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 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

The triumphant return of Cotto Restaurant – now at The Gonville Hotel, Cambridge

This week Steve and I dined at Cotto in it’s new home at The Gonville Hotel in Cambridge. The reopening of this highly acclaimed restaurant has been long-awaited and much anticipated, so after reading lots of ecstatic reviews we were very keen to see what has been a triumphant return for ourselves. Readers we weren’t disappointed – as the food, the service and the ambiance were all delightful. The perfectly cooked dishes were well-devised with interesting flavour combinations, and the presentation was nothing less than fine art on a plate. This is special occasion fine dining at it’s absolute best!

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Cotto is located at the front of The Gonville Hotel on Gonville Place, Cambridge
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The splendid and inviting entrance to Cotto can be found on the far side of the hotel’s bar area
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The tables had fresh flowers and I loved the chairs which were upholstered in crushed velvet
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The interior dining area was spacious and classy
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The Amuse-bouche featured mini-tartlets of hummus and Venison wasabi
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Black truffle and plain butter accompanied a delicious range of home-made bread
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This unusual centre-piece was certainly a talking point!
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For my starter I chose a piquant Loch Duart salmon and Cromer crab dish which had robust flavours including Soy, Wasabi, Ginger and Miso
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Steve chose the Gressingham Duck Terrine Parfait, with Spiced Apple and Plum Chutney for his starter ….

 

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and for his main course Steve enjoyed the Rack of Salt Marsh Lamb with Thyme, Rosemary and Natural Jus with seasonal vegetables

 

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For my main course I chose the Halibut with Olive Herb Crumb and Fregula Pearls

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cotto21 I chose ‘Chocolate Time‘ for my dessert – Papouasie Milk, Single Estates Dark and Milk Ice Cream.

The fine detail of this stunning dessert designed by Masterchef and chocolatier Hans Schweitzer was awesome. The plate was covered in a fine chocolate spiral which was so perfect I thought it was actually a design on the china !

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Steve chose to complete his meal with this splendid Cotto British Cheese selection with crackers and fruit. The cheeseboard included Vintage Barber Cheddar from Berks, Organic Meadow Brie from Bath, Wobbly Bottom Goat from Herts, and the Duke of Cambridge Blue from Cambs. As it was a special occasion he treated himself to a glass of Baros Port too !

 

 

Sublime, superb, and supreme are just three of the superlatives I could use to describe the Cotto dining experience. This is an inspirational partnership between The Gonville Hotel  and the restaurant. Now in the perfect location overlooking Parker’s Piece with the welcome additions of the hotel’s bar and car park Cotto can only go from strength to strength. We loved the design of the new restaurant which has been purpose built and is light, bright and welcoming, with décor which oozes taste and class. The attention to detail is obvious and the service is exemplary from a young, well-trained team who are professional, friendly and attentive without being intrusive.

 

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The Bar at The Gonville Hotel

 

We started our evening with a Gin and Tonic at the hotel bar and with dinner Steve chose a dry white wine from Germany – Schloss Johannesburg Yellow Seal, and I drank Prosecco.

Booking in advance is essential  and prices are £65 for three courses (minimum) on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays and £70 on Fridays and Saturdays. Expensive yes, but well worth it for a special dining experience which never disappoints.

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Cotto Restaurant at The Gonville Hotel

Gonville Place

Cambridge

CB1 1LY

Tel: 01223 302010

info@cottocambridge

Art, Afternoon Tea and Cocktails: London – January 2017

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Last week I had a lovely day out in London with a friend to celebrate her birthday. We started our day with a visit to The Switch House, – the new extension to the Tate Modern gallery in Southwark which opened to the public in June 2016.

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The 360 degree panoramic view from the 10th floor of The Switch House at Tate Modern was a spectacular start to our day

Having skipped lunch we were looking forward to enjoying a full Afternoon Tea at our next destination The Wolseley, a café-restaurant in the grand European tradition located on Piccadilly, London.

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The ornate and beautiful frontage of The Wolseley
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The Wolseley dining room is elegant and sophisticated with a grand atmospheric interior

In a classy and relaxed atmosphere we enjoyed The Wolseley’s full traditional Afternoon Tea, which had a lovely selection of finger sandwiches and small cakes, with freshly baked warm fruit scones, clotted cream and strawberry jam, and a choice of loose-leaf teas. At £28.50 per person I considered this to be excellent value, as we were offered more sandwiches and a second pot of tea at no extra charge. Although this place is always busy the service is remarkably good because they have lots of staff. The ambiance is buzzing and it was a super place for people-watching! It’s good to know that their scones and pastries are made on the premises, with an ever-changing selection of cakes, which typically might include a Battenberg or Sachertorte. Everything was perfection, from the white linen napkins, the marble-topped tables, the silver cutlery and tableware, to the bespoke china. We felt that this Afternoon Tea provided a quality experience and it’s the perfect venue for a special occasion. Highly recommended if you are looking for somewhere to eat in London, but booking is advisable.

