The Cambridge weekender had finally arrived and it was something i`d been looking forward to for a number of years.For one reason or another my previous years visits had ended up being side-stepped.My dining compadre ” The Laird ” was even more excited than i, as not only was food involved but also his number one passion was to be included in this trip…” kicking scrap ” – in other words a sale of Agricultural vehicles.Strange blokes dressed in obscure clothing , headwear and speaking in their own language which was understood by them and them only….for example
“She`s bin restored frae grund up yis aye” ( Restored from the ground up )
” Ehhhh theere was a greet tree grawing up through it and a banty’s nest ont seat full of chucks yis aye ” ( There was a large tree growing up through it and a Bantams nest on the seat full of Chicks )
” She was stood in yon thee barn theeree for 20 yeers and it just bust into life first spin oft hingin yis ” ( It was standing in that Barn there for 20 years and the engine started first time )
The distance from Whitehaven on the Cumbrian west coast to Cambridge ( via north London ) and back again is probably around 700 miles by road. My own first choice would always be the train. On this weekender The Laird decided to organise things his own way and book the hotel and the restaurants , Alimentum and Midsummer house himself .He decided he would also organise travel arrangements. Now then… `normal` people like you and i would just head off in whatever vehicle we had that would offer the most economical form of travel….Would the Laird ? Ohhhhhhh Nooooooo , not a chance. At the ungodly hour of 5am i was shaken out of bed by my `chauffeur` for the weekend and with a smile beaming from ear to ear sat the Laird in his 12 litre ” Super Swede ” Volvo Globetrotter tractor unit. At a lovely “8 MPG” it was so sensible and extremely economical and on this occasion i would not be going 50/50 on the fuel bill. (That also goes for the West of Scotland Summer road trip in his Fire Engine.)
I can`t actually remember a lot about the 6 hour journey down south as i slept most of the way. Big comfy seats had me in a semi comatose state and before i knew it we were parking up at our hotel in Ely.
Our first restaurant was one of the very best in the area , Alimentum in Cambridge holding One Michelin star and a score of 6/10 in the Good food guide 2013. The style of the food served here is described as “seasonal British produce cooked with love and care”. Mark Poynton , Chef and patron offered us a surprise menu , all seasonal and seeing as though it was my first time there then he would do a few of his speciality dishes also.
We were sat in Alimentums `Special feature` window. This offered us the opportunity to have a wee nosey from our table in the restaurant at the boys and girls working away in the kitchen. Ive never had the slightest desire to do a “chefs table” and this was the nearest thing to it….Us watching them watching us watching them….they were all very well behaved , no licking fingers , scratching privates or anything else untowards….The guys were pretty well behaved also.It was a very quiet and organised kitchen , no rushing around , no low flying pans , just calmness and organisation…it just flowed so smoothly.
Chef Mark Poynton has experienced quite a few years behind the stoves now and broke free to go alone, taking up the reins at Alimentum in 2008. Previously Mark had worked with Paul Kitching ( Juniper ) and also spent Several years with Daniel Clifford at Midsummer house ( See next post ) where we would eat dinner the next evening.
So…on with Marks Menu Suprise and a little taster of what`s trending at Alimentum at the moment .The menu is currently running at 10 courses ( with a few little surprises thrown in ) and is £85 per person. We had the flight of wine at £42.50 to accompany each course with a perfectly matched wine for the food. There`s other much cheaper options to experience the food here and a £49 a la carte ( 3 course ) dinner and lunch at £24.50 ( 3 courses ) are an absolute steal.
Marks last words before the food started were ” I hope you`re hungry guys “…… Little did he realise he was feeding “The Laird” , well known for polishing off a couple of Bread portions between every course during Multi course tasting fests…..Bring it on Chef …never a problem.
Served in the Lounge bar , Little Rye crackers with Marscapone and Fennel Jam.
Amuse Bouche of Parsnip and Apple Veloute with Parsnip Caramel popcorn.
English asparagus, Duck egg, wild Garlic, Morel Mushrooms.
Ok…..ok…so i take photos of the Bread as well , why wouldn`t i ?, i`m a geeky food blogger.Alimentums Milk bread and Rosemary loaf , really nice and perfectly baked.
Ham hock , Parfait, smoked hazelnut, pickled mushroom
Pollock Cockles, bacon, Peas and swede
Eel Smoked, apple, horseradish and truffle
Quail Breast and legs, broccoli, lime and peanut
Halibut , Roasted, butternut squash, cabbage and pumpkin seeds
Beef , Sirloin, oxtail, shallot and bone marrow
Bosworth Ash Goats Cheese on toast with Truffle and Burnt Onion Consomme.
Pre – dessert of Whipped Lemongrass curd , Ginger Beer granita and crispy Gingerbread.
Pineapple Barbecued, yoghurt
Blueberry Granola, white chocolate, cinammon
Banana Parfait, pecan and smoked maple
Little sweet treats with Coffee – Lemon Marshmallow , Salt Caramel truffles and Fruit jellies.
To view all of the Alimentum photos please CLICK HERE
Nothing`s private when there`s a view into the kitchen. Here`s the Pastry chef at work.
Here`s the Cathedral interior.
Ohhhh dear ….Lucozades for energy and the Kettles on….Cuppa Yorkshire anyone ? Brewed up by Simon Cowell int flat cap.
Kings College Cambridge.