Sunday, 4 March 2012

Alimentum, Cambridge, UK

I remember hearing about Alimentum when it first opened several years ago, but only managed to visit for the first time last year due to some good planning from a London-based blogging friend. I really don't know why it took me so long- lack of organisation and a slight fear of disappointment I guess. Anyway, self-flagellation aside, this initial enjoyable visit provided enough of a prompt to think of Alimentum when considering venues for a bit of a social celebration with friends.

But as we trudged along some of Cambridge's busiest roads in the grey drizzle of a Monday evening, I recalled that Alimentum's location might have had something to do with the lack of earlier visits. It's almost opposite the city's 'Leisure Park' and on one of the main roads leading to Addenbrooke's Hospital, so has a great view of the top of a multiplex and numerous ambulances zooming by. However once we'd made our way in, the restaurant and its staff did a very good job of insulating us from the traffic and neon lights outside. We were soon supplied with some appetisers while we waited for our table, and though views were mixed I was an immediate fan of the cheese and onion macarons. The pale pink macaron shells were flavoured with caramelised onion, so had a sweet edge, and were filled with a sort of whipped goats cheese. I am currently wondering if it would be foolish to try and recreate these at home....

Anyway, onto the food proper. Alimentum has a very reasonably priced set menu on Monday evenings, so that's what we plumped for. As we settled into our booth, carafes of water and some delicious bread appeared rapidly. The warm sage bread was particularly nice, and came in the form of min-loaves (in the top picture). I had an amazingly light and frothy cauliflower soup to start with, which had little nuggets of subtly pickled cauliflower and sweet spring onion (I think). The whole thing had the quality of a vegetable marshmallow, which I really liked.

My sea bass main course came with a sort of chickpea stew with tomato and olives, and some sort of anchovy cream. This was a perfectly functional dish, if not terribly exciting. Personally I think a few more olives and maybe anchovy was needed to perk things up. And though the fish was beautifully cooked, I would have preferred a nice crispy skin rather than the sesame seed coating.

Pudding was a deconstructed apple and blackcurrant crumble, which caused a little consternation amongst the crumble traditionalists when it arrived at the table. However I quite liked my block of fruit mousse, and despite their similar textures it went well with the ice cream. The 'crumbs' were more like a shortbread biscuit rather than crumble topping, but still very acceptable. I also sneaked a taste of the male companion person's chocolate and passion fruit terrine type thing, and was very impressed with the rich chocolate ganache leading to a fleeting moment of regret about my fruit-based dessert.
The fixed price menu is £22.50 for three courses, which I think is very reasonable for the quality of food and service, though drinks can ratchet this up quite a bit.

Alimentum is probably not somewhere I'd pop in for a casual dinner, but is perfect for a bit of a treat. It has most of the elements of a fine dining restaurant in terms of presentation and quality of food, but doesn't make a fuss if you order a diet Coke and tap water for the table. It also does pretty well with trying to inject some soul into its new build location. On this occasion the food was good rather than stunning, but I enjoyed everything and actually those macarons and the soup were pretty outstanding. After my huge delay in going to Alimentum, I suspect I'll be making some more regular return visits.

152-154 Hills Road
Cambridge CB2 8PB

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