Alimentum is a Michelin starred restaurant based in Cambridge which is run by a chap called Mark Poynton, whom you might recognise from BBC’s Great British Menu. He used to be head chef at Midsummer House (a two Michelin starred restaurant, also in Cambridge) so he’s got plenty of experience in the art of fine dining.
The dining room simply wasn’t my cup of tea; it all felt a bit cheap and naff. The black and dark red colour scheme (which clashed with the brown village hall flooring) made me feel like I was in an episode of Changing Rooms in the 90’s. I half expected Carol Smillie to bring out the amuse bouche.
Talking of which, two started things off; some mini cheese scones which were far too dense (they were actually described as gougères but they were nowhere near light enough) and a crispy wafer topped with dots of pea purée which lacked any flavour whatsoever.
Bread was a little better as it had flavour at least; a slice of milk bread and a mini sage and onion loaf. The latter was again a little too dense though. It was served alongside another amuse, this time a ‘white gazpacho’ with cucumber, lime and toasted almonds. I’m as baffled as you are by what a white gazpacho is – I even asked another waiter to repeat it and he said the same thing! To be fair, it did taste very white.
Three menus were available; a seven course tasting menu at £72, a three course a la carte at £49 or a three course prix fixe at £24.50 (only at lunch or before 7pm) which is what I went for.
To start, the duck croquette with red onion and watercress didn’t set my world on fire but it was very pleasant never the less. It was a bit ‘pub grub’, but the duck was cooked well and it had a crispy breadcrumbed exterior.
For main, I’m still undecided whether the pigeon ballotine, wild mushroom and red cabbage was actually rather repulsive or quite pleasant. Something about it just wasn’t quite right; the flavours didn’t blend together harmoniously. There was a grey purée which tasted bitter and of an overpowering flavour of liver. I’ve no idea what, but something was incredible spicy; I’m talking ‘stop what you’re eating and take a gulp of water’ spicy and I really couldn’t work out what or why – was it a mistake? It was all overly salty too and the pigeon was a bit tough. To be honest, I think I’ve now decided.
Next was a pre-dessert which looked exactly like the white gazpacho. This time it was a lime and tonic granita with a gin and juniper foam – basically a gin and tonic. It was so incredibly bitter that it actually made me wince.
Pudding was finally a dish that looked pretty and more of the Michelin standard I’d expected. Sadly however, it didn’t live up to its pretty exterior. The lemon curd had an odd texture, like that of a split custard. The whole thing was in no way sweet enough either; the dollops of gooey meringue needed way more sugar. Because of the oats, it felt like I was eating breakfast, not a dessert.
Service lacked a certain warmth; it was by no means unfriendly but as I was dining alone I had hoped for a bit more conversation. In a desperate plea for some interaction I asked one of the waiters how long the restaurant had been there and he replied “I’ve no idea” which sums it up really. And then there’s the food – it simply wasn’t good enough. If I’d made a special journey for that meal at Alimentum, I would have been right hacked off.