Cambridge - heeeeeeelp!
Ok, so I moved here last month, I'm having a hell of a time trying to find decent food.
For a start, I'm being fed college food every day and there's a chill running through my bones - perhaps such prolonged brutality will result in my love of spice, taste or flavour completely vanishing!
The town is a mystery so far. There are a handful of cheap and cheerful 'curry houses', but I'm not expecting much and have yet to venture in. There is a nice veggie, vegan, gluten-free place opposite Kings with a lovely atmosphere, hot sauce on the tables and nice burritos, but I'm seriously craving asian.
Given the amount of asian students here, I'm cradling a bulb of hope; there are whispered rumours that an oasis of interesting ethnic food exists outside the historic centre somewhere....
(cambridge phD/four-years'-strong resident here ... hope i can be of some help ... )
gosh, it's sad that Mill Road -- almost certainly this 'oasis' you've been hearing about -- is 'whispered' of; it's all of seven minutes outside the centre, which puts it well past the 'Reality Checkpoint' (central crossroads in Parkers' Piece :)) but hardly anywhere that qualifies as 'far'! it's not your fault, but Cambridge is a pretty sheltered place, man; and it's certainly true that if you want any decent food, you'll have to break out of the Kings'-Sainsbury's triangle....
Okay, so the first thing to do is to get yourself to Mill Road, like, immediately. there you will find several asian markets with various national/regional strengths. two of these are indispensable: Al Amin ( http://www.al-amin.com/ ) for southeast asian, and Cho Mee (very close to Al Amin, near the railroad bridge) for east asian. there's another market, Oriental Direct, that stocks mostly chinese ingredients and lots of frozen wontons and things, but I prefer Cho Mee. there's also Seoul Plaza, which is the place to go for ginormous tubs of kimchee and perhaps the odd Pocky fix.
On to restaurants: Green Box Sushi ( http://greenboxsushi.co.uk/ ), just on the other side of that Mill Road bridge, opened a couple of months ago and is far and away the best sushi in the area. Perfect rice; very skillful handling of sashimi and nigiri (quite generous portions too) -- the suzuki seems especially good; some rather exciting maki, too. Try anything with salmon skin :) . Teri-Aki near Magdalene College does better versions of cooked japanese staples -- oyako-don, unaju, etc. -- but for raw fish and rice, Green Box all the way.
Shanghai Family Restaurant on Burleigh Street, near the Grafton Centre/Vue cinema, doesn't look like much but does some really fantastic homestyle Shanghainese cooking. Bring a couple of people and get the Chef's special pork, which is a whole ham hock stewed hong-shao style (in a sweetened soy sauce braise) and portioned into tender, practically melting shreds for easy lifting. it's robust and flavourful and among the chinese dishes available in cambridge, it's pretty much not to be missed. the Ma Po Tofu (version w/ pork) is just as good. prices are reasonable and they're very sweet people.
among takeout places we're VERY partial to Dragon on Mill Road. order from the things pictured / handwritten-up on signs over the counter. the hot & sour soup is serious stuff (get it really spicy!!) and the Tan Men is very good.
closer to town, Asia, a very kitsch-looking place on Regent Street, is actually surprisingly good, with lots of stuff on the menu that's hard to find elsewhere. had a fantastic Goan fish curry there the other day. it's maybe 10-15% pricier than some other curry houses in town but the quality and consistency of the cooking, varied and interesting menu, etc. makes it well worth it, i think.
and finally, if you can deal with a bit of a bike ride, The Wrestlers pub, just across from the BIG Tesco, on Newmarket road, does some very respectable Thai food. (There's decent Thai scattered all across East Anglia, actually, but that's another post for another day.) Been 4-5 times and always leave happy.
....Okay, I hope that starts you off! cheers, and please report if you visit any of these places -- would be good to get a second opinion!
we all love feedback! :0)
Went there Saturday night, fairly quiet. Friendly greeting downstairs and we were ushered up into a room with a bunch of chinese students.
