I've been a fan of Masterchef for some time and so, like many others, was pretty excited when Cambridge resident and food blogger Alex Rushmer made it into the final three of the competition last year. Even more exciting was the news a few months ago that Mr Rushmer would be opening his restaurant in the Hole in the Wall pub, just outside Cambridge. And so with the Male Companion Person's birthday looming I booked a table for dinner.
The Hole in the Wall is very much a ye olde worlde village pub, and very pretty with it. There are lots of dark timbers, and quite a stange layout which I guess has evolved during the five hundred odd years that it's been around. We were rapidly shown to our table, with bread and butter, menus, and water all following shortly behind. Looking at the menu it was evident that despite the venue Alex and his team are definitely not going for a gastropub vibe (no sign of any posh fish and chips or gourmet burgers here), but for full on restaurant-style dishes. A brief but interesting menu had a choice of at least one meat, vegetarian and fish option for the starter and main courses. It may have been concise, but together with their daily special, a pescatarian person like moi had plenty of choice.
I started off with what was simply described as a tomato and mozzarella salad with a parmesan biscuit. But there was a little twist as the mozzarella came in the form of a sort of cheese ice cream. A little reference to Alex's blue cheese ice cream as debuted on Masterchef perhaps? I remember that having mixed reviews (Gregg might not have wanted to stick his face in it), but the cheese ice cream at The Hole in the Wall was fantastic. Light, creamy and savoury- I could easily have eaten a lot more of this. It also went perfectly with the salty parmesan biscuit, and the selection of tomatoes. These were perfectly seasoned and full of flavour. I was particularly intrigued by the green but ripe tomato. The MCP went for the pigeon with beetroot risotto, which looked exceedingly pretty. Both were ideal starters for late summer.
Things got a bit more hefty for the main courses. The MCP went for the duck with pickled cucumber, and I had a whole bream stuffed with lemon and fennel. The fish was huge, and could probably have served two, but I managed to fit most of it (along with some samphire and potatoes) in. The baked fish was very moist, and the simple cooking really let the quality of the ingredients speak for themselves. If I was really nit-picking, I'd say that the tartare sauce on the plate, although perfectly nice, was rather unnecessary.
I really did not need any pudding but had one anyway as the MCP was. In fact we both ended up going for the burnt Cambridge cream a.k.a. crème brulée. This was rich and creamy, with a proper caramel crust which shattered on impact, but was not overly sweet.
So overall a really lovely meal. Our bill came to £75 (without service) for three courses each, and three glasses of wine between the two of us, which I thought was very reasonable.
There's very little not to like about The Hole in the Wall really. They bring water to your table without asking (always a big plus in my book), the service was attentive rather than intrusive, and the cooking was solid with good quality ingredients and some interesting flourishes. And all this in the first few months of opening too. I also quite liked the contrast between the very traditional setting and the more modern style of cooking. It means that The Hole in the Wall is just a little bit different, and somewhere I'd be happy to go back to in a flash.
The Hole in the Wall
Primrose Farm Road
Cambridgeshire CB21 5JY