I loved the interior which has an authentic Spanish feel and ambience
Sardinas ahumadas Smoked sardine fillets, red pepper purée
Brócoli con gremolata y manchego. This tapas was my favourite – al-dente sprouted broccoli drenched in peppery, fresh gremolata and feather-light shavings of Manchego.
Chorizo a la plancha con boniato (Grilled chorizo with sweet potato)
Carrilleras de cerdo Braised pork cheeks, mash, PX sauce and crispy shallots
We shared the mixed Charcuterie board and Olives as a starter with bread
On a previous night out, Steve and I had ventured into Tabanco for a nightcap as we were interested to check out both the place and the menu. I was immediately impressed with the layout, the decor and the ambience of this new indie restaurant which opened last month. This week on the first warm and sunny evening of this year we returned with two friends for a selection of tapas and we were not disappointed. It serves a selection of barrelled sherries, fine wines, delicious small-plates and larger rustic Spanish-inspired dishes. Tabanco is the Cambridge-based sister of the hugely successful Drakes Tabanco, located on Windmill Street in London’s Fitzrovia, so it has an excellent pedigree. Note – the name “Tabanco” translates as “hangout” – a relaxed place where guests can drop by for a quick bite or plan a larger, more elaborate meal.
It’s easy to get carried away with the menu of enticingly descriptive tapas dishes – as we did and we ended up ordering 17 plates of food between the four of us! The bill with drinks came to a whopping £160.00 without service, but when I worked it out later it was only a modest £22 per head for the food and £18 a head for drinks and we had 4 drinks each.
Finally some small gripes about Tabanco. The service is fairly indifferent but acceptable, the bread is over-priced at £2.50 for four small pieces and there’s only bottled beer available. On the two occasions when we visited (both midweek) I was surprised to see them turning away potential diners at 9.30pm saying the kitchen was closed. Apart from that, it’s a great place for authentic tapas with a good atmosphere which when the shutters are open almost makes you feel like you are on holiday in Spain! Recommended for large groups.
This week I enjoyed lunch with a friend at the recently opened and ultra-stylish The Ivy Brasserie in Cambridge. I had been very keen to visit this new restaurant because it’s had many gushing and superlative reviews about the food and I’ve heard mixed ones about the service. My own experience was a curious one in several ways but nothing negative could be said about the food which we both agreed was excellent. We fully appreciated eating in this elegant and sophisticated restaurant which is a welcome addition to the Cambridge foodie scene. The rise of a new breed of gastro chains is a growing trend which has been led by The Ivy Collection group who have now rolled out 15 spin-off brasseries with more planned, including one which is due to open soon in Norwich.
The Ivy has own unique bright and vibrant style and the iconic ivy emblem is evident on everything from serviettes to sugar bowls! We observed exceptional attention to detail in the finish of this upmarket restaurant and clearly no expense has been spared. A special mention has to be given to the Cambridge-themed artwork which adorns the walls making it a visually stimulating environment of endless fascination.
The Ivy offers all-day casual dining and the restaurant is open 7 days a week for breakfast, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea and dinner, including set menus. We chose to eat from the set menu on this occasion which is available from 11.30am–6.30pm Monday to Friday at a very reasonably priced £16.50 for two courses or £21 for three courses. Booking is advisable but the restaurant also has a dedicated number of unreserved tables available throughout the day for walk-ins. It’s a surprisingly big space and there is a private dining area downstairs.
Our starter of Potted kiln-roast salmon with lemon, dill crème fraîche and granary toast was a savoury delight.
Our main course of Pea, asparagus and goat’s cheese risotto, with rocket and baby shoot salad was a surprisingly generous sized portion and we could only eat half of it. The melting goats cheese sitting atop the risotto was a lovely twist to this classic dish.Our dessert of Lemon posset with Poppyseed shortbread was absolutely divine!
