De Luca for classic Italian cuisine and a roof terrace to boot! Cambridge: July 2017

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De Luca’s roof terrace offers a view over Parkers Piece in Cambridge

Last night Steve and I decided to revisit an old favourite eatery of mine De Luca Cucina and Bar which is an independent modern Italian restaurant in Cambridge. It was a warm and sunny summers evening so we hoped to dine on the roof terrace, and although it’s not possible to reserve a table there we weren’t disappointed.

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De Luca Cucina and Bar is located on Regent Street in Cambridge
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We started our evening with an aperitif. Aperol Spritz, a traditional Italian cocktail for me and a classic Martini cocktail with olives for Steve 

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To start I opted for a selection of rustic Italian breads served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar, and Kalamata and boscaiola olives marinated in virgin olive oil with mushrooms, sweet peppers, garlic and herbs, which we shared.

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Steve’s colourful starter of Deep fried crispy squid served with sweet chilli and ginger relish, rocket and lemon

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For my main course I chose the pasta ‘special’ dish of rigatoni with parma ham in a creamy white wine sauce with gorgonzola, dressed with rocket

 

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Steve chose Linguine ai Frutti di mare for his main course. A feast of mussels, clams, prawns, squid with chilli, garlic, white wine and fresh tomato served with a whole king prawn
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De Luca offers a delightful space for al fresco dining

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As usual, Steve chose the cheese board for his dessert which had a selection of interesting Italian regional cheeses, with bread, fruit and celery

For my dessert I chose Affogato al caffe, – hot espresso and Amaretto poured over homemade vanilla ice cream. Steve sampled an Expre coffee liqueur as a nightcap.

For affordable prices and good quality freshly-cooked food which is well presented with friendly and courteous staff De Luca is highly recommended. (We paid £28 per person for 3 courses from the a la carte menu without drinks or service.) It doesn’t surprise me that De Luca Cucina and Bar was a finalist in the Cambridge News Food and Drink Awards last year and I wish it more success in 2017.

In addition to their delicious food, De Luca has a Top Floor Cocktail Lounge which becomes Cambridge’s only Piano Bar on Friday and Saturday evenings. Cocktail-making classes are also available and having tried one of these sessions myself I can guarantee it’s great fun if you fancy a boozy night out!

For more information see their website http://www.delucacucina.co.uk

De Luca Cucina and Bar

83 Regent Street

Cambridge

CB2 1AW

Tel : 01223 35 66 66

 

 

Brunch and cocktails at NOVI bar and kitchen, Cambridge: July 2017

Yesterday I sampled the Brunch menu at Novi bar and kitchen with two friends. I’ve been meaning to eat and drink there since it came on the scene in 2015 and never quite got around to it! To coincide with Novi’s 2nd anniversary last month I heard that it had opened a Living Room terrace which I was very keen to see. It was good to note many gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian options on the menu and although fairly expensive the food, drinks and service didn’t disappoint.

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Novi is centrally located on Regent Street in Cambridge
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The achingly hip interior of Novi is light, airy and spacious 
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We sampled a couple of Novi’s famous cocktails, Breakfast Martini – juniper green organic gin, cointreau, marmalade, and fresh lemon juice, and Frank & Earnest – kraken spiced rum, cold brew coffee, almond milk, homemade gingerbread syrup, fresh cardamom, and molasses bitters
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And a mixed berry smoothie for the driver!

From the extensive Brunch menu which is served from 9am to 4pm daily, two of us chose healthy and nutritious veggie salads. My other friend ordered a large plate from the Daytime menu of Sirloin steak sandwich, silverskin onions, salad, gherkins, and creamed horseradish on sourdough, with a side of polenta chips.

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Roasted squash, kale, lentils, and crispy beetroot salad with a honey-mustard dressing
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Another interesting salad of Feta cheese, pomegranate, toasted walnuts, and mixed leaves with a pomegranate dressing IMG_0725 (2)

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We shared a side dish of Parmesan and rosemary polenta chips
After our brunch we went upstairs to explore the new roof terrace. This al fresco seating area has already become a popular spot so we were lucky to find an empty table where we enjoyed huge slices of cookies and cream cake with iced coffees. 

