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Saturday 23 January 2021

Dinner With Mark Poynton

A bespoke 4-course dinner from Mark Poynton of MJP@TheShepherds - and some matching wines

The combination of a "significant birthday" and yet another lockdown meant that the celebrations would have to be confined to something at home.

Looking for a way to make it memorable, I took up Mark Poynton's offer of a bespoke four-course meal.

Mark is chef patron of MJP@TheShepherds in Fen Ditton, just outside Cambridge, and formerly of Michelin-starred Alimentum.

Mark, who has appeared on Great British Menu, started his career aged 15 in Chester; after several quick promotions, he moved to Cambridge to work under Daniel Clifford for seven years at the two Michelin-starred Midsummer House. 

He then moved to Alimentum as Head Chef, became Chef Patron within a year and went on to gain a Michelin star and three AA rosettes.

Mark sent me a suggested menu and outlined the sorts of wines that would go with them.

The food needed little more than assembling or warming up and came with full instructions.

As to the wines, I picked out a few highlights of recent months and lined them up; this was not a time to be experimenting with anything new or unusual.


Marks and Spencer Very Rare Dry Oloroso Sherry made by Lustau, this is a complex and warming yet bone dry Oloroso; rich and intense with spiced Christmas cake prunes, toasted hazelnuts and exotic citrus peel.

Colesel 'Cartizze Dry' Valdobbiadene Prosecco Superiore DOCG despite the name, a sweeter style of Prosecco from Cartizze, Prosecco's top region. Golden sandy yellow, delicate, fresh and elegant with a creamy mousse and aromas of ripe stone fruit; full and off-dry with white-flesh fruit and a mineral persistence. Very deft and precise.


MJP treacle and ale sourdough loaf, whipped butter
Cauliflower soup, pickled cucumber and smoked salmon, sourdough croutons

Very easy to make; just warm the soup and add the garnishes; serve with the bread and butter.

Wine match:

Von Kesselstatt Riesling Kabinett 2014 a light Mosel Riesling with plenty of age and evolution, at 8.5% it is generally too light for food, but went perfectly with a creamy soup. Complex, evolved nose of beeswax, old leather and diesel with yellow stone fruits, honeysuckle and citrussy sherbet with lively acidity and a zippy finish.


Red wine and oxtail suet pudding, creamed potato and glazed carrots.

Again, easy to make, just warm up the pudding and carrots in the oven, the mash in the microwave and the gravy (very rich) in the pan.

Wine match:

Red - as big as you like, were Mark's instructions, so there was only one contender here.

Domaine de Fontbonau Cotes-du-Rhone 2012 leather, mushrooms and sous bois with ripe berries, cool mint and complex, well-integrated, oaky vanilla spice; ripe yet savoury, intense and supple with very fine tannins.

Cheese course

Wensleydale and ale rarebit on sourdough crumpet, with apple and ale chutney.

A little bit more assembly work required here but still very straightforward; toast the crumpets, spread on chutney, then squeeze over the cheese before grilling until golden

Wine match: port. Tawny port is generally the best match for cheese, but I opted for a mature ruby.

Barao de Vilar, Lagarada Ruby Port lifted, dried red and black fruits, minty eucalyptus and aromatic roasted spices; fresh, supple, complex, substantial and harmonious. Being a bin-end, there is now a little bricking of the colour, the flavours are more evolved and the tannins are mellowing.


Apple tarte tatin, calvados cream

Warm the tarte, serve with the cream.

A thing of beauty, the tarte was a single piece of peeled apple, wrapped up and cooked, as Mark's pictures show:

Wine match: Sauternes

Sauternes and tarte tatin is a classic match, so this was an easy choice.

Tesco Finest* Sauternes, 2015 sweet and luscious with evolved flavours of beeswax, honey, dried apricots, Seville orange marmalade, baked fruits with a citrussy refreshing finish; complex and concentrated.


The meal was very easy to prepare and serve and good value for both quality and quantity. It was delivered during the day all packed up with a full set of instructions.

What I realised from serving at home is just how much attention to detail goes into great restaurant service:

- ensuring everything (including crockery) is all at the right temperature at the right time
- getting the timing between courses just right
- getting just the right proportions of sauces so that there is plenty but not too much
- serving the right amount of several different wines with the food on a multi-course meal

Delivered meals from MJP@TheShepherds are  individually priced with 2 courses for £15, or 3 courses for a bargain £18.50 - that's probably cheaper than your Chinese takeaway from those other Delivery people!

The food will keep in the refrigerator for up to four days, and is also freezable. Instructions are provided with your order. There is an optional cheese course for an additional £6 per person if you wish.

Orders can be placed through the website: Home - Mark J Poynton (mjprestaurant.com)

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