Monday, 21 November 2011

Lunch at Ladurée

This week's blog post takes a short trip away from Cambridge to our fine, foodie capital. A few weekends ago we spent the day in London as a birthday treat for my husband. Having splurged on theatre tickets and a posh dinner reservation we thought we'd go for a cheap lunch. Fair enough I felt, and I truly believed we would. Until we decided to look at the baby things in Harrods(purely for a bit of a giggle, a £3,500 crystal encrusted Moses basket isn't really for us) and I spotted a sign for Ladurée. That was it, I couldn't not go and I promptly dragged my poor man through the corridors towards certain expense. After all Miss B, from agirlastyle raves about Ladurée macarons and I'd never tried one. 




I assured Mr BWC that it would just be a cuppa and a macaron or five and we sat down. Two club sandwiches (£16.50 each), a strawberry milkshake (£5.80) and a cup of Thé Jardin Bleu Royal (£2.95) later he was full, but a little shellshocked.




The club sandwich was good, as far as club sandwiches go and the milkshake was a delightfully fruity and creamy concoction, but for me it was my tea that made lunch so special. It was infused with wild strawberry and rhubarb and was like a taste of summer in a china cup. Being a girl with a penchant for all things afternoon tea I felt the whole experience made up for the rather steep prices. The birthday boy wasn't convinced, but I don't suppose a selection of tiny puffs of meringue in pastel shades were ever aimed at a Geordie rugby player.


The best bit After our sandwiches I got to go and choose a selection of macarons. Just the beauty of the box alone made me smile, and tucking into them as we enjoyed our front row Warhorse seats made a lovely change from rustling a box of Maltesers.


Something to work on The clientele. Surrounded by minor royals, Russian oligarchs and American billionaires, we felt positively inadequate. I can imagine there might be a flaw in my request here, so more realistically, perhaps they could remember to put the bacon inside the sandwich next time? [see picture above]


Ladurée Tea Rooms, Ground Floor, Harrods, 87-135 Brompton Road  Knightsbridge, London SW1X 7XL 020 7730 1234, harrods.com/visiting/restaurants/laduree



Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Recipe - Jammy Biscuits


When days are dull and dreary, there's only one thing to brighten your mood and that's some good old-fashioned baking. In my book the most heart-warming kind includes recipes that reminds you of your childhood. For me that's gooey apple and saltana flapjack (we used to add at least double the golden syrup), simple fairy cakes decorated with crazy faces and jammy biscuits, the ones with a large thumb print in the middle, filled with strawberry jam. 


I remember loving pushing my thumb into each one and dolloping a big spoonful of jam on top. I think my mum liked making them because they are nice and easy and she could leave me to finish them without worrying about me. [And she did have reason to worry, I was so greedy as a child that I once pushed my finger through a metal icing nozzle (one with very sharp 'teeth') to get the last bit of icing out, and then couldn't get my finger back out again. Hours, and many tears, later dad had to saw the nozzle off. I wasn't allowed to ice things after that.]   


I made these biscuits again recently and because I had been bought some lovely edible flowers for my birthday I sprinkled them on top for a nice, grown-up touch. I also used my very own homemade rhubarb jam instead of the traditional strawberry. The best bit about these biscuits is that although I say biscuits they are really a cake-cum-biscuit. Because of the self-raising flour they rise a bit and the final result is soft and chewy.


Jammy biscuits
200g self-raising flour
100g caster sugar
100g butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 tbsp jam - whatever flavour you like best

Heat oven to 190C/gas mark 5. 

Get your hands stuck in and rub the flour, sugar and butter together and then add the egg until the mixture comes together to form a stiff dough. Tip: If you want your jammy biscuits to come out perfectly round then put the dough in the fridge for an hour at this point, if you're not that fussy then read on.

Divide your dough up into even, small balls, remember these will spread and rise slightly and so they will come out bigger than they go in. Place on baking tray and push down, making a small dent with your thumb (or end of wooden spoon if you don't want to use your hands), then drop a teaspoon (or more) of jam in the centre. Bake for 10-15 mins until slightly risen and just golden. 

Perfect at 3pm with a glass of milk.



