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Cambridge foodie guide: where locals eat and drink

Published: September 18, 2018 at 1:33 pm
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Check out our guide to the best independent coffee shops, restaurants and bakeries in Cambridge. From fine-dining to Scandi brunches, read our guide here

Looking for Cambridge restaurants? Here are our favourite restaurants in the university city. The best foodie spots include brunch, gelato and vegan food. Check out our ideas for eating and drinking in Cambridge, from Petersfield to Parker's Piece and beyond…


For more exciting restaurants and weekend ideas for food lovers, check out our best UK city breaks.

Cambridge Cookery School – best brunch in Cambridge

If you’re looking for a relaxed brunch spot take a 15-minute stroll from the city centre to Cambridge Cookery School. White tables and chairs, grey marble counters and low-hanging lights give it an airy, modern vibe, with families chatting over cappuccinos and slices of spiced apple cake.

The food is Scandi-inspired (as is the crockery, all from Finnish company Iittala), so expect Swedish platters of herring, beetroot, dill-cured cucumber and house rye bread. The ingredients themselves are sourced locally (or made in-house, as in the case of bread and pastries) from Audley End House kitchen garden, Croxton Park organic estate and Leech’s butchers. Fika is also a focus, with couples sitting on courtyard seats and digging into cinnamon buns and fresh-from-the-oven croissants. If you’ve room to spare, the rich, dense brownies are not to be missed.

Next door to the café, the cookery school runs classes throughout the week, so peep through the glass doors to watch pastry being rolled and croissants proving.

On a Friday evening, the team make the most of any leftover produce, cooking and delivering a meal for 30 guests from Jimmy’s homeless shelter.


Scrambled eggs with chilli and avocado on sourdough toast at the Cambridge Cookery School 2

Jack’s Gelato – best gelato in Cambridge

This sleek gelato parlour serves a range of inventive flavours, all made by hand in small batches in the downstairs kitchen. Ingredients are carefully considered, be it coffee beans sourced from Essex-based The Coffee Officina or Pump Street chocolate used in the stracciatella flavour.

Come rain or shine there’s usually a queue down the street, but it’s worth joining. The menu changes daily but if they’re in stock, make the most of your cone with some hazelnut brittle, sweet-salty treacle or refreshing alphonso mango sorbet. You can also expect white peach, Greek yogurt and elderflower sorbet throughout the year.

In the summer months, you’ll find the cool Cambridge crowd gulping down scoops of rhubarb and rose sorbetti from the parlour’s tricycle, which travels around the city, but it’s worth a visit in the winter too for a scoop of the mince pie flavour. If you’re really peckish (or can’t visit on a regular basis), buy a 1L tub of your favourite flavour to store in your freezer.


Cones topped with hazelnut brittle and salted treacle gelato at Jack's Gelato in Cambridge
These are our best ice cream recipes including:
  • Roasted banana caramel swirl ice cream
  • Brown butter ice cream
  • Chocolate and black pepper gelato
  • Blackcurrant ripple ice cream
  • Instant mango fro-yo
Chocolate Gelato Recipe With Black Pepper

Hot Numbers Coffee Roasters – best coffee in Cambridge

With two cafes in the city, Hot Numbers Coffee Roasters (named after the record store that once traded on the adjacent street) is a must for caffeine lovers. The menu is split into two sections – black coffees or espressos with milk. Choose between a filter, a pour-over or a nitro cold brew in the summer months.

All the coffee is single origin and roasted in nearby Stapleford. Choose between beans from Costa Rica, Ethiopia or El Salvador and they’ll rustle up your drink of choice (or, if you want to brew your own at home, buy some beans to take away).

We recommend the Gwydir Street branch, an airy space with large warehouse windows, communal wooden benches lit by dangling filament bulbs and a peppering of pot plants. In the morning students sit tapping away on laptops, scribbling in notebooks and catching up over brunch (avocado on fluffy cornbread, punchy chilli with burnt lime and sweet shredded carrot…) while in the evenings you can sit and sip to a background of live jazz.


Avocado and poached egg on cornbread on Hot Numbers Coffee Roasters Cambridge

Stem and Glory – best vegan food in Cambridge

For some of the best plant-based food in Cambridge, detour down a residential street to Stem and Glory. The bright space, dotted with white tables and plants, is as fresh as the food on offer. For something hearty order the Keralan curry with roast cauliflower, its rich tomato and coconut sauce served with sweet raw carrot and coriander ‘rice’.

Small sharing plates are spot on, from a warm salad of golden beets and charred baby gem with a sweet orange and mint dressing, to smoky aubergine with fragrant quinoa tabbouleh.

Desserts are not to be missed either; order a slice of the raw blueberry and banana cheesecake, packed with nuts and dates, to takeaway. Or, dig into a slice of blood orange cake, generously soaked in maple syrup and topped with toasted pumpkin seeds and creamy soy yogurt.

Book ahead for lunch on a Sunday when the restaurant buzzes with families tucking into the kitchen’s signature hazelnut and mushroom nut roast, served with maple-roast parsnips and spiced red cabbage.


