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!
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!
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 !
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.
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.
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!
This week on a wet Monday night my partner Steve and I took a cab into Cambridge and wandered along Bridge Street in search of a place for dinner. We checked out menus at several different eateries to see what tickled our taste-buds before deciding to give Côte Brasserie a try. Although we usually avoid chain restaurants I had heard good things, and this place is very popular with both locals and tourists, so it’s usually busy and we were lucky to be shown to a table in the window.
After a friendly reception the service was professional and attentive throughout. We were served with chilled water and offered menus without delay. We chose from the à la carte menu which is extensive and reasonably priced, and drank Meteor French beer, which was new to us. Meteor is from one of the last independent, family owned breweries in France, and we found it light and refreshing with plenty of taste.
After much deliberation I finally chose a rich dairy-heavy selection of dishes, starting with Pissaladière (a traditional flatbread with caramelised onions and melted Reblochon cheese with thyme), followed by Spinach and Mushroom crêpes (complete with creamy gruyère cheese sauce). When it came to a dessert I failed to resist the Côte Speciality CrèmeCaramel, – traditional set vanilla pod custard with dark caramel and cream, so I wasn’t too concerned about my high cholesterol tonight then!
Steve chose Moules, (mussels cooked with white wine, garlic, shallots, parsley and fresh cream) for his starter. Followed by a 10oz Sirloin servedwith Roquefort Butter, (Normandy butter with Roquefort cheese) for his main, and for dessert he enjoyed the cheeseboard – Roquefort, Reblochon and Comté cheeses served with bread and grapes, and he treated himself to a glass of Quinta Do Castro Port.
This modern, *all-day French brasserie chain, serves regional specialities and traditional classics, so if you enjoy classic French food, in comfortable surroundings, with a generous selection of dishes, then Côte is for you. Coupled with a great atmosphere and friendly service, this superb affordable and well-presented food made me want to return to try breakfast and lunch! We paid £25 a head for 3 courses from the à la carte menu on this occasion, (without drinks).
I noticed in particular that their Lunch and Pre-Theatre Menu, which is available Monday to Friday, 12 noon to 7pm for Two Courses 10.95 or Three Courses 12.95 is exceptional value. Highly recommended.
Last week my daughter and I enjoyed a very relaxing week at Champneys Henlow spa hotel in Bedfordshire. Henlow Grange is an opulent Georgian mansion set amongst 150 acres of parkland with river views in beautifully kept grounds, and it’s the home of the original Champneys health spa.
The facilities include a superb indoor pool, hot tub, steam rooms and saunas, as well as 2 fitness studios with a huge range of classes, treatment rooms and a gym.
The restaurant features a health-focused menu with a wide choice of options from light diet calorie counted meals to gourmet a la carte fine dining. The question I am most often asked when I mention a visit to Champneys Henlow is “what’s the food like?” There is still a common misconception that a stay at a health spa means living on a diet of cabbage soup and lettuce leaves! Nothing could be further from the truth as the food at Henlow is one of the highlights of the spa experience. We enjoyed a buffet breakfast with a wide range of healthy eating choices, and lunch is served buffet style too, with several appetising hot and cold dishes, a huge range of salads, and low fat puddings were also available.
where we had delightful views of the grounds
Healthy eating is on offer at Henlow
At Champneys Henlow the head chefs and nutritionists work together to plan menus, relying on the principle of moderation, balance and variety. This means healthy nutritious gourmet cuisine, in proper portion sizes, beautifully presented and using fresh locally sourced ingredients.
which had a new seating area overlooking the attractive pool and spa area
Breakfast was served buffet style
I enjoyed Champneys special muesli with sliced banana and soya milk…
My daughter chose fresh fruit – an abundant selection was always available
Lunch was also served buffet style. There was an enormous range of salads, the soup of the day, several hot and cold dishes, and a choice of desserts.
we were spoiled for choice of low-fat desserts……..
Dinner came with two options: a 3 course meal from the a la carte dinner menu, or a light diet choice with 3 courses at 600 calories was available. The service was courteous, polished and professional from a friendly team of staff.
A typical starter from the dinner menu – tomato and goats cheese with pesto relish
Turkey escalope with mash, steamed veg and a mushroom sauce was another main course option
Another dessert choice was meringue with cream and summer fruits….
or bread and butter pudding and vanilla sauce
Champneys recently launched their brand new, healthier afternoon tea with special cakes created by ‘Bake Off’ winner Nadiya Hussain , with the focus on guilt-free indulgence, but unfortunately we were always too full after lunch to try it! A very good reason to return perhaps?
In the lovely grounds of Champneys Henlow you can enjoy walks, outdoor exercise or playing tennis, sunbathe on a lounger or just sit and read in a calm, quiet and peaceful environment.
Granny Apples says – if you are looking for relaxation or an indulgent pampering break with treatments, Champneys Henlow is the perfect place to go for a retreat from the real world and to gain a sense of well-being.
We went on a ‘Bring a friend for free’ offer which makes a luxury spa break affordable.
This gourmet continental restaurant is renowned for its slow cooking ethos and chef’stastingmenu.
