Wednesday 3 July 2013

Review: Poet's House, Ely

Don’t you just love it when an exciting new place comes along? Every time I hear of a new opening in the area I do a little jump for joy (in my head only of course), because it feels like it's another string to Cambridge’s bow and a step towards shedding our foodie wasteland label. And by Cambridge, I mean our county not just the centre. The location for this post is Ely, just 20 minutes away and a great spot for a wander (and a good rummage at Waterside Antiques of course).

The lovely Heidi Sladen (from The Moving Foodie Blog and one of my partners in crime for Eat Cambridge) and I were invited along to try the new Poet's House and jumped at the chance. 

Poet's House is part of the House Collection, a group who take on old houses and converts them in to luxurious hotels. They will be opening Paddocks House in Newmarket in September 2013 and they have plans to take on a house in Cambridge centre at some point I believe.

On our weeknight visit we were ooo-ing and ahh-ing at the lovely bar and décor as soon as we walked in the door. It is mightily impressive. It feels elegant enough that you could imagine being there for a black tie affair, but equally cool enough that you could rock trendy/casual wear as well.

As we sat down to peruse the cocktail menu, a friendly face appeared; it seemed the bar man not only recognised me but knew my favourite tipple from his previous haunt. I am not sure what that says about me (well I am, but I'll brush past that) but I can't deny my love of the gin. Luckily it is my mother’s reward rather than ruin so don’t worry for me just yet.

The food was impressive throughout. My favourite dish of my three courses was a pea velouté with crispy egg and asparagus soldiers. The combination of having the waiter pour the velouté at the table, and my own love of releasing the runny egg yolk made it just my sort of dish. Equally I couldn’t get enough of the peanut butter crème brulee. Heidi did some more ooo-ing noises when she was eating her Riverside beef cheek with shallot tart and so I will take it from that that she rather liked it. She also had an intriguing Binham Blue cheese ice cream for dessert. It's not my thing, but as a savoury fiend she ate every scrap and announced it different but delicious when the waiter asked.

As a designated driver I left the wine alone for once. Heidi did ask for recommendations with each course but unfortunately they were more eager than informed. It is entirely possible that there is a dedicated sommelier come the weekend though.

Overall it is a sparkling new addition to our counties’ fine dining scene. I want to go back for afternoon tea and cocktails very soon and I do hope they might add some tables in their new garden for those occasional sunny days.

As I mentioned we were very lucky to be invited to try this fine establishment but a la carté would come in at around £30 for three courses (not including wine) and cocktails start from £7.50. 

Poet's House, 40 St Mary's Street, Ely, Cambridgeshire CB7 4EY

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Review: The Snug Bar, Cambridge

Memories of tipsy nights out (in a pre-baby world) give me a real fondness for The Snug Bar on Lensfield Road. So when I got chance to try the new menu and reminisce, albeit with a baby in tow and at lunchtime, I was keen to pop along.

As ever I had a good nosey at the menu beforehand and straight away the Magic Milk Bottles stood out as a must-try. Six mini potions to sip on is right up my street! I should probably make it clear here that we were trying both the food and drink menus, but ardent cocktail fan that I am, I sussed the beverages out first.

If like me, you love a cocktail but struggle to choose what to go for, then these mini bottles might float your boat as much as they did mine. They are a fantastic idea in my book - they quench both my need for a drink and my love of the quirky and miniature. I would have them every time, to share on a lunchtime visit but to myself anytime past 5!

As luck would have it, my husband favoured the Snugism, Amaretto Sours and Woo Woo (he loves a good girly drink!) and I guzzled the Margarita, Dune Bug and Cosmo. Other sharers on the new menu include the Tiki collection for two to share or the truly enormous B.F.G, served in a giant pineapple for a group drinking session. Plus you can find the usual array of tempting classics and Snug favourites on the menu as well. Those with a sweet tooth should flip straight to the dessert cocktail page - Banoffee Pie in cocktail form anyone? I loved the design of the new menus as well, especially the illustration showing what good stuff goes in your favourite tipple.

Our little girl Tilly seemed to like it too, here she is making her selection, she's a bit of a Cosmo girl already it seems!

Of course lunchtime drinking without a little sustenance would be foolish and I had my heart set on some fajitas. Pete went for a classic cheese and bacon burger. Both with some chips of course, mine sweet potato, his chunky.

The menu is full of classics, with the burgers taking centre stage. It was great to hear from Mike, the manager at The Snug, that they make it all by hand (the chips being the only exception). Misshaped burgers are testament to this. Next time we visit we will be trying the Coca Cola ribs, a secret recipe dish that takes the kitchen team a few days to get perfect - what with all that sticky marinating. They sound marvellously messy to me. Overall the menu has a slant towards a traditional American diner, which is a great shout as carbs and meat is exactly what you need when indulging in a cocktail or three. Saying that though, there are some great summer salads on offer too if you want a lighter bite. The grapefruit and radish salad would take my fancy on such an occasion.

