Birthday eve dinner at MJP@TheShepherds

I like to go out to dinner to celebrate my birthday and given our experience during the Covid period I wanted to go somewhere good (don’t I always?) and different. So I did a search on TripAdvisor for restaurants with some sort of Michelin connection. This yielded a list including Navadhanya on Newmarket Road and Restaurant 22 on Chesterton Road, The Crown & Punchbowl in Horningsea and the Tickell Arms in Whittlesford all of which I’ve been to and to which I would return. It also included Midsummer House on Midsummer Common and Parker’s Tavern at the University Arms, neither of which I’m inclined to  go to, and the rather new MJP@The Shepherds in Fen Ditton which looked interesting and different. I decided to give it a go.

The Ancient Shepherds has been in Fen Ditton for as long as I can remember. I had dinner with several friends way back in 1967.  Back then it was one of the pubs around Cambridge which also did good food. It was still a pub with lots of horse brasses but there was also a dining area with proper tables and chairs. You’d be served at a laid table but it would have been more a case of place mats than white linen. Nonetheless it was good food I seem to recall and of a price which students could only afford very occasionally.  Amongst those present were old school friend David Hall and fellow students at Churchill Ed Libbey and Julian Flochowski.

It’s all changed now of course. There’s no more horse brasses, no more carpets and no more quaint leaded glass windows. Inside it’s almost austere with a bare wooden floor and walls adored with the for sale limited edition prints which seem almost de riguer for modern restaurants. It might of course be a left over from Covid separation rules of course but there’s also lots of space. Sadly I suspect they’ll pack a few more in when they reckon their clientele would live with that.

We were sat down and looked after exceptionally by Bradley, in skinny jeans and a jacket at least one size too small, and Polly, in severe waitress black and shoes which gave us a click-clack as she walked about. I was uber-impressed by Bradley’s knowledge of the wine list. Later I found out that he was the General Manager and that makes me doubly impressed.

I had my first grumble with ‘drinks before’ . There is beer available and although there’s an MJP Dry Hopped Lager on draft there are no good bottled lagers. Maybe I should have tried the draft. Instead I diverted from my G&T default and had a negroni (gin, campari and vermouth). I’m no cocktail expert but this one was very pleasant and, for me, different.

We were told that the menu changes every day and comprises ‘small plates’ and then fish, plant based and meat plates  each in small, starter size, and large, barely main course, size. It’s apparently not expensive but the larger plates aren’t exactly large. The idea is that you construct your own menu and probably order a few plates for the table to share.  We didn’t, share that is, but I had tandoori roast cauliflower as a starter and venison as a main. The former took me out of my comfort zone with a cumin dahl and pomegranate, and the latter was exceptional but, despite it being ‘large’, a little on the small side. It comprised two small steaks and I could have used three. Juni had halibut and then mushroom risotto. We then shared a lemon & white chocolate mille-feuille. To be honest that was not fantastic, more dix-feuille than mille-feuille.

When it came to wine I was impressed. There’s an eclectic wine list with lots of choice by the glass with 125 and 175ml being offered up front. For a white to go with my tandoori cauli Brad recommended an Italian: Nas-cëtta del Comune di Novello. Nas-cëtta is the name of the grape and its from Piedmont. I chose the red myself: Old Vines Petit Syrah from the Oak Ridge Winery in California. The white was just fine, that red was exceptional. I treated myself to a Chateau du Juge, it’s a Muscadelle blend from Cadillac in Bourdeaux, to go with our desert. To complete the package Brad managed to produce my wines within a couple of minutes of ordering. I was not left stranded with food but no wine to drink with it.

And that was it. We ran through the courses and I enjoyed a full set of wines. Not cheap but good value. Just right for a birthday. Roll on a similar experience in 2022

Photo of the Month: Aug 2021

I like this one because of the vibrancy of the colours and stories within it. I took it in the morning before the Gay Pride event in Peterborough.

There’s a great mix of people in the photo from the strong, maybe arrogant, pose of the girl fourth from left, through the cheeky grin of the guy second right who’s enjoying the crack and the sadness of the guy fourth left who wants to be in the group but isn’t bold enough to push himself forward, to the group of three girls on the left who haven’t quite got the style yet but are happy to be there on the day.

The photo was taken with my Sony a7 III, 1/125th at f5.6 and ISO 100. The zoom was set at 181mm. It’s got one of my now ‘trademark’ irregular crops but otherwise minimal post processing. My first crop was too aggressive and with this one I’ve given the characters a little more headroom than they had when I posted the photo on david.photo.blog

Stent plus two

Today is exactly two years since I got my stent. I’m particularly aware of this because Google Photos has told me with pictures of my journey from Addenbrooke’s to Royal. Papworth.

Of course lots more has happened in those years than my really rather trivial experience of living with my stent, and of course a lot has not happened as our freedoms have been, not unreasonably, constrained because of Covid.

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Exam results remembered

It happens every year these days. Exam results are published, students go into their schools to pick up their envelopes and the TV cameras are on hand to capture the delight of these who’ve got what they need and/or exceeded their expectations. Some are interviewed, generally the better looking ones with a nod towards ethic diversity, then there are photographs of jumping with spontaneous joy. It’s all grist to the media mill but it hasn’t always been like that.

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Photo of the Month: Jul 2021

We were due to be in Yorkshire for the weekend to stay with Clare’s family and for me to go the cricket with Alex and we booked a night in Stamford on the way up. Unfortunately everyone except Clare tested positive for Covid (they’re OK now) so we had to cancel that trip but we stuck with Stamford.

We stayed at the Henry Cecil and after dinner took a walk. It was one of those crystal clear summer’s evenings and I took this photo of St Martin’ Church with the spire of the Church of St Mary just behind.

This photo was taken with my Sony Cypershot WX-350 1/40th at f4.5 and ISO 800. There’s been minimal post-processing just a modest crop to get rid a a couple of stray lights in the foreground.

Living off the NHS

As if my angioplasty wasn’t enough of a drain on the already stretched NHS finances I’ve been on a drug regimen since which I’m sure isn’t exactly low cost. I’m down to four medicines now, two each morning and evening, but started on six and then went up to seven. I thought it would be useful, maybe interesting, to list them and perhaps understand their role in keeping me healthy and prolonging my life.

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