Midsummer House Restaurant, Cambridge
The historic university city of Cambridge is home to many fine restaurants, however Daniel Clifford’s Midsummer House restaurant is especially impressive. With a spectacular setting close to the banks of the River Cam, this Victorian villa is home to this Michelin-starred eaterie that aims to be the best in the city. Boasting beautiful views over the activity on the river from its atmospheric upstairs bar, this restaurant may well have achieved its goal, with a place at one of its 15 tables difficult to come by.
A Traditionally Styled Restaurant
In contrast with many of today’s most popular restaurants, Midsummer House has retained a classic feel. With its quintessentially English setting and appearance, both inside and out, this restaurant has a cosy and welcoming feel. The dining tables are set out in the original historic building as well as in the contemporary conservatory which has only recently been added. The tables are impeccably set with flawless linen and the décor is simple yet elegant without any of the over-ornate splendour that can distract from the quality of the food.
A Tasting Menu
Daniel Clifford doesn’t offer an a la carte menu. Instead, Midsummer House specialises in a set tasting menu – 5 courses at lunch and 8 at dinner. Each course on offer complements the others while offering variety and plenty of flavour. The balance of tastes and ingredients make every dish a delight to discover, using the finest seasonal produce that can be sourced from their reliable suppliers. The menu changes on a regular basis to keep up to date with the seasons, but always includes the best of British products including apples from the restaurant’s own garden which have featured on the menu since its inception. There is very little flexibility in the menu, since the restaurant only stocks a limited range of ingredients, however there is also a vegetarian tasting menu, and items can be interchanged between the two at the customer’s request.
Balance of Flavours
Although, as would be expected with a tasting menu, the portions are quite small, there is enough to enjoy and to get an exquisite taste of the perfect blend of ingredients. The current menu features a host of beautifully presented offerings, including Clifford’s signature dish – his scallop with Granny Smith apples and celeriac, and after 8 courses even the most demanding diner is sure to be satisfied. Rather refreshingly, the food served at Midsummer House is designed more to please the customer than to please critics, and there is more of an emphasis on taste and seasonal produce than on exotic ingredients.
Eight Delightful Courses
Many of the items on the eight-course menu feature the name of the place from which they were sourced, emphasising the Britishness of the establishment. The first dish is no exception, comprising Cornish crab served with sweetcorn, pineapple and wood sorrel for an unusual blend of sweet and savoury flavours that tantalises the tastebuds. This is followed by a summer truffle of beetroot and goat cheese – a completely different experience thanks to the richness and depth of flavour. The signature sea scallop dish comes next, followed by a delicious quail dish with celery and grapes in shallot puree, served with sourdough. While the quail is an iconic English bird, it is relatively rare to see them on the menu, which makes a refreshing change. Next follows Cornish monkfish, which derives its flavour from the spiced aubergines with which it is served. Black quinoa and burnt lemon puree complete this dish which has a distinctly exotic feel when compared to the preceding courses. The sixth course consists of full-flavoured Cumbrian lamb and confit belly presented with artichokes and seasoned with sea herbs. While more traditional in taste, the addition of artichokes to this dish gives it a contemporary twist that is most appealing. The seventh course is designed to cleanse the palate – a delightfully light pickled elderberries, pear and crème fraiche sorbet which bursts with flavour. Finally, the last course is an unusually exotic dessert composed of a coriander white chocolate dome served with coconut and mango basmati rice. The ideal blend of east and west, this gorgeous chocolate dish has Indian overtones which perfectly complement each other and which add a little more excitement to the end of a stunning meal.
Although the focus in this establishment is firmly on the quality of the food and the freshness of the seasonal ingredients, presentation has certainly not been ignored. Every dish is imaginatively created and appears to its best advantage on the plate without seeming pretentious. From the first course to the last, each item is served with impeccable taste, and it is clear that colour, shape and texture have been considered at every stage, resulting in dishes that look as good as they taste.
As you might expect from a Michelin starred establishment, the service is highly impressive, with extremely attentive staff and a suitable amount of time to enjoy each course before the next is served without feeling that the meal was dragging on interminably. From being greeted at the door to paying the bill, every aspect of service is professional without being impersonal. The friendly service of the waiting staff is second to none and, occasionally, guests are treated to the opportunity to speak to Daniel Clifford himself.
Extras and Additions
As well as the 8 course menu, guests have the option to pay an additional fee for a selection of artisan cheeses, either to share or to enjoy alone, or for some homemade gourmet chocolates to round off the meal in the most luxurious way. Of course, there is a fully stocked bar, with a full range of spirits, wines, beers and champagnes to accompany the experience.
While Midsummer House is far from being the cheapest restaurant in Cambridge, its beautiful setting, wonderful atmosphere and spectacular food make it the perfect choice for a special meal, to celebrate an important occasion or simply to indulge yourself.