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.
The Packhorse Inn is located on Bridge Street, in the picturesque village of Moulton near Newmarket, the home of horse-racing
Starter of Quail
Salmon and dill fishcakes, fish cream, fennel salad
Starter – Blow-torched mackerell
My rissotto main course was a hearty portion!
Scampi with fries
Another main course – Sea trout with globe artichokes
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!
Last week Steve and I visited The Green Man at Thriplow with two companions for a meal, because it had been highly recommended by another friend who described it as her new favourite place to eat, so I was keen to check it out for myself.
The Green Man is a community owned pub in the picturesque village of Thriplow, which is eight miles south of Cambridge. This traditional dog and family-friendly country inn serves seasonal locally sourced food and real ales and is a very popular destination so I would advise booking ahead for evening diners. We went on a Friday night and both the bar and restaurant area were full, but fortunately we had made a table reservation. The only problem was that it was rather loud where we were seated, making conversation across the table a bit challenging!
We fancied a little something to nibble before our main courses so we shared freshly baked garlic and herb bread with marinated olives. Unfortunately, the two dishes which we had chosen to share were off the menu. Tapas were advertised and we made the mistake of assuming we would share a selection of Spanish-style tapas, but the menu offered a wide range of small plates at £3, £4 and £5, which were more typically British pub grub starters.
Our friends both decided to have the BBQ pulled pork shoulder burger, in a poppy & sesame seed brioche bun with baby gem lettuce, apple slaw, feta salad, apple sauce, and whole-grain mustard accompanied by garlic and herb salted chips.
I wasn’t very hungry so I chose a small plate dish of Chargrilled Paphos Halloumi with rocket, tomato and sweet chilli, and a side of apple, cabbage and carrot slaw. It’s always good to see an option of small plates on a menu, – either for sharing dishes or for people like myself with limited appetites.
followed by the cheeseboard of British and Irish cheeses with salted and seeded Lavosh (crackers) and caramelised red onion chutney. Steve enjoyed the selection of cheeses, but he would have preferred plain crackers.
One of Steve’s pet hates when eating out is that he always gets ‘fancy’ upmarket types of crackers with his cheeseboard, which is his dessert of choice. We took a straw poll amongst our party and our personal favourite accompaniments to cheese were cream crackers, water biscuits, cornish wafers, and digestive biscuits. None of which are usually served when any of us have ordered a cheese course anywhere!
This community owned free house is warm and cosy with a real fire, and it’s worth noting that the kitchen and bar remain open all day. They even offer a lift home service to the surrounding villages, which must be a major plus for locals.
I was impressed with their eclectic craft Gin menu as it’s one of my favourite tipples, and I enjoyed a locally produced Pinkster gin with fresh raspberries and a Fever-Tree Elderflower tonic on this occasion.
I would certainly like to sample more dishes from The Green Mans interesting menu but I think a lunchtime may be a more relaxing and quieter time for a return visit. Despite being very busy the service was efficient and attentive, and the bill came to a very reasonable £73 for our meal, excluding drinks.
The village of Thriplow is famous for the Daffodil Festival which takes place every Spring. It attracts up to 10,000 visitors and is one of the best-loved charity events in Cambridgeshire.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Both desserts were delightful, rich yet light with perfect flavour combinations, and all the dishes were appealing in their presentation.
The Flitch’s distinctive pig motif is everywhere – even on the curtains!
It’s been a while since I reviewed anywhere in Cambridge, but not for a lack of trying. In this long, hot month of July I have consumed food and drink at several different cafes, bars, pubs, and restaurants in the area, which have been underwhelming in general, and disappointing overall. So this week I was pleased to find somewhere to be enthusiastic enough to write about! Steve and I took advantage of a *Groupon voucher to try Latin tapas at The Emperor, followed by a drink at modish new bar and kitchen, the Old Bicycle Shop, which was a short walk up the road. Both places were busy, with a lively atmosphere, and we received a warm welcome from friendly staff, but one was a lot cooler than the other. Read on and all will be revealed……
The Emperor was formerly The Globe Ale House on Hills Road, now beautified and transformed this bar is loud with an exuberant atmosphere, and seemed popular with large groups. We drank my favourite Spanish lager Estrella Damm on tap, and took a window seat to watch the world go by, as we dined on an interesting variety of hot and cold tapas.
We started our Latin tapas journey with Chifles, – deep fried plantain and sweet potatoes . These ‘crisps’ were not to my taste!
