I was delighted to get a sneak peek of The Wine Rooms ahead of their official opening on 8 June. Located at 57 Hills Road near Station Road, this place is an exciting new addition to Cambridge’s independent food and drink scene. The focus is on wines paired with a modern, seasonal menu with New Zealand-born Cambridge chef Liz Young at the helm.
The Cambridge based owner of The Wine Rooms is an experienced vintner and wine management and cellarage provider so the wines naturally take centre stage. It’s more of a wine bar and shop for high end wines than a restaurant but that in no way diminishes the food offering. The changing menus, featuring an All Day Bar Menu of Small Things and Sweet Things and an Evening Menu of more substantial dishes, are designed to complement the carefully curated wines by the glass.
The wall of wine bottles on wooden shelves (some only accessible by ladder), the combination of table and counter seating, the specials boards next to the small window into the kitchen, the bar at the back complete with brass pendant lights and antiqued mirror… they all set the scene for fine wine and good food in an unpretentious atmosphere with friendly, knowledgeable service.
This small but perfectly formed place has been beautifully designed. Stretching out over two floors it’s bright and spacious, even in the basement. In fact, the downstairs area has a temperature controlled wine cellar with bottles displayed in open drawers and on floating marble shelves. It’s the perfect spot for private dining or wine tasting sessions.
We started off with the trout rillette and meat platter from the Small Things Menu and went with the recommended wine pairings. The trout rillette was served as a quenelle with crackers and pea shoots. I detected a nice piquancy in the rillette, possibly from dill and horseradish. The trout paired well with the peachiness and minerality of the Italian wine (Cuvée Terlaner, Alto Adige, Pinot Bianco blend, 2019).
Paulo ordered the platter of cured meats, featuring mortadella, coppa and saucisson made with pork marinated in red wine. It was served with watercress and sliced bread. The recommended pairing (Domaine Les Sadons, Pauillac, Bordeaux, 2014) had the fruitiness and acidity to cut through the charcuterie’s fat and the mortadella’s creamy texture.
The fish theme continued into my choice of main course with melt-in-the-mouth salmon pastrami, served with a quenelle of creamy labneh, thinly sliced red onions, pickled cucumber, chives and capers. My first thought was the dish lacked some crackers or bread but then realised they were unnecessary as they would have detracted from fully appreciating the exquisite tenderness of the salmon pastrami. I nursed my glass of white wine from my starter so I didn’t have the recommended wine pairing (Nyetimber, Blanc de Blancs, 2013) with my main course but the Cuvée Terlaner still paired nicely with the salmon.
Paulo’s main course of meltingly tender beef cheeks with a garlicky potato purée (skordalia), sliced almonds and fresh watercress was the epitome of comfort food. The recommended wine pairing was a Spanish red (Coca i Fitó, Samsara, Priorat, 2014) but Paulo loved the Domaine Les Sadons so much, he ordered another glass to accompany his main.
His dessert was a delicious pistachio and lemon cake with poached apricots and a dollop of vanilla cream. The apricot, peach and pear notes of the Château Villefranche, Sauternes, 2015 was a good match with this fruity, nutty dessert.
I had the thick and creamy chocolate mousse, sprinkled with sea salt and topped with two large broken pieces of sweet olive oil tortas. The fragrant lavender cuttings added to the olfactory experience of the wine (Recioto della Valpolicella, Corte Giara, Allegrini, 2017) that paired so splendidly with chocolate.
We thoroughly enjoyed the food, wine, service and ambience. Everything went so smoothly we forgot it was a soft launch. The Wine Rooms is a fabulous new destination in Cambridge. I highly recommend it for excellent food and wine (they also have G&Ts, beer, soft drinks, fruit juices, tea and coffee). They are taking bookings via their website. Go… and enjoy!
I was invited by The Wine Rooms to attend their soft launch. Although the food was complimentary, all views are my own. Drinks were at my own cost. I did not receive compensation for my review.
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