It’s a pleasure to see an independent restaurant in Cambridge perfecting the balance between comfort food and an innovative menu, embracing the classics of the past but with an eye (or palate) towards the future. Pint Shop is located in Cambridge’s popular foodie quarter in a beautiful building that has been sympathetically and functionally refurbished. This wasn’t my first visit to Pint Shop. I was at the soft launch back in November 2013. In fact, it was their third-ever service and it went off without a hitch. I’ve been a Pint Shop addict ever since.
Last week, my husband and I decided to have Sunday lunch and off we went to Cambridge, eagerly anticipating our meal. We arrived at noon (their opening time) so we were the first to arrive and be seated. We were shown to a nice table for two near the impressive beer matrix. Our friendly server gave us everything we needed to settle in comfortably… menus, bottled tap water, fresh bread and butter. There is always a great soundtrack here that definitely adds to the ambience, even when the place is full of diners and it becomes more muted. We enjoyed listening to some old-school tracks, interspersed with some of David Bowie’s more obscure songs from the 70’s that only a true Bowiephile like myself would instantly recognise. Whoever it is at Pint Shop that adds some Bowie to the mix, I salute you.
Their beer matrix, with its varied list of cask and keg beers, brewers, style, region, ABV content, size and price, was very informative and we were able to effortlessly make a choice. This time we both chose the same beer… a Lunatickle golden ale brewed by Hopping Mad. Suited us perfectly.
We could choose items from the Sunday set menu as well as the regular menu so we had a variety of choices. I decided to have the cheese and onion soup with roast garlic sauce, even though I rarely order soup in restaurants. Perhaps this was because it was a cold, blustery day and my body was craving some warmth. Whatever the reason, I was glad I went for the soup as it had a comforting velvety texture that I really enjoyed. I expected a French-style soup with onions in beef broth and melted cheese on top. I was pleasantly surprised to be served a soup that looked more like a velouté, although I’m not sure if there was actual cream and/or butter in it. The ‘garlic sauce’ consisted of roast garlic and olive oil drizzled over the top, which was a nice touch as the sweet taste of roasted garlic complemented the onion and cheese.
What was so remarkable about the soup was that all the flavours went well together but they had enough zing to stand on their own. I could really taste and appreciate them all and I’m intrigued as to what cheese was used.
The soup’s delicate salty taste was reminiscent of cheese and onion crisps and I’m not sure if our server was joking when she hinted that the crisps were a secret ingredient. Either way, this lovely soup was indeed “all that and a bag of crisps!”
The lunacy/madness theme of our beer may have been a precursor to our choice of main course, as we threw caution to the wind and ordered the massive 1kg beef rib chop to share. It was served with Béarnaise sauce, watercress and a big bowl of shoestring fries.
The quality of the beef was excellent, with a nice marbling of fat throughout and a wonderful smoky flavour from being cooked on coals.
I prefer my beef medium and they were able to cook it a bit longer for me as it is usually served medium rare. I do have to say in this case, I should have just trusted the chef and had it medium rare as it would have been more tender and juicy. Nevertheless, this was only a very minor issue and we both still enjoyed the beef.
My husband has a weakness. He just can’t say no to pudding, especially at Pint Shop. I am convinced that they have the best pastry chef in Cambridge, as every dessert we’ve tasted has been a delight. So even though I was stuffed, I couldn’t help but sample my husband’s apple and toffee crumble. That tasting turned into both of us sharing the whole dish. Luckily it was big enough for two or an argument would have ensued (kidding!).
The crumble was luxurious… fruity and sweet with a crunchy topping. The cream was a nice complement.
My husband keeps forgetting they don’t serve espresso (he should go across the street to Aromi for that) but he is very happy with their cafetiere coffee. I’m a tea drinker and they have some good quality loose leaf teas. They are served in a teapot with a filter directly in the spout which also helps eliminate drips. Neat.
Needless to say, this was our only meal of the day and all that protein kept my hunger at bay for the rest of the day (and night). Whilst we can’t eat like this all the time, we really enjoyed our little foray into gluttony and it motivated us to go on a nice long walk afterwards.
Apart from the food and friendly service, I really like the feel of the place. The bar area is at the front so people can sit and look out over Peas Hill and Bene’t Street. There are dining rooms at the back and also upstairs. The decor is minimalist yet cosy. Tables can be a little close together but I really don’t mind as it gives the room a nice communal feel. In fact, we struck up a conversation with a lovely couple seated next to us whilst we were waiting to pay our bill and they were waiting for their starters. The beer matrix is a good conversation piece!
There is also some colourful wall art throughout, including the cheeky chappy framed above the fireplace in the ladies’ loo!
We have visited on weekday evenings in the past but Sunday afternoon had a laid back, relaxed vibe. There were customers of all ages, couples, families and groups of friends all out to enjoy their Sunday. The place had a nice buzz and everyone looked happy, including the staff. As Bowie sang in Pint Shop’s soundtrack…. “taking it all the right way, never no turning back”.
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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