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My thoughts on Cameron’s Kitchen

May 6, 2016

It’s tough to find ‘fine dining’ in Milton Keynes.  We’re tripping over chain restaurants (and badly-maintained paving – but that rant’s a whole ‘nother post) and we’ve got a champion troop of decent curry houses, but even credible gastro pubs are few and far between.

I get why.  Me and my girls trip down to London once a quarter for lunch.  It’s worth the effort.  And with the Big Smoke less than an hour away on the train, why would you choose to come to MK for special eats instead?  Especially when we’re a community of seemingly such poor taste.  I mean, FIVE Nandos?  What is the matter with my fellows Keynesians?

Anyway, before I climb so far on my soap box  that I can’t get down, let’s get back to the matter in hand. My dinner at Cameron’s Kitchen.

Set back just off of the Stony Stratford High Street, down a lovely alleyway called O’Dells Yard, Cameron’s Kitchen promises much.  And if you’re not used to the quality and amazing value that we find on a regular basis in London, I am sure it would deliver on that promise every time.  It talks a good talk.  But does it walk the walk?  Yes and no.

On arrival, the decor is modern, contemporary and inviting.  But not quite thought through.  Our table for four was so long, and the back of our bench seating so high, that our waiter forever struggled to place my food down in front of me without leaning right across one of my fellow diners.  And there is only one toilet.  For everyone.  That’s approximately 30 diners on a busy night.  But these are only minor points… Let’s get to the food.

We selected the five course tasting menu, which looked to be an absolute bargain at five courses for £45.  It started with an amuse bouche of a dainty scone, topped with whipped blue cheese and a slow roasted tomato.  My mouth didn’t find it very amusing though because, although the light cheese and the tomato were delicious, the scone was over-worked and utterly devoid of seasoning.   Not an amazing start.

Cameron's Menu

Next, no bread.  Doh!  But let’s move on.

Next came the seafood risotto, with a pan-fried scallop.  Despite a slightly claggy texture for the risotto, this dish was packing a lot of flavour and left me wanting more.  Which was good, because there were still four courses to follow.

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Clams and pork belly were up next.  Out of the five clam shells in my bowl, only one actually had a clam in it, the rest were empty – although I did find the missing occupants in the bottom of the bowl.  I think a little more care plating could have prevented my disappointment.  However, the pork belly was sublime and the broth sensational.  Only problem was, we were only equipped with a knife and fork to eat it with.  We improvised with ‘clam-shell spoons’ (as modelled by Alison below), when we got to the broth.  Seemed a shame to waste it.

Following on was confit chicken oysters – or chef’s perks, as they are often known.  They came with a lovely iron-hit of chard, a soused carrot and another foam, which was really pleasant.  Unfortunately, I think the carrots had been drowned in the vinegar, rather than lightly marinaded.  They were quite eye-watering and detracted from the rest of the treats on the plate.

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Fourth on the menu was practically perfection.  A flavourful, tender and medium-rare piece of beef fillet, topped with an ox cheek ragu.  A little pile of Dauphinoise potatoes, some spinach, and yet another foam, all harmonised together beautiful.  The one anomaly was half a roasted tomato, but I didn’t even mind that.  Finally, I’d found the dish that got me excited.

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Last, but not least, was a share-between-two tasting plate of desserts.  From left to right we had a chocolate fondant (perfect – oozing chocolate galore!), accompanied by the best salted caramel ice cream I’ve ever had the pleasure to eat.  In the middle was a panna cotta which we all wished had stayed in the kitchen, and we probably could have bounced back in there if we’d have tried… way too much gelatine.  Gina said the rhubarb at the bottom was nice, but I was put off from trying it.  Back into dessert heaven, we had a rhubarb sorbet and a chocolate sorbet.  Nestled in between them was some roasted pineapple, which was non-offence, but also a bit of a non-event.

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Along side all of this,  we quaffed a bottle of Prosecco-like substance (they’d run out of our favourite fizz at lunchtime) and three excellently-priced bottle of Albarino (my new favourite white – £28 a bottle).  The bill came to £82 a head.  Oh, and that also included a gin and Fever-Tree tonic for me, that I supped whilst waiting for my fellow dinners to join me.

I’m conscious that I’ve picked a lot of faults in this write up, so you probably don’t think I enjoyed myself.  On the contrary, it was a lovely evening, made even better by the great company.  It’s just that this tasting menu didn’t compare well to some of the set menus/lunches I’ve had elsewhere.  And the service was lacking some finesse.  The attention to detail and finishing touches aren’t quite there…

That said, I will definitely be going back to Cameron’s.  I’ll stick to the a la carte menu and steer clear of any soused carrots.  And I’ll be ordering any dessert that comes with salted caramel ice cream.

Has anyone else eaten here?  What was your experience like?

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