It’s one of the stealthiest restaurants in the country. You walk across Midsummer Common and then stand there in faint bewilderment. There’s a pub. There’s a small detached Victorian house alongside. And there’s nothing else this side of the river. Has Google Maps failed us? On closer inspection the house does have “Midsummer House” carved into the lintel over the door in nice, solid Victorian capital letters. But surely they can’t shoe-horn a Michelin starred restaurant into the living room of a Victorian villa? Maybe Google Maps has found the wrong Midsummer House? Closer inspection still, and we spot a menu in a discrete case near the door. As further proof, a taxi pulls up and disgorges two ladies whose heels couldn’t possibly have walked across the Common. Phew!And of course the trick is that the walled garden conceals two very large conservatories that give plenty of room for a dozen or so tables. We are warmly greeted, and really treated very warmly and well all through lunch – which rolls majestically from 1pm to 5:30pm before we roll less-than-majestically back across the Common in our coats.
After some spiffy amuse bouches and a zingy palate cleanser of celery sorbet, we are treated to eight or so courses of really sublime cooking, plenty of invention and very satisfying flavours and textures. The exploding flying saucer of creamy raclette cheese on top of a disc of braised pork knuckle is a great hit, with cubes of white wine jelly to complete the perfect Alsatian taste experience. There is my favourite ever quail dish, made up of so many delicious components; smoked egg in a crisp case, toast with a stunning liver parfait and sweet relish, and a perfect pink quail breast covered in slices grapes and served alongside a stingingly good shallot puree.The signature scallop dish is excellent, but not quite to my taste – the granny smith apple and sauce is astonishingly sweet, swallowing up the natural sweetness of the (perfect) scallop rather much. It does bring out the taste of the fresh grated truffle though, I’ll give it that. Actually the other seafood dish is also my least favourite; the roast monkfish is great, the confit pork belly slice isn’t unctuous enough, and together they just don’t offer any wow.
The piece of Yorkshire venison is back on track, just cooked to absolute perfection. Love the little venison sausage roll with a dollop of tart sloe mousse to dip it in. The roast veggies with the venison are good, ‘specially the chervil root.Mmmm… desserts. Where a lot of tasting menus deflate into the desserts, Midsummer House elevated. The first was a great example of stuffing an unexpected veggie into a dessert and it actually working. Lychee… rose… and jerusalem artichoke! The candied chunks and flakes of j’choke with their dirty, earthy flavour paired up beautifully with the fragrant lychees and rose. This dish also included a great theatre element; one of the roses that had decorated our table from the outset, plucked out and dunked in liquid nitrogen so that it could be scattered in fragrant shards over our pud! The final dessert married passionfruit and chocolate beautifully, the delicate disc of chocolate being just enough to add sumptuousness to all the sharp fruity goodness.
Loved my meal at Midsummer House, it has to slot in there as one of my very favourite lunches along with the Manoir, the Waterside and Noma. It’s very classical combinations, with just enough flights of fancy to make it memorable. The menu was £110 each when we visited but I believe it’s gone up since. We enjoyed doughnuts and chocolates in the lounge, drank too much wine, and ambled back to town very happy.