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Great restaurants and pubs in Cambridge

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Visiting Cambridge for the first time. A great place, but there is not too much out there on what's good around here in terms of food and pubs.

Can you recommend some notable restaurants in the area? Also, heard there are pubs with great English beers with curries. That would also be nice to know.

Thanks!

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  1. The Good Food Guide has these as their highest ranking restaurants in Cambridge, which probably equals pricey. But very good does not come cheap. :-)

    Alimentum
    Cotto
    Midsommer House

    1 Reply
    1. re: zuriga1

      Midsummer House is a very well regarded Michelin 2 star so meets the "notable" criteria with ease.

      Cambridge does have some great pubs (my favourite was always the Free Press) and East Anglian beer is good especially Adnam's pubs (Green King seems to have lost its way as it grew). Pubs that serve curry are likely to neither serve decent beer nor good curries (both Thai and Indian), the same is true of Fish & Chips in pubs. Lots of places may do it but that doesn't make it any good.

    2. Three miles outside of town in Madingly is the Three Horseshoes. Food, service, and ambiance are really good. I have been there on two seperate occaions for dinner and once for lunch and visits left me and my dining companions wanting to return during our next trip to Cambridge. You must make a reservation for dinner otherwise you risk traveling there and having to turn back.

      There is a great cozy boutique hotel called Hotel Du Vin. They have a wine cellar and bar in the basement. There is an expansive selection of wines and cocktails and the service is good. There is one main room and a couple of smaller more intimate rooms off the main bar that seat 4-6 people each.

      7 Replies
      1. re: jenniferjones

        Thanks guys! These sound like great recommendations! It's unfortunate a pub with great food is a myth. I heard the Rice Boat is great for curries. What are your thoughts?

        Thanks!

        1. re: suetibu

          hello !

          dude, not a fan of the Rice Boat. i've honestly no idea how they keep their above-average reputation; they're exceptionally average, with skimpy portions. i wouldn't recommend any cambridge indian restaurant (from any region), to be honest: you'll get nothing particularly special anywhere. sorry to sound cynical, but i really have put some time into this... it just ain't happening :( . (the best option for some years, Asia on regent street, closed last year and is now an underwhelming anglicized chinese restaurant under the former management.)

          will you have access to a car? please let me know; if so i'll venture a couple recommendations besides the Three Horseshoes, which i heartily second in the meantime.

          as for Cambridge-proper options, at lunchtime Cotto is worth the slight trek from the centre: nice, varied menu, and they're often not quite as rushed and jittery as they sometimes appear in the evening. i'm a well-wisher here, but wouldn't say that they're 100% consistent at dinner. specTAcular desserts, though, every time.

          current restaurant after my heart: Le Gros Franck. if you're here on thursday, friday or saturday, book for dinner : http://legrosfranck.com/ . unpromising location near the station; pretty unexceptional decor (tho the downstairs dining room is quite pretty); but the food is **just** great. big and yummy and full of flavour and just exactly the kind of stuff you want to eat. and one of their signature desserts -- the one with the macaroon, the chocolate creme, and the meringue (all flawless) -- is a guaranteed smile.

          and -- if you've got some ££ to spare -- cambridge actually has a solid quasi-isakaya, Japas Bento Box on Saxon Street! i've been a few times and dig their croquettes, yakitori and udon menu; well-made and creative maki, too. but the prices *will add up.

          1. re: suetibu

            Try Cocum on Castle Street for Keralan-style Indian food -- gets more raves than Rice Boat. Standard high-street style curry houses abound in Cambridge and some are better than others. I always liked The Ghandi on Regent Street and The Golden Curry on Mill Road. The Wrestlers on Newmarket Road, though, is an exception to the pubs and curries rule as Thai food served in pubs is a bit of a thing in itself. I happen to prefer The Wrestlers' Thai food to typical Americanized Thai which is IMO too sweet. If you want well kept English real ale and a Thai curry (you really do), you must visit The Wrestlers.

            1. re: chickendhansak

              Check out this other thread on Cambridge:

              http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/6617...