Monday, 7 November 2011

Review: The Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge

The newly refurbished Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge

I like to think I keep up-to-date with the comings and goings on the local food scene, but when I saw various Twitter mentions of a new and improved restaurant just a mile from my front door, I realised I might have fallen behind a tad. The Red Lion at Whittlesford Bridge has been around for quite sometime (since the 13th century in fact), but it's one of those places I've never thought to visit. It might have something to do with the fact that I stared at it every morning for two years when commuting to London from Whittlesford station next door. But now the pub, hotel and restaurant has undergone a major refurbishment and boasts a large conference room, a cosy bar and restaurant, and most importantly, a tempting new menu. The words 'home-cooked' 'hearty' and 'traditional favourites' had me booking a table in no time.

We popped along quite early on a Thursday evening and the bar area was already bustling and had a lovely, welcoming atmosphere. The pub is right next door to a large new Holiday Inn Express but far from competing with the budget hotel, they warmly welcome residents for dinner and a drink in the evening. This means the pub has a nice mix of business types sitting down to dinner, locals in need of a pint and families after a homemade bite to eat. There are lots of cosy little alcoves to hide away in and the pub plans to have a roaring inglenook fireplace in the snug area very soon. 

Homemade pork cracklings
We decided to indulge in some homemade pork crackling while we decided what to eat. It was very good indeed, crispy but not teeth-breakingly so, chewy but not in that undercooked, limp way. It came with a nice pot of sweet apple sauce, and the sweet and salty appetiser was a great start to our meal.

I've gone from being a 'leave-room-for-sweet girl' to one who much prefers a starter. I always find starters the most tempting dishes on the menu. And in this case it was an easy choice for me. I can't get enough beetroot at this time of year and so I tucked into a starter of beetroot carpaccio. Carpaccio is perhaps a little too grand an explanation for the dish but it was a lovely salad nonetheless, with walnuts and slivers of Grana Padano to compliment the earthy beetroot.

Beetroot carpaccio
I am a real retro lover and the mere whiff of the past attracts me, so obviously I had to go for the 1970s style homemade chicken kiev. It was perfect – oozing garlic butter and served with creamy mash and a deep fried leek. I should have ordered some fresh veg as could have done with some crisp freshness to go with it but that was my oversight. My ever-predictable husband tested the bangers and mash. It’s the marker he tests every cook by and he certain wolfed this one down quickly.

1970s style chicken kiev
The lovely general manager, Ross from Edinburgh, showed us around the renovated hotel. There are 18 unique guest rooms, we had a peak in what would be the bridal suite (the hotel does weddings too) and it was very luxurious. It had a bath in the bedroom and was beautifully decked out in cosy looking fabrics and vintage furniture. As a hotel, The Red Lion is the perfect option for visiting family or those who fancy a trip to the war museum nearby. Ross also filled us in on some interesting facts about the historic building - for example the alcohol license dates back to a visit from James I in 1619, and the large oak table in the new atrium area in made from an old beam that used to run the length of the hotel.  

We enjoyed our visit and will certainly be returning for more hearty food soon. And once that inglenook fireplace goes in you'll have to get there early to beat us to the sofas in front of it!


The best bit The pub and restaurant is a cosy cuddle of a place. Everything about The Red Lion is welcoming - from the staff to the traditional food on offer. 

Something to work on As a local girl I would love to see the pub on Twitter and tweeting regular offers and incentives – but then I would say that!

Station Road East, Whittlesford, Cambridge CB22 4NL
01223 832047, trlh.co.uk (new look website coming soon)

Friday, 21 October 2011

Writing for Cambridge Edition

I have recently been lucky enough to be asked by the lovely editor of Cambridge Edition magazine, Nicola Foley, to write a series of 'five of the best' features for them. My first two have been on fine dining and roast dinners and it's been great fun researching them and meeting even more lovely, local foodie types. The November issue is out now (with my top five roasts and a review of Zara Indian Cuisine) and you should be able to pick up a copy on your travels. If you missed the October issue then you can read my fine dining piece here (on pages 26 and 27). 



You can read more from Cambridge Edition at cambsedition.co.uk and by following them on Twitter @CambsEdition.

