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|Address:||152-154 Hills Road, Cambridge, Cambridgeshire CB2 8PB|
|Price: £33.00||Wine: £14.50||Champagne: £29.95|
|Opening Hours:||Mon-Sun 12N-2.30pm (Sun 3.30pm) Mon-Sat 6-10.30pm|
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Cambridge city is a bit of a gastro wasteland: plenty of chains, curry houses and pubs but not many decent, independent restaurants with quality cooking. So thank god for the brave souls at Alimentum who stepped forward to break the mould. The restaurant is set slightly out of town so passing trade is not going to keep them open but this won't matter as it's a place where you'd book to come to for a special night out. As soon as you step through the door you know you're somewhere a bit different; I'm not a huge fan of the “contemporary cool” decor with its black leather DFS dining chairs, red accent colours and oversized copper-lined light fittings but at least you feel they've made an effort. It's not quite as busy as it should be (but nowhere in Cambridge ever is on a weeknight) and service misses a beat when they place us at a table for 2 within elbowing distance of another couple, despite there being plenty of tables free. Trying to force some “atmosphere” by concentrating diners is uncomfortable and unnecessary here as there are just enough people to create a background hum. After we've moved to a better spot, I peruse the menu and my heart skips a beat. This is proper, ambitious, intriguing stuff. Ingredients like ginger, bone marrow and pumpkin seeds float across the page in interesting combinations. We decided on the 7-course tasting menu and it didn't disappoint. There are amuse bouches; there's veloute; there're small, but intensely flavoursome, mouthfuls; there's sauce smeared in controlled swirls. In short, it's food worthy of London. The matched wines were all perfectly pleasant, but sadly unlike the food, not very adventurous. Serving a hefty red at the second course is a bit punchy for my liking (but what can you do when the chef serves up slow-roasted lamb neck?) but the sommelier made up for it with a beautiful dessert wine. At £115 a head it was London pricing, but worth every belated-Valentine penny and not unreasonable for this Michelin-starred meal.