              1. re: chickendhansak

                We visited Wrestlers' in May of this year and were somewhat disappointed. The food was average to good, but we have found several London pubs that serve better Thai. It is also located outiside of the city centre in a somewhat non-attractive commercialised area. The service was good and the owners were very nice, but overall we would not return.

                1. re: jenniferjones

                  Being out of the way in an unlikely area makes it even more worthy of a mention on Chowhound if you ask me. The appeal of The Wrestlers as a consistent city pub for Thai and well kept real ale is very long established in the area and for at least 18 years they have kept up a standard while other Cambridge-area pubs have come and gone as Thai food venues. The Wrestlers is the prototype. The clientele is a nice mix of east Cambridge locals and computer industry types, for whom The Wrestlers has been a meeting point since the Acorn Computers days. (Something like the Mary Chung/Pu Pu Hot Pot of Cambridge.) On match days, it's a pre-match drinking venue for Cambridge City fans so can be even more of a mix.

                  I accept that for visitors there might be better Thai in pubs elsewhere in England (London is nearly fifty miles away) but for a curry and a good pint of local real ale in the city of Cambridge proper, I don't think The Wrestlers has a single peer.

                  1. re: PhilD

                    Yes, if you are looking purely for the food -- though in my long experience of Cambridge in particular, I'd say the differences were marginal between The Wrestlers and the various Thai restaurants around town. But I think The Wrestlers is a good counterexample to the general rule that you won't get good curry in a pub, which I agree with on the whole.

          2. Alimentum on the Hill's Road is good - they have good value set menus.
            http://www.restaurantalimentum.co.uk/

            I also recommend the Punter: http://www.thepuntercambridge.com/

            In terms of pubs, I second the Free Press suggestion; also the Kingston Arms and the Cambridge Blue are both local institutions and worth a look. We've also had some distinctly above average pub grub in the Devonshire Arms, which is now under new ownership.

            2 Replies
            1. re: serah

              Agreed on those pubs, especially the Devonshire Arms and the Cambridge Blue. The Castle Inn on Castle Hill is also worth a look, and nearby (pretty much across the street) is Cocum, as mentioned above.

              1. re: chickendhansak

                Kingston Arms, YES for food! really good value, & have had some lovely fish and various grills there.

            2. Unfortunately, I think "Great restaurants in Cambridge" is a bit like "Great French military victories"; they just don't really exist. Any review of a restaurant here really has to be appended with "for Cambridge" - i.e. Midsummer house is a good restaurant, for Cambridge. I'm sure that if it were in London there is no possible way it would be two michelin starred (one, perhaps).

              IMO Alimentum is really sub par, it seems to me that the chef has ideas well above his culinary skill (this from two visits).

              The Wrestlers is very disappointing, I think Sala Thong is much better - it is a good Thai restaurant (FC).

              The Chophouse is decent but unspectacular, and better than it's sister, the St John's Chophouse.

              I kept on hearing great things about the Oak Bistro, what a waste of time that was! Never again.

              The Three Horseshoes is nice, but a little inconsistent. I've even there several times, and had some really good stuff, and some average. Certainly one of the better places to try out.

              Am going to try out Le Gros Franck soon, fingers crossed.

              Sorry for such a negative post, but I grew up in Cambridge and have spent 20 years of my life in the area, it's very depressing from a restaurant POV!

              -----
              Alimentum
              152 - 154 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8PB, GB

              6 Replies
              1. re: davew666

                Maybe we will just end up at the Premier Inn. :-)

                Alimentum gets a rating of 6 in the Good Food Guide, and that's pretty high. I trust your judgement as you live there and know the area.

                -----
                Alimentum
                152 - 154 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8PB, GB

                1. re: zuriga1

                  well by all means try it, maybe you will love it! The only reason I can give for the high ratings is Emperors New Clothes syndrome.

                  Midsummer house is pretty good if you don't mind the £. It has one major problem though; EVERY dish is sweet, or has a sweet element. I don't mind that in a few dishes, but when you have amuse bouches, pre starter, starter, main course x 5, pre desert and desert, and they are ALL sweet it i a bit much. It must be good for some people's palates (I found Lindsay house to be the same) but last time I went with my wife and parents and we all felt the same.