Thursday, 25 August 2011

Fitzbillies and those buns

I couldn't let another day go by without blogging about finally tasting the, infamous-all-over-again, Fitzbillies Chelsea bun. It was a gooey, sticky, curranty triumph. I can't think of an occasion when it wouldn't be afternoon treat perfection, washed down with a nice cup of Earl Grey, one sugar please. 


A gooey, glorious Fitzbillies Chelsea bun
And as if that wasn't praise enough, my Nan, a fan from childhood, said they were exactly as they used to be when she was little. She ate hers with relish and then called everyone she knew to tell them just how good they were.


More sweet treats
We took our Chelsea buns away to devour but next time we will definitely eat in. The Cambridge blue tiles set the place off a treat and it all felt very decadent and civilised. I might even try a carrot cake cupcake next time, after my Chelsea bun of course.


Fitzbillies cafe


Fitzbillies, 52 Trumpington Street, CB2 1RG
01223 352500, fitzbillies.com

Tuesday, 2 August 2011

Recipe: Cherry and Nectarine Clafoutis



After a few long, hard weeks of eating out and sunning myself in Spain, I was desperate to get back in the kitchen and actually cook. And as I am up north for a few days I had even more of a treat in store -  my mother-in-law's red Aga, just sat there all warm and cosy and waiting to be used. I decided to make a pudding that has long intrigued me but that I'd never attempted - a cherry clafoutis.


I took the basic recipe from trusty Waitrose (you can find the orginal here) but I made a few adaptations. I didn't have enough cherries left after nibbling my way through a few handfuls, and so I made a cherry and nectarine concoction, and whereas Waitrose recommended six drops of vanilla extract I only used four as I find it overpowering.



Ingredients

300g cherries, halved and stoned
2 nectarines, stoned and finely chopped, skin on
10 tbsp caster sugar
75g butter
100g plain flour (could use 50g flour and 50g ground almonds for a denser finish)
1 egg, plus 3 egg yolks
4 drops of vanilla essence
Zest of one lemon
160ml milk
160ml whipping cream (or double, some upermarkets seem to have taken away the whipping option for some odd reason)

Mix the cherries and nectarines and sprinkle with 1 tbsp of sugar and leave to stand for a few hours.

I cooked mine in the baking oven of the Aga (which needed a slightly longer cooking time) but if you don't have that luxury (as I normally don't), then preheat oven to 190c/gas mark 5, once you are ready to start and the fruit is nice and juicey.

Heat the butter until golden and then leave to cool. Brush your dish - whatever one you fancy but around 20cm for circular, and then sprinkle over 3 tbsp of caster sugar. This will add a crust to the finished pud.



Mix the flour with a pinch of salt and make a well in the middle. Pour the eggs, the last 6 tbsps of sugar, the lemon zest and vanilla extract in the middle and whisk slowly to a smooth paste. Once smooth incorporate the milk and cream, and then the browned butter.

Combine the mixture with the cherries and pour into your waiting dish. Bake for 35-45 minutes (I found it needed closer to 50 mins in the Aga). I toasted a few flaked almonds while it cooked and these looked pretty sprinkled over the top.



The clafoutis is best eaten warm from the oven with a sprinkle of sugar and a large dollop of clotted cream ice cream. We found it was the perfect dessert after our hearty beef roast.

I was pleased with the final result but next time I might try it the purest's way - with whole cherries. Obviously this will result in the rather unlady like gesture of removing stones while eating, but apprently the flavour and juiciness that the whole cherries produce is more than worth it.  

Monday, 18 July 2011

Review: Nanna Mexico






Of all the food cravings I have, the one for spicy, fill-your-mouth-full-of-flavour is the strongest. Sometimes only a steak will do, sometimes I just need the delicate, freshness of fish, but when I need some spice I just have to have a hearty, mouth-tingling Mexican.


Luckily for my cravings, Cambridge has its very own spicy gem. In my book Nanna Mexico on Regent Street is Mexican street food at its best. I love the way it has such an easy-going vibe - you could be en route to a big night out, popping in for a lunchtime bite or grabbing a burrito before going to the Arts Picturehouse. I have been on all these occasions and I have had a great experience everytime.


