Review: Midsummer House, Cambridge
By GFC member Diane Styles
Midsummer House is a two-star Michelin restaurant set on the River Cam in Cambridge. It is a small Victorian house converted into a restaurant with most of the tables situated in a large conservatory. Chef and patron Daniel Clifford is a tour de force: his seasonal dishes accomplish his remit to taste as natural as possible using the finest seasonal produce. Over the years, however, the restaurant has received criticism from diners both in the press and on the ‘all too easy to voice your opinion’ TripAdvisor.
To appreciate fine dining you need to be a foodie. As much as I dislike the term, you need an understanding of what it takes to accomplish dishes which, whilst seemingly simple, blend and balance flavours and are created in such a way as to delight and inspire, intrigue and tantalise. If you have not spent hours in your own kitchen creating a meal then potentially this is not the place for you.
Our table was reserved for a Saturday evening (having booked several months in advance) and the choice was either seven or 10 courses. The maître d’ (again, much like Marmite, loved or loathed depending which review site you read) explained the menus to us and offered us a choice of Champagnes from the refrigerated trolley.
No sooner had the Champagne been tasted and the meal choice confirmed (having opted for the seven courses) did the amuse-bouche delights arrive to tantalise and intrigue our taste buds. They ranged from potato cake and beetroot, a light bite of apple foam and cracked black pepper to ham hock and Bloody Mary foam. These tasty treats excited everyone and the Suffolk ‘champagne’ was a delightful surprise – a contender to rival many French champagnes.
The Cornish crab with avocado and sorrel was the least exciting, tasting much as you would expect. The next dish was by far everyone’s favourite: celeriac baked on coals which created an intense flavour and combined with the theatrics of serving, this was a memorable course. The sautéed duck liver was sublime, smooth and creamy with a seared crust. The scallop was perfectly cooked as you would expect, seared and with a marshmallow texture that almost melted away on the tongue. The venison was beautifully executed; tender and the puree provided a delightful accompaniment.
By course five you wonder if you can manage dessert but the aerated pear was wistful and light as a cloud, so much taste with scant density. Similarly the passion fruit was packed with flavour yet melted away quickly leaving you, unbelievably, wanting more.
Sadly the meal does end and the bill arrives which, whilst making your eyes smart a little, is acceptable for a once or twice yearly treat. Our bill came in at £635 for four diners including pre-dinner drinks, one wine flight and a bottle of Champagne.
Dining is taken to another level at Midsummer House and, whilst you may have visited other Michelin restaurants, the taste and extreme dedication it takes to create food on this level will stay with you long after you arrive home.