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The Wolseley’s traditional Afternoon Tea was perfection and there was plenty of it!
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A nice touch to mark this special occasion – a  birthday tuile for my friend
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We enjoyed a tasty mix of finger sandwiches and were offered seconds!

The sandwiches were freshly-made and especially tasty with fillings of Chicken and tarragon, Smoked Salmon, Celery and Tomato, Cream cheese and cucumber, and Egg and Watercress.

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At The Wolseley the freshly-baked scones were kept warm under a silver cloche

                        

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There was even a bespoke goodie box to take home our left-overs!

A full Afternoon Tea is served from 3.00pm (3.30pm at weekends).

First opened as a prestigious car showroom in 1921 for Wolseley Motors Limited, the venue became The Wolseley in 2003 and soon became the famous institution it is today.

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We ended the day with cocktails at the fabulous bar of The Gilbert Scott, St Pancras Renaissance Hotel, Kings Cross, London

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The opulent interior of the 19th century Gilbert Scott bar

The Bar at The Gilbert Scott offers flavour, ingredients and theatre and provides the ultimate cocktail experience in show-stopping 19th century surroundings. Guests are welcome for drinks on a drop-in basis, and although I thought it was expensive, it was well worth it for a special occasion.

Tate Modern is a modern art gallery located in the Bankside area of the London Borough of Southwark. It’s Britain’s national gallery of international modern art and forms part of the Tate group. Based in the former Bankside Power Station, the Tate holds the national collection of British art from 1900 to the present day and international modern and contemporary art. Tate Modern is one of the largest museums of modern and contemporary art in the world, and the new Switch House extension provides one of the best panoramic views over London free of charge, so it’s well worth a visit. As with the UK’s other national galleries and museums, there is no admission charge for access to the collection displays, which take up the majority of the gallery space.

The Wolseley

160 Piccadilly

London

W1J 9EB

Telephone: 020 7499 6996

http://www.thewolseley.com

The Flitch of Bacon, a dining gem of a pub found in Essex! September 2016

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The Flitch of Bacon is located on The Street in Little Dunmow, Essex

Last week I enjoyed an excellent lunch with a friend as a belated birthday treat at the curiously named ‘Flitch of Bacon’ in Little Dunmow, Essex. I was delighted to find a new place which lived up to my expectations, as I am often disappointed. The owner Daniel Clifford (of ‘Midsummer House’ fame) lives nearby and is behind the Flitch’s new lease of life, so the long history of the Flitch of Bacon has a new chapter. The pub has undergone a sympathetic restoration to become a restaurant and pub with rooms, with an attractive outside seating area.

We found a relaxed atmosphere, amazing food and a wonderful drinks list in this dog and child-friendly restaurant in a pub, which is a Freehouse. I felt prices compared favourably with similar gastropubs in the Cambridge area, where the food was not of the same standard as we found at The Flitch. The cuisine is British/European, the service was friendly and professional from a young team, and we paid £25 a head for two courses without drinks.

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The History – The Flitch of Bacon takes its name from the trials that award a flitch of bacon to married couples that can swear to not having regretted their marriage for a year and a day. It does rather sound like a tradition from a different age and it is , as the trials can be traced back to 1104 and the Dunmow flitch is referred to by Chaucer. At Little Dunmow, the home of the Flitch of Bacon, the ceremony survived into the eighteenth century.

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And now to the food…. we were tempted by several of the starters on the a la carte menu but knew we would want room for desserts, and this being lunchtime we sensibly restrained ourselves. We ordered Beer Battered Fish and Triple Cooked Chips, Mushy peas, with Tartare Sauce for my main course, and Truffle and Ricotta Dumplings with Chicory, Pear and Walnut (without the Stilton) for my friend.img_0122-2

 

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I declared this to be the very best fish and chips I have ever tasted!

 

 

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My companion enjoyed her main of course of Truffle and Ricotta Dumplings with a house salad which had a fresh citrus dressing

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We both loved our desserts of Brown Sugar and Greengage Crème Brulee and Iced Lemon Parfait with Blueberries and Raspberries

Both desserts were delightful, rich yet light with perfect flavour combinations, and all the dishes were appealing in their presentation.

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The Flitch’s distinctive pig motif is everywhere – even on the curtains!