The Emperor offers a tapas menu inspired by the culinary traditions of Latin America, using locally sourced ingredients, with sauces brought in straight from South America. We tasted a *special introductory deal of seven savoury tapas dishes to share, and a house dessert, with a glass of wine included for two people at £26. This offer was good value, and the food has an interesting mix of flavours and textures, but we both felt it looked better than it tasted, and there was too much fried food for my liking. The dishes were freshly cooked, and the service was relaxed and laid back with friendly staff. This is a fun dining experience if you are looking for something different. The ambiance lends itself perfectly to a party and tapas dishes – which are ideal for sharing, suit a large group well. This bright new conversion bares little resemblance to the old pub, with it’s bare floorboards, the attractive and colourful tiled bar, and modern artwork on the walls.
Personally I think this venue works better as a bar than a restaurant, so it falls into the common problems experienced by similar hybrids, making it unsuitable for an intimate dining experience. For example, there was a large flat-screen tv showing a salsa dance film on one wall, with loud background music being another distraction, and the acoustics of the place made our conversation a strain. On the upside I noticed that the well-stocked bar had a good selection of gins, a decent array of beers, and there is also an outside seating area.
We ended our evening with a visit to a very new bar, the Old Bicycle Shop, (which I had been very keen to visit since it opened in May) for a nightcap, and my first impression of both the exterior and the interior was …WOW! It probably helped that one of my all-time favourite Bob Dylan tracks was the first sound which greeted me, above the lively ambiance of the busy bar and dining area.
This new gastropub in Regent Street takes its name the ‘Old Bicycle Shop’ from and in homage to Howes Cycles, the site’s former occupiers. With bespoke beers from TheCambridgeBrewhouse, the bar has an extensive drinks menu including cocktails, craft beers in cans, wines and spirits and soft drinks, like lemon iced tea and pink lemonade. Open all day for coffee, brunch, lunch and dinner this bar and kitchen has a cool, hip vibe, and it’s been so popular I noticed a 2nd floor dining area is opening soon.
I loved this ultra stylish conversion which has lots of quirky touches that reflect its cycling heritage, – like featuring a vintage style delivery bike mounted to the front of the pub, as well as cycle paraphernalia being prominent in all other branding…..
Although the Old Bicycle Shop is aimed more at dining, drinkers are welcome in the small front bar area, and the staff are friendly and enthusiastic, so there is a real buzz about the place. Most of the space is reserved for dining, including two upstairs function rooms and an outdoor seating area. I noticed the interesting menu featured many gluten free, vegan and veggie options, and the prices sit comfortably in the mid-range dining market. We intend to return here for a meal very soon.
We loved the high ceilings and spacious interior, which is both stylish and elegant
Steve chose asparagus and prosciutto ham with poached free range egg in hollandaise sauce for his starter, and I had the crab and avocado concoction with crostini and watercress. Although both were excellent dishes I wished I had chosen his!
My main course was perfectly cooked pan fried sea bass fillets, and barley risotto with mushrooms and crispy shallots in garlic and parsley butter. Simple but delicious.
My dessert was salted caramel pot with cream, and truly scrumptious shortcake biscuits
The heart shaped biscuits seemed an appropriate symbol for our 3rd anniversary!
Our next stop was The Snug Kitchen and Bar on Lensfield Road for a nightcap
I loved the distinctive interior design of The Snug where I enjoyed a …….
Last week Steve and I decided to have dinner in the grand cafe setting of Browns Brasserie on Trumpington Street in Cambridge. It was a special occasion for us (3rd anniversary) but we wanted a low-key celebration, and to eat in a place where we wouldn’t be disappointed. I don’t usually promote a chain restaurant on my blog, but I am happy to make an exception for Browns, which is a beautiful building with a buzzing atmosphere.
Pro’s and Con’s – my first thought when I removed my coat and sat down was how chilly I felt in the restaurant. There appeared to be no heating on and the air-con blew cool, although it was a cold night outside with a bitter wind. I had to put my coat back on and then I didn’t remove it all night!
We were served with a jug of water at table whilst perusing the menu, but no bread was offered. The starters and main courses were all very tasty, freshly cooked and pleasing to the eye, but in my opinion the portion sizes of the dishes we chose were on the small side. My pan-fried Sea bass fillets were crisp and cooked to perfection, and for my dessert I was delighted by the taste and richness of the salted caramel pot, served with cream and accompanied by excellent shortcake biscuits. Steve chose the cheeseboard, which at £10.50 I considered to be over-priced, but he appreciated the selection of British cheeses.
