Alimentum – Cambridge

“I haven’t been to many Michelin star restaurants in my life, but I think I need to start going to some more if this is what happens!”

It was a celebration, The Flame and I had notched up twenty-seven years of wedlock. A weekend in Cambridge seemed like a plan. I bagged a late spot at Alimentum, one of Cambridge’s Michelin starred restaurants. Its headed up by Mark Poynton, a celebrated chef who recently did a special stint in Manchester’s Iberica. I missed that one.

image

We normally like to eat early, say seven, seven thirty but we could only get an eight thirty slot. A couple of ‘liveners’ in some of this beautiful city’s famous pubs and we set off with a gentle stroll to Hills Road. A touch to The Flame’s annoyance I hadn’t thought it fully through. It was a good half hour from the centre. Perhaps a taxi would have been a better idea!

Unlike much of the ancient city, Alimentum is set at the base of a modern tower block close to the railway station. We ventured in, fairly ravenous from an early lunch. We were warmly met, coats dispensed and placed at our table. Our table was set in front of a large envelope shaped window with a glorious view of the brigade preparing the nights food. I was totally thrilled.

image
View from the table

The room is elegance personified, red is the featured hue giving a wonderful warmth to the modern room. Ivories were being tinkled. Just needed a pair of slippers to complete the relaxation process!

We settled on an aperitif of sherry to start before perusing the stark, black on white menu. A thing of graphical beauty. We decided to forego the seven course taster (£80 each) on account of the time and stick to the three course a la carte (£70 each). The choices are simply described using single words to highlight the main elements. No lyrical waxing here!

image

image

Amouse bouche first, lancashire cheese bon bons (I think) and some incredible black cuttlefish things set in a box of architectural gravel. Seconds of aural pleasure. For the first course The Flame went for Mackerel (scorched, bolognese, celeriac and cuttlefish tagliatelle). It was a mere morsel really, set in a huge copper coloured bowl, it was thoroughly loved though.

image
The starts, bon bons, bread, veloute

I went for Eel (smoked, duck liver, apple, dandelion, truffle). The eel came set in cubes dotted about the plate around the liver of duck. The accompanying globules and shreds of flavour completing the stunning effect.  A veloute of mushroom washed it down.

image
Mackerel, Eel

Our second course was halibut and venison. The flames Halibut (pumpkin, oxtail, savoy cabbage) was crushed in pumpkin seeds and pistachio. A croquette of ox tail complete with smears of green completed the picture. My saddle of Venison (prune, chestnut, blue cheese, girolles) was set on a glossy glaze of chestnut and prune. A cigar of ‘wonderfulness’ encased the blue cheese. Utterly tremendous dish. I was genuinely upset when the last morsel went in. A mouth cleansing dollop of ‘gin and tonic’ prepared us for the dessert.

image
Venison, Halibut

I simply went Lemon (curd, white chocolate, fennel) whilst The Flame went for cheese. The lemon and chocolate was dolloped with precision, the fennel slice, perhaps arranged to represent the many university buildings in the town? Added a savoury touch. The cheese board was a classic and was beautifully described and presented. The Flame chose well. Smoked, blue, soft, hard and creamy, all English and superb.

image
Cheese, gin and tonic, Lemon

Coffee, brandy and petit fours were delivered to round off. The bill with tip added came in at just over £200. A snip for this quality. It is sadly quite rare that we eat like this, so I can’t compare to many. The French (reviewed here) probably shades it and Ormer (reviewed here) are pretty much the only other dining experiences of this ilk. Alimentum delivered a superb evening, fully befitting the occasion. Go if you can….

image

Alimentum
152-154 Hills Road
Cambridge
CB2 8PB
T  01223 413000
http://www.restaurantalimentum.co.uk

Advertisements

The Bird at Birtle – Heywood

“Nutters’ smart new eatery turns out some decent grub, but is it too loud?”

A rare day off, so it’s a drive out to lunch. The Flame and I decide on trying out Andrew Nutter’s recently re-opened gastropub The Bird at Birtle. It turns out Birtle is just to the right of Bury and a bit to the left of Rochdale. We plunder the dreaded M62 before settling nicely beside the wonderfully spruced up Bird. Nice plumage! The local stonework has been teased and sanded to a yellowish hue. Presumably, on account of the artistic masonry above the door it was once called ‘The Bird I’th Hand?”.

image

We scuttle round the back to tie up the steed. Here we were greeted by a cathedral of glass! The old bird has had a big, square, contemporary block of architectural curtain walling grafted on the back. It’s a striking addition affording the diners inside a view of, well firstly the car park and then the wonderful green yonder.

image

As it happened we had booked and we were warmly greeted and shown straight to our table upstairs via a huge bird mural. A touch of the Nutter humour me thinks! I reckon the place was half full. The tactic appears to be to secrete everyone, be it on the ground or first floor, in front of the aforementioned glass frontage. Our table indeed looked out to the rolling green hills, though not particularly well lit on this cloudy, drizzly day!

image

We attempted to converse and select from the super lunchtime menu. Owing to the complete lack of soft furnishings coupled with the plethora of hard surfaces such as the glass, the tastefully stained panelling and black ash furniture we had difficulty hearing over the cacophony of clattering cutlery and people shouting at each other. A pint of Pride of Pendle calmed the shredded nerves!

image

For starters The Flame selected the rather wonderful tomato and celeriac soup with rosemary focaccia (£5). Though she doesn’t go for the cream swirl it was in fact absolutely delicious. Noblets of pesto adding even more flavour. I went for the sticky slow cooked short rib beef and rochdale peas (£6.50). I rated this ‘historic’, one of the best starters I’ve had in a good while. The beef slipping effortlessly from its bone, the peas still having a bite set in a gorgeous ‘gravy’, describing it as a jus just wouldn’t do!

image

For mains The Flame went for her (yawn!) standard fish pie (£13). In fairness, once again it was a good one. It looked good too, set in its own earthenware pot with a skillet of peas alongside on a wooden base board. As the skate special had just been sold, I went for the beer battered sole with mushy peas and hand cut chips (£12.50). Two delicately battered fillets set over each other, it looked super on the plate. The chips, so good they were close to Wiswell chefs and Hawksmoors!! such was the quality. A punchy homemade tartare sauce added extra points to the binge. All in all a corking lunch. Still the best was to come….

image

Dessert! I went for the incredible blackberry, pear and almond frangipane tart with amaretto ice cream (£6.50) whilst The Flame went for Kirkhams Lancashire cheese, toffee apple puree and Eccles cakes, also £6.50. The frangipane came surrounded with dots of sweetness and oozed with glorious swabs of flavour and texture. The ice cream set on the chocolate cookie a particular highlight. The cheese supplemented by the apple and cakes of Eccles equally good.

image

With decent coffees the whole lot came in at £62.50. A creditable fee for what was six excellent courses. The only slight downside for us was the noise. I think we got used to it after a while. It could be that things would have been a little quieter in the equally smart room away from the view? Still a minor quibble, but Im sure we’ll be giving the families other nearby restaurant ‘Nutters’ a go soon too. If the food is as good as this it should be reet!

The Bird at Birtle
239 Bury And Rochdale Old Rd,
Birtle,
OL10 4BQ
T: 01706 540 500
E: info@thebirdatbirtle.co.uk