Following some outstanding Beef and Lamb Ambassador Series Dinners in 2018, it was the turn of Harry Williams, head chef at Alpha Street Kitchen in Cambridge. He was tasked with the job of wowing his adoring customers with a beef and lamb showcase dinner and boy did he deliver.
Situated in the heart of Cambridge, Alpha Street Kitchen is a modern bistro, housed in the historic National Hotel building opposite the famous clock tower. Harry and owner Fiona Massey took over the restaurant three and half years ago and set out with a vision to create one of Waikato’s finest eating experiences. Based on what was served up at the Series Dinner, they must be pretty close to achieving that.
After a warm welcome and a glass of refreshing Mills Reef bubbles – the wine partner for the night – we were presented with the first of five courses. A lamb sweetbread sausage, lardo, cashew brown butter and honey. For anyone unfamiliar with sweetbreads they are a confronting prospect on paper, but in reality, they offer subtle flavours with a soft texture and partnered up with crunch of the cashews and the sweetness of the honey it proved to be a show stopper first up.
Round two came around quickly with beef cheek, sour cherry, feta, pomegranate, Thai basil. Wow. That’s all we could say. There was an unspoken, universal agreement around the table that there would be no talking during this course so we could take time to savour the complexity of the flavours and the myriad of textures Harry had crafted in this dish.
If the first two courses were anything to go by the third was billed to be a cracker. Lamb neck, lamb rib, black garlic, olive, fennel, basil. There was so much to enjoy about this dish, the contrast of the lamb, the almost perfumed flavour of the fennel and then the kick-you-in-the-taste-buds black garlic which was rich and dense but cut through with the authority of a sergeant major.
Starting to feel on the fuller side, it was sirloin, ox-tongue, beef tendon currants, pancetta, coffee, bitter chocolate for the fourth. The perfectly cooked sirloin had been brined giving it this delicious, salty, smoky flavour. Ox-tongue was melt-in-your-mouth and the beef tendon, which ties in with the restaurant’s ‘nose-to-tail’ philosophy, was like a delicious beef scratching adding a crunch to the dish.
Last but by no means least was dessert. Parsnip tart, black currant mousse, raspberry meringue. It was more art than dessert, it felt almost blasphemous to dig in. But we did and instantly knew it was the right decision. A thick butter crust base, a creamy filling with a nod to its ‘roots’ and a white chocolate mousse ball that was hard to crack open but worth all the effort once you did.
The word ‘alpha’ conjures up thoughts of being a leader and this is certainly what Alpha Street Kitchen should be considered as. If you’re ever in the vicinity, hell, if you are ever remotely near Cambridge make the effort to go and experience all they have to offer. It will be well worth it.