I may call myself a food blogger, but I am shamefully bad at what food bloggers are meant to do, write reviews. You know, the archetypal wanker who takes out their phone at the dinner table and snaps a quick pic of everyone’s food before anyone is allowed to touch it. That used to be me! But recently I’ve been mostly posting recipes, a much more egotistical version of food blogging. So I’ve decided to cover a few staples of the Cambridge culinary scene. Some of the places I would be most likely to frequent when socialising, with the exception of the. Maypole pub, I don’t think it needs much more endorsement as I am probably single handedly financing it.
Ok so shameful plug, this is where I work. But they do have a fantastic Welsh Rarebit which generally keeps regulars coming back time again. Their simplistic approach to lunch is perfect for when you are craving a light classic lunch and the homemade cakes are a welcome change from the manufactured coffee shop chains. Plus I’ve heard the service is excellent.
Bills is a staple for breakfast whenever the parents are in town and they rarely fail to disappoint. I particularly recommend their vegetarian breakfast. It’s unusual to be able to find a veggie version that doesn’t just disappoint or try to replace meat with weak vegetarian versions, in Bills the meaty elements are replaced with tasty humours and guacamole, making it better ( in my eyes) than the original. Another highlight on the Bills menu are their cocktails. Not the first place you would think for a pre dinner drink but they have a modest menu of a mix of classics and more unusual cocktails. I highly recommend the Bramble Mojito, which (despite its bright purple appearance) packs a punch and carries a strong blackberry flavour without being too sweet (a fault happy hour cocktails often carry…). Of course when you have a drink there, you cannot fail but accompany it with some giant spicy tortilla chips, guacamole, tzatziki and salsa. The German Gal and I are addicted. So. Much so that I am ashamed to say on one particularly decadent occasion, we had one plate each to accompany our bramble mojitos… Crunchy, mildly spicy, giant, fried pieces if tortilla dipped in so creamy-you-won’t-believe-it’s-yoghurt tzatziki is fast becoming my idea of heaven. The one thing I have been let down on my Bills unfortunately is the main event, which seems a shame. When I went there for dinner with my family my chicken leg in a cremy sweetcorn sauce was tasty, but a meagre portion for £15 with no vegetables and barely any actual meat on the bone. Likewise when I came and had the chicken skewers with couscous salad and pitta on another occasion, the couscous salad was dry and lacked flavour. Maybe I’m just choosing the wrong things, especially when they get other things on their menu so right.
Cote is the posh dinner out for the Cambridge student, whether it’s date night, extravagent birthday dinner or parents in town. I recently went with a group of girl friends to celebrate the German gal coming back from Germany for the weekend. One of the main things that always confuses me about Cote is their insistence upon serving water in weighted bottles, which, whilst pretty, never seem to hold much water and also mean that you constantly forget you’ve run out of water as they always feel full. Cote usually get the food right though. They do a decently priced set lunch/ early evening which offers three courses for £11.90 or 2 for £9.90, one lunch there I had a buttery, sweet crumble with melt in the mouth vanilla ice cream oozing creaminess on the top.Back to the girls dinner.since Cote is ostensibly a french restaurant, I decided to go for the traditional cassoulet dish. I was not disappointed. There were large chunks of melting meat, especially the on-the-bone lamb fillet, and a thick comforting tomato sauce, full of punchy, meaty provencale flavours. My only criticism was that the pork belly was too fatty and would have benefitted from being roasted or flash fried before being added to the cassoulet so that you weren’t just faced with lumps of fat but scored morsels of flavour. The Queen soprano had opted for the Cote staple, pan fried steak with their signature chips, whilst there are many good steak houses in Cambridge (the best has to be Cau, closely followed by Cambridge Chophouse) Cote definetly wins the price for simplicity and flavour. Their steak doesn’t apologise for being flash fried, medium rare as the Parisians like it and with the ultimate french fries, think as moreish as McDonalds after a night out, if they used less chemicals, less saltand gave you a real napkin. All in all with Cote, you know what you’re getting. They do classical french well, a chain that doesn’t feel like a chain. Having said that, they rarely change their menu which can mean that you feel a tad bored after the 5th visit in so many years.
I made a sneaky visit to Jamie’s pizzeria with an old friend when they came into town. Zizzi’s had failed me on a Saturday night, but the 17seater pizzeria upstairs in. Jamie ‘so was practically empty. It was a shame. It’s not outrageously expensive, it has a simple menu in the vibe of a rustic Italian trattoria and has decent wine served in short wine glasses in an eclectic fashion. Admittedly the pizzeria is tucked away upstairs and can be intimidating with the intimacy of the setting, but it more than makes up for it with some of the best tomato sauce I’ve tasted in a chain italian restaurant. The pizza base is that thin, scorched crisp bread variety which I last had at the pizza show in Rome. ( literally what it sounds like, a five course pizza tasting menu for €10 – I love the italians the tomato sauce carried an incredibly punchy tomato flavour, I dispersed with dollops of half melted mozzarella for the authentic rustic Italian meal. This pizzeria lacks the finesse and diversity of the pizza express pizza but it is way more authentic and dare I say it, much more tasty.
Finally the to go venue for the yummy mummies of Cambridge. Stickybeaks is the ultimate kitsch home-made style cafe. The sort of place that students playing ladies who lunch would aspire to go. Which is exactly where the anthropologist professor, Labours secret weapon and I went, in a break from choir rehearsals. (Admittedly it was more because we wanted a different scene to the monotonous chains of pret and Eat than we aspired or had the time to be ladies that lunch but you get the idea). It’s the sort of place where you share tables, newspapers and food magazines are offered as a courtesy and iced coffees are served in tumblers. However despite the fact Stickybeaks could very well adhere to this cutesie vibe and overcompensate with the food, the simple salads and warming treats (such as the sumptuous sausage roll, thick tortilla or layered coconut granola pot) are well made and fairly priced. We were never talking subway prices but you have to be be willing to give independent cafe a bit more, plus the ambience. My Chorizo and egg salad is the main reason I include Stickybeaks on the list, well worth the money, the salad was flavoursome, eggs cooked to order to perfection and served with crunchy croutons for a filling (healthy feeling ) lunch.