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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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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The Green Man pub in Thriplow, Cambs – a village famous for its daffodils

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.

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The Green Man entrance looked warm and inviting

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!

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The imaginative use of Scrabble tiles made for a unique welcome!

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.triplow10 (2) - Copy

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.

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Steve chose slow-roasted Berkshire Pork Belly with wholegrain mustard mash, sweet potato, kale, apple sauce and red wine jus for his main course….

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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!

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We shared another dessert of Butterscotch Bread and Butter Pudding and artisan salted caramel ice cream

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.2017-03-24 21.34.37 (3)

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.

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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. 

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THE GREEN MAN

2 LOWER STREET

THRIPLOW

SG8 7RJ

Tel: 01763 208855    

email: info@thegreenmanthriplow.co.uk

www.thegreenmanthriplow.co.uk

The Petersfield, a new Cambridge pub and restaurant : March 2017

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.

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The Petersfield is located on Sturton Street, Cambridge
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The interior was smart and classy, but the tables were too close together for my liking

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.

 

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The pub is full of charming design features and I loved the glass bottles ceiling in the bar

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 with plush 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.

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The ceramic fish water jug made an interesting gurgling sound when poured!

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.

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Steve had Potted Goose and Sourdough for his starter
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The Petersfield had a good range of craft beers, so we tried several!
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For his main course Steve chose Pork Belly, roasted sweet potato, crispy black pudding, savoy cabbage, and apple sauce….
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and to finish his meal the British Cheese selection with pickle, celery and fancy crackers

 

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I had Cider-battered Haddock, chips, peas and tartare sauce, and Chocolate Fondant for my dessert

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We ended our evening with a nightcap in the bar

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.

 

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The attractive outdoor seating area made a great use of the space

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The Petersfield

2 STURTON STREET

CB1 2QA

TEL: 01223 306 306

http://www.thepetersfield.co.uk

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 Emperor for Latin Tapas and a cocktail at the Old Bicycle Shop, Cambridge

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The Emperor Latin Tapas Bar is located on Hills Road, Cambridge
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The Old Bicycle Shop is located on Regent Street, Cambridge

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.

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I loved the bold colour and design of the tiled bar at The Emperor
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We started our Latin tapas journey with Chifles,  – deep fried plantain and sweet potatoes . These ‘crisps’ were not to my taste!

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Followed by Croquetas de Jamon – creamy and smooth fried Spanish croquettes filled with bechamel sauce and Spanish ham. I really liked this dish.
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Tortillade Patatas is a traditional Spanish dish. This egg omelette made with potatoes, served with sour cream was a big hit with me.
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Gambas Rebozadas con Quinoa – breaded prawns with quinoa, seaweed, and sweet chilli sauce with passion fruit, was an interesting combination of textures and flavours.
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Fritura mixta de Pescado – this fish dish of deep fried seabass fillet, whitebait and calamari lightly battered with salsa criolla, was very tasty.
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Antiencho de Corazon – this dish featured tender beef heart slices on mini skewers, which were marinated in panca chilli on a bed of potatoes, with rocoto chilli cream. I gave the meat a miss but Steve enjoyed it, and I loved the potatoes with the hot sauce.
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The final tasting dish we shared was Chuletasde Cordero – Grilled lamb chops marinated in Amarillo chilli sauce, on a bed of taco taco and chimichurri sauce. The lamb chops were succulent and tender, but I disliked the texture of the taco taco.

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.

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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.

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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 The Cambridge Brewhouse, 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.

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I enjoyed a refreshing ‘Lance Armstrong‘ cocktail, made from gin, lemonade, soda and lemon which came with a pouch of ‘magic go go powder’!
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We sat in the window of the bar area, – all the better to people watch!

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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…..

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for example, this rather novel tea light holder
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A great use of a childhood favourite – Lyle’s Golden Syrup 90th Birthday edition tin as a cutlery holder!
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.

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The Emperor Latin Tapas Bar                                            

21 Hills Rd, Cambridge CB2 1NW                                      

Tel: 01223 464633                                                                                                                                                                         http://www.theemperorcambridge.com

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The Old Bicycle Shop,
104 Regent Street, Cambridge CB2 1DP
Tel: 01223 859909
email:info@oldbicycleshop.com

Galleria restaurant and hot new bar Six in Cambridge

Cambridge 13 126

Last week Steve and I dined with two friends at The Galleria Restaurant on Bridge Street, which is in a perfect location at the foot of Magdalene Bridge, overlooking St John’s and Magdalene colleges. This independent restaurant is a popular Cambridge institution, and a favourite with locals and visitors alike. The menu is best described as modern British fusion with world influences, and we enjoyed two courses of well-presented, freshly cooked and tasty dishes in stylish contemporary surroundings. On the downside the service was rather slow, and we had a long wait before our first course arrived. Also despite booking in advance we were disappointed not to get a table outside on one of the terraces beside the river, as it was a warm summer’s evening.

Diners at Galleria not only have a ringside seat of the antics of people punting on the river, but also one of Cambridge’s loveliest views. This three-level continental restaurant is light and airy, with wrought-iron balconies, ferns, French prints, and bistro-style seating. Prices are affordable, and portions are on the large side, so overall it’s good value for money. We were all too full for desserts after we had eaten two courses from the a la carte menu, and the bill came to £30 per person including drinks. 

