Chef Sam Carter is keeping menus local and seasonal at his debut Cambridge restaurant with partner Alexandra Olivier. Lisa Jenkins pays a visit.
Located just off the River Cam and close to Jesus Green in Cambridge, Restaurant Twenty-Two is the debut restaurant from partners Sam Carter and Alexandra Olivier. Carter has worked in Michelin-starred restaurants such as Hambleton Hall in Rutland and London's Maze by Gordon Ramsay, but he says his real inspiration comes from the ingredients delivered each day from local suppliers.
Carter says: "I have been trained in some traditionally French kitchens, but I was also lucky enough to work at Maze by Gordon Ramsay, which had a strong Asian influence. Traditional British classics and the incredible produce that the British Isles offers really influences my style.
"By sourcing the best possible ingredients at their peak, bold flavours happen naturally."
By sourcing the best possible ingredients at their peak, bold flavours happen naturally
All menus change weekly, and Carter's passion for flavoursome, seasonal ingredients is evident in his menus when The Caterer visits. The à la carte offers a selection of snacks, including a truffle gougère, which is filled with a purée made from Lancashire Bomb cheese, made by Shorrocks Cheese in Goosnargh, Preston, and finished with Wiltshire truffle (£6).
As well as the à la carte, which offers four snacks, three starters, three mains and two desserts, Restaurant Twenty-Two offers a six-course tasting menu (£75pp), with additional snacks and breads to begin. A shorter, four-course tasting menu (£65pp) is also available, with guests able to add tea or coffee and petits-fours to either for a supplement of £5.
A recent main course on the tasting menu, of Creedy Carver duck, smoked potato, pickled red cabbage and Madeira jus, has proved highly popular. "The pickled red cabbage cuts through the smoky potato and the fatty duck breast and leg," explains Carter.
But the chef's favourite dish, which featured on both menus, is the Chalkstream trout with celeriac dashi, seaweed cracker, cured trout, shiso, finger lime, chilli and yuzu. "It has a strong Asian influence but it really showcases the impeccable produce that the UK has to offer," Carter adds.
As we move into autumn and winter, he is planning to make the most of local game and hopes to make use of pheasant, partridge, wood pigeon and venison.
Carter and Olivier work closely with a supplier called Seed to Feed micro farm. "Jake Ball drops us off seed catalogues, and then orders and plants seeds based on our menu plans," Carter says. "When the plants are grown and at their peak, he picks them the morning of delivery. We have incredible heirloom tomatoes on the menu at the minute, beautiful baby leeks and locally foraged mushrooms."
Nearby Flourish Produce is another vegetable supplier, and the couple also make use of foraged ingredients where possible, usually sourced from Seed to Feed or from Bellow Wild Foods in Cornwall. Meanwhile, Thetford Forest and the North Norfolk coast provide ample free foraging.
Aside from inspiration from his ingredients, Carter is pushed on by his team, who he says are creative and have a hunger to try new dishes and ingredients.
Alexandra Olivier, who manages front of house, works closely with sommelier Alfie Scott to curate the wine list, liaising with wine suppliers to source local and national wines. James Thorne of Thorne Wines has supported the restaurant since opening, while English wine specialist Grape Britannia is also nearby.
A wine flight is offered to complement the two tasting menus (£52.50pp for the six-course, £37.50 for the four) and a lot of work goes into finding the right wine for the dish. "It's a good chance for guests to try something a bit different – something they wouldn't usually try," explains Olivier.
She is supported by restaurant manager Ariana Francisco, who has previously worked at Jason Atherton's Pollen Street Social and Social Eating House in London, as well as head waitress Melissa Clench, who has been a part of the business since launch.
Before the pandemic, the restaurant would serve between 30 and 36 covers for lunch and dinner, which has now reduced to 18-20 covers per service.
Carter adds: "The people of Cambridge are really into their food and drink. We feel extremely lucky to be part of a growing local industry that, even in these difficult times, seems to be going from strength to strength."
Restaurant Twenty-Two, 22 Chesterton Road, Cambridge CB4 3AX
From the à la carte
- Rigatoni, Wiltshire truffle, chanterelles £15
- Wood pigeon, Jerusalem artichoke, Douglas fir £14
- Gigha halibut, pumpkin, brown butter £16
- Roasted cauliflower, fresh curds, yeast, salsa verde £22
- Cornish stone bass, oyster, broccoli, lemon £28
- Sandringham estate venison, celeriac, quince, chocolate £32.50
- Dark chocolate, ginger, blackberry £11
- Pear, sheep's yogurt, buckwheat £11
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