You may have noticed that I haven’t mentioned drinks so far in my review because it was rather a fiasco trying to get a soft drink at all, so more on that saga to follow. First, there was confusion on arrival in the lobby area where I was greeted warmly by one member of staff who took my coat and gave me a cloakroom ticket. So far so good until another member of staff appeared who without any interaction took the ticket from my hand and proceeded to give me my coat back when I assumed she would be showing me to my table! Note to the staff – what is wrong with speaking and communication?
When I was eventually seated I was offered still or sparkling water so I asked for tap water whilst I waited for my friend to arrive. A carafe of water was delivered promptly to the table but it wasn’t chilled. After my friend’s arrival, we perused the menus which were on the table and chose a soft drink each. We had to ask a member of staff for the Lunch and Early Evening set menu though and we gave our food order. Despite the restaurant being less than half full (and there seemed to be a lot of smartly dressed staff walking about) I felt the need to complain because I had waited over 30 minutes for my soft drink although my friends Ginger Beer had arrived without delay. I asked our server where my drink was only to be told that some of the components of my drink (a Strawberries and Cream Soda) were unavailable. I ordered a Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic as an alternative. What followed is too long a saga to relate here but we encountered rudeness from a member of the bar staff who eventually brought my drink order when we pointed out politely that it was wrong. There was a curious incident when a small copper jug appeared on the table without any explanation. After asking a member of staff if it was sauce for the fish starter it transpired the jug contained Elderflower cordial for me! Again I say to the staff – where are your communication skills?
When it came to paying the bill we noticed that we hadn’t been charged for my soft drink or for the carafe of tap water which has been refilled on request. I objected to being asked to pay the whopping discretionary 12.5% service charge due to the poor customer service experience we had encountered. When I explained why to the member of staff who took my card payment we were offered an apology and complimentary coffee or tea to complete our meal as compensation.
Despite these small incidents, the food was exceptionally good so both my friend and I plan to return to eat at The Ivy, and we especially like the look of their very moderately priced Afternoon Tea.
Finally two more hints I would pass onto any would-be visitors, – make sure you don’t get charged for tap water as the people at the next table to us were astonished to be billed for it, and be warned that it’s an awful long way to the toilets which are located downstairs and seem like something of an afterthought for a venue of this size.
The Boot pub in Histon, which has recently reopened as a White Company Brasserie
Last night Steve and I braved the sub-zero temperatures and the snow to meet up with friends in the village of Histon, which is located a few miles north of Cambridge. We had booked a table at the newly reopened and refurbished pub The Boot which now includes a French-style brasserie, run by the company of celebrity chef Raymond Blanc.
We began our meal with a basket of stone-baked artisan baguette and Rustica olives.
Two of our party chose the Cheddar cheese soufflé for starters, which was served with a warm Ford Farm Coastal Cheddar sauce. It was perfectly light and utterly delicious!
Steve chose the Burgundian snails in garlic herb butter, served with a baguette
Another one of our starters was French onion soup, with Gruyère cheese croûtons
Two of our party chose the Cheddar cheese soufflé, served with warm Ford Farm Coastal Cheddar sauce. It was perfectly light and delicious.
Another one of our starters was French onion soup, with Gruyère cheese croûtons.
Steve chose the Burgundian snails in garlic herb butter, served with a baguette
Steve and one of our party chose Scottish Hebredian rope-grown mussels, steamed with traditional white wine and shallot marinière or creamy saffron mouclade, served with chips and baguette.
For my main course I chose this classic dish of Slow-cooked Bœuf Bourguignon, red wine, lardons, baby onions, mushrooms, with smooth mash.
Must say I liked the look of this Pie of the Week served with green beans
The Three-fruit marmalade crème brûlée was enjoyed by another of my dining companions
Steve chose the Cheese plate: Boy Laity Cornish Camembert, Lyburn Gold, Cheviot and Brighton Blue served with homemade chutney, dried fruit, nuts and crackers
For my dessert I couldn’t resist this Pistachio soufflé, famously light with rich chocolate ice cream.
