The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie – Cambridge (UK)

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is the latest addition to The Ivy Collection’s string of sister restaurants to The Ivy, the renowned London landmark in Covent Garden founded in 1917. Staying true to the restaurant’s premium heritage brand, the Cambridge location on picturesque Trinity Street delivers the same elegance and prestige but still retains the individual elements of this historic city. There are many nods to Cambridge including artwork inspired by academia, science, punting, rowing and cycling. There’s even a cocktail named Newton’s Apple. The Ivy’s notable harlequin stained glass has been recreated for the front doors to showcase the brand’s iconic look.

The interior design is pure art deco opulence, featuring striking contemporary art, vibrant colours, polished marble floors, bronzed antiques, plush armchairs, buttery leather banquettes, soft lighting and a shimmering bar. The bartenders are clad in white jackets and black bow ties. There’s a coat check at the door. The whole building is the epitome of glamour!

The restaurant is bigger than it looks from the outside as it goes quite far back. There’s even The Boat Room, a private dining room in the basement.

The layout is open with some seating facing outwards so you can see and be seen – in true Ivy celebrity style. There are also cosy corners that still give a sense of space. The ambience is conducive to socialising without being loud.

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is sophisticated and polished, but it’s also approachable and casual, as reflected in their “smart casual” dress code. It’s old-school hospitality without the stuffiness, a relaxed atmosphere amid high luxury. The best of both worlds!

The kitchen at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is overseen by Head Chef Stuart Conibear. Food and drinks are served from dawn to dusk, offering an all-encompassing menu of British classics and global contemporary dishes. Breakfast, elevenses, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, lights snacks, dinner and cocktails – they promise a lot. So how’s the food? Is the restaurant merely style over substance?

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The Boot – Histon, Cambridge (UK)

The Boot, located in Histon near Cambridge, is the latest addition to The White Brasserie Company’s portfolio of pubs in affluent villages and towns. The company, launched by celebrity chef Raymond Blanc (he sits on the board), has already accumulated a whopping 17 brasserie pubs in the last 4 years. The Boot is the latest addition and the first in Cambridgeshire. Refurbishing tired, old pubs into high end establishments with good, expertly prepared food is clearly a formula that works and The Boot is no exception. C’est magnifique!

I booked a table for 4 people on a Sunday evening and the place was buzzing when we arrived at 6pm. I was almost sorry to walk past the cosy pub area with its comfy seats and fireplace but then the space opened up with a real wow factor. Past the big, welcoming bar we were led to our table in the pub’s new extension – a stunning oak-beamed dining room filled with customers. My photos don’t do the place justice – I concentrated on the empty areas at the end of the evening so as not to bother my fellow diners.

It had been a busy day so we were told that some of the menu items had already sold out or were on the verge of selling out. As a newly opened brasserie adjusting to their supply and demand, this was understandable and we appreciated being informed at the start. No matter as there was plenty to choose from, including the daily specials.

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Old Crown – Girton, Cambridge (UK)

The Old Crown in Girton near Cambridge recently changed pub operators and was refurbished to a high standard. The lease of this beautiful village pub restaurant, owned by Greene King, was acquired by the Macmillan family who own Stuart Inns, a Suffolk-based restaurant and pub company with an excellent track record. The Old Crown is their first venture in Cambridgeshire.

Following a six-figure investment, the Old Crown is nothing short of stunning with its new art deco look based on the heritage of the 1920’s building. There is luxury in every detail, from the plush fabrics of the comfy seating to the premium fixtures and fittings. The bar makes a striking sight with its copper top and art deco tiles.

There’s no doubt that the pub is aimed at the high-quality end of the market but it’s warm, welcoming and child friendly. The areas are distinct but flow well with an extended dining space, cosy corners with fireplaces, sumptuous stools by the bar and an abundance of outdoor seating.

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Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms – Lavenham, Suffolk (UK)

Lavenham Blue Vintage Tea Rooms caught my eye as soon as we drove up the road to Lavenham’s market square on a late Friday afternoon. This charming 15th century timber-framed cottage, with its striking windows, white walls and blue signs, sits on the corner overlooking the square. The welcoming front door is on the side of the house and there’s even a garden. We felt as though we had stumbled upon a hidden gem.

Paulo and I, unsure of the closing time, couldn’t resist popping into the tea room to have a look. It turns out we arrived 15 minutes before closing but we were warmly greeted by owner Amanda Mortimer and not made to feel rushed in the least. Although we didn’t have to, we kept our order simple so we wouldn’t stay too long. We settled in comfortably at a table by the window and admired the surroundings.

The gramophone, tea pot collection, lace tablecloths, bunting, candy jars and old family photos added to the ambience. Everything about this delightful tea room softly stated vintage, from the name Lavenham Blue reminiscent of the 18th century nursery rhyme Lavender Blue (Dilly Dilly) to the white and blue colours bringing to mind blue patterns on antique white china.

It’s no wonder we felt so at home. We found out that Amanda converted the ground floor of her lovely cottage into this tea room. Every single customer is like a welcomed guest into her house.

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Bill’s – Cambridge (UK)

I’ve heard good things about Bill’s, being one of the better chains, so Paulo and I had dinner at their restaurant in Cambridge. Its location on pretty Green Street has a very welcoming exterior.

The interior is cosy with a rustic feel but there’s a definite emphasis on the visual. The décor is a juxtaposition of distressed wood and sparkly chandeliers, with an abundance of Bill’s products lining the shelves and blackboards scrawled with recipes and products. It was sensory overload and I couldn’t help feeling that the barrage of information was a not-so-subtle hint to buy, buy, buy. I get it, Bill’s… but I don’t need the constant reminders to buy into the brand. Service and good food will do that for me and I have to say that Bill’s delivered on both counts during our visit.

When I walked past the stairs towards the back, I realised that the restaurant is much bigger than I expected with lots of room for more tables. There’s even a little corner with comfy sofas. There are a few long tables so it’s an ideal place for big groups.

Even though the décor is nice, the restaurant feels more like a shop than a place to unwind over a leisurely dinner. Perhaps this ambience is more suitable for breakfast or lunch. Nevertheless, the friendly and pleasant service from our waitress went a long way in making us feel relaxed.

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