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The recently opened roof terrace at Novi is sheltered and stylish with lots of wood and plants creating a very attractive outdoor spaceIMG_0731 (2)

 

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Sitting in the sun relaxing with our drinks on the terrace we all agreed it was a perfect way to spend a summer Saturday afternoon. Highly recommended. Novi we will definitely be returning!

 

NOVI

12 REGENT STREET 

CAMBRIDGE

CB2 1DB

01223 518537 

http://www.novicambridge.co.uk

OPEN MON – SAT: 9AM – 3 AM and SUN: 9AM – 11PM

The delights of Nancy’s Vintage Teashop, Newmarket, Suffolk: June 2017

Last week my daughter and I enjoyed a delightful Afternoon Tea at Nancy’s Vintage Teashop in Newmarket. It had been recommended to me by two people recently so I was keen to try this local independent teashop for myself and I’m pleased to say it didn’t disappoint.

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Nancy’s Vintage Teashop is located on Old Station Road in Newmarket, at the Clock Tower end of the High Street.

 

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Nancy’s classic Afternoon Tea was served on a vintage three-tiered cake stand full of tasty treats. I was very surprised by this as it’s unusual to be given a stand each and very generous too!
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This classic Afternoon Tea featured a selection of finger sandwiches, freshly baked scones with jam and cream, a mini dessert and petit fours. At £15 per person, it was excellent value for money.
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All Nancy’s food is home-baked on the premises and she pointed out that even the Battenburg cake was made in the colours of their own pink and brown livery – a cute touch!
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The delicious strawberry and cream mini-desserts and the scones were fresh, light and tasty and I was so busy eating them I forgot to take photos before I tucked in!

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IMG_0691.JPG At Nancy’s a choice of 20 unique blends of tea or coffee are available to accompany the food
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We were too full to eat all the cakes so we both brought them home in a bespoke goodie box!

Nancy’s Teashop in Newmarket has been serving specially blended teas, with Afternoon Tea being a speciality for four years now, and it’s deservedly created a brand with a good reputation. At Nancy’s it’s obvious that traditional standards of service and quality are paramount, and all the food is homemade on the premises and locally sourced. If you are visiting Newmarket, I can highly recommend Nancy’s to enjoy tasty treats in this elegant and comfortable vintage-themed teashop, which is styled with an eclectic mix of mismatching antique teapots and china, patchwork sofas, pastel pink dining chairs, and hand-sewn collages and bunting. Altogether bright, attractive and highly effective, and I would say that Nancy’s is the best value quality Afternoon Tea I have come across yet!

Due to popular demand, the owner and founder of the teashop Nancy Clack has recently opened an Afternoon Tea Lounge above the teashop. Seating 24 people and plushly furnished it reflects the same quirky vintage hand-crafted feel as the cafe below. Bookings for the Afternoon Tea Lounge from parties of four upwards are available from 27th June. I suggest that this venue would be perfect to enjoy Nancy’s Classic Afternoon Teas for special occasions like birthday parties, anniversaries, baby and bridal showers.

 

Nancy’s Vintage Teashop

18 Old Station Road

Newmarket

Suffolk

CB8 8DN

Tel : 01638 667064

http://www.nancysteashop.co.uk

enquiries@nancysteashop.co.uk

 

 

A celebration lunch at The Packhorse Inn, Moulton, near Newmarket, Suffolk : June 2017

Last week I had lunch at the award-winning Packhorse Inn with two friends to celebrate a birthday. It was a glorious summer day and our meal at this five star AA restaurant and hotel owned by the Chestnut Group didn’t disappoint. Moulton is an idyllic village located to the north east of Newmarket, and just beyond “The Gallops” where they exercise the racehorses.

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The Packhorse Inn is located on Bridge Street, in the picturesque village of Moulton near Newmarket, the home of horse-racing 
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These freshly baked rolls and canapes made an excellent appetiser
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A starter of blow-torched mackerel for one of my companions
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For my starter I chose Salmon and dill fishcakes with fennel salad
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Another starter of Quail with pea mash

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I chose a hearty-sized main course of veggie risotto 
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Another main course – Scampi with fries
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Sea trout with globe artichokes was another of our main courses
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Two of us chose the blackcurrant soufflé and raspberry sorbet for dessert
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Another dessert – Coffee and Chocolate bar with Guinness ice cream

We all enjoyed our splendid three-course meal from the a la carte menu which was beautifully presented. The bill came to £40 per person including drinks which I thought was on the pricey side, but then this was a birthday celebration lunch so it was well worth pushing the boat out!

