Review: Midsummer House

PARVIZI EATS goes upmarket this week. No seriously, really fucking upmarket.

food Michelin Midsummer Parvizi

Parvizi Eats: Midsummer House

Two Michelin starred. Scores of handsome French waiters, waitresses, a sommelier and maitre d’; Midsummer House really ought to be THE best restaurant in town and county. There are only nine other restaurants that hold the coveted two stars in the UK but I left feeling frustrated.

Several weeks ago I received an email from a long-lost school friend inviting me to dine with him; during our prolonged hiatus he had headed off, founded an event management firm and even reached the pinnacle of organising a sweet fifteenth birthday party for a chav from Scarborough with the whole process filmed for MTV. How our North London world had diverged into two; I had to go.

I met said friend, who tipped up in a brand new BMW, his shit GCSEs and A-Levels left somewhere along the A10 and instantaneously knew that five years devoted to comparative 1930s Iranian and Turkish nationalism will never allow me to organise parties for spoilt wankers and wanktresses whilst swanning about in an über Vorsprung durch Technikmobile. Mais c’est la vie; I was still happy to abuse his invitation, company car(d) and even pretend that I wanted a lavish 24th birthday do with midget cocktail makers, painted elephants and the Bolshoi all to be staged in Saddam’s palace in Tikrit.

We arrived at Midsummer on a Midwinter’s night, the weather dreadful but my spirits high. The restaurant is located unsurprisingly on Midsummer Common not too far from those fluorescent public toilets that would have George Michael salivating post-doobie. For those driving, you cross a little bridge over the Cam and follow the twinkling all-year round Christmas lights. The building itself is lovely and apparently houses the oldest railings in town. Sexy.  Now I’m no Michelin connoisseur but for an £85pp tasting menu excluding drinks I expected at least one of the Frenchies to offer to take my coat: “ ‘Ang it ueurself you bastard” his eyes seemed to say.

Ushered to a corner table (the restaurant was packed proving that Cambridge is utterly recession proof) we were presented with a wine list, which uncannily resembled my Part I Arabic Language paper, not understanding a word, we settled on a 2002 Segla [£88]. A slightly acidic Bordeaux, which reminded me of reds drunk on High Table. It was an utter waste of money and made me wish not to have ordered it, stuck to mineral water and spent the money on DJ Hero for the PS3. But Segla, like an unwanted fresher buddy was to accompany me for the remainder of the evening. Le Frog presented us with our first of ten dishes on the Taste of Midsummer [£85] menu. Paris Mushrooms, Coffee and Ceps, a mushroom volute to the mildly educated, an unset mousse to others. It was delicious but the chunks of jellified coffee at the bottom had me asking why? It was the culinary equivalent of buying a mustard coloured Aston Martin DB9 with cloth interior. Alas this desire by Daniel Clifford, the Chef de Cuisine, to surprise led not to a gastronomic explosion of incredible flavours but rather downright disappointment as one would feel on buying Trinity May Ball tickets, queuing and then finding out the Chucklebrothers were headlining.

To Clifford’s credit some of his ideas work: Sweetbreads, Pistachio, Maple Syrup and Mouli tasted very good, and when flavours were kept simple the results were momentous, the Sautéed Scallop, Celeriac and Truffle truly memorable, Pigeon, Sweet Potato, Cocoa Nibs lovely. The Chocolate and Praline dessert Zeus, the Doughnuts with Apple Sauce and Crème Anglaise Jupiter.  Yet his Jodie Marsh tendency to shock led to what seemed like pantry rape, the Cod and Langoustine looked delicious, tasted divine but in an ménage a trois with pineapple sorbet (which would have made a delicious desert) it didn’t work. The Pousse Café had me wondering whether Daniel mistook me for Ricky Hatton as it contained whisky, egg whites and other Ready, Steady, Cookèd ingredients. And oh the Jerusalem Artichoke, Lychee and Rose had me pondering why anyone would ever want the Temple Mount. It was a heap of artichoke mousse, with lychee and a rose sorbet and worthy solely of a fatwa, excommunication or cherem.

We downed the Segla, were utterly full and had the gargantuan £358 bill not been paid for by a teenage delinquent with grand designs for stardom, I would have felt completely ashamed of myself for such needless extravagance without any culinary or sexual gratification. I left thinking it certainly was a culinary journey, which for me went via Kabul, but nonetheless an odyssey, but also that a pizza at ASK served by a hot Bulgar would have sufficed. Will I return? No. Should you go? At your own peril and that of your bank manager.

Ambience: Women’s Institute
Susan Boyle