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Mocking English cuisine has become something of a tradition in many countries, and if you've ever stood in the rain holding a cold pork pie served by British Rail, you'll understand why. However, there's a wonderful diversity to be found in English food, which is overlooked because people aren't eating in the right places.
If you happen to be in Cambridge, let's make sure you know where to go for the best dining experiences. You may just discover the real, but elusive, joy of English food - something definitely worth striving for.
At Midsummer House, you'll feel comfortable and well cared for in the opulent surroundings, being served exotic English fare by cheerful, immaculately tailored waiters.
This restaurant offers set menus available in either five course or eight course variations, and there's a distinct vegetarian option for each, changing according to the season.
What you'll get for your money is seriously posh nosh. There's nothing on the menu that could be considered ordinary. This is a good thing, considering you'll be spending close to £50 per person, inclusive of taxes, for the five course menu and over £100 per person for the eight course menu.
Under the careful watch of head chef Daniel Clifford, Midsummer House has been awarded two Michelin Stars since 2002, and by the time you arrive, they may very well have secured a third one.
The food at Cotto is not merely made, it is assembled . Each item is placed delicately in just the right way to make each item a culinary work of art. Chef Hans Schweitzer has a precise touch and a skilled eye, and to see him at work is nothing less than awe-inspiring.
Schweitzer has travelled extensively, with the result that Cotto creates an elegant fusion of influences brought together with quality British ingredients.
For example the Tataki, a Japanese delicacy normally made with bonito, is here made with Loch Durant salmon, giving it a unique signature. The process of making Tataki is an art form in its own right, yet somehow Schweitzer has managed to elevate it to another dimension entirely.
Another novel idea is making the traditional Beef Wellington with venison instead of beef, and then when you'd least expect it, a Mexican influence courtesy of the addition of cocoa to a port-wine based sauce. It sounds crazy, but somehow, it works. In short, Cotto is an experience, and it will truly amaze you.
This place is what happens when a pub decides to serve nouvelle cuisine. The service is a little eccentric, bordering on snooty, but there is an excellent selection of food on offer, with steaks being a speciality.
The cost for A la Carte selections is quite steep for pub meals, even given the excellent quality and touch of flare. Fortunately, there is also a set menu which provides three courses for £20, which is quite reasonable for the selections offered.
This bistro features indoor and outdoor dining areas, and is decorated with the artworks of Nicholas Juett. The food here can best be described as ‘modern British with a French influence’. Prices are high but realistic, and the set menu, priced at £16.95 for three courses, is good if you're dining in a group of eight or more. There is also an extensive drinks list, with a good range of imported wines.
Among the more robust food offerings, we find Rump of Lamb with Mashed Potato & Vegetable Ratatouille, Char Grilled Ribeye Steak with Truffle Butter, and Fish Cakes (made from salmon, cod, and halibut). Mains average around £18, and most desserts are just a tick over £6.
Generations of Indians have been living in Britain since the earliest days of the Colonial Era, to the extent that some would regard themselves as more British than Indian. The effect of this cultural assimilation couldn't be more evidently displayed than by the culinary offerings of the Navadhanya Restaurant, although the head chef here, Chef Kamaladasan, is as Indian as a village celebration when Tendulkar has scored yet another double century to save the day.
Seeing the food, you'd never guess that. However the food tells the story of a long journey from Chennai to London, and all the influences on a young chef that journey has wrought. What we see, then, is a modern British twist on Indian classics. The result is a colourful and flavoursome adventure with exotic combinations that you wouldn't actually be likely to find anywhere in India. And yet, the flavours and aromas would drag you right back to Chennai if you gave them half a chance.
British food definitely isn’t what it used to be
The long term stagnation that led to the decline of British cuisine in previous decades can largely be attributed to the effects of war rationing.
After the war, the nation had to focus most of their energy on rebuilding, while there was simultaneously a mass exodus, thanks in no small part to Australia's convincing ‘Emigrate or Starve!’ scare campaign. Things like developing the restaurant scene were considered of secondary importance.
During the past 30 years however, there has been a definite renaissance in terms of the culinary offerings available in Britain. Even so, if you're travelling anywhere by train, it may be best to go first class, just in case. ExecuJet’s private charter planes and helicopters are the perfect way to get to Cambridge, whether for business or pleasure. Contact us today to discuss your travel options.