Our food hit the spot. My favourite part was my sweet potato chips served in an enamel mug. I imagine I would have loved the burger too but it magically disappeared before I had chance to pinch a bite! My only niggle with the whole meal was that I would have like my fajita condiments to come separately (they came all together on some lettuce) but even as I write that I can see how petty it sounds. Please note here that I am the kind of girl who can't eat soggy toast and has to have my spaghetti hoops in a bowl on the side. Feel free to judge me - on the weird food preferences or my love of spaghetti hoops.

And of course no indulgent weekday lunch would be compete without a knickerbocker glory. Our choices of brownie and strawberry ice creams went down a treat.

The Snug has five sister restaurants, one of them is just up the road on East Road, but it is worth remembering that it is an independent. And it's always great to see a local restaurant doing exciting things. I will certainly be back for more Magic Milk Bottles and those ribs.

The Snug Bar, 67 Lensfield Road, CB2 1EN
01223 367684,

The Snug team were kind enough to invite us along to try the new menus and we didn't pay for our meal. They even entertained Tilly for us and didn't bat an eyelid when she threw chips on the floor!

Thursday 2 May 2013

Linton: the new Saffron Walden?

I love discovering a new place; somewhere I can take my one year old daughter, Tilly for a stroll and pick up some nice food at the same time. My staple favourites are Great Shelford, Mill Road and Saffron Walden because they all have that lovely community feeling and numerous places to browse. And now, rather splendidly, I can add Linton to my list. It's not too far from me in Duxford and recently both Jigsaw Bakery and The Linton Kitchen have sprung up on the High Street. Rumour has it there is a butchers on the way too.
The idea of wandering from one end of the high street to the other picking up fresh bread, popping in for some meat and then stopping by the Linton Kitchen for some veg, cake and a cup of tea really appeals to my romantic notion of going back to the old style of shopping.

Jigsaw Bakery
The bakery is run by Matthew Whitby who is up early on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Friday and Saturdays to bake his wonderful loaves. He puts on daily specials, from beetroot and feta focaccia to cranberry and white chocolate scones, plus staples such as bloomers, sourdough and baguettes.  
The bakery is open from 11am to 6pm Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and 11am to 2pm on a Saturday. A mummy tip: pick up an olive oil grissini for the journey home - it keeps Tilly occupied every time.

You can follow Jigsaw Bakery on Twitter and keep up to date on their specials on their Facebook page. Matthew is also a keen Morris dancer so expect some fine bell jangling on the Facebook page as well!

The Linton Kitchen
A girl after my own heart, Gemma Whiting loves local food so much that just last week she realised her dream of opening her own shop-cum-cafe. At the Linton Kitchen you can sit down to a cup of Hot Numbers coffee and slice of cake or be tempted by a hearty lunch - all lovely and all local. 

You can also pick up all sorts of essentials, including the most critical item of all - cake. The kitchen is open 8am to 6pm Monday to Saturday and 10am to 3pm Sundays.  

Find out more on their website Or through Twitter and Facebook.

The Flower Boutique
Just opposite the kitchen you can find The Flower Boutique. It might not sell anything edible but it's still right up my street - there's nothing like a few stems to brighten up a room. I normally justify buying them by thinking how many times they will make me smile when I walk in the room and somehow it makes them seem just as necessary as bread.

Have a look at some of their beautiful bouquets at

And now work is afoot for the butchers to open up next to flower shop soon so the high street will be even more bustling. 

Linton looks quaint and feels full of friendly faces so as far as I can see it is starting to give the likes of Saffron Walden and Ely a run for their money. I will be visiting often for a sourdough and a good cup of coffee. A village with a thriving high street is a great thing to see; they are few and far between in the age of the supermarket so do use these local spots as often as you can.

Mums - as an aside there is also The Spotted Giraffe for little ones, I am yet to visit but it looks nice. It's always good to know that there is somewhere for toddlers to wear themselves out - you might even get them to have a nap so you can enjoy a coffee in peace and quiet!

Wednesday 30 January 2013

I'm back and Eat Cambridge

I know, I know, I have severely neglected this blog for some time. Life seemed to get in the way for a while there but I am finally through the haze of becoming a first time mum and ready to get back out and eat my way round Cambridge again. 

You can expect more reviews and news to come very soon, but in the meantime I wanted to tell you more about my newest baby, Eat Cambridge. I am working with a team of other local food devotees to set up Cambridge's first proper food festival. It's going to be stupendously exciting and I can not wait for it to come to life in March. Bookings for the various events will open very soon. Please click on the image below to take a nosey at our website and follow us on Twitter for regular updates.

Tuesday 5 June 2012

Review: The Tickell Arms, Whittlesford

The new and improved Tickell Arms
And so, finally, The Tickell Arms in Whittlesford is back in business. The last time I went along (just a few weeks before it shut for over two years) it was in a very sorry state. It was charming, quaint and very lovely, but in a dilapidated sort of way. The trees were growing through the conservatory roof and the bar area looked very old and tired. But we still loved it, the food was pretty good and without sounding too much like a Disney fairytale, we had an enchanting evening.