My most recent visit was the best so far. Unsurprisingly this is linked to the fact that I finally tried their frozen margarita. And it was a tangy, limey, tequilla-fueled treat which hit the stress spot within two sips. They had another new drink on the menu since I'd been last - an aqua de horchata, a cold rice milk with vanilla and cinnamon that is perfect for taking away the heat of their spicier options.


My tinga quesadilla
We tucked in to a tinga quesadilla and a cubana torta on this occasion, as recommended by the charming restaurant manager, Mane. I usually go for the chicken but I have now recognised the error of my ways and it's tinga for me from now on. The winning filling is a spicy mix of chicken and chorizo marinaded in a chilli chipotle - it packs a spice punch and along with the stringy cheese, a fresh guacamole and a smidge of sour cream it would quench my Mexican craving every time. My burger-loving other half went for a torta - a Mexican take on the meat in a bun, with ham, pork, chicken and pineapple. It was his kind of meaty feast. Unusually I was allowed to try some too and for me the pineapple was the clincher - just like the Hawaiian pizza it cut through the salt of the meat and made the Mexican burger a must-try.


Pete's cubana torta


Nanna Mexico is one of those Cambridge gems - we are lucky to have them. It's tasty food, it gets your juices going and it fills you up and leaves you satisfied. Plus if you're really lucky you might catch a glimpse of Mane's dancing! And unless it's lunchtime, or perhaps even because it's lunchtime, always have the frozen margarita.


The best bit: The fact that all of this came in at well under £20. And if that wasn't good enough they also do Twitter Tuesday offers (they are on Facebook too but the alliteration isn't quite there) - just follow @NannaMexico. Plus they offer a great BOGOF offer on their best seller, the Big Ass burrito - just join their mailing list for the offer.


Something to work on: I wasn't a huge fan of the stainless steel plates, something more rustic might be nice. 


Nanna Mexico, 33a Regent Street, Cambridge CB2 1AB. 01223 363439, nannamexico.com.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Stonkingly good

Walden Local Food market and some of my Stonking produce


As part of my new foodie working life I spend one day a week making up jams, preserves and chutneys for Walden Local Food. They are a weekly produce market based on Butcher Row in Saffron Walden and everything they stock is sourced within 40 miles of Saffron Walden. Every week the lovely market manager, Liz, drops off any produce that they haven't sold and I devise a recipe to use up the glut. It means that whatever I make also uses ingredients within 40 miles (even the jam sugar comes from the British Sugar factory in Bury St Edmunds) It's great fun not knowing what I am going to get and looking through recipes for inspiration. So far I have made jams and curds from rhubarbs, gooseberries and summer fruits, as well as elderflower cordial and some piccalli. There should be a tomato chutney on the way soon.

So far my jams seem to have been the bestsellers and so I thought I would share the recipe for the chunky strawberry jam that I made for the market this weekend.





Chunky Strawberry Jam 

2kg strawberries, hulled but left whole
600g jam sugar
Juice and zest of one organic lemon


Gentle heat 3 tablespoons of water with the sugar and lemon zest and juice until the sugar melts and then add the strawberries. Bring to the boil and leave at a rolling boil for 10 minutes. If you have a thermometer then get the temperature up to 105c. Bear in mind that this is a runny jam to allow the fruit to remain whole so don't worry too much about checking for setting, it won't fully set.



As you can see the final result is a beautiful scarlet see-through jam laden with whole strawberries. Perfect on toast, dolloped over ice cream, or my new personal favourite - served with some warm-from-the-oven shortbread. The most delicious afternoon treat. And if you have some creme fraiche handy then a double dip, creme fraiche followed by strawberry jam is messy but quite superb in my book.


You can buy my Stonking jams, preserves, cordials and more at Walden Local Food market, every Saturday 8.30am - 3.30pm on Butcher Row, Saffron Walden.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

A mid-week treat: 12a club and Bill's Cafe, Restaurant and Bar

Mid-week cocktails always taste better than weekend ones. There's something about drinking on a school night that goes to your head. It feels naughty and you know you'll regret it, but it still brings out the 'I know I shouldn't, but go on, just one more then' in all of us. 