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The picturesque Packhorse Bridge at Moulton, near Newmarket, Suffolk

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This pretty four-arched late medieval bridge spans the River Kennett on the old route from Cambridge to Bury St Edmunds

The Packhorse Inn

Bridge Street

Moulton

Newmarket

Suffolk

CB8 8SP

Tel: 01638751818

http://www.thepackhorseinn.com

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Afternoon Tea and a spa stay at Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA, near St Neots, Beds: June 2017

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Last Sunday my daughter and I enjoyed an excellent Afternoon Tea in The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA, near St. Neots in Bedfordshire. To celebrate my daughters birthday we were booked into the hotel for the *Sunday Runaway spa package, (details below). Set in 350 acres, this modern 4 star hotel and spa, with a golf course and leisure centre is 2.8 miles from the market town of St. Neots.

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The Waterfront restaurant at Wyboston Lakes is in a lovely location
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A choice of loose-leaf tea was available with refills at no extra cost
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We were delighted to receive a glass of bubbly on the house as it was a special occasion
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This traditional Afternoon Tea had everything we would expect and more…..
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The ham on brioche was a delicious twist on the usual sandwich selection
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The food was served on pretty pink floral china
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The plain scones were served warm with strawberry jam and clotted cream
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The Waterfront traditional Afternoon Tea cost a very reasonable £13.95 per person
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My daughter ended her meal with a complimentary cup of coffee 
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The extensive terrace area outside the lounge bar and restaurant

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We enjoyed relaxing in the fabulous outdoor Hydrotherapy pool at Y Spa, Wyboston Lakes

*SUNDAY RUNAWAY Y Spa stay 

This Sunday night break includes dinner, bed and breakfast, and a full day’s use of thermal spa facilities on Monday which includes a two-course buffet lunch and a choice of one of the following treatments.

  • Y Spa Fresh Face
  • Y Spa Soothing Scalp
  • Y Spa Happy Hands

£119 per person

To book call 0333 7007 667 or email reservations@wybostonlakes.co.uk

 (Many thanks to Wyboston Lakes Hotel for use of the Spa photographs)

Wyboston Lakes Hotel and SPA,

Great North Road,

Wyboston,

Bedfordshire

MK44 3AL

http://www.wybostonlakes.co.uk

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The Castle and Espigueiros of Lindosa, Northern Portugal : May 2017

On a recent holiday in Northern Portugal, Steve and I spent a day touring the National Park of Peneda Gerês. We were particularly keen to see the famous centuries-old corn cribs (espigueiros) at Lindoso village, which is located 25 km from Ponte da Barca.

The medieval Castle of Lindoso dates back to the 13th century and stands on a small rocky outcrop beside the village. The espigueiros and the castle are set in beautiful scenery and in addition to the fresh mountain air, there is a wonderful sense of peace and tranquillity. It was a highlight of our holiday and a memorable experience.

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The Castle of Lindoso and the espigueiros are located in the National Park of Peneda Gerês

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The view of the espigueiros and the village from the castle ramparts. It’s a surreal and incongruous mix of the historic espigueiros and modern housing at Lindoso. IMG_0548 (2)

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Skillfully sculptured and meticulously constructed, these amazing old stone espigueiros were used to store corn cobs and designed to protect the maize from rodents and rain. At Lindoso there is a threshing-ground composed of 50 granaries dating back to the 18-19th centuries. They are located near the castle and constitute a unique and beautiful agglomerate. Made entirely of granite, slatted for ventilation and topped by a protective cross each one is supported by mushroom-shaped stilts standing on rock. IMG_0539 (2) (2).JPGIMG_0541 (1).JPGIMG_0544The frontier village of Lindoso is the location of one of Portugal’s best-preserved collections of granaries or espigueiros800px-LindosoCastle2

Lindoso Castle is a defence monument built in the 13th century during the Restoration Wars. Inside the walls of the fortress, the garrison houses, the chapel, and the oven are in ruins. The drawbridge was intact and looked to have been recently restored. There were outstanding views from the sentry posts on all sides of the ramparts.

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Lindoso village with its castle and unique and beautiful espigueiros set in spectacular scenery are well worth a visit if you are travelling in Northern Portugal.