I loved this fabulous feature light in the bar where ……
we enjoyed a complimentary squid ink crisp canape, creatively presented in a box of pebbles which certainly had the WOW factor!
was accompanied by milk bread anddelicious 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
BeefSirloin, (Hannan 80 day aged) beef fat potato, veal sweetbreads, parsley and mushroom served with Touriga Franca, Portugal
The pre-dessert Gin and Tonic was an excellent palette cleanser
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
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
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
The inside of this pub is full of character
Steve’s starter was a tiger prawn dish
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.
We chose the Valentine’s DayNon VegetarianTasting Menu at £54.99 pp, or if you included the * flight of wine the price was £79.99 pp. A Vegetarian Tasting Menu was also available.
We also enjoyed a glass of Rose Champagne, which was included in the price of the 7 course tasting menu specially created for Valentine’s Day by head chef Kamaladasan
The next course was Palak Patta Chat, kale and spinach sprinkled in gram flour, served with mint chutney and yoghurt.* Chenin Blanc, Grand Cape, South Africa 2014
and the other breast was cooked with curry leaf, coriander and cinnamon, served with mango and Granny Smith apple chutney. * Chardonnay Gewurztraminer, Tamarind Garden, Chile, 2015
This was followed by Lamb Roganjosh – Diced lamb simmered in browned onions, gingered tomato sauce flavoured with Kashmir chillies and Ratan jot. Served with Pulao Rice, Plain Naan, and Dhal Hyderabadi. Note – we were advised that we could have unlimited amounts of this dish! * Shiraz, Soldier’s Block, LanghorneCreek, Australia 2013
To complete a perfect meal we enjoyed The Rose Kulfi and Strawberry Mousse which was possibly the prettiest Valentine’s Day dessert, and certainly one of the most beautifully plated
Chef’s special Strawberry Mousse served with Rose Kulfi, was accompanied by * Moscato Passito, Palazzina,Piemonte, Italy 2012
On Valentine’s Day last Sunday night Steve and I dined at Navadhanya, where we enjoyed the chef’s 7 course taster menu with a flight of wine. It was almost a year ago when we last visited this fine dining Indian restaurant and it was the subject of my very first blog post. We had always intended to return for the chef’s taster menu and this made the ideal Valentine’s Day surprise gift for me.
‘You eat with your eyes first’ is a very appropriate quote for the food at Navadhanya, where plating and presentation are a large part of what they do extremely well. Every course was delightful and the flight of wines we sampled complemented each dish perfectly. In fact, the Chenin Blanc which accompanied the Palak Patta Chat was a taste explosion in the mouth and absolutely had the wow factor. Of all the courses the Palak Patta Chat with crispy noodles and pomegranates was my personal favourite, as the contrast of flavours and textures were exceptional.
The granita was an unexpected mix of spice and ice, and the addition of peppercorns made it fiery enough to make my lips burn!
I positively gushed with praise over the Plain Naan bread which was buttery, very light and crisp, far superior and quite unlike any other Naan we had ever tasted.
Steve’s favourite course was the Lamb Roganjosh and he said “If we weren’t eating in public I would lick the plate!”
If you enjoy eating in a refined restaurant serving gourmet Indian cuisine look no further than Navadhanya, which I can wholeheartedly recommend for special occasion dining when the local curry house just won’t cut the mustard!
Finally, many people have asked me what Navadhanya means and the definition is Navadhanya signifies the nine grains (where ‘Nava’ means nine and ‘Dhanya’ means grains) that are an important part of an Indian’s staple food.
Last month Steve arranged to take me out for dinner at a mystery location, so when the taxi arrived I had no idea where we were going to eat! As we headed away from Cambridge I knew it was out of town and after a short drive we arrived at our destination, which was The White Pheasant Country Bar and Restaurant, a white-washed 18th century building in the rural village of Fordham, situated 4 miles from Newmarket. I knew nothing about the place so I had no preconceptions, and I was pleasantly surprised by the creative, contemporary and innovative dishes. This restaurant uses locally sourced produce, has rapidly gained a reputation as one of the finest eateries in the region, and is the No 1 restaurant in the Ely area. The head chef and proprietor is Calvin Holland, and the cuisine is British/Modern European fine dining. We decided to try the new seasonal 5 course taster menu so each course was an unexpected treat of high quality, taste and beautiful presentation.
I appreciated the stylish way the dishes were presented on an eclectic selection of ceramic plates and bowls…….
Despite being a foodie and eating out a lot this was my first experience of a chef’s taster menu and I was very impressed. The courses were all small but we both felt full at the end of the evening. The 5 course taster menu costs £79.95 for two at The White Pheasant, and is competitively priced. Each dish was attractively plated and there were lots of interesting and unusual flavour and texture combinations to savour. A flight of wines at £25 a head was available to accompany each dish, which is really good value for money.
If you are looking for special occasion fine dining in the Ely area I would recommend a visit to The White Pheasant as a destination. My only gripe was that the place lacked atmosphere as it was early on a quiet Tuesday evening when we ate there, but the service is attentive and faultless.
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 Birdin 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!
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.
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, anIndian style ice cream and Steve had an indulgent Belgian chocolatemousse.
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!