I ordered a beer, double cooked pork and the ma por tofu. My friend ordered the diced kung pow chicken and we got two bowls of rice. Everything was steaming and in huge portions flecked with chilli, this was exactly what I was looking for and I was totally salivating. Spicy, hot, yummy.
Craving satisfied for now...Thank you!
there is also the rather lovely 'thanh binh'. A really great Viet place on Bridge Street, It is BYO (small corkage fee). Good value and in the older part of town.
also, in the very small area of Cambridge that is familiar to academics, there is riceboat. Kerelan food, not that great in my opinion but quite highly regarded in Cambridge.
Just down the road there is Sala Thong (the first thai restaurant in Cambridge I believe) which has a good reputation. I have not been for a couple of years and I have always had lovely meals there. Not much of an atmosphere though. Both of these places are on Newnham Rd.
For Indian food. There are many, my current favourite is Panahar, on Norfolk Street.
Seoul Plaza on Mill Rd also sells pretty good Korean food. They sell good Korean style sushi on tuesdays and fridays (gets delivered at around noon and sells out pretty fast) and some other nice prepared things too. Cheap.
re: jack van praag
shanghai family is lovely.
tried riceboat - was 'ok' for sth indian but the portions are MEAN. The colonial-era place on castle street does a fair vindaloo but don't expect anything ground-breaking.
really need to try 'The Wrestlers' having been on a good thai streak that ended with a wondrous meal at Sripraphai in New York.
avoid the mexican take-out burrito place, good grief.
now on to college rankings for food........
I have long lamented that Cambridge is a culinary wasteland, esp compared to Oxford - but I do like Little Seoul in Regent St, http://www.littleseoul.co.uk/. Good lunch deals, nice tofu chige (stew), pork/beef bulgolgi, and kimchi pancake, and my friend who lived in Korea likes their dukpoki (rice cake). It's not Manhattan's Koreatown (heaven when I used to work near there) but it's one of the only places I'll eat in Cambridge. Tatties (jacket potato cafe) doesn't do it for me. Been to Rice Boat but their portions are stingy and they are not half as good as my fav Keralan in London, Rasa Samudra - http://www.rasarestaurants.com/UserPa....
Cocum on Castle Hill should get a mention for Keralan -- I've heard it's better than Rice Boat and I've never been disappointed with Cocum over several visits.
There is a place on Mill Road (corner of Gwydir Street I think) that does some of the more popular Indian Chinese dishes at reasonable prices, but I can't remember the name right now. I expect that is unique in Cambridge. Had a decent Sichuan chicken there.
Seconding The Wrestlers (a pub on Newmarket Road near the Tesco's), which is an institution locally for its Thai food -- the curries can be excellent. It doesn't have much beyond the typical curries and noodle dishes, but it should be on any culinary tour of Cambridge IMO.
You should also try the spicy potatoes in any of a number of chip shops and kebab shops around town. They are almost unique to Cambridge.
The Mill Road kebab shops change hands a bit these days but near the Mill Road mosque you should be able to find some high quality doner kebabs -- sometimes I've had halal meat there that blows away the typical mechanically recovered kebab lollipop.
Ahh, I forgot about that Korean - had a nice pork bulgogi and a seafood pancake.
Also, Cocum is indeed nice, most of my Indian / Pakistani friends at college went there on a regular basis. Not cheap enough for me to visit often though.
Van of Life - nice Polish guys who have to deal with a lot of ****.
The Chinese Indian sounds interesting...Mill Road beckons come Michaelmas!
The Mexican place (Manna Mexico?) you mentioned above started life as a food truck, and I remember the food being surprisingly good when they started, near the BBC Radio building on Hills Road. However the Regent St. place was disappointing the one time I tried it.
I think the truck still turns out around town, possibly to the Milton Road Science Park and to events on Midsummer Common, and is worth supporting.
Another decent destination for noodle and rice dishes in a vaguely Japanese/Asian fusion environment is Dojo, on Mill Lane off Trumpington St./King's Parade.