I couldn't have picked a better drinking partner for cocktails last Wednesday night. I headed out to meet Briony Whitehouse, a Cambridge-based fashion blogger who is a bit of a big deal, not that she'd ever say it. Earlier this year she was one of Red magazine's top 20 under 30s and she gets over 50,000 hits to her blog, agirlastyle.com every month. But aside from all that she had a lovely twinkle in her eye, the most beautiful shoes on and was game for a drink or two.


We met at 12a club, the new-ish (it opened last November) member's only bar in Cambridge. Managed by the charming Mark Pope, the bar oozes sophistication. You can imagine a secret daliance or two playing out here. The decor reminds me of what I imagine an old don's office might look like - plush with lots of leather and a wealth of antiques and collected treasures. 


Butterfly Boston absinthe

A Cambridge Butterfly
They have a range of obscure and exciting spirits behind the bar. Each one has a story and Mark knows them all. Pick a bottle, any bottle and he will regale you with its history and flavour profile. I was attracted to the Butterfly Boston, a vintage looking little bottle containing an absinthe that Mark informed me started life in Boston in 1902, hence the name, slipped away after prohibition and was revived just last year. As you can imagine, it's not your bog standard absinthe, this one is smoother and the aniseed punch is really quite subtle. Mixed with grapefruit and a splatter of violet syrup, it tasted superb in my Cambridge Butterfly. 


Our second cocktail came with nibbles


Briony was rather flattered that Mark had read all about her penchant for pears and had some of the conference variety in specially for her. She had two pear concoctions and enthusiastically sipped each one, letting us know just how good they were. Most cocktails cost around £8 and when you consider that they are made to your specific tastes by a mixologist who really knows his stuff, that is a great price. You would need to factor in the membership fee though.  

Cocktails make you hungry and we heard that Bill's Cafe, Restaurant and Store had opened that night and was just round the corner. For Cambridge dwellers, it's where the Slug and Lettuce used to be. It's the fourth restaurant in Bill's small chain, they started off in Lewes and have now popped up in Covent Garden and Reading too. It prides itself on a great breakfast menu - and they'd be right too, bubble and squeak with mustard mash and fried eggs will definitely draw me back again. 


Bill's Cafe, Restaurant and Store, Green Street
Now I'm not a standard burger kind of girl, I hate them at a barbeque and rarely order one in a pub. It's not that I don't like burgers as a whole, it's just that they can so often be the hardest thing to get right. But for some reason, when it comes to a lamb burger I have to order it. I think it has something to do with a particular lamb burger with goat's cheese and the most perfect crispy chips that I enjoyed on an almost weekly basis throughout university.


The lamb burger at Bill's was a good one as they go. The meat was juicy and surrounded by a nice thick layer of white cabbage and red onion. The bun had a shiny top that hinted at a brushing of syrup or such like and insinuated it must have been made on the premise. One or two chips were a bit soggy and the wooden board was a little on the small side for a knife and fork burger-eater like me, but it was really very good overall.


Briony went for a lighter goat's cheese tart that was laden with pesto and rocket and she declared it a great option. We indulged in a last drink of the evening in the form of a hedgerow fizz; a small glass of Asti or similar with blackberries in the bottom. At just £3.75 it was a nice refresher.

Lamb burger with yogurt and mint
The walls were stocked from skirting to ceiling with Bill's produce - preserves, dressings, oils, chocolates and more. I bought some of Bill's apple juice (£3.45), which came wrapped up like a present and has since brightened my breakfast with its sweetness.

The walls stocked high with produce
Bill's is a welcome addition to the Cambridge restaurant scene, I will be going back for a brunch soon, most probably after a night of cocktails the evening before.


The best bit: 
12a Club What else, the cocktails of course. Everyone in Cambridge should sample one. Get in touch with Mark through Twitter (@12aClub) to pop along for a drink and a show round.


Bill's The restaurant is open fronted to allow you to sit and people-watch along the lovely Green Street. Plus a bursting brunch menu and some nice soft drinks options - a pink lemonade float would have be a definite had we not just guzzled cocktails.


