I was honoured to be invited by Cambscuisine to enjoy a meal at their latest venture, The Crown & Punchbowl in Horningsea, Cambridge. Having undergone an extensive refurbishment, it’s another great addition to Cambscuisine’s impressive list of restaurants. I admire how Cambscuisine always get it right in terms of food, service and ambience. I’ve written about some of their other establishments: The Cock in Hemingford Grey (here and here) and SmokeWorks (here).
I was impressed as soon as I saw this lovely country pub and restaurant. It’s an old 17th century coaching inn with traditional features such as brick fireplaces and original timber beams. It’s been extended over the years and sympathetically restored.
Jessica Donnithorne, who’s in charge of marketing and people development at Cambscuisine, greeted me warmly and proceeded to give me a tour, including some of the guest rooms upstairs. That’s right, there are accommodations (five lovely rooms for now, with plans to build five more in due course). I had a sneak peek at two of the empty rooms and they are stylish, with muted colours, nice furniture, sumptuous bedding and ensuite bath or shower. The guest rooms make the perfect getaway, only 3 miles from the centre of Cambridge. However, The Crown & Punchbowl has everything in terms of comfort, food and drink so those who fancy a cosy night in don’t need to venture out.
The restaurant’s layout is wonderful. There are four different areas, each one with its own atmosphere. At the bar’s right, there is a relaxed pub seating area that’s perfect for enjoying a pint or two.
The bar menu includes nibbles such as Punchbowl Pickles (onions, eggs and gherkins) and ham that’s sliced just before serving.
The brand new conservatory is bright and cheerful, even in the evening. The light fixtures have earthenware lampshades inspired by Horningsea’s historical connection to Roman pottery.
Another eating area near the stairwell to the guest rooms is beautifully decorated with gorgeous lighting, embossed ceiling, wood panelling, paintings and red walls. In fact, we unofficially named it The Red Room.
I shared a table with Charley and Charlotte, two contributors to popular blog Bone White China as well as Louise Cummings of Cambridge Magazine, who was accompanied by her husband. I spotted Heidi White of The Moving Foodie, foodPark and Eat Cambridge at a nearby table. Fine company indeed!
Oliver Thain and Max Freeman of Cambscuisine stopped by our table to greet us and ask how everything was. I was pleased to see that talented head chef Wil Findlay, who designed the menu, was at the helm of the kitchen.
Service was friendly and attentive. Our waiter was knowledgeable about the menu. I was already familiar with some of the dishes as I had sampled them at The Cock in Hemingford Grey. I was pleased to see that there was a fish board at The Crown & Punchbowl too.
I couldn’t resist ordering the legendary duck parcel with its oriental flavours (sweet & sour cucumber and sweet soy & ginger dressing), a substantial starter with lots of shredded duck meat wrapped in light, crispy filo pastry.
I opted for a comforting dish as my main: four homemade pork sausages on a bed of creamy mash and vibrant greens (nice to see a good amount of veg in a dish like this), accompanied by a rich onion gravy. I could tell they were high quality sausages as they were very dense. No filler here!
I ordered a side of rocket, pine nut and Parmesan salad that we all shared. Even those who weren’t big on rocket thought it was great. We called it “a rocket salad for those who don’t like rocket”.
Dessert was too good to pass up! I was intrigued by the dark chocolate tart with basil cream, which looked like a scoop of ice cream. However, it tasted very creamy and herby and complemented the chocolate well. Some diced mango with more herbs were served on the side but I felt that this took the herb level too high so I left it.
Charley ordered sticky toffee pudding with vanilla ice cream and salted caramel sauce. It looked so good, I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to take a photo. Say cheese… which brings me to the impressive cheese board with four different cheeses, served with chutney, grapes and a generous amount of biscuits.
I was delighted that Kandula teas were prominently featured and I chose one of my favourites, Earl Grey.
Once again, Cambscuisine have succeeded in offering high end casual dining in a relaxed and friendly setting. The Crown & Punchbowl certainly offers all that. It only opened last week but I know it will be massively popular, so make sure you book!
The Crown & Punchbowl invited me to attend the launch. All food and drinks were complimentary. I did not receive compensation for my review. All views are my own.
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