The reclaimed furniture
After various rumours of takeovers and re-openings it was finally announced earlier this year that the Cambscuisine group had taken over and that the new and improved Tickell Arms would open at the end of May. The group already run four successful pubs including the two Chophouses,The Cock at Hemingford Grey and The Boathouse in Ely.

As it turns out it opened on Friday 1 June(a day over schedule isn’t bad going if you saw just how much needed doing). Assoon as I spied Mr Oliver Thain’s (from Cambscuisine and well worth a follow) pictures on Twitter on Sunday evening I convinced our band of Jubilee visitors to head there for lunch on Monday. So here's my verdict…

The décor is tastefully done, with almost all the original features restored in a sympathetic style. Some of the charm of the old place has been lost, but I think that’s inevitable when bringing something up to date. Plus, realistically the only other alternative was that it was left to fall down. The new owners have kept lots of touches that harken back to the days when the legendary Squire Kim Tickell was at the helm. For example they attempted to restore the old beer pump handles to working order but when that didn’t work, rather than get rid of them, they installed them as a centre piece in thebar area. In the snug room off the bar they have hung a copy of Tickell’s rules(no long-haired lefties and no men with earrings being some of the favourites) and his original crests. On our visit some locals who remembered the Squire well told us that the original rules had a rude word printed in large print at the top to make sure visitors’ attention was well and truly grabbed on the way in. (There are so many stories about Squire Tickell that I won't try and recount them here, plus they are not mine to tell. If you want to know more just pull up a pew in the bar and talk to a Whittlesford resident.)

Squire Tickell's infamous rules

The bar area

The old beer pumps installed on bar table
The food we sampled was top-class gastro pub style. It’s seasonal, hearty and very nicely presented. I would say it's just what you fancy nine times out of 10 when you go out to eat. Good, down-to-earth stuff, served in a decent portion and with fancy twists here and there. And with a set menu at £12 for two courses and £17 for three from Monday to Friday it’s very well priced for a mid-week supper out. My beetroot and goats cheese tian was a stand out dish for me, as was the duck parcel (both starters) and the men in our party thoroughly enjoyed their bangers and mash. We enjoyed a few bottles of the Malbec round the table and it was highly quaffable. We couldn’t find room for dessert this time around but we will do on our next visit.

Coarse chicken liver paté       

Beetroot and goats cheese tian

Posh bangers and mash

Chicken breast with tarragon risotto

I am chuffed to have such a great pub and restaurant within cycling distance of our house and I am quite sure we will become regulars. In fact I am planning our next visit very soon – mainly because I want to try someof the snacks they offer in the bar area. Pork scratchings are enough to get meon my bike any day of the week!

TheTickell, 1 North Road, Whittlesford CB22 4NZ. 01223 833025,

Monday 23 January 2012

Review: Balzano's delicatessen and café

One of the best things about being pregnant in January is that you can completely and utterly ignore all detox and diet resolutions. I'm already not drinking - except for the odd half pint of Guinness and black, purely for the iron content of course. And the idea of giving up cake or chocolate is simply laughable; they make up about 60 per cent of my diet at the moment. So for me and baby A, January is all about the cake. I've been trying out quite a few local spots and will blog about them all, but for now, the all-new Balzano's.

Tea and cake visit one: Balzano's

I met a lovely foodie friend (@VanessaFarrow) recently for tea and cake at Balzano's on Cherry Hinton Road. I have to admit that before our visit all I knew about the delicatessen was that their bread was unbeatable. Gog Magog Hills Farm Shop (@gogmagogshop) sell their granary cob and I can't get enough of it. With cheese, with a slab of butter, or best of all, with a bowl of hot chilli.

I'd heard all about the new cafe and the refurb late last year and been told it was lovely. And the rumours were right; Balzano's new look reminded me of the trendy Notting Hill delis that I frequented in a past London life. All the fixtures and fittings are a nice mix of modern and quirky, with wallpaper that you'd never be brave enough to go for yourself, but that completes the look perfectly. There's a big communial table to perch at while you have a coffee and lights that could have come out of a space ship. As for the deli itself, there's gleaming white shelves stretching the length of the shop, laden with lovely products and a cold cabinet full of various cheeses and charcuterie.

The lunch options were rather limited - from what we could work out it was a sandwich of your choice, filled with anything from the cold cabinet. Toasted or un-toasted. I had a simple Montgomery's cheddar and English roasted ham sandwich and my friend had aubergine and cheese toasty.

Cake options were numerous though. In my current baby-oven state all I want day and night is chocolate cake. And Balzano's devil's chocolate cake didn't disappoint my cocoa craving tastebuds. The cake was dense and soft, the icing chocolatey without being sickly. I could have had another slice.

The best bit: The overall look and feel of the place, it's fresh and modern and just what that end of Cambridge needs.

To work on: The lunch options - there's not a lot of choice yet and more hot options would be nice.

Balzano's 204 Cherry Hinton Road, Cambridge CB1 7AW. 01223 246168,

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,