wow.
All in all it was a wonderful meal in a beautiful setting, perfect for a summers day. If I hadn’t known it had two Michelin stars I’m not sure I would have guessed but all the extra were lovely, especially those pastries.
And what of the chicken I hear you ask? Well, I must admit, for me, it wasn’t quite 10/10 but it was a fantastic dish and the chicken skin with popcorn and chicken liver parfait was ingenious.
Based on my visit, Midsummer House is a solid 8/10.