The circumstances that brought Tel Aviv chef Maoz Alonim to Cambridge may not be food related but it was inevitable that he would eventually open a restaurant and contribute to our flourishing foodie scene. Alonim is one of Israel’s most famous chefs renowned the world over for founding Basta in 2007, a small restaurant and wine bar in proximity to Carmel Market in Tel Aviv. With produce straight from the market’s stallholders only a few steps away, the menu changes daily (sometimes twice a day) and consists of main headings with handwritten dish updates. This is Alonim’s concept… a creative menu led by fresh, seasonal ingredients paired with an impressive wine list. And this is precisely what he has brought to Kingston Arms, located just off Cambridge’s vibrant and diverse Mill Road.
Always one to defy expectations, Alonim defines Kingston Arms as Kitchen, Hummus and Wine. He has even gone so far as having the serving presentation designed for their hummus and pita, a clever combo of zisha (Yixing clay) bowls with a round cork cover that doubles as a board for the pita. More on the amazing hummus later!
This independent pub is a real food and wine lovers’ gem. The interior is warm and inviting, with tables by the windows and back door as well as bar seating for perhaps a more wine or beer focused experience. There is a large walled garden with heaters that is pretty much rain proof, a definite advantage for a business that opened during the pandemic. The staff are so friendly and welcoming and there are knowledgeable sommeliers for their well curated wine list.
Being from Canada and missing some of the New World wines I was immediately drawn to a white from Argentina – Matías Riccitelli Blanco de la Casa 2019, a blend of Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon with good minerality and citrusy, herbaceous notes. Paulo enjoyed a bottle of Vedett, a Belgian beer.
The menu is simple and not overly descriptive, done purposely to accommodate creativity and changing produce – after all this is Alonim’s market led style. The servers have a very detailed understanding of the ingredients and methods of preparation of each dish, which is quite impressive given the fluidity of the menu. It also makes for a more interactive experience. For me, change is what keeps the food interesting and exciting. It may not be consistent but it’s consistently good!
We started with hummus (half portion) and two Maldon oysters each from The £3.80 Club, priced this way to provide a taster for those who don’t want a full hummus dish (with lamb or mushrooms, for example) or a dozen oysters. The Pita Plus option is a must though, as it features two soft, puffy pitas and a variety of “pickles” (skin-on onion wedge, green olives, gherkins and tomato wedges). They’ve raised the bar with their silky hummus as we don’t ever want to eat it anywhere else!
We then enjoyed a parade of dishes served on charming vintage plates with surprisingly big portions, perfect for sharing. The labneh (thick, creamy yogurt cheese) was topped with baby plum tomatoes and fresh sage. It was drizzled with olive oil and served with giant croutons.
A generous serving of thickly sliced chorizo ibérico accompanied a heap of tasty tomato pulp on grilled crusty bread, pan-con-tomate style.
The pulled crab on toast consisted of Japanese brioche topped with velvety crab meat mixed with a little cream and some leek, with a whole spring onion resting on top. The dish was served with homemade mayo and a lemon wedge.
Their famous biscuit cake lived up to its reputation – a delicious combination of flavours and textures with its layers of crunchy biscuits and rich chocolate, a hint of coffee, grated coconut on top and a side of crème fraîche.
There are a few things worth mentioning: Their exceptional bread, including challah, is made by local bakery / pâtisserie Dulcedo. “The Jackson Five” is very popular and consists of a changing selection of five vegetarian dips and small plates. The dinner menu is a bit more comprehensive than the lunch menu. And finally, give them a ring to book a table as word has gotten out that Kingston Arms is one of Cambridge’s top foodie destinations.
Dinner at Kingston Arms is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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