Something to work on: 
12a Club With nibbles, events and daytime opening on the way, there's truly not any obvious flaws. Membership deals might lead to a buzzier feel but then I am told weekends are busy and of course a deal would not really be in the spirit of things.


Bill's So far so good. As long as opening standards are maintained, i.e. sticky tables and tatty menu syndrome doesn't set in, then I will certainly be back.


12a Club, Market Square, Cambridge 01223 350106; 12aclub.com


Bill's Cafe, Restaurant and Store, 34-35 Green Street, Cambridge CB2 3JX. 01223 329638; bills-website.co.uk

Monday, 27 June 2011

Vintage Sunday

Yesterday was a day full of summery joy. In the afternoon I went along to Miss Sue Flay's vintage tea party at The Barn at Kneesworth. It was a cake-filled treat. Sue Flay surpassed herself once again. She treated her glamourous vintage-loving guests to a table laden with goodies. There were carrot cakes in jam jars, scones topped with caramalised pecans, ice cream cupcakes, a raspberry ripple cake and of course finger sandwiches for all.


Mini carrot cakes in jam jars

Ice cream cupcakes - filled with sponge and toffee

As well as a fill of cakes there was also enchanting music from Kate Garner and the chance to have a browse and a shop at the barn. If you haven't been along to The Barn at Kneesworth yet then do go - there's vintage clothes and gowns, children's toys and a play area and a huge selection of nearly new children's clothes and maternity wear.
My delightful place setting

The raspberry ripple cake

Scones and vintage shades

The lovely Kate Garner entertained us all afternoon

Tempting bits and bobs from The Vintage Shed at The Barn at Kneesworth

Clothes from The Vintage Shed - I was tempted by those floral shorts!

!
The party in full vintage swing!

Miss Sue Flay has more exciting events coming up - including a Zombie Tea Party on 8th July and a Punting Party on 14th August, you can book up at The Secluded Tea. Great cake guaranteed!


Come the evening I went along to Singing on the River at King's College. It was a magical occasion - the choir sang from punts and treated the crowds to a range of numbers, from choral to current pop. Their take on SClub7's Never Had a Dream Come True was genius and my clear favourite. Cee Lo Green's Forget You had me tapping my foot on the punt as well. There were shouts of encore for Danny Boy, and the gathered crowds all sang along to Minnie the Moocher. A highly recommended evening out in Cambridge. We went along through The Cambridge Punting Company (@letsgopunting)who looked after us very well indeed.


The choir belting out some great numbers

The crowds enjoying the concerts. Those on the punts had front row seats!



Tuesday, 14 June 2011

The summer of food



Ask any food enthusiast in Cambridge where they like to eat out and you'll get the same reply. They'll list a handful of great independent restaurants, before going on to muse that really, there's not much choice. In a city responsible for some quite astounding scientific discoveries and world famous literature, the food and restaurant scene has lagged behind somewhat. 
Until now that is. I think Cambridge is about to get a lot more interesting for those of a foodie persuasion. 


Not that it’s been entirely dull in the past of course – there have always been spots of gastro greatness. We all know who they are, but they have always stood out as a few in a mass of sticky menus, microwave meals passed off as 'gastro' and terrible, terrible milky coffee.
Perhaps it's the summer sun going to my head but I think there is a real stirring at the moment. There are lots of tummy rubblingly good things about to happen. Here's just a few that I'm clearing my diary for...


Alex Rushmer, set to open his much-anticipated restaurant next month. Photo by @photolotte
First up, Alex Rushmer, Cambridgeshire resident and Masterchef finalist, plans to open his new restaurant in July. Alex is keeping schtum about exactly where the new place will be, 'a nearby village' is all we know so far, but is guaranteed to be good. From what I've heard diners can expect what could be termed 'proper grub' but with a touch of Alex's adventurous cooking style. And rumour has it that the Sunday lunches are going to take some beating. You can find out more about the opening by emailing bookings@alexrushmer.com


Those Chelsea buns, about to be restored to their sticky glory

Come August husband and wife Tim Hayward and Alison Wright will be re-opening Fitzbillies. Long termed a 'Cambridge institution,' but sadly, long falling short of this reputation. But not anymore. You can rest assured that Tim, a Guardian food writer, will not rest until those Chelsea buns are returned to their former, gooey glory. Those with a love of all things sticky and sweet should be excited. You can find out more at chelseabuns.com.