Snapshots of Northern Portugal: May 2017

Following my last blog post about our recent holiday in Northern Portugal, I just had to share a further selection of photos with you as it’s such a picturesque and colourful place.

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A typical beach scene  – Costa Verde, Portugal

The beautiful coastline town of Praia da Ancora nestled just south of the Portuguese/Spanish border was a lovely place to visit.

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The pretty harbour at Praia da Ancora
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I loved the decorative tiles on these harbour front houses in Ancora
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Flower decoration found on the exterior of a butcher’s shop in Ancora

Porto is a coastal city in north-west Portugal known for its stately bridges and port wine production. I found this historic hillside city to be charmingly dilapidated and stunningly picturesque. One of the oldest cities in Europe, its a maze of steep and narrow cobbled streets and we visited the medieval Ribeira district which was full of interesting spectacle, so understandably it’s very popular with tourists.

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The majestic Douro River in Porto
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Port wine barges at Porto
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Colourful houses in Porto
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A fascinating shop totally devoted to sardines in Porto!
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A beautiful shop entrance in Porto
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Some typical old dwellings in Porto, a few were derelict but most were lived in – note the steep steps!

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Porto’s bustling riverside area in Ribeira has lots of bars, cafes, and restaurants and the river cruises are very popular.IMG_20170517_1530150 (1)

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A striking piece of street art seen in Porto

We travelled to Porto by train and even the railway station was a thing of grandeur!

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Our local railway station in Caminha was a typical example and beautifully maintained
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I liked the look of these apartments in the historic centre of Viana do Castelo
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We enjoyed wandering around Viana do Castelo and the ornate doors and coloured tiles on these typical townhouses were most attractive

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This shopping street in Viana do Castelo hung with gaudy umbrellas made a terrific visual impact and certainly drew customers in!

Viana do Castelo is a lively resort and the main coastal town in the Northern Minho region, and a great place for souvenir shopping and sight-seeing.

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Another fabulous example of the local architecture. We spotted this place, – now a hotel (Villa Dalina) on the road to Valenca do Minho at Seixas.

Eight days wasn’t enough time to sample all the delights of Northern Portugal so we would love to return sometime to explore more places.

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The beach at Moledo do Minho

Tastes and vistas – Northern Portugal discovered: May 2017

It’s been a while now since my last blog post (Easter) and I’ve been waiting for something really special to share with you. Steve and I recently enjoyed a lovely holiday in Costa Verde, Northern Portugal and I found plenty to write about. It was our first visit and we explored an area resplendent with colour, sunshine, seafood, striking architecture, and much more. We stayed at Casa da Galé – a villa in the picturesque coastal village of Moledo do Minho. 1161_6 (2)We were within walking distance of one of the area’s most scenic sandy beaches. It was very quiet being low season, and although the weather was good the unspoilt beach was often deserted.

Our holiday home Casa da Galé was a charming stone cottage with a pool, which was set on several levels amidst spacious grounds of lawns and fruit trees.

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Moledo do Minho is a five-kilometre beach located at the mouth of the River Minho, which forms the north frontier between Portugal and Spain. Popular with surfers and kite-flyers!

We visited some picturesque cities like magnificent Porto with its stunning architecture and enjoyed several delicious meals in restaurants where locally caught seafood was always on the menu. We found eating out to be generally inexpensive and soft drinks were usually priced at one euro. Beer was also cheap and we drank copious amounts of Super Bock Portuguese lager!

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We thought Porto was absolutely stunning!

Just two of the lovely restaurants where we enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine. We found it a challenge at most places to understand exactly what we were ordering because we didn’t speak the language, but although the food and drink were sometimes not as expected it was always delicious!

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It would be a travesty not to mention Portuguese custard tarts, which are my favourite sweet treat. In fact, I made sure that I ate at least one every day!

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The vast and colourful weekly market held in Barcelos sold everything from livestock to furniture, so we came home with a few interesting souvenirs.

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We also enjoyed sampling the local Douro wines and Port!

We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car, and I’ll have to put together another blog post of Steve’s wonderful photographs to really do the holiday justice.

The Punt Yard bar and kitchen in Cambridge: Easter 2017

On Good Friday Steve and I met up with friends for lunch at The Punt Yard, which was a new place to all of us, but I had high expectations as I’d heard good things about it. This retro-styled bar and kitchen opened last November and is another splendid addition to the portfolio of The City Pub Company, who own the Cambridge Brew House and the Old Bicycle Shop amongst others. It has a distinctive, fun and funky 50’s style, and an eclectic menu of yummy artisan pizzas, ‘posh’ kebabs, superfood salads, crafty cans and quirky cocktails.

