13 Apr 2008

Osso Bucco Under Thatch

'In reality, outside London there is still a dearth of good eating places...'
[Joanna Blythman, Daily Mail]
THE IDEAL gastropub? -The Three Horseshoes, Madingley. I have often blogged about this cosy, thatched haven slumbering in Cambridge's leafy outskirts. It is consistent, charming, fairly priced, with a robustly stylish décor and a very full car park. In genre, generous, honest, hearty Italian food is married with a concise, affordable wine list where every bin, including USA bottles, warrants inclusion.
Yesterday was my first visit following a well-mannered takeover by its long serving chef, Richard Stokes, formerly of the River Café and various restaurants in San Francisco. Experience of the latter probably explains the presence of Cal-Itals like Seghesio's full pelt, vanillin Barbera and little rascal, Arneis, which evokes Haliborange dissolvable tablets (positively).
Having skipped breakfast, and feeling flush, I gave the lunch menu my most thorough test thus far.
Under 'Starters Orders' then, I greedily sipped away a beaded flute filled with Frassinelli Prosecco blended with thick, fresh strawberry purée and corrected with grappa. Alongside, moreish Sardinian Carta da Musica, crisp parchment bread, presumably straight from Italy's second largest island, was excellent and not filling. This was served in tandem with large, brine sodden Tuscan olives and deeply flavoured, spicy, olive oil.
Two Colchester Rock oysters woke-up my taste buds, thankfully served free from molesting condiments (I cannot understand why people ruin fresh crustacea with sex pink shallot vinegar).
Next, refreshing, provocatively wet, mint-spiked Buffalo Mozzarella, torn, with green beans, black olives and an ivy of rocket leaves. Pleasantly lactic, flagrantly fresh. Complementing: Pieropan's '06 vibrant Soave Classico, tasting of liquified emeralds, and remaining fresh from first to final sip. I am convinced that this producer makes some of Italy's finest, white wines.
A plate of nourishing risotto (baby food for adults) with potted brown shrimps landed next, filled with the warm, reassuring taste of diced leeks. The acidity of Franz Haas '05 new wave Pinot Nero cut through and cleansed the palate between mouthfulls. This light coloured, northern Italian is a personal favourite: nuanced, with chalky minerals, the gentle, cocoa and vanilla spice offsetting the subtle raspberry fruit.
Pork Osso Bucco, curiously one of the cheaper items on the menu, followed. I took great pleasure in noisily sucking the comforting, succulent, seeping, savoury marrow from the bones.
Caramelised blood orange and marshmallow pillow followed, served with Bonny Doon's Vin de Glacier. This artificially crafted Santa Cruz ice wine is produced from grapes frozen after harvest. The clean, pronounced mandarin flavours which ensued complemented the dessert, as did the eventual sluice of acidity.
The presence of the marshmallow reminded me of a joke told by a former security guard at Vinopolis. He told me that he once dreamt about consuming a huge marshmallow and then woke to discover his pillow had vanished... The joke worked because he was a vast man.
The Three Horseshoes - Madingley, T. 01954 210221


Regarding the quote at the top of the page poison penned by yet another lemon sucking journalist: some of the best restaurants I have had the pleasure to visit in the last year lie far from the murky, dirty, crowded, clouded capital: Alimentum, Graffiti and that above (Cambridge), Simpson's (Birmingham) and Bohemia (Jersey)... Indeed, numerous venues on my must dine before I die list lie far outside the clogged circle of the M25: The Fat Duck, Le Manoir, Yorke Arms... I've unearthed a really good review of the reviewers HERE.

Meantime, Giles Coren appears to have RESPONDED to my obscure questions.