The Boot is a fabulous conversion which includes a big new bar where dogs are welcome, cosy snugs, and open and log burner fires make it a warm and welcoming environment. The sensational oak beamed extension houses the main brasserie restaurant which is extremely attractive. The cuisine is a winning combination of French brasserie favourites and British pub classics with a choice of menus at competitive prices. The service is good and the staff are friendly. For home-cooked food in an informal setting, this place is going to become a firm favourite of mine for the soufflés alone! Highly recommended.
Last week Steve and I enjoyed a 3-day winter break in Whitstable which is a quaint fishing and harbour town on the North coast of Kent. It’s located 5 miles north of Canterbury and 2 miles west of Herne Bay, and very popular with visitors, especially from London. Harbour Street has many independent shops and there is a wide selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants in the town which has the working harbour as it’s focal point. This was our first visit and a post-Christmas gift to me from Steve as he knew I have been wanting to stay in Whitstable for years and had never got around to it.
The Official Brewery of the world-famous Whitstable Oyster Company. We enjoyed sampling several of the beers!
The Royal Native Oyster Stores in Kent is a seafood restaurant offering some of the very best oysters, fish and crustacea. The restaurant is located on the beach and offers stunning views of the company’s oyster grounds.
We found this gem of a pub and restaurant serving real ales, fine wines, delicious seasonal produce and live music. Just a stone’s throw from the sea in Whitstable.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beach front hotel in Whitstable.
We stayed in one of these 150-year old converted Fisherman’s Huts, which were formerly fishermen stores and are now run by the Hotel Continental. They provided the perfect setting for something of a unique overnight accommodation experience that is quirky and fun. The huts are situated just metres from the beach in the centre of Whitstable offering magnificent sea views of the Thames estuary. Breakfast was served at the Hotel Continental which is about 10 minutes walk away from the huts and included in the price.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beachfront hotel in Whitstable.
After a bracing walk we enjoyed a pint of local beer and fish finger sandwiches with salad and chips at The Old Neptune
Some of the interesting images we found in Harbour Street, Whitstable by local enigmatic graffiti artist Catman, a Banksy-style street painter – who apparently keeps his identity firmly under wraps!
So what did I make of our winter break in Whitstable? It certainly has a unique appeal and I can’t really compare it to anywhere else, although I felt that there are similarities with Aldeburgh and Wells-next-the-sea. Our stay in the fisherman’s hut, a meal in one of the best fish restaurants and a pint of a local brew in one of the seafront pubs sums up the charm of quintessential Whitstable: a combination of the classic rugged, cosy seaside town aesthetic and a touch of the modern bohemian! Well worth a visit, a short stay or as a base for a holiday.
We will certainly return whenthe weather is warmer!
Last night Steve and I enjoyed an excellent meal at The Tiffin Truck bar and restaurant which only opened very recently and serves Indian Market food. It’s the sister restaurant of Navadhanya which is one of our favourites so we arrived with high expectations and we weren’t disappointed. The welcome, the presentation of the food and the service were all of the same exceptional standard. It’s centrally located on Regent Street in Cambridge on the site which was formerly Anatolia, a Turkish restaurant.
Two of the bright and colourful images which decorate the walls at The Tiffin Truck. I admired all the graphics!
We loved the Naan bread which was drizzled with Truffle oil
My starter of Mini Masala Dosa was beautifully presented
Red Pumpkin Curry was another tasty side dish we sampled
This side dish of Crispy Kale Chaat was most unusual and tasted delicious
Vegetable Fried Rice and Paneer Butter Masala were two of the many dishes we enjoyed
We were too full for a dessert so we sampled a Kata Mita Margarita and a Bengal Tiger cocktail
At The Tiffin Truck you can eat in, take away or book a delivery
One of the bright and colourful images which decorate the walls at The Tiffin Truck. I loved the graphics!
This is a bar and restaurant where you can enjoy Indian market food dishes alongside Indian craft beers and cocktails, and it’s a splendid new addition to the dining scene in Cambridge.
If you like Indian food you will enjoy something completely different at The Tiffin Truck which has the authentic atmosphere of an Indian bazaar for lunch or dinner, to eat in or take away. Their menus have been inspired by famous Indian street food favourites and home-style tiffin lunches enjoyed by workers across India.
