According to the Careys Manor website, “Relaxed refinement is the name of the game at Cambium” - and I would have to agree wholeheartedly with a round of joyful applause, having spent a divine 4 hours there yesterday evening.
On arrival we were made welcome, seated in the bar area and given drinks menus to peruse. We were here to enjoy the celebrated 6 course Tasting Menu, so no need to stress about which delicious items we would eat as Head Chef Alistair Craig had done the hard work of choosing for us. As we sipped on our Kir Royale pre-dinner cocktails, it was a joy to listen to the barman helping a couple of other guests choose their pre-dinner drink. Not only did he recommend a locally sourced gin as an alternative to their usual brand, he told them the story of its provenance whilst he prepared their cocktail. This level of guest engagement, as we were to discover ourselves, is the norm at Cambium.
Michael, the Head Sommelier, introduced himself and asked if we needed assistance with choosing a wine. Given the vast selection, I was grateful for his help and, having ascertained our taste, he advised on a Vouvray, newly added to the restaurant’s cellar. Michael’s knowledge and passion was a wonder as he told us the story of the wine and its vineyard. He gave us a number of other choices to consider, but we went with the Vouvray and we weren’t to be disappointed.
We were seated at our table in the beautifully light and airy restaurant. Having chosen a Wednesday evening, there weren’t many other diners, but we could imagine a busy evening with lots of atmosphere and ambiance, whilst still spacious enough to not feel crowded.
And so our feast began… a basket of homemade bread arrived, followed by an amuse bouche (compliments of the chef, of course!) - a carrot and coconut soup, served in a small jar. “Delicately flavoursome”, two words which we would soon use to sum up much of our meal, Alistair and his team have an expert ability to combine the most subtle of flavours perfectly.
On to our first Tasting course, Green and White Asparagus with Morel, Quail’s egg and chicken skin - a light, tasty and delicious entree.
A Tasting Menu’s greatest strength, not having to choose your own dinner, can also be a risk and having seen the Chef’s choices, we were a little hesitant about two of the proposed dishes. When we saw Rabbit Cannelloni as our second plate, with the third plate of a Mackerel with Gazpacho, we told Michael we weren’t fans of rabbit or mackerel, but said we would go into it with an open mind. Personal taste can sometimes get in the way of adventure and we are all creatures of habit, but tonight we were keen to expand our culinary boundaries and what better place to do it in.
I have to say I have been educated on rabbit - the cannelloni was absolutely delicious, tender but meaty with the rich creamy mustard sauce beautifully balancing the combination of subtle flavours. I will never turn my nose up at rabbit again!
In the game of life (and fine dining) you win some and you lose some, and unfortunately, my opinion on mackerel hasn’t changed. Whilst I could appreciate the skill in creating the seared Mackerel and traditionally Mediterranean chilled Gazpacho with its fiery spices working to complement the strong flavours of the fish, it wasn’t a dish for me.
Our next dish was served - the Lamb Rack with crispy coated sweetbreads, wild garlic, goats curd and braised potato. Absolutely delicious - again, a combination of powerful flavours, working brilliantly together to create a taste fusion.
And on and on the menu went, at one point we wondered how we could possibly eat more food - but somehow we managed it!
A “Pre-dessert” sounds like something reserved for the most hungry and this is a course we were delighted by. A taste of beautifully ripened Irish Goats Cheese - Gortamona - served with homemade crackers and quince jelly.
We were then served with not one, not two, but three desserts - a Pistachio baklava with cherries and lemon ice cream, a Strawberry and Peanut Butter Cheesecake with fresh strawberries and sorbet and finally a Chocolate Delice with lemon curd and a delicate ginger ice cream. All three desserts were perfect and a gem for any sweet tooth.
Finally we waddled our way, full and happy into the lounge area to take coffee and petit fours.
The whole experience at Cambium was a delight from start to finish - Michael and Anna looked after our every need, ably supported by others in the team. The food was divine, the surroundings beautiful and the evening perfect.
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