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!
It’s been a while now since my last blog post (Easter) and I’ve been waiting for something really special to share with you. Steve and I recently enjoyed a lovely holiday in Costa Verde, Northern Portugal and I found plenty to write about. It was our first visit and we explored an area resplendent with colour, sunshine, seafood, striking architecture, and much more. We stayed at Casa da Galé – a villain the picturesque coastal village of Moledo doMinho. We were within walking distance of one of the area’s most scenic sandy beaches. It was very quiet being low season, and although the weather was good the unspoilt beach was often deserted.
Our holiday home Casa da Galé was a charming stone cottage with a pool, which was set on several levels amidst spacious grounds of lawns and fruit trees.
We visited some picturesque cities like magnificent Porto with its stunning architecture and enjoyed several delicious meals in restaurants where locally caught seafood was always on the menu. We found eating out to be generally inexpensive and soft drinks were usually priced at one euro. Beer was also cheap and we drank copious amounts of SuperBock Portuguese lager!
A striking piece of street art seen in Porto
Just two of the lovely restaurants where we enjoyed traditional Portuguese cuisine. We found it a challenge at most places to understand exactly what we were ordering because we didn’t speak the language, but although the food and drink were sometimes not as expected it was always delicious!
The vast and colourful weekly market held in Barcelos sold everything from livestock to furniture, so we came home with a few interesting souvenirs.
The pretty harbour at Vila Praia de Ancora
The tiles are outstanding on these harbour front houses in Ancora
This shopping street in Vila de Castello was hung with gaudy and highly effective umbrellas
We loved the ornate door and the coloured tiles on this town house inVila do Castelo
Entrance to the Town Hall at Ancora
I loved the look of these apartments in Vila do Castelo
We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car
We explored Northern Portugal in a Fiat 500 convertible hire car, and I’ll have to put together another blog post of Steve’s wonderful photographs to really do the holiday justice.
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.
New riverside venue The Punt Yard is a perfectly located eatery on picturesque Quayside in Cambridge.
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.
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.
We enjoyed a selection of drinks including zingy house cocktails, Amstel on draft, Ginger Beer and table water served in a retro milk bottle.
We loved the interior decor and the staff were fun, helpful and very friendly!
The 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!
Under new ownership, this stylish independent has had an elegant makeover and we’d heard that both the food and service were excellent. Since it’s re-opening last year Varsity has become very popular and it frequently features in any ‘Top Five’ list of the best Cambridge restaurants. Steve and I have been waiting for a suitably special occasion to dine there, so this week we booked a table for our anniversary dinner and we weren’t disappointed, – in fact unusually I found nothing to grumble about!
For his main course Steve enjoyed a 8oz rib-eye steak with chestnut mushroom ragu, hasselback potato, and mushroom ketchup with a side of tenderstem broccoli, with chilli and sesame. He particularly relished the potato drizzled with truffle butter for added oomph!
For my main course I chose Roasted chicken supreme, wild mushroom and leek truffle tagliatelle, with port sauce. This chicken dish was incredibly rich and tasty, and unfortunately I had no room for a dessert.
Steve chose to end his meal with the Cheese Board which came with a selection of his favourite crackers, with homemade chutney, fruit, celery, and a glass of port.
The staff are friendly and attentive, the ambience is intimate, and although the restaurant was almost full I observed that it wasn’t noisy or loud. Prices are a little on the high side, but I would recommend dining at Varsity for a special occasion lunch or dinner, and I noticed that people on adjacent tables were celebrating a birthday and an anniversary too. You will enjoy imaginative, Modern British comfort food at it’s very best served in generous portions. We paid £86 for our meal with drinks.
Great news for local foodies – Varsity opened a new sister restaurant called Trinity on 8th April, and I can’t wait to try it!
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.
This week I had not one but two good reasons to celebrate as it’s the 2nd anniversary of the date I started my blog and it was a friends birthday, so we treated ourselves to a delicious Full Afternoon Tea at the Bedford Lodge Hotel and Spa in Newmarket, Suffolk.
