From Liang Wei : Dining in Cambridge

Bridge of Sighs, Cambridge

Written by Liang Wei and Xin Li.
Cambridge, England, United Kingdom.
Photo by Jonathan Mold of Jon Mold Photography – featuring the Bridge of Sighs, a well-known landmark in Cambridge that was built in the 19th century and named after a bridge in Venice, Italy.

For a typical Singaporean student like me in Singapore stuck in the examination rat race, Cambridge holds an almost god-like status in the examination system. It is the BOSS. Our As, Os etc are certified by this university miles away from our national borders that only a few (and probably the rich too) can afford to study there.

It has been at least a month since Liang Wei left for the country that supposedly gave us the fish and chips, bangers and mash, afternoon tea and owned Singapore in 1819 for further studies.

Since then, he has been actively involved in his studies as much as his he is actively pursuing his culinary adventures in Cambridge. Although, there aren’t many pictures to illustrate the rich gourmet experience in Cambridge, the words itself is enough to make me drool.
14 October 2010:
Rough Menu for Matriculation Dinner:

Starters
Baked Artichoke Heart with Goat’s Cheese Crumble

First Entrée
Grilled Fillet of Salmon with Beetroot Puree and Melted Butter

Second Entrée
Roasted Guinea Fowl in Caramelised Sauce with a Selection of Vegetables

Dessert
White Chocolate Cheesecake with Dark Chocolate Sauce

Petite Fours
Coffee and Mints
“OMG OMG OMG each dish was IMBA DELICIOUS, especially the heavenly combination of melt-in-the-mouth salmon with sweet, earthy beetroot puree :) and and and the decadent cheesecake! not a fan of white chocolate but OMG that was totally worth the calories :))
oh and not to forget, free flow of wines (paired with each dish) and port... :)”

For those curious about formal dinners, here is what Liang Wei wrote:
“Dress Codes and the Nitty Gritty. formal dinners are dinners where people dress up in formal attire for a three-course meal. Formal attire could mean anything presentable. Some colleges do, however, require the donning of gowns in addition to the suit/dress. Not all colleges offer wines as part of the meal deal, so you have to find out if you are required to bring your own wines, and if you do, the cost of corkage. no flash photography is allowed at most, if not, all colleges, when fellows are dining (which is pretty much every time a formal is organised), so that is why you won't get to see pictures of the dishes online (adds to the mystery, doesn't it?) The typical cost of a formal dinner ranges between a little more than £4 at Magdalene College to about £12 at the higher-end colleges, such as Kings.”

Seating arrangement

St John’s College, Cambridge. Photo by rodep [Flickr].

4th November 2010:
St.John’s College Formal Dinner
(£8.85 pax, weekday)
Starter
Sautéed Wild Mushroom and Cashel Blue Cheese Risotto topped with Parsnip Crisps

Entrée
Baked Salmon Supreme with Dill and Critrus Crème Fraiche

Vegetarian :
Baked Stir Fried Vegetables, Smoked Tofu and Black Bean Sauce filled Samosa with Tossed Rocket Lettuce, Bean Sprout and Orange Segment Salad

Parmentier Potatoes with Sauteed Chorizo Sausages Sugar Snap Peas

Dessert
Poached Pear with Brandy Syrup with Clotted Cream

Coffee

Wines
Les Bastions Blanc 2008, France and La Cetto Petite Syrah 2006, Mexico

CIMG9760
St.John’s College Dining Hall, Photo by Citizen U.
“The ambience of St John's Hall was warm and regal, with smooth maroon finishes and the requisite portraits of fellows adorning the wall.

I particularly liked the creamy risotto, which was chockfull of aromatic, delightfully chewy mushrooms. The lightly salted parsnip chips added a slight tinge of saltiness that enhanced the flavour and, provided a marvellous contrast in texture to the risotto. I would have liked it to be a little more cooked though, as some of the grains had not turned sufficiently mushy.

The salmon was nothing to rave about - well-executed, albeit a tad marred by the citrus-flavoured crème fraiche. The citrus was probably meant to refresh the palate and get paired with the oils from the fish. But it didn't... and turned out just like any other salmon dish. The chorizo sausages that came with the vegetables were awesome, though; the girl across me left them as the last morsels, just like me!

I got 5p-ed for the dessert, so i can't say how good the cream would have done with the pear. but it was a nice dessert, not too sweet and having just the right level of brandy to balance the natural sweetness of the pear.

And of course, the nice bit was having three glasses of wine as part of the meal; some colleges require you to get your own (read above).

Overall, st john's was a pretty good dining experience, ambience-wise, with the food still in need of some improvement/maintenance in consistency.

Rating: 3.5 gowns”

Queen’s College Formal Dinner
(£14.50, weekday, iCUSU international freshers' formal)
Starter
Oriental Chicken and Cashew Nut Salad with Coriander and Chili Dressing

Entrée
Herb-Crusted Rump of Lamb served with a Rosemary Scented Jus

Savoy Cabbage and Fondant Potato

Dessert
Chocolate Pyramid Gateau with White Chocolate Sauce

Fair Trade Coffee

Cambridge 1
Queen’s College and the Mathematical Bridge, Cambridge, UK. Photo by Janspen [Flickr].
“The dinner was held in the Fitzpatrick hall, which, unlike most other halls, is very modern in appearance, being fashioned entirely in oak (I think) and black-rimmed glass. it was pretty massive in size and i liked having a big, brightly-lit space for dinner (quite the total opposite of emma).