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New riverside venue The Punt Yard is a perfectly located eatery on picturesque Quayside in Cambridge.

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Drinks are all about the cans at The Punt Yard, and with some stacked into a high tower on the bar, they made an unusual but appropriate feature and were something of a talking point.

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We chose a half yard of Norfolk and Bad sourdough pizza, with tomato sauce, mozzarella, N’juda sausage, Norfolk oak smoked chorizo, chilli, caper and balsamic onion
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A Flat and wild mushroom Posh Kebab with smoked aubergine, hazelnuts and pesto
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A quarter yard All about Albert sourdough pizza with rocket, walnut pesto, goats and stilton cheese, pickled pear and truffle oil
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We shared two sides of The Punt Yard chips which we all agreed were possibly the best we had ever tasted!

At The Punt Yard their artisan Sourdough Pizzas are ordered by the yard. For smaller appetites quarter, half, and three-quarter yard sizes are available – that is if you can’t go the full yard! Ideal for sharing, with a big choice of unusual toppings.

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We chose Sticky Toffee pudding, Chocolate and Hazelnut Brownie and Pistachio Ice Cream for desserts

We enjoyed a selection of drinks including zingy house cocktails, Amstel on draft, Ginger Beer and table water served in a retro milk bottle.2017-04-14 13.56.04 (2)

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We loved the interior decor and the staff were fun, helpful and very friendly!

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2017-04-14 15.41.22 (2).jpgThe bill was presented in an old-school style medicine bottle and the total cost of our meal with drinks came to a very reasonable £98 for the four of us. The Punt Yard benefits from not being one of a chain and it has a really cool vibe and a great atmosphere. There are lots of veggie and vegan options, and it’s a family friendly, fun place to eat. We will definitely be making a return visit, and it’s an ideal place for both locals and tourists. Highly recommended. Enjoy!

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Afternoon Tea at Cambridge’s cool new hotel The Tamburlaine

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The Tamburlaine hotel is located on Station Road in Cambridge, very close to the railway station
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We enjoyed our traditional Afternoon Tea in the plush and luxurious Garden Room

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Afternoon Tea was served on pretty bespoke china with linen napkins

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Unusually The Tamburlaine Afternoon Tea was served on a floor-standing three tiered stand

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The finger sandwiches were freshly made with delicious fillings of egg, smoked salmon, ham and cheese and cucumber

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The large freshly baked raisin and plain scones were served warm, and there were two of each

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The top tier held a selection of gorgeous miniature cakes and sweet and tangy Mango Panna Cotta mini desserts

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The scones were light and fluffy and served with strawberry jam and fresh cream

This brand new four-star hotel is the first UK property from the Irish O’Callaghan group, who own four stylish hotels in Dublin. The Tamburlaine is ideally located on Station Road close to the rail station at the heart of the extensive regeneration of this business and residential area, which has now changed out of all recognition. The 155-room hotel had only been open for three weeks when I visited yesterday, and work is still ongoing inside and out. The staff are very friendly and enthusiastic and they gave us a guided tour after our tea. I noticed that the restaurant has an impressive fine dining menu which I intend to sample sometime.

By the way, the hotel’s name Tamburlaine references a 16th-century play by Christopher Marlowe, who attended Corpus Christi College in the city.

My friend and I were celebrating her birthday and taking Afternoon Tea amid the genteel grandeur of the Colonial-style Garden Room made an excellent start to her celebrations. With ornate Victorian wallpaper and gorgeous silk velvet sofas, this is an exceptionally light and splendid room with a unique style.

The Tamburlaine traditional Afternoon Tea cost £21.50 per person and is priced on the high side for Cambridge, so not the best value for money but the surroundings more than compensate with a strong sense of occasion. One minor quibble though – I was surprised that a selection of loose-leaf tea blends wasn’t available, although we could have unlimited tea or coffee to accompany the food. Highly recommended.

Tamburlaine
27-29 Station Road
Cambridge
CB1 2FB
Tel: 01223 792888

email: z.pearse@ocallaghanhotels.com

http://www.thetamburlaine.co.uk