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Galleria has two terraces overlooking the River Cam which are perfect for al fresco dining, but unfortunately we found it’s not possible to reserve a table on the terrace

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A splendid view of the River Cam from the terrace of the restaurant
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A scenic view of picturesque Quayside, which is directly across the road from Galleria
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Two members of our party chose Smoked Duck Breast with Cantaloupe Melon, Wasabi  Paste and Soy Dressing for their starter, which they both remarked certainly had a kick!
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My starter of Smoked salmon mousse, Tomato and Cucumber Salad with French Bread was light, fresh and deliciousIMG_20160609_2021197 [364469]

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After Gin and Tonic aperitifs we drank bottled beers with our meal
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Three of our party chose the grilled Sea Bass fillet with pomme puree, petit pois and leek buerre Blanc for the main course
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It was a generous portion, perfectly cooked and beautifully presented in a stack
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Steve chose Maple cured Lamb steaks with crushed new potatoes, braised spinach, wholegrain mustard and tartar sauce for his main, which he described as an excellent dish

 

After dinner we walked across Quayside to The Varsity Hotel and Spa in Thompson’s Lane to have a drink at their recently opened bar and restaurant called Six
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Another charming view of Quayside, where punts are available for hire *

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I enjoyed a Gin and Tonic in the ultra stylish new bar Six at The Varsity Hotel
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Interior view of Six with its stunning panoramic views over Cambridge

Six panoramic bar is located on the 6th floor of The Varsity Hotel & Spa just below the hugely popular roof terrace. Recently opened, this very new Cambridge restaurant has breathtaking 360° views of the city, including the historic colleges and the River Cam.

We found the impressive drinks menu to be reasonably priced and about half the cost of drinks on the roof terrace. The food menu at Six was also surprisingly inexpensive, apart from their traditional Afternoon Tea, which at £22.50 a head is way more expensive than high end rival establishments in Cambridge. Another surprising thing is that there were no toilets either on the roof terrace or in the restaurant, so we were directed to the unisex washroom on the 2nd floor of the hotel in the guest bedroom area. Not an ideal situation and surely an ‘inconvenience’ for all the drinkers and diners at such a busy venue!

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We were disappointed to find the roof terrace was closed at 9.30pm when we arrived at the hotel.

 

Galleria Restaurant                          galleria-restaurant(1)

33 Bridge Street

Cambridge

CB2 1UW

Tel : 01223 362054

http://www.galleriacambridge.co.uk

Six Panoramic Bar and Restaurant                              
6th FloorIMG_20160609_2204243 [364509]

The Varsity Hotel
Thompson’s Lane
Cambridge
CB5 8AQ
Tel : 01223 308030

 

*Scudamore’s Punting Company Quayside

Magdalene Bridge, Cambridge CB5 8AB

Tel : 01223 359750

A Flavour of Crete – May 2016

Last week Steve and I revisited the beautiful island of Crete for an all too short seven night holiday. Once again we stayed at a villa in the traditional village of Vamos, which is located midway between Chania and Rethymnon. The closest good beaches are 8km north at Almyrida or 10km east at Georgoupoli, and bustling Chania itself is a 30 minute drive northwest. From the terraces of the villa we enjoyed magnificent views over greenery and tiled rooftops to the Lefka Óri (White Mountains), which are typically snow-streaked from December to May, and of the bluest of blue seas on the other side.

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We rented The Old Bakery, a delightful villa with private pool from Vintage Travel

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We explored the island in a hired Jimny Jeep, which was perfect for the terrain

Flowers and churches are two defining images of this beautiful island

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We enjoyed a healthy diet of perfectly cooked fresh fish with crispy skin, tender and succulent Souvlaki, and delicious light spinach and cheese pies among other local dishes. Meals were always accompanied by salads, and preceded by Meze dishes including tzatziki, bread and olives. Every meal ended with a complimentary drink of raki, and often cake or a dessert. I preferred the honey flavoured raki , as I found it sweeter and less harsh. Chilled water is always served free of charge which is a welcome touch. Eating out was reasonable in Crete, and on average we paid around 40 Euros for a typical main meal with appetisers and drinks.

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We drank lots of  thirst-quenching Mythos beer whilst basking in warm sunshine

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Steve relished a plate of snails served eau naturelle at the local Coffee and Ouzo bar ‘ALL TOGETHER’
Steve experienced Cretan tradition first-hand at the Vamos Snail Festival. Every year the village holds a culinary celebration where the locals cook up snails and wash them down with raki and red wine.

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I found Baklava too sweet for my taste, but I loved the frappes!

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We usually ended up at our local bar ‘All Together’ in Vamos, where the welcome and hospitality was second to none 

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We paddled in the sea on the pristine and extremely beautiful beach at Elafonissi

The beach of Elafonissi is on the south east side of Crete and well known for its pure white sands. In certain light, you can see the pink sand of Elafonissi said to be caused by the coral that over time has been broken down by Mother Nature. The beach is mainly sandy with small rocky outcrops and it was the perfect for an excursion, and the highlight of our holiday. Granny Apples says “We are very tempted to return to Crete again in 2017”