La Raza is a long standing, family run, independent business with an enviable location on Rose Crescent in the heart of Cambridge. This popular basement bar and restaurant has been feeding, watering and entertaining their customers since 2003. It is primarily known as a venue for events, live music, DJ nights and cocktails but also serves Mediterranean inspired cuisine. I admit I only thought of events and cocktails when it came to La Raza, having danced away there with The Early Night Club as well as attending their well organised Cambridge Cocktail Weekend in 2017 (I blogged about it here). I was invited to check out their food offering and came away suitably impressed.
Their superb tapas menu offers a variety of sharing dishes: meat, charcuteria, salads, seafood, vegetarian and croquetas. There is also a choice of four different types of paella, suitable for two to share, as the main course for heartier appetites. Sides & nibbles, desserts and a sharing plate round out the menu. The food complements their fantastic selection of cocktails – they really do make some of the best in town. I particularly liked their “What’s Your Flavour” chart, divided into four categories (smart, refreshing, rich, casual), to help choose a cocktail of my preference.
I loved the ambience at La Raza and didn’t feel out of place. It was welcoming and chilled out, with a fun and not overly loud music soundtrack to accompany our drinks and dinner. Paulo had never been to La Raza and wasn’t sure what to expect before he descended the steps from the street to the basement. We were greeted by our waiter Ed and shown to a cosy corner table near the bar area.
La Raza is spacious and well laid out. The section in the back has more tables and seating areas – for couples and groups. The furniture in this area is moved when there is an event or live show. We went on a night when there was no entertainment scheduled and we also dined early at 6pm. This suited our mood as I wanted to concentrate on the food offering but we will definitely return for a live band to make it more of a night out.
We started off with some drinks – a fresh, lively Eva/Chardonnay for Paulo (El Zafiro from Extremadura, Spain) and a tangy, fruity cocktail for me, titled Ch-Ch-Ch-Cherry Bomb (yes, I am old enough to remember the 1976 song – ha ha). This bubbly, refreshing gin-laced drink featured raspberries, cherries, sherry and a touch of lime for a citrus kick.
In addition to wine and cocktails, La Raza’s drinks menu includes spirits, beer, premium soft drinks, coffee, tea and hot chocolate. The mixologists happily take requests and can make up a cocktail just for you, which is what Ollie did for me with a refreshing pink cocktail with gin, cranberry juice, agave syrup, sugar, lime and Bénédictine, garnished with a physalis. It was spot on!
This is a good time to mention Happy Hour at La Raza. Selected cocktails are 2 for £10, Monday to Friday, 5pm to 7pm & 9pm to 10pm. That is a bargain for such amazing cocktails!
We enjoyed our drinks with some delicious food, which truly stands up on its own and isn’t merely an afterthought to accompany the cocktails. Our tapas were all freshly prepared and the paella took a little longer as it was cooked to order. The food was worth the wait – the excellent drinks and music made us relax so time just flew by.
We selected a few tapas as starters before our paella main course. Three tapas dishes were more than enough as the portions are substantial. The pan fried scallops were crisp and brown on the outside and soft and tender on the inside. They sat on thick slices of black pudding. The sweetness of the surrounding sliced apple balanced out the savoury notes.
With four different croquetas on the menu, we chose the salt cod, garlic and parsley dish. The freshly prepared croquetas were served with roasted garlic aioli dip (with spicy tomato as the other option). I’m not a big salt cod fan but these croquetas were so moreish. And thank goodness they came in portions of four so we could share evenly! We are going to have to return to try more of La Raza’s addictive croquetas (chicken, Teruel ham & manchego and La Peral blue cheese).
The delicious sweet potato tortilla, with its balance of spongy and fluffy textures, was caramelised with onions for an intense yet sweet flavour.
Our impressive meat & seafood paella featured prawns, mussels, Alejandro chorizo, roasted mixed vegetables (aubergine, courgette, red onion and roasted peppers), peas, tomatoes and saffron. All of the ingredients were high quality and the paella rice was perfectly cooked.
We wholeheartedly subscribed to the saying “dessert is a separate stomach” and ordered the churros and Santiago tart.
The churro bites were served with ice cream and an unctuous toffee dipping sauce. It was a delightful dessert that wasn’t overly filling.
The Santiago tart was soft and fragrant, served with raspberries for a hint of tartness. The sweet flavours came from the powdered sugar and vanilla ice cream. A tasty end to our meal.
It’s worth noting that La Raza serves lunch too (kitchen hours 12pm to 3pm, except Mondays and Tuesday in the winter, but then 7 days a week during the warmer months). However, bar snacks, tortilla, bread, biscuits & cheese, charcuterie and sharing boards are available every day.
The winter kitchen hours for dinner are Wednesdays to Saturdays, 6pm to 9pm (except Sundays when they are closed in the evening). Again, the hours will be back to 7 days week during the warmer months. So whether you fancy lunch, dinner, just drinks or a full blown night out with music, La Raza offers something for all tastes.
I was invited by La Raza’s Head of Operations for a complimentary dinner for two. I did not receive compensation for my review. All views are my own.
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