According to their website ‘Tiffin dates back to the days of the Raj where British afternoon tea was replaced with the local Indian practice of taking a light meal at that hour. Every weekday in Mumbai, where the tiffin tradition began, you can still see hundreds of tiffin wallahs racing around the streets with their bicycles piled high with stainless steel tiered boxes, delivering hot lunches to workers.’
For a small deposit, you can collect your takeaway in one of their stylish steel tiffin boxes. The food is very good value and we paid £36 for eight dishes without drinks. Highly recommended and we shall definitely be making a return visit!
For the third blog post in my series on roof terrace bars to be found in Cambridge, we headed for dArry’s Liquor Loft and Restaurant this week. I’ve been intending to seek out this popular venue since the loft space and roof terrace opened at dArry’s last year. I had also realised that it’s been over two years since we had last eaten at dArry’s restaurant so I was pleased to find that on Tuesdays they still have Steak Night. Regulars readers of my blog will know that my partner Steve loves a steak, but I invariably choose a fish or veggie main course.
My main course of asparagus and sun-dried tomato risotto with Parmesan shavings
I enjoyed sharing Steve’s starter of Padron Peppers pan flashed with sea salt, which were delicious
Steve’s main course of Rump Steak with Mushrooms & balsamic roasted tomatoes, salad and hand cut chips
At dArry’s restaurant the service was friendly, professional and prompt and prices were very reasonable. The menu could be described as modern British with a Mediterranean feel and we paid £25 a head for 3 courses without drinks and service. The addition of the Liquor Loft and roof terrace to dArry’s sheltered courtyard area offers even more opportunity for al fresco dining in the summer months. Bookings are only taken for large parties but they can usually seat walk-ins. dArry’s is an attractive cocktail bar and eatery with distinctive design features which also offers a wide range of events from live music to wine tasting. So lots of reasons to make a return visit and I’m more than happy to recommend it!
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.
De Luca Cucina and Bar is located on Regent Street in Cambridge
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.
Steve’s colourful starter of Deep fried crispy squid served with sweet chilli and ginger relish, rocket and lemon
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
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!
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.
Novi is centrally located on Regent Street in Cambridge
The achingly hip interior of Novi is light, airy and spacious
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
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.
Another interesting salad of Feta cheese, pomegranate, toasted walnuts, and mixed leaves with a pomegranate dressing
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.
The recently opened roof terrace at Novi is sheltered and stylish with lots of wood and plants creating a very attractive outdoor space
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!
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.
New riverside venue The Punt Yard is a perfectly located eatery on picturesque Quayside in Cambridge.
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.
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.
We enjoyed a selection of drinks including zingy house cocktails, Amstel on draft, Ginger Beer and table water served in a retro milk bottle.
We loved the interior decor and the staff were fun, helpful and very friendly!
The 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!
This week Steve and I visited The Petersfield, as we were curious to try this new pub and restaurant which opened last month in the building which was formerly home to the well-loved Backstreet Bistro, in Sturton Street. We had heard quite a buzz about the place, and were advised to book by friends who had been disappointed not to get a table last weekend. The Petersfield is another addition to the ever-growing City Pub Company group, who own the Cambridge Brew House and The Old Bicycle Shop amongst other popular locals so I had expected a stylish refit, and I wasn’t disappointed.
Service was brisk and attentive and despite being very busy there wasn’t a long wait for food. The atmosphere was lively and fairly loud, but although it’s new this pub should continue to do well in this location at the heart of the neighbourhood.
The Petersfield has a contemporary retro look with a large L-shaped bar and lots of dining tables. The décor features a rich use of colours withplush furnishings and good lighting, so this impressive refurbishment looks like no expense has been spared with a lot of thought being put into the detail.
The Petersfield features an impressive range of local real ales and offers a fairly ambitious menu of British food of the gourmet pub grub variety at restaurant prices.
My general impression was that the food I had was only average and slightly over-priced. We paid £44.25 for our meal without drinks, but it’s an attractive pub and a welcome addition to the area.