Cotto restaurant in Cambridge was named in the Sunday Times `Top 100 Restaurants in the UK` yesterday, and we just happened to have dinner there with very good friends on Saturday night. A treat.
Cotto is housed in well a house really , unassuming from the outside in the same road as Anglia Ruskin University.
It is owned by famed Chef Hans Schweitzer and his lovely wife Ruth.
Hans decided in his teens that cooking was what he wished to excel at. Since then he has achieved his aim in a diverse array of establishments. After training at the prestigious Munich Hotel School in Germany, Hans gained the title of Maitre de Cuisine by the age of 25. He went on to work at restaurants worldwide in an Executive Chef capacity, from the Teheran Arya in Iran to his own Restaurant, Table in Germany, where he was awarded a Michelin star at the age of 29.
A twice-Gold Medallist at the Chef’s Olympics,Hans has amassed an impressive repertoire of culinary skills, including training as a Confiseur and Chocolatier in Switzerland and Paris. In the late eighties he opened the acclaimed Confiserie Schweitzer in Cambridge followed by the hugely successful Michelin-starred Midsummer House, voted best restaurant in South England in its first year. Hans’ culinary journey then drew him to Barbados, first as Executive Chef at the celebrity-frequented Sandy Lane Hotel, then as owner of the famous La Mer restaurant, before he was drawn back to Cambridge as Executive Chef, Queen’s College. His travels now bring him to Cotto, where his skill, attention to detail and focus on freshness and flavour will no doubt render this step of his culinary adventure just as successful as the many others….
Ruth is absolutely charming, and we had a big catch up chat re who, where , what in Barbados, as we know several of the same people there. The staff are lovely too-love a handsome waiter!
My only gripes about Cotto are some fairly suspect artworks ( but being married to an artist does make me very specific in my taste), and the ghastly `office` style grim carpet on the stairs. This is a tricky one there as the staff have to bring the food up and downstairs, as the kitchen is on ground level, but I think even simply painted wood would be tons more stylish.
But …the food. Wow!
The food is creative and bursting with colour, each plate a picture. Hans` attention to detail for presentation is second to none, and the food is fresh ,very seasonal and delicious. There are some rather good videos of the man in action on their website, and Ruth told me that they had been shooting again last week so new ones are about to be loaded. I had spied the Venison Wellington on there, and I was thrilled to see it on the menu.
We kicked off with some yummy amuse bouche and good bread and we had fabulous (very pricey icey) wines. I simply love Gavi and this was delicious.
I had the Gressingham Duck Parfait, Cherry Wood Cured Breast ( slivers of the pinkest meat ever), with spiced apple and plum chutney. I swooned over every mouthful. Husband Andrew and David both had the Loch Duart Salmon, House Cured Java and Dill, Tea Smoked with ginger miso and daikon, and pronounced it perfect.
Everyone seems to be `curing` salmon every which way at the moment,( (including us I might add-bring on the beetroot, dill and fennel) but the tea flavours here sung out, as did those of the fresh herbs in Patricia`s Organic Herb Risotto with seared Scottish King Scallop, another picture on a plate.
The restaurant was busy and buzzy ;a great atmosphere.
The men chose the Best of Salt Marsh Lamb, Rack and Shoulder ,with Thyme and Rosemary and natural jus…so many complimentary flavours and colours on a plate, but the Cotto Venison Wellington with Juniper Berry sauce and roasted cocoa ,was every bit as perfect as I hope. It was utterly delicious pink perfection and I could have licked the plate.!
David was the only one who had a pudding( we scoffed the `Hans made chocolates` instead), and he had another Cotto signature dish ;a chocolate confection called The Piano`, a masterpiece of patience and attention to detail by the Chef with a composition of different chocolate tastes-Peruvian and Grenadian single estate dark( sounds like wine), Papouasie milk and De Zaan white.
So if you are a real foodie and want to splash out on a very special dinner, Cotto is the place to be. Take a bow Hans Schweitzer!