                  1. re: zuriga1

                    Yet others really like both Midsummer House and Alimentum - I was only reading a review on Alimentum yesterday and the writer (whom I respect for his taste) thought it was really very good. He especially praised the bargain set meal I think lunch only. Worh a shot - always good to get a range of opinions.

                    -----
                    Alimentum
                    152 - 154 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 8PB, GB

                    1. re: PhilD

                      This trip of ours to Cambridge is a very last-minute thing, so I haven't really had time to book much of anything. Next time, I'll do a lot more planning and try some of the better-known places. Maybe we can get to one for lunch. I can add my voice to the other reviews but probably not on this trip. As you said, it's not good to take on the opinion of just one person.. about anything. :-)

                      1. re: zuriga1

                        I went to Midsummer for the first time last month and thought it 2 stars all day long. Lots of clear, precise flavours with plenty of depth. Of the 10 course taster a few dishes had sweetness to balance things out but none of it was out of place IMO. Stand-outs were an incredible tian of crab with avocado (which they served us two of because we raved so much) and the main proper of beef fillet with a feather-light mini suet pudding.

                        All in all one of the best meals I've had this year. I'd not hesitate to recommend it.

                        1. re: marcus james

                          Midsummer really seems to divide opinion. It is clearly respected by the guides and I've read great comments on people who've been but I've also read some scathing comments. My experience unfortunately fell more into the latter. The food was decent enough but certainly didn't seem to reach the heights that I'd expect from some where so highly rated. This may have had something to do with a total lack of attention the day that we were there. I'm not sure if Daniel was out of the restaurant that day but the overall feeling of the restaurant was poor. I had to request the waiter 3 times for the wine list to go with desert. I then had to request my ordered glass actually be served since my soufflé was now on the table and needing eating. I had finished my coffee by the time that the MD came over to offer the petit fours so we actually asked that we take them away since I couldn't face another double espresso. The culmination of their incompetence came when the bill was delivered. They had pretty much left off all of the food that we had eaten so the bill was £50 - £100 shy of what it should have been (lunch menu). I was so hacked off with the service that we'd received that for the only time ever I didn't flag up the discrepancy. I should also highlight that the restaurant was pretty quiet so this wasn’t even a case of them being too busy.

                2. There's also Little Seoul at the bottom of Regent Street. Lovely kimchi pancake, good tofu stew (chigae) - it has shellfish in it, which I didn't expect and which it should state on the menu for veggies, but I like it. Good noodle dishes and lunch specials too. http://www.littleseoul.co.uk/

                  And Trockel Ulmann & Freunde is a good lunch bet - small and crowded but good soups and baguettes and cake! http://www.localsecrets.com/commercia...

                  These are the only places I eat at in Cambridge, but I haven't been to the new Fitzbillies yet. Coming from the US I expected a college town to have lots of good, cheap places plus some nicer fancier ones, but students and professors eat at their colleges and somehow it is assumed tourists don't care. Sad.

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Foodie94

                    We had lunch at the Fitzwilliam Museum cafe. Aside from being run fairly poorly (huge queue), the food was a bit better than acceptable, although a tad expensive even for England. I'm sorry we didn't try Fitzbillies... it was very busy and the bakery was small but everything we tried was delicious.

                    I might be wrong, but I think most university towns here are unlike Oxford and Cambridge when it comes to where students eat.

                    1. re: Foodie94

                      Foodie - I think you will find all UK University towns have great pubs as students here will sacrifice solid food for liquid nourishment. I went through University on a diet of beer, cheap curry and egg, bacon & beans. For a treat we would have a sausage sandwich with our pints...! For some reason I found it tricky to form long term relationships with girlfriends...!

                    2. My sister was at Cambridge and her suggestions are:

                      Rice Boat -- Indian
                      "Something" Bistro -- She is an idiot
                      Rainbow Cafe -- vegetarian
                      Indigo -- Bagel place (cute)

                      I went to Rice Boat and it was a great indian restaurant

                      1. I went to le gros franck recently. Sadly it fits in with all the other restaurants in the area, and I won't be going back. Had a truly terribly rabbit terrine that had bits in it that were uncuttable and certainly inedible; never had anything like it before! We also had an oxtail stew which was pretty tasty, but I could have made it at home, and what's the point in paying £15 for that?