Click here to read about the best veggie and vegan restaurants across the country

Fitzbillies – best baked goods in Cambridge

Fitzbillies is a Cambridge-institution, its two branches loved by students and locals alike. The original café, on Trumpington Street, has been around since 1920, and dark wooden-panelled walls and window displays of tiered cakes add to its historic feel.

If you fancy somewhere with a fresher vibe, head to buzzing Bridge Street and grab a seat on the high stools in its window, while the whirr of a coffee machine and the chatter of families rumbles gently in the background.

Be prepared to queue on a weekend, but it’s worth it for its signature Chelsea buns, gently spiced and bursting with currants and sticky sugar syrup. If you can, stay for a brunch of sourdough toast with poached eggs, or a grilled cheese sandwich. If not, order a sausage roll or a sticky bun to take down to the river with you.


Parker’s Tavern – best for British classics in Cambridge

The hot new dinner spot in Cambridge, Parker’s Tavern is a British brasserie that’s part of the University Arms hotel. Chef Tristan Welch is at the helm and, after three years working in Mustique (and, prior to that, at Le Gavroche and Glenapp Castle), Welch has returned to his home town, creating a menu that celebrates East Anglian produce. Expect homely classics, such as fish cakes and potted shrimp, alongside pies and roast meats.

Start with silkily smooth truffled duck egg on toast, laced with truffle-mushroom mayo and sherry vinegar, or the lightly spiced coronation chicken, served with sweet chunks of grilled apricot, nuggets of almonds and crisp butter lettuce.

Mains are hearty, from tender duck served with creamed potato and bitter spinach to roast suckling pig with crisp crackling, sweet juices and smoky braised fennel.

For those with a sweet tooth, the Duke of Cambridge Tart is a must. A reinvention of a historic pudding, the sticky treacly spiced marmalade filling, on a buttery pastry base, comes with a generous dollop of thick clotted cream.


The dining room at the University Arms hotel. Red leather seats hug the pale grey washed walls which have Cambridge-inspired artwork hanging on them

Midsummer – best fine dining in Cambridge

If you’re looking for Michelin-starred dining in Cambridge, book a table at Midsummer House. The two-starred restaurant has recently celebrated its 20th birthday and it’s a classy spot, with light, conservatory tables laid with crisp white cloths and vases of dainty flowers.

Choose between the à la carte menu or an eight-course tasting menu (a lighter lunch menu is also available midweek). Dishes focus on British produce, be it braised Cornish turbot with clams and gnocchi or Cumbrian lamb served with heritage tomatoes.

The killer dish? Scallop, truffle and apple has been on the menu since the restaurant opened and it’s easy to see why. Made with Bramley and Blenheim Orange apples grow in the restaurant’s kitchen garden it’s fresher than a college quad in Fresher's Week.


Roasted Sea Scallop Celeriac and Truffle Puree at Midsummer House
Credit: Tim Green

Steak & Honour – best burgers in Cambridge

Plastic trays, communal and counter seating, and a queue out the door to order from the till don’t necessarily conjure up images of a must-visit restaurant but Cambridge‘s latest, Steak & Honour, is greater than the sum of its parts.

A short menu above the equally bijou open kitchen on the ground floor of Steak & Honour displays this three-storey restaurant’s specialty for all to see: burgers. It was designed by chef-owners Leo Riethoff and David Underwood, who met while working at Michelin-starred Alimentum in the city before joining forces in Steak & Honour mark I, a vintage Citroën van. Another van, and several years and burgers later, and this time the duo have laid roots on Wheeler Street in the city centre.

The ‘classic’ proves that a well-made burger is hard to beat. A soft and not-too-sweet brioche bun from local Dovecote Bakery hugs a simple patty of ground beef (nothing else) from Riverside Beef, whose cows graze on pastures and water meadows of Cambridgeshire and the surrounding counties. It’s served pink, is the kind of juicy that will risk dribbles down the chin with every bite, and is exceptionally well-seasoned.

Don’t skip the sides, either – they are yet another reminder that there’s a supremely talented pair of chefs behind the grill. Three-cheese mac & cheese is good enough to fight over.

Click here to read our full review of Steak & Honour

Steak & Honour food

Places to stay in Cambridge

Looking for places to stay in Cambridge? Here are some boutique hotels in the area.

University Arms

Originally opened as a hotel in 1834, the University Arms has undergone an £80m transformation by architect John Simpson and the interior designer every hotelier wants to work with, Martin Brudnizki, adding a glamorous new facelift to its elegant, historic bone structure.

The white stone building, with its striking Corinthian-style pillars and grand entrance, sits on Cambridge’s lush Parker’s Piece (an open green). Parquet flooring, Cambridge Blue walls and locally inspired artwork gives it a fresh but quintessentially Edwardian English vibe, and the dapperly dressed concierge swiftly appears to greet you good day.

There are 192 bedrooms, split into cosy, classic, superior and suite categories. Each one is thoughtfully equipped with city guides and access to free bicycle hire.

For the best deals on rooms at the University Arms, click here

Click here to read our full review of the University Arms

A large bedroom with pale blue walls, mustard yellow curtains and a blue armchair in the corner. There is a double bed and a book case with books and flowers on it


Words by Ellie Edwards and Laura Rowe

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