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The stylish bar area

 

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The attractive outdoor seating area

Flitch of Bacon                flitch-at-night-2

The Street

Little Dunmow

Essex

CM6 3HT

Tel: 01371 821660

reservations@flitchofbacon.co.uk

http://www.theflitchofbacon.co.uk

 

Note: Midsummer House  The Flitch of Bacon is Midsummer House’s more accessible little brother http://www.midsummerhouse.co.uk

Granny Apples says – “The Flitch of Bacon is well worth seeking out for somewhere special and not just for special occasions, and I will certainly be returning for dinner some time soon!”

 

Food nirvana at Ristorante Il Piccolo Mondo in Bottisham, Cambs

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Ristorante Il Piccolo Mondo is located on the High Street, in the village of Bottisham, Cambs

For my 50th blog post I couldn’t have wished to review anywhere better than Il Piccolo Mondo, which is the best authentic Italian restaurant in the area in my opinion, and a personal favourite. Knowing this Steve had thoughtfully booked a table for a celebration dinner as a treat for my birthday. It was one of the hottest night’s of the summer, so we enjoyed an aperitif on the terrace before dining inside this hugely popular eatery, which well deserves it’s excellent reputation. From the minute we arrived until our departure several hours later the staff ensured our evening was a wonderful dining experience, and as for the food, every dish was superb. I could easily run out of superlatives in this review!IMG_20160824_2158480[144389]

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The classy interior of the restaurant with exposed brickwork, interesting artefacts and decor makes a splendid dining space in this conversion of a former school buiding
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For our pre-starter we enjoyed delicious crusty bread with dipping oil and olives, which were provided for the table along with iced water
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The table decoration was simply beautiful
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Steve’s starter was a selection of Italian cold meats with sun dried tomatoes, artichokes and olives

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My smoked salmon starter with avocado and prawns was fresh and appetising, and I was reminded how generous the portion sizes are at Il Piccolo Mondo …….

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….so for my main course I ordered a small plate of ricotta filled Tortelloni in a butter, sage and Parmesan sauce, because I wanted to leave room for a dessert!

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We chose side dishes of a mixed salad and Zucchine Fritte, – delicious deep fried courgettes to share with our mains
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Steve really enjoyed his main course of tender Scottish fillet steak with porcini mushrooms and red wine sauce, served with a selection of vegetables 

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IMG_20160824_2005004[165520]Steve found his fillet steak was cooked to perfection, and it went down very well with a nice glass or two of red!

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My dessert of Sicilian Lemon pot was fresh, light and delectable

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Steve chose Formaggi, a selection of Italian cheeses instead of a sweet

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The cheese plate included creamy Gorgonzola and Taleggio, accompanied by celery, grapes and relish
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It was good to see a generous amount of crackers to accompany the cheese
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We ended our sublime evening with a nightcap of Benedictine

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I loved the fresh flowers everywhere

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Even the ladies toilet was fabulous!

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When we arrived at this elegant, modern restaurant we had an excellent first impression of the building, which is splendid conversion of a former school. Polly and her front of house team are friendly and highly professional, ensuring that all diners have a fantastic experience. The restaurant is light and airy with a good ambience, and the tables aren’t too close so there is a feeling of privacy and space. The kitchen (La Cucina) is openly viewed from the dining room, but although busy it was calm and smoothly run. Fish dishes are a specialty, and the varied menu has plenty of hearty meat courses in addition to homemade pasta. The freshness and quality of the food, and the preparation and presentation could not be faulted. If you want somewhere impressive and very special plan well ahead to *book a table for lunch or dinner and I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.

We paid £34 a head for 3 courses, excluding drinks, and it was worth every penny!

        

RISTORANTE IL PICCOLO MONDO  

85 HIGH STREET

BOTTISHAM

CAMBRIDGE

CB25 9BA                                                                   

01223 811434

info@ilpiccolomondo.co.uk

LUNCH SERVICE

Wednesday to Sunday: 12:00 – 14:00  

DINNER SERVICE

Wednesday to Saturday: 18:30 – 21:00

*Book early to avoid disappointment

 

Fine Art on a Plate at Alimentum

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Alimentum 1 Michelin star restaurant is located on Hills Road, Cambridge

This gourmet continental restaurant is renowned for its slow cooking ethos and chef’s tasting menu.

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I loved this fabulous feature light in the bar where ……

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we enjoyed a complimentary squid ink crisp canape, creatively presented in a box of pebbles which certainly had the WOW factor!

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We were able to watch the chefs hard at work in the kitchen through the viewing window
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The amuse-bouche…..