Despite my minor quibbles we enjoyed our meal and the evening, and the service was good as always, so we overlooked the mistake with our order. Browns is known for traditional British food with a contemporary twist, and I like the wide range of choice on their menu. Prices are average for Cambridge at £30 a head for 3 courses, plus drinks and service. By coincidence I will be returning to Browns next week to sample and review their Afternoon Tea.
We decided to end our anniversary date night with ‘one for the road’ at The Snug in Lensfield Road where I enjoyed an old favourite drink of mine, a Pina colada cocktail. Very retro!
The question I am most often asked is ‘where’s the best place for ‘…. Sunday lunch, Afternoon Tea, Fine Dining, Oriental cuisine, Fish and Chips or simply good pub grub etc.
When people know I write a food blog about eating out in Cambridge I am frequently asked to make recommendations, so I have come up with a ‘BEST PLACE FOR‘ list of my favourite places, which I have tried and tested. Everyone has their own favourites of course, so this is just my personal opinion.
I was tempted to list my Top Ten but I had more than ten places to eat and drink which I’m happy to recommend, so they are in no particular order. All of my suggestions are in Cambridge, except one, which is too exceptional to exclude!
RistoranteIl Piccolo Mondo is the best place for authentic Italian food. Located in Bottisham, only 6 miles from Cambridge it’s advisable to book months ahead for this hugely popular restaurant, which is always very highly rated on every Top Ten listing.
Ristorante Il Piccolo Mondo in Bottisham, Cambs is the best place for Italian fine dining
Elegant, modern restaurant with exposed brickwork, serving homemade pasta with fish and meat dishes. Totally charming, with exceptional food and service.
The Clarendon Arms on Clarendon Street in Cambridge is the best place for a Sunday roast dinner. Highly popular sobook in advance for Sunday lunch to avoid disappointment, but they do have two sittings.
A Cambridge public house since 1812, with a good selection of real ales, ‘The Clarrie’ serves bistro-style food in a traditional pub setting. A friendly local and a firm favourite of mine.
The Clarendon Arms
35-36 Clarendon Street
Cambridge CB1 1JX
Phone: 01223 778272
Steve’s starter was a tiger prawn dish
The inside of this pub is full of character
Cau, the Argentinian restaurant on Bene’t Street, Cambridge is the one of the most popular places for Steak, I can also recommend ‘Rockers’on Mill Road asthey source their meat from a local butcher, and their chips are excellent.
This contemporary Buenos Aires-style restaurant is extremely stylish with cloud murals, and booths for intimate dining. Booking is advisable.
The Golden Curry Tandoori Restaurant on Mill Road, Cambridge is the best curry house in the area, and it never disappoints us. This place is always busy so it’s advisable to make a reservation.
The Golden Curry Tandoori Restaurant is a classic curry house serving traditional Indian and Bangladeshi meat, seafood and vegetable dishes. The service is exceptional, and it’s a family favourite when in need of ‘comfort food’.
Thirsty is a funky indie drinks shop and bar located on Chesterton Road, Cambridge, and the best place to find upmarket street food kitchens.
For a quirky and different night out try Thirsty in liaison with the best street food trucks in the area, which are parked outside on different nights. Wines, craft beer/cider, spirits, and coffee are also available. Note: It’s good to know that it’s possible to book for parties of six or more, as this place gets packed!
Thirsty the indie Wine Shop on Chesterton Road, Cambridge is the best place for a drink accompanied by excellent street food.
The Sea Tree on Mill Road, Cambridge is the best place for fish and chips and much, much more…..
The Sea Tree is an alternative fish bar offering a menu of traditional fish and chips alongside alternatives such as grilled mackerel, calamari and fish stew to eat in or takeaway.
The Sea Tree
13/14 The Broadway
Cambridge, CB1 3AH
Phone: 01223 414349
The other question I am most frequently asked is to recommend interesting pubs in Cambridge. There are so many to choose from but my personal favourites are The Free Press, The Elm Tree, and The Cambridge Blue for drinks, and The Earl of Beaconsfield for live music.
The Elm Tree is snug and eclectic local serving Real ales, Belgian beers and artisan ciders in a friendly candlelit pub with a terrace.
The Cambridge Blue is a Free House and Real Ale Paradise where visitors are given a warm welcome.
The Cambridge Blue
85-87 Gwydir Street
Cambridge CB1 2LG
Phone: 01223 471680
The Free Press is a dimly-lit, century-old pub with a fireplace and an intimate walled garden, serving fine cask ales and wine with locally sourced British cuisine. Quirky, interesting and well worth a visit.