We spent the crisp winter morning working up an appetite for Sunday lunch at the highly acclaimed Alimentum restaurant; wandering the streets of Cambridge, crossing Jesus Green and Midsummer Common, and watching the punts appear from the mists of the River Cam. My partner and I were full of romance and history, and ready for the fine dining promised by Alimentum`s three AA rosettes.
On a noisy industrial road and with no parking provided, the start wasn`t promising. Don`t look for Alimentum in the picturesque streets of Cambridge city centre, or on the romantic banks of the River Cam. Head out of the city centre, down the Hills Road, and look for the multiplex and Travelodge. In the row of shops and takeaway chicken joints opposite lies the unassuming exterior of the Alimentum. Blink and you may miss it.
We arrived on a Sunday lunchtime to a near-empty restaurant, so excellent scope for attentive service. The barman assured us the restaurant would fill up later, so we took our opportunity to relax in the bar area with a pre-lunch cocktail before the well-heeled hordes arrived.
The bar area of the restaurant is reminiscent of a 1970s Manhattan cocktail lounge with black lacquer, mirrored surfaces, plum red circular chairs, chrome and glass. Twee it isn`t. The perfect environment to sip a virgin cocktail in a tall glass with crushed ice and lime. My partner`s choice of Bora Bora infused with ginger tingled the taste buds suitably for the main event.
The menu is concise but considered, a concentration of mastery. Meat and fish options jostle with a vegetarian choice that nearly swayed us, intrigued as we were by the possibility of golden beetroot as a starter. Instead I opted for the warm hues of the butternut squash soup and my partner chose crab cannelloni with pink grapefruit. The presentation on simple white crockery enhanced the colours and the flavours were rich. The service was faultless; my partner took the recommendation of the Maitre D` who proffered him the last glass of 2004 Nuits St. Georges that he had been saving for his own Sunday lunch. Its subtle minty nose and citrus aftertaste made it the perfect companion for the food that was to accompany it.
My main course was a beautifully tender halibut complimented by the sharpness of salty savoy cabbage and roasted pumpkin seeds. It was sublime. My partner opted for the belly of pork, steam cooked with pomme puree, bacon, mustard and spinach. Impossible to imagine pork more succulent, this was a triumph for Chef Patron Mark Poynton.
Some reviews have suggested disappointing portion sizes. However, with a complimentary consommé and warm sage and onion roles, we only just had room for dessert. My choice of chocolate mouse with blood orange sorbet was an intriguing combination and didn`t quite work for me. The flavours jarred and were too rich for my palette. The better option was Bakewell Tart with black cherry sorbet and chocolate, the rich cherry blending beautifully with the almond pastry.
As the restaurant filled, we could see plenty of others aware of what we discovered ; Alimentum definitely delivers- classy, unpretentious, affordable and deserving of its numerous awards. It pulls Cambridge into the 21st Century with a wake up call that is a master class in contemporary British dining.
Disclosure: For this blog post we were able to gain access to a sample product or service.
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