Sunday, 16 December 2012

Review: Cambridge Places - Graffiti Restaurant at Hotel Felix

This week I visited Hotel Felix in Cambridge for my third lunch in its Graffiti Restaurant. I've always had good experiences of the food, wine and service at the restaurant but a review has never quite made it onto the Blog. This time I was determined to rectify the situation. Conditions were good; natural light flooded in from the big bay windows overlooking the gardens, the restaurant wasn't too busy so we were given lots of time to peruse the menu and wine list, and my party was large enough for me to surreptitiously take a few snaps of the food on my phone. Here's how the three courses went down...   

From the well-priced set price lunch menu (£18.50 for three courses) I chose the smoked duck salad to start, followed by lamb shank, and something chocolately to finish. The smoked duck salad was beautifully presented, as were all the plates I saw leaving the kitchen, and quite rightfully so the main event was thinly sliced duck of the finest quality: tender, delicately smoked and well balanced with sticky sweet caramelised hazelnuts and pomegranate molasses. A trademark drizzle of balsamic glaze, featuring on every plate I've ever eaten from at Graffiti, was a rather unnecessary garnish here but I did enjoy the pile of well-dressed salad and chutney which finished the dish.  

One of the best restaurant dishes I've eaten in a long, long time, the highlight of the meal was the main course of lamb shank, served on a bed of cabbage with pommes boulangère and butternut squash purée. True to the restaurant's style, the lamb was served off the bone and shaped into an aesthetically pleasing mound of rich, meltingly soft meat ready to be gently pulled away from the glossy black glaze which encased it. Every mouthful coated the lips with a sticky gravy, in that decadent, fine dining way which might be off-putting elsewhere. But the overall result - from the punchy, bright yellow comet of yellow butternut squash smeared across the plate, to the neat, contemporary treatment of the French peasant potato dish - was effortlessly beautiful to look at and to eat.     

A good selection of desserts featured on the set price lunch menu including cheese and biscuits, which I noted didn't carry a supplement. Good to know. On this occasion, however, I resisted the usual urge to indulge in a further savoury course and tried one of the very pretty desserts. Having kept an eye on the kitchen doors throughout the lunch service, I had already narrowed down my choice to either the chocolate terrine or an affogato with chocolate chip cookies. I opted for the light and bubbly chocolate terrine, served with a firm, perfect disc of raspberry jelly and a cream espuma of sugary vanilla that reminded me of enjoying naughty spoonfuls of cake mixture as a child. It was a fun, simple dish that I could have eaten ten times over. We drank an Argentinian red, a Malbec 2011 from Mendoza, which proved to be a good all-rounder with a robust, velvety depth that I particularly enjoyed with the lamb.      

Graffiti Restaurant at Hotel Felix sticks with what it knows, does it well, and consistently offers great value fine dining. The inventive, contemporary twists and regularly changing menu save the restaurant's simplicity from being mistaken for playing it safe and make the restaurant a versatile dining option for foodies, corporate parties and special occasions. In short: it's worth the taxi ride from the city centre.   

Enjoy! :-) 

You might also like:
Dinner at Hotel du Vin
Dinner at D'Arry's
Pre-theatre dinner at the Cambridge Chop House 

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