Last week Steve and I enjoyed a 3-day winter break in Whitstable which is a quaint fishing and harbour town on the North coast of Kent. It’s located 5 miles north of Canterbury and 2 miles west of Herne Bay, and very popular with visitors, especially from London. Harbour Street has many independent shops and there is a wide selection of pubs, cafes and restaurants in the town which has the working harbour as it’s focal point. This was our first visit and a post-Christmas gift to me from Steve as he knew I have been wanting to stay in Whitstable for years and had never got around to it.
The Official Brewery of the world-famous Whitstable Oyster Company. We enjoyed sampling several of the beers!
The Royal Native Oyster Stores in Kent is a seafood restaurant offering some of the very best oysters, fish and crustacea. The restaurant is located on the beach and offers stunning views of the company’s oyster grounds.
We found this gem of a pub and restaurant serving real ales, fine wines, delicious seasonal produce and live music. Just a stone’s throw from the sea in Whitstable.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beach front hotel in Whitstable.
We stayed in one of these 150-year old converted Fisherman’s Huts, which were formerly fishermen stores and are now run by the Hotel Continental. They provided the perfect setting for something of a unique overnight accommodation experience that is quirky and fun. The huts are situated just metres from the beach in the centre of Whitstable offering magnificent sea views of the Thames estuary. Breakfast was served at the Hotel Continental which is about 10 minutes walk away from the huts and included in the price.
The Hotel Continental is in a prime location as it’s the only beachfront hotel in Whitstable.
After a bracing walk we enjoyed a pint of local beer and fish finger sandwiches with salad and chips at The Old Neptune
Some of the interesting images we found in Harbour Street, Whitstable by local enigmatic graffiti artist Catman, a Banksy-style street painter – who apparently keeps his identity firmly under wraps!
So what did I make of our winter break in Whitstable? It certainly has a unique appeal and I can’t really compare it to anywhere else, although I felt that there are similarities with Aldeburgh and Wells-next-the-sea. Our stay in the fisherman’s hut, a meal in one of the best fish restaurants and a pint of a local brew in one of the seafront pubs sums up the charm of quintessential Whitstable: a combination of the classic rugged, cosy seaside town aesthetic and a touch of the modern bohemian! Well worth a visit, a short stay or as a base for a holiday.
We will certainly return whenthe weather is warmer!
Last week Steve and I made a return visit to Navadhanya to sample their 7-course taster menu to celebrate my birthday. Since this refined restaurant opened in 2014 we have enjoyed eating there on two previous occasions and have always been impressed. Once again we were not disappointed. They offer an authentic Indian fine dining experience with exemplary service. The seven courses were all beautifully presented, bursting with flavour and perfectly accompanied by the flight of wines. Incidentally, I thought their Naan bread was the best I had ever tasted! Not surprisingly this popular and highly regarded restaurant was full on a weekday evening so booking ahead is strongly advised.
Navadhanya is located on Newmarket Road in Cambridge
We enjoyed this 7 Course Tasting Menu at £39.99 per person and it was great value too!
SHURUWAT – Chef’s Special Starter of the day
PAPDI CHAT – Spicy mashed chickpeas with crushed flaky pastry, sweetened yogurt, mint and tamarind chutney
OOTY FISH – Monkfish, fenugreek leaves, garlic, with aubergine mash
GRANITA – Refreshing home-made Sorbet, flavoured with fruit puree
PUNJABI MURGH – Chicken Tikka cooked with creamy tomato sauce and crushed fenugreek (served with Garlic Naan)
RAILWAY LAMB CURRY – Lamb Curry finished with classic Southern spices and potatoes (served with Pulao Rice and Dal Makhni)
HERITAGE CARROTS FUDGE WITH MANGO KULFI – Home-made Heritage Carrot Fudge served with Mango Kulfi for dessert
Accompanied by a FLIGHT OF WINES (served with five courses) at £19.99 per person
This week Steve and I enjoyed a superb meal at Trinity which opened its doors four months ago and quickly established itself as the number one place to eat in Cambridge. We have tried to visit this restaurant on four previous occasions but something always prevented us going so I had booked a table in advance and kept my fingers crossed! When the day came Steve was unavoidably delayed so I had to phone Trinity and say we would be about one hour late, but they were very accommodating and held the table for us. On arrival, it was busy with a great atmosphere and the service was prompt, friendly and efficient. I particularly liked the fact that chilled water was placed on the table without having to ask. We loved the decor too!
We started our evening with a glass of fizz and complimentary bread and oil whilst we perused the a la carte menu which although small did have a good selection of seafood dishes, and Steve was looking forward to sampling the oysters.
I chose the lentil and goats’ curd salad, with salt baked beetroot for my starter – very pleasing to the eye and the tastebuds!
