As an avid fan of the food scene in central Cambridge, I’m always spoilt for choice for special and taster menus held by various venues about town. After seeing all the hype from the last ‘Rubbish Cooks’ event held at Parker’s Tavern by the skilled head chef Tristan Welch and seeing all the comments about his stale hot cross bun soufflé, I was keen to attend the following months supper club. We paid £30 per person for the booking, for 4/5 courses with a percentage going to charity (£5). This seemed reasonable but more on this later…
As with all the best ideas, the idea of ‘Rubbish Cooks’ began in a pub a few years ago after a few beers shared between friends. The aim is simple…to raise awareness of the food waste pandemic and to raise money for the less fortunate. In my opinion, this is exactly what it does.
We arrived promptly at 6pm and were shown to our seats within the lovely University Arms hotel. The venue has a very traditional feel supported by the professional hospitality team, with all the little touches which shout out luxury. Here, we had the first look at the menu, which, according to our server, was created at lunchtime that day. This speaks volumes for the culinary knowledge of the team as I was most impressed with the offerings. It’s worth noting they do take a one size fits all approach towards the allergens front which did leave the alternate menu a very tomatoey affair.
As each course was served, the Head Chef visited each table to present the dish and to answer any questions guests had. This added to the experience and was a lovely touch.
STALE BREAD CROUTONS with fine herbs and garlic
Large chunks of bread oven roasted with herbs and garlic turned out great.
LOCAL ASPARAGUS STALK CONSOMMÉ
The soup was a little bland for my taste but delicious with the croutons I had left after the short wait.
ROASTED SELL-BY DATE PASSED CHESTNUT MUSHROOMS AND BRUISED TURNIP VINAIGRETTE
Delightful! My favourite dish of the night and certainly something I would try myself one day. They managed to intensify the flavour of the Chestnut mushrooms by roasting them in a little rosemary oil, blending and then folding in some whole mushrooms back into the puree. The sweet but tart vinaigrette, which was honey and cider vinegar, complemented the nutty flavour of the mushrooms perfectly. 10/10 for this dish!
FISH AND SMOKED SALMON OFF CUT MOUSSAKA
A lovely dish especially for a fish lover. It was more like a fish stew than a traditional moussaka, which was well seasoned with the smoked salmon off cuts
OVER-ORDERED ROASTED FIGS with yoghurt mousse and vanilla confit bruised tomatoes
Another highlight for me – The roasted Figs were perfectly cooked and the vanilla confit kept a light feel to the dish which is exactly what you need after several courses. The tomatoes in this did little to improve the dish though and could easily have been left out, I guess these added a little interest to the plate.
For me, this is a great idea for highlighting the food waste culture and will certainly encourage more mindfulness of the food I waste at home. The way the Chefs create the menu late in the day is also impressive as you wouldn’t of guessed it was a last minute creation. The white wine we selected was great and only £6.5 a glass but the lager option, Rex Larger, was £8.5 and not even on draught! The service charge 12.5% but well earned by the servers though. Overall, this experience cost Just over £90 for two, which seemed reasonable to us for the quality of the food served and with at least £10 of this going to charity, I can’t grumble. This is not something we would attend every month but I would definitely recommend fellow local foodies to visit at least once, or to take friends and family for something a little different.