Gog Magog's resident pet turkey, Clive
If you prefer rustling something up for yourself with great quality ingredients then you'll probably already frequent the local farm shops. Neal’s Yard cheese, a proper cup of coffee and a friendly and informative butchers make Gog Magog Hills farm shop and deli top of the list. They are opening a larger café in the next week or so and will be turning the Cart Shed (the current café) into a dedicated deli area. Charles, Marcus and the team have more exciting plans afoot and so expect more temptation soon. In the meantime their twitter account @gogmagogshop is the best place to find out about their tasting days and all the gossip on the new cafe.

The wine bar at Cambridge Wine Merchants
There's really little point in a good meal unless you have good wine to swig alongside it. We're covered on that front too. Cambridge Wine Merchants have gone from strength to strength over the past few years, winning countless awards and putting on successful tasting events almost every week. For those after a weekend wine retreat, the Cherry Hinton road branch has recently opened a wine bar. There’s nibbles from nearby Balzanos and selected wines by the glass, or you can pick a bottle to enjoy for a £5 corkage fee. Call 01223 214548 to get a table on your chosen evening.


It's an exciting time, I think you'll agree. As nice as a trip to London to try a new place is (and honestly, go to Spuntino for the lamb slider alone), having a range of independent restaurants and delis to visit is pretty unbeatable in my book. I am sure there are countless other exciting local ventures that I am yet to find out about - please do tell me about them below. And if you like a decent meal and quality ingredients as much as I do then get in touch - I have plans to try and unite those who love to eat in a new Cambridge club in the near future. 






   

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Cambridge's best bargain lunch

As local twitterers may have noticed I am a bit of a fan of The Punter on Pound Hill. I always recommend it to those after somewhere independent in Cambridge. The mix of relaxed decor, fairy lights (they always get my vote) and a seasonal menu make it a great local spot in my opinion. Plus it never fails to have at least six mains on the menu that I struggle to decide between. 


How does a girl choose between local asparagus, pea and mint risotto with glazed goat's cheese and seam bream fillet with Jersey royals, beetroot and samphire? As an ex-fussy eater I know how hard done by you feel when only one thing on a menu appeals, and so to go somewhere where I immediately want to order everything is rather nice. In an ideal world I would take four or five friends with me every time I go just so I can try a bit of each dish (obviously they would have to agree to let me dictate exactly what they order which might prove tricky, even for someone as bossy as me). 

The Punter's daily menu
Fantastic menu and vintage chic décor aside what I really want to rave about is their £5 lunch menu. Every day the pub has three lunch options, often slightly adapted from their full menu (which you can choose from as well of course). Perhaps I am easily pleased but to my mind £5 for a hot, seasonal, proper plate of food for lunch is a bargain. Especially when you consider that there are plenty of places around charging £10 for fish and chips or a burger for lunch.

Local asparagus with Parma ham and truffle dressing 
I went along today to meet some friends. There was mini fish pie and chips, a mushroom and blue cheese quiche and a cassoulet on offer for the £5 lunch deal. Now after all my gushing above I have to admit that I got a bit distracted and went for asparagus with Parma ham and a truffle dressing, which was not part of the lunch deal but still very good at £6.50. My friend had the fish pie and very nice it looked too.

Mini fish pie and chips

So I suppose what I am trying to say here is, if you fancy a nice bite to eat with friends in your lunch hour then try The Punter’s £5 lunch – it changes everyday but if you call mid-morning then they can let you know that day’s choices.

The best part Seasonal food, relaxed atmosphere and that £5 deal.

Something to work on Letting people know just how great they are – or perhaps I can do a bit of that for them?


The Punter, 3 Pound Hill CB3 0AE. 01223 363322; thepuntercambridge.com

Small disclaimer – I just wanted to point out for the more cynical amongst you that I have no connection with the pub whatsoever. This review is completely independent.