Cotto has been in Cambridge for a long time and for some reason or other I never made it until last week.
The rather unglamorous location of East Road (on the corner of the little alley leading to the Tram Depot) is quickly forgotten in the cosy atmosphere of the upstairs dining room which is long and narrow and has space for, at a guess, about 30 covers. The polished wooden tables are set without tablecloths and the lighting is quite low.
The only dining option is the á la carte menu with six options each for starter and main, one of which a vegetarian option. Everything sounded very good indeed, from glazed belly pork via beef and venison to fish and seafood and the decision was quite hard.
The amuse were little pastry shells filled with a spiced hummus and chicken liver parfait, nice little packets of flavour.
I wanted something light to start so went with the crab and crayfish dish. Very fresh and lightly dressed crab, well cooked crayfish tails, some veg and salad and dots of nicely sharp aioli and beetroot puree. A good start indeed. My companion was also very happy with her glazed pork belly with “exotic slaw”.
The season for venison is almost at an end so I chose the “Wellington” and was very happy to have done so. The meat was cooked on the spot and had excellent flavour, the pastry was crisp and stayed so for quite a while and the well reduced sauce with wild mushrooms brought everything together and sent me straight to the forest. There was also a token parcel of vegetables on the side. This was easily one of the best venision dishes I’ve had anywhere.
With head chef Hans Schweitzer’s history and reputation as a master chocolatier, we had to have the piano for dessert. The body of the piano is made from two types of ganache, then covered in dark chocolate, with a white chocolate keyboard and dark chocolate lid. On the side was a chocolate fondant and chocolate ice cream/parfaits. This was not only art on the plate but also delicious and left a huge smile on my face.
We finished our meal with hot chocolate and mint tea. The petit fours served with those were Vanillekipferl, minty truffles and chocolate shavings.
The three-course menu is priced at £50 (55 on Saturdays) and with a glass of wine with the main, a small glass of dessert wine each and the tea/chocolate the bill came to £163 for two before service, so definitely on the higher end of the scale in Cambridge. Refreshingly, there is no automatic service charge so you can decide for yourself. Service was efficient and friendly.
The food is of excellent quality with strong flavours, the style is more classic rustic than modern refined.
The restaurant is closing for an extended Easter break in April and will reopen in May. Flavour 105 reported on their last programme that the restaurant is for sale as the owner/head chef is planning to retire but no details have been released yet. I will still be planning a return visit reasonably soon.