The starter was a disaster. it was some sort of vermicelli salad that I had to eat with a knife and a fork. The chicken was mushy, probably as a result of it being the breast portion (read: usually overcooked) and being subject to chilling (cold starter). The crunchiness of the cashew nuts and mild spice of the chilli couldn't sufficiently compensate my Asian taste buds...

The lamb was perfect - awesome marbling, right degree of rareness and bursting with flavour from the herbs and fat :) the vegetables were also well-executed, with a subtle fragrance from the rosemary. Lovely pairing between meat and vegetable!
The gateau could easily have been the highlight of the night. it was essentially a pyramid toblerone cake with a ferrero rocher centre. I liked the chocolatey taste and the sponginess of the cake being finely contrasted against the crunchy wafer-thin (screaming chocolatey!) core.

Rating : 3 Gowns”

Murray Edwards College Formal Dinner
(~£9 pax, weekday):
Starter
Curried Parsnip Soup with Naan Bread Croutons

Entrée
Chorizo, Red Rice and Herb Stuffed Poussin

Noisette Potatoes
Selection of Seasonal Vegetables

Dessert
Chocolate and Cherry Delice with Red Berry Coulis

Petite Fours
Coffee and Chocolates

Cambridge College Venues
Photo by Murray Edwards College.
“Being a fifty-six-year-old (infant by Cambridge terms) all-women college, the hall, a circular structure built from concrete, glass and metal, was adorned with many avant-garde feminist artworks, offering an ambience that was refreshingly different from other colleges but nonetheless welcoming.

Because I had supervision just before the formal and Murray Edwards was a 20-minute walk from Emma, I had the misfortune of missing out on the parsnip soup. i would have loved to try the naan bread croutons, though... qy tried to put up a story of me being stuck in the toilet, but they didn't take it and cleared the soup at my seat anyway -.-

I was impressed by the presentation of the dishes, which were all plated in the kitchen and brought to the table, warm and pretty :) the poussin (spring chicken) was done fairly well, with the rice not being too mushy and the chorizo being a good match to the herb-flavoured chicken flesh and rice. However, I thought the dish could have done with a little more salt/more chorizo to enhance the dish and make it a truly hearty dish.

The dessert was awesome; the dark chocolate couldn't have been paired better with anything other than cherries! it was essentially a dark chocolate cake with a layer of cherry conserve in the middle (somewhat like black forest but without the cream and twice as sinful and delicious!). I loved the luscious chocolate and the tartness of the cherry layer playing around on the palate, with the occasional chunk of cherry giving a burst of sweet-sour juice :) i felt a tad let down because one of the waitresses dropped a chocolate-tainted fork on my jacket and didn't apologise :/

Coffee was nothing to rave about... but Murray Edwards had their milk chocolate squares wrapped in paper bearing the college's corporate logo! Other than that... taste wise, it wasn't unique.

Rating : 4 gowns.”

Dome, Murray Edwards College Cambridge

Murray Edwards College Dome, Cambridge, UK. Photo by Plashing Vole [Flickr].

St. John’s College Formal
(£8.50, sunday)
Starter
Assorted Vegetable a la grecque with Avocado Smoothie

Entrée
Slow Roasted Gressingham Duck Leg with Roasted Plum Wedges and a tarragon and Cointreau Sauce

Vegetarian
Grilled Portabella Mushroom filled with Sautéed Nutmegged Spinach and Toasted Pumpkin Seeds topped with a Poached Egg with a Sweet Red Pepper Sauce

Parisienne Potatoes
Cauliflower Monay

Dessert
Steamed Treacle Sponge Pudding with Sauce Anglaise

Coffee

Wines
Montesierra Blanco 2009, Spain, Williams Well Shiraz 2008, Australia

St John's College, Cambridge
St. John’s College, Cambridge, UK. Photo by Richard Gillin (photoverulam) [Flickr].
“The starter was vegetables cooked in the Greek manner i.e. with minimum preparation, only using wine, lemon, spices, olive oil and herbs. The vegetables didn't have much flavour but were pretty crunchy and fresh. Paired with the avocado smoothie, it made for a pretty good start by refreshing the palate and preparing it for the heavier-bodied duck meat.

The duck leg had a nice rareness and the tarragon and Cointreau sauce that came with it gave it a subtle, citrus aftertaste that went down well with the slight gamey-ness of the duck. I absolutely adored the cauliflower mornay, which was something like gratinated cauliflower - the rich, molten cheese encrusting the soft, fresh cauliflower... a main course well done!

The dessert had just the right level of sweetness and was warm and fluffy. no arguments about that.

The service had a minor glitch, though; the waiter dripped the sauce anglaise on my lap. Thankfully, I had my napkin to catch the sauce...

Rating : 4 Gowns”

3 comments:

  1. the matriculation dinner sounds delicious! help me pass my best wishes to liangwei in his studies (:

    ReplyDelete
  2. thanks! (yes, matriculation dinner was the most awesomest meal in my college! :D and i realised how incongruent my style of reviewing is with the that of the moose [only because it was first posted on my blog elsewhere, which has other non-culinary stuff going on]... ><)

    ReplyDelete

 

the moose & snowman

the soft toy. the soft toy.

makan corner

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