My dessert of Amaretti and lemon cheesecake, orange jelly, honeycomb, with lemon mascarpone was rich and tangy
Trinity is an elegant and stylish restaurant which serves tasty food in fine dining style where the surroundings are relaxed and informal. It’s a lot bigger than it appears from the outside and there is a downstairs seating area too. Following in the footsteps of sister restaurant Varsity on St Andrew’s Street, Trinity has the same emphasis on great flavours and knowledgeable service with a finely tuned Modern British menu celebrating carefully sourced fish and meat. The food is exceptionally well-presented with evidence of some real cheffy artistry at work, and it was delivered to table very promptly. (Impressive on a busy night and a sure sign of a well-run kitchen.) We were served by Ashley who was professional, warm and enthusiastic and a real asset to the restaurant.
Trinity is not the place for an inexpensive meal out but it’s ideal for a special occasion or celebration and excellent value for food which tasted as good as it looked. We paid £38 per head for three courses without drinks or service. Highly recommended and we’ll certainly be going back!
This is a working farm which has successfully diversified and is collectively known as Wyken Vineyards. The Leaping Hare comprises a classy interiors shop, cafe and restaurant, and there is a vineyard and lovely gardens which are open to the public and all are part of the private estate of Wyken Hall.
Wyken Vineyards is located approx 11 miles from Bury St Edmunds in Suffolk and it had been highly recommended by a friend as a splendid destination for a day out in the countryside.
Wyken Farmers’ Marketwhich islocated in the old stables blockwas open from 9-1 when I visited last Saturday with a companion. After a look around the stalls, we found the Leaping Hare restaurant for a spot of lunch. As an aside I have to say that the name of this restaurant appeals to me almost as much as ‘The Giggling Squid’ Thai restaurant in Bury St Edmunds. (Unusual names must be a Suffolk thing!)
It was one of those typically changeable English summer days when there was a heavy rain shower one minute followed by bursts of bright sunshine the next, so we were wearing macs and sunglasses!
We started lunch with ice-cold sparkling orange and cranberry drinks
We both chose the Eggs Benedict dish for our lunch
My companion chose a slice of light and moist carrot cake instaed of a dessert.
Still thirsty and enjoying a leisurely-paced lunch we orderd a pot of tea each from a selection and it was loose-leaf!
Wyken Vineyards restaurant,The Leaping Hare, is located in the 400-year-old barn. A Bib Gourmand in the Michelin Guide and now in its 15th year in The Good Food Guide, the restaurant tries to source their ingredients from a five-mile radius, so the beef, lamb, game and eggs are local (and when possible from the Wyken farm and estate) with fruit, herbs and vegetables from the kitchen garden.
Curious sign on the entrance door into the restaurant!
Wyken Cafe, which serves breakfasts and lunches daily, is also located in the barn and offers a lighter menu choice with the same quality of food and service as the elegant restaurant. Prices were on the high side but the food was exceptionally tasty. We paid £20 a head for our lunch which included two soft drinks each, cake/dessert and service.
There was also a Summer Exhibition in the Leaping Hare Cafe Gallery of limited edition prints of watercolours by Eric Ravillious.
The Leaping Hare restaurant is located in the 400 year old barn
Wyken Shop – The Leaping Hare Country Store
This very attractive and stylish shop apparently sells wool throws and blankets from Scotland and Ireland, braided rugs from North Carolina, French grape-picking baskets, Panama hats from Ecuador, and much, much more. The Leaping Hare Country Store also included the book room which houses a selection of books from small specialist publishers. I particularly liked the designer pottery, the chic and classic clothes and accessories, and their range of unusual cards and gift wrap. This veritable cornucopia of beautiful and useful household items and consumables was an ideal place to buy presents. I came home with a bottle of Good Dog Ale brewed by Wyken Vineyards for Steve!
The Wyken Farmers’ Market
At The Wyken Farmers’ Market, there was an impressive selection of stalls from local producers including farmers, bakers, and a distillery. I noticed fish, artisan cheese and fine tea stalls, and an abundance of organic fruit, veg, plants, flowers and herbs for sale. The Market is open from 9 am to 1 pm every Saturday.
Wyken is a 1200-acre working farm which includes a flock of Shetland sheep, a small herd of Red Poll cattle and in 1988 they established a 7-acre vineyard with some 12,000 vines. It has produced award-winning wines, including the English Wine of the Year, and in 2009 their ‘Wyken Bacchus’ won the East Anglian Wine of the Year,
On average they produce some 12,000 bottles a year, and these are all sold through their Shop and Restaurant. From the Leaping Hare, you can take a walk to the vineyard over Home Meadow and through the beautiful ancient woodland of the estate.
Wyken Hall Gardens
These beautiful formal gardens surrounding the Elizabethan manor house are crammed with topiary, herbs, roses, and fruit trees and you may see meandering peacocks, guinea fowl and chickens too!
The gardens are open from 27th March until the end of September, from 2 – 6 pm daily (except Saturday unfortunately, but all the more reason for a return visit!)
Wyken Road Stanton Bury St Edmunds Suffolk IP31 2DW
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 !
Fine dining at Cotto
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.
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
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.