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was accompanied by milk bread and delicious mini onion loaves, both served warm

We chose A TASTE OF ALIMENTUM in 7 courses at £75 per person and Steve had a flight of wine at £37.50

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Eel smoked, fennel, buttermilk, grape and almond served with Gruner Veltliner, Austria
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Quail breast and leg, yakitori, peanut and lime served with Palomino Fino, Spain
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Cod, asparagus, cured egg yolk and truffle served with Mauzac, France

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Beef Sirloin, (Hannan 80 day aged) beef fat potato, veal sweetbreads, parsley and mushroom served with Touriga Franca, Portugal

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The pre-dessert Gin and Tonic was an excellent palette cleanser 

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BBQ Orange Parfait,mojito and liquorice dessert served with Chenin Blanc, France

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Chocolate Gateau and passion fruit was the delicious final dish served with Moscato Rosa, Italy

To complete his meal Steve added a cheese course at £7.50

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Steve chose 5 delectable cheeses from an eclectic selection on the Cheese trolley….. 

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accompanied by an assortment of delicious biscuits and breads

Special occasion dining at Alimentum

Last week Steve and I celebrated his birthday by dining at Alimentum, where we enjoyed the chefs 7 course taster menu at £75 per person, accompanied by a flight of wine at £37.50.

It was a return visit for us and fully lived up to our expectations for special occasion dining. The menu at this 1 Michelin star restaurant is best described as Modern European and Chef Patron Mark Poynton delivers dishes which are original, contemporary and full of vibrant flavours and colours.

On arrival we had an aperitif in the bar where we were served a complimentary canape featuring squid ink crisps in a box of pebbles which blew me away with its creativity and invention. When seated in the restaurant we were close to the viewing window where it was fascinating to watch the chefs at work in the kitchen. Every dish from the amuse bouche through the seven courses on the ‘Taste of Alimentum‘ menu were delightful in taste, flavour and presentation. We both preferred the cod and beef dishes of the savoury courses, and relished the yummy desserts. I had been concerned that I would find eating seven courses challenging but in fact the amount of food was just right, and I didn’t feel uncomfortably full. Steve chose to end his meal with a cheese course because he had been so impressed with the choice of cheeses available on our previous visit.

This is certainly one of the best restaurants in Cambridge and we can highly recommended it for magnificent food and service. The atmosphere is cool and relaxed and the staff are friendly, knowledgeable and professional. It was an expensive night out but worth it for a special occasion, and we had a most enjoyable fine dining experience.

 

Alimentum – 1 Michelin Star Restaurant in Cambridge

152-154 Hills Road, Cambridge, CB2 8PB

01223 413000 | Reservations

Navadhanya Restaurant – experience fine dining Indian style

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Navadhanya by night

This week we dined at Navadhanya with high expectations and we weren’t disappointed. Since it opened it’s doors in mid December 2014 this exciting new restaurant has jumped straight to the top of the Trip Advisor listings as the no 1 place to eat in Cambridge. Located in Newmarket Road it was formerly The Bird in Hand pub. Now it’s transformed into a cool, contemporary fine dining Indian restaurant. First impressions were inviting when viewed from outside, and a warm welcome lay within.The staff were courteous and hospitable and the service was outstanding without being intrusive. Seated in the middle of the room we found the noise levels rather uncomfortable as the place was fully booked and loud. I could hear the conversation of the woman at the next table more than I could hear my partner!

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Malai Tikka

However this is a minor criticism as the food is not just fine Indian dining, its superlative cuisine which is created by award-winning chefs and staff who come from Five-Star Hotel and Michelin Star backgrounds. In fact we ran out of adjectives to describe the exquisite food by the end of the evening. The menu opens with a page of Allergens information from the Food Standards Agency which is very useful. There is a 7 course taster experience available at a very reasonable £29.99, but we decided on this occasion to choose from the a la carte menu. We started with a couple of beers and glasses of iced water whilst we feasted our eyes upon the very smart menu which claims to take you on a culinary journey from south to north India.

my starter
Alootikki
my main
Murgh Makaini

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I chose Alootikki, a pan-fried potato cake with spinach filling, and my partner Steve decided upon Malai Tikka,  Tandoor chicken with cream cheese, yogurt and cumin to begin our meal. The presentation was a work of art and looked glorious on slate. This was followed by the interestingly named Railway lamb curry for Steve, and I decided on Murgh Makaini, which is a chicken tikka dish for my main. We shared a side order of Aloo Jeera, a potato dish, accompanied by rice and naan bread. Portion sizes were just right and not feeling too bloated we both chose a dessert. I had Pastachio Kulfi, an Indian style ice cream and Steve had an indulgent Belgian chocolate mousse.

Accompanied by another beer and plenty of iced water we ended the meal with a liqueur as it was a date night! Overall it was excellent value for money as the bill came to under £80 and to quote Steve ” the food didn’t just burst with flavours but tastes exploded in the mouth”. Needless to say we will be dining at Navadhanya again, and recommend to anyone who is looking for something very different and special, that is fine dining Indian style. Enjoy!

chichen tikka main
Railway lamb curry
Aloo Jeera
Aloo Jeera

rice dish

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