SmokeWorks – Free School Lane, Cambridge (UK)

Our summer of the BBQ joint took us to SmokeWorks on Free School Lane in Cambridge. I had been reading rave reviews about the place and it was about time we tried it out. We braved the torrential downpour (hence no outside photos) and walked into a restaurant with industrial décor and functional seating. It was smaller than I expected but then realised there was a whole other floor downstairs. We were greeted warmly and boy, did the place smell delicious. We instantly forgot all about the rain as we were shown to our table by our friendly server.

Collage Smokeworks

We knew the portions were big and it was going to be a filling meal so we saved our appetites for this dinner. We had a very early dinner (4:30pm) so the place wasn’t full yet. This gave me the opportunity to take photos without bothering any customers. I explored the basement (and the cool communal loos!) and I admired all of the little decorative touches, the exposed brick, lighting and the seating in the alcoves. They made the most of the limited space they have and it is laid out is a very functional way. The big red button at each table, which you twist when you want service, is an ingenious idea. The table number lights up on a big board, which is very visible to the servers. That way, they don’t have to continuously hover around the tables in the tight spaces and peek around any corners to see if they are needed.

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SoLIta – Northern Quarter, Manchester (UK)

Our latest foray into the world of grill and burger restaurants led us to SoLIta in Manchester’s Northern Quarter. The name of the restaurant, complete with capital L and I, is a reference to its location “south of Little Italy”. I think of it as sounding a bit like “so little” as we arrived on a Sunday afternoon to a tiny, packed (but cheerful) room on the ground floor. Fortunately, the layout is deceiving as there are more tables on the floors above. I did notice that there are additional spaces downstairs as well as across the street, so they are well equipped to handle the flow of customers at peak times.

Collage Solita

The queue was already forming out the door and whilst there is very little space to wait inside the restaurant, the hostess handled the flow of people extremely well. After a short wait, we were given a table on the narrow first floor. Compared to the ambience of the ground floor, with its funky décor and comics on the walls, it was a little disappointing. However, once we settled in and glanced at the impressive menu, we soon forgot about the ambience.

Collage Solita2

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