Date night at The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill and Bridge Street Wine Bar

Regular readers will know that it’s very rare for me to write a negative review about anywhere, but our date night last week started with a disappointment and ended with a delight from two very contrasting places in Cambridge. Steve and I tried The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill for dinner because he fancied a steak, and this restaurant had been recommended. Unfortunately it failed to live up to our expectations for several reasons, although the location is excellent as it overlooks Quayside and Magdalene College. The River Bar is one the restaurants of The Cambridge Varsity Hotel located in Thompson’s Lane. Stylish and contemporary it promised much, but the food and delivery could have been better.


For a starter Steve had Pan Fried Mussels with Chilli and Lemon which he enjoyed
I chose Roasted Artichoke Frittata, with Cherry Tomatoes, Red Onion and Goats Cheese

The combination of flavours worked well in the frittata, but the problem was the egg continued to cook in the hot pan, so it became rubbery in texture.

Steve chose a 12oz Ribeye Steak with chips for his main, but he wasn’t too keen on eating it from the  pan either
We shared a Roquefort and Rocket side salad, but the croutons had an odd taste

Unfortunately the food looked better than it tasted, and we weren’t keen on the presentation. All the hot dishes on the menu were served in cast iron frying pans which didn’t work well with my egg-based dish. What’s wrong with plates!

This place is expensive and not good value for money in our opinion, as we paid £70 for three dishes and three drinks. From a high end restaurant we expect at least table linen, and complimentary bread. I asked for a jug of tap water and although our glasses were filled by waiting staff they were very reluctant to leave the water with me. The service was swift and overly attentive, so we felt rushed in and out. I understand that The River Bar focuses on wine and cocktails, but we were surprised that only bottled beer was available. (A small bottle cost an over-priced £4.90!) It is a hotel bar so we can’t be the only ones who would have expected to see at least one draught beer. Needless to say that overall we didn’t enjoy this dining experience, and wouldn’t recommend it as a destination restaurant.

However it was only 9pm and the night was still young when we left the restaurant, so determined to salvage the evening we intended to move onto a pub for more drinks. Walking around the corner from Quayside into Bridge Street we were attracted to the brightly lit Bridge Street Wine Bar, part of the Cambridge Wine Merchant group, which looked very inviting with the red glow of it’s tea-lights.

Cambridge Wine Merchants Bridge Street Wine Bar


We were greeted warmly on arrival and shown to a table where we found a lovely ambiance, knowledgeable staff and an interesting and eclectic drinks menu. I drank a local cider, Side-R Strawberry from Glebe Farm, Steve chose a glass of Les Sablières Cotes Du Rhone, and we tried a couple of the more obscure gins. I enjoyed a glass of Mason’s Yorkshire Tea Gin, and Steve sampled Ferdinand’s Saar Dry Gin from Germany, which he liked so much he ended up buying a bottle to take home!

The atmosphere is relaxed and friendly and along with our drinks we shared a cheese plate  (White Lady and Suffolk Blue from a selection) with red onion chutney and crackers. It’s table service and the staff are very happy to help with drink recommendations and answer any questions.


It was the perfect way to end the evening and we will definitely return to the Bridge Street Wine Bar for a drink next time we are in the area. It doesn’t surprise me that Cambridge Wine Merchants have been voted the UK’s no.1 Independent Drinks Retailer no less than three times, and they have other shops in Cambridge on Cherry Hinton Road, Mill Road and Kings Parade. It’s worth checking out their website for ‘tasting’ events too.

Cambridge Wine Merchants Bridge Street Wine Bar

31, Bridge Street



Tel: 01223 568989   


The Wine Bar area is at the front of the retail shop with plenty of outdoor seating



3 thoughts on “Date night at The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill and Bridge Street Wine Bar

  1. This reminds me of a recent visit to a new diner in Minneapolis. It has a nice atmosphere and good service, but they served my sandwich in a plastic basket. I like to eat with a knife and fork 🙂 and not my hands. Very non american habit I picked up. The food was okay. Nothing to write about.
    I enjoy your reviews! Thanks.


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