We ate in the elegant Squires restaurant which although contemporary was the epitome of comfort and luxury that one would expect from a 4 star country house hotel. It was very quiet on a Thursday afternoon so we had the restaurant entirely to ourselves. The service was friendly and attentive, and we were offered limitless refills of pots of tea which I always think is a prerequisite of an Afternoon Tea, but unfortunately this doesn’t happen everywhere.
The food was freshly-made and served on attractive Villeroy and Boch china, with white linen napkins and tablecloths. The finger sandwiches had exceptionally tasty fillings and were generously filled. The scones were extremely light and still warm when served with the very best lemon curd I have tasted anywhere. In fact, I liked it so much I asked if they sold it in pots to take home. (They didn’t!) We also had both plain and fruit scones, with plenty of clotted cream and strawberry jam.
In addition to a delightful selection of cakes and sweet treats we also enjoyed a refreshing seasonal fruit sundae served with a dark chocolate spoon, which was a lovely touch.
Presentation of the Afternoon Tea was especially attractive and appetising. Although we had skipped lunch deliberately we soon ran out of room, so a selection of cakes were boxed up for us to take home to enjoy later.
We had a guided tour of the elite spa adjacent to the hotel which has superb facilities at surprisingly affordable prices, so we plan to book a spa day there soon.
Newmarket is the ancestral home of British horseracing and a unique town in Suffolk which is well worth a visit. The Bedford Lodge Hotel would be an ideal location to stay, and I’m more than happy to recommend Afternoon Tea at the award-winning Squires restaurant – which is open to non-residents.
Next time I visit I intend to try the Gentleman’s Afternoon Tea which was a quirky twist on the traditional. Our Afternoon Tea was £18.95 per person which was exceptionally good value, and is served from 2.30 to 5.30pm, throughout the year. This stylish hotel is set in lovely grounds and there is ample parking.
I only have one minor quibble, and that is the tea was not loose-leaf which one would expect from a hotel of this quality, but a selection of teas were available (or coffee if preferred).
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 Steve and I enjoyed a tasty meal at new brasserie Millworks with friends Andrew and Brendan. Located in a historic former watermill on Newnham Road, Cambridge, Millworks has been open for three months and it’s the seventh restaurant in the excellent Cambs Cuisine group.
A spacious and eclectic renovation with a vibrant atmosphere and an industrial feel to the interior where diners can eat alongside the now restored working watermill, we found the restaurant busy on a cold weekday night. Features included exposed brickwork and pipes, factory style lighting, and copper piping with lots of interesting retro artefacts dotted around. There has been other restaurants on this waterside site in the years I have lived in Cambridge, – the most memorable being Sweeney Todds, which lots of people still fondly remember,but none were more attractively designed than Millworks.
The Millworks menu features a lot of barbecued food and it’s dominated by meat dishes, with sharing platters being an appealing option, but fish and veggie options were available.
Presentation was attractive and all the food was freshly cooked to order on the custom-made charcoal grill, and accompanied by sauces, salads, bread and fries.
We chose the Meat Fest and Chicken Fest platters to share. The Chicken Fest platter contained a half chicken with thyme, lime and garlic, BBQ chicken, southern fried chicken wings, spiced mango chicken thighs, tomato, red onion and lettuce salad, celeriac and mustard slaw, BBQ corn, fries, pickles and three sauces, – Salsa Verde, Béarnaise and Chipotle Salsa. We also ordered a side of Mussels in a Cider Butter Sauce with Grilled Ciabatta, and Mac ‘n’ Cheese with Parmesan and Truffle oil. The food was delicious, except the flat iron steaks which we all agreed were a little on the tough side, but the BBQ ribs and chops were exceptionally good.
I drank Schiehallion, a lively draft Scottish craft lager from the Harviestoun brewery, and my three companions shared a litre carafe of house red which they described as average and it was served too cold. We also ordered carafes of sparkling and still water for the table and instead of dessert the men either had a whisky or a coffee to complete their meals.
It was a relaxed dining experience and the staff were friendly and efficient. I was particularly impressed that although it was a busy night, food and drinks were served very promptly
After a most enjoyable evening at Millworks we paid a reasonably priced £32 per person with drinks, but not including service. Booking is advisable at this very popular restaurant, which is highly recommended and despite a couple of minor quibbles we all plan to return.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.