The Three Horseshoes, Madingley

This was meant to be a butter-soaked, garlic drizzled, artery-busting love letter from one of the great Parisian brasseries where I took my wife for her birthday last night. I had been looking forward to it for months. Unfortunately, after a delicious starter of langoustine ravioli in a pungent, truly ballsy lobster bisque, I found myself out on the pavement a few minutes later, heaving my guts up while forty-two Euros worth of sole meuniere went cold on my plate. I have not named the restaurant in question as I am loathe to blame them and my wife suspects I may have an allergy to something. I am utterly refusing to contemplate it could be shellfish, but as a result, could I just say Les Nymphéas in L’Orangerie are breathtakingly beautiful and were very much the highlight of our Parisian sojourn. Spending half the night talking to the great white telephone in the hotel bathroom less so.

Not many glowing restaurant reviews begin with an account of al fresco chundering. Luckily, the night before we went away, we took our two kids up to the in-laws just outside Cambridge and went out for dinner with a couple of very old friends who were equally delighted to deposit their three sprogs with a babysitter for the evening. I don’t wish to be a bore, but all four of us are very much at the pathetically delighted to be child free for the evening stage of parenthood. Obviously we spent far too much time talking about our children because that’s what you do if you have them, but god knows it’s nice to do so in the certain knowledge they’re not actually there and about to run a trail of snot along your leg at any moment.

The Three Horseshoes is a gastropub in the very best sense of the word. We were sat in a comfortable, spacious, tastefully decorated conservatory area while a nice waitress bought us good things to eat as we talked and laughed. A lot.

My celeriac soup with chestnuts was pretty heavy on the truffle oil, but I would consider that more a compliment than a criticism. Haggis fritters with a sweet chilli dipping sauce were one of those dishes to be filed under the ‘I must try this at home’* banner. Goat’s cheese arancini were tasty, if a tiny bit claggy, but show me the ball of rice that isn’t.

For main course I had the kind of venison haunch on garlic mash, cavolo nero and parsnip chips that made me want to put on a kilt and go out to wrestle its original owner on a hillside somewhere. A 9oz sirloin steak was pronounced ‘really good,’ with the kind of eye-rolling that only comes from subsisting mainly on stolen bits of fishfinger for the past few months – a beef and ale pie was despatched with similar alacrity. The rack of lamb was tasty enough although the fat could have done with a little more rendering and the fondant potato was bit of a ‘disappointment’. This was from the same person who had the arancini to start, but then my wife is used to disappointment on so many levels by now.

My treacle tart with a citron creme had the kind of sugary hit that I imagine you can get professional help to wean you off, while everyone else had a chocolate mousse that was also given the ‘really good’ assessment around the table. Not the most loquacious critique, I’m sure you’ll agree, but then it’s quite difficult to be wordy when you’ve got a mouthful of chocolate. 

There were a couple of glasses of wine and a beer, but obviously nothing too extravagant on a school night, and a bill that worked out at roughly £45 a head including very happy, smiley and mostly efficient service. Driving home from the pub we both agreed we had enjoyed a thoroughly wonderful meal. One of the reasons I love restaurants is that they are the perfect environment to be sociable. The food should not overshadow the company and the company should compliment the food, and that was abundantly the case at The Three Horseshoes. Who needs to go all the way to Paris to pay for these things? Well I don’t for a start. I was outside redecorating the pavement while my wife took care of the bill for her own birthday meal. What a lucky woman.

Feb ’20

*but won’t.