Amélie Flammekueche – Cambridge (UK)

A new and unique eating experience has come to the UK and it’s all taking off in Cambridge – specifically at Food Social, The Grafton’s open plan dining quarter by the Vue cinema. Amélie is the first UK restaurant dedicated to serving Flammekueche, a dish dating back to the 14th century from the Alsace region of France, close to the German border. Flammekueche is made with thinly stretched dough topped with fresh ingredients and baked in a very hot oven for about 90 seconds, leaving the edges crisp and slightly charred. It may be quick to prepare and bake but it’s not your average fast food. It’s an upgrade from fast food – top quality ingredients are used and everything is freshly cooked. Flammekueche is the Alsatian word for this delicacy, which Amélie have loosely translated as French fire bread. It’s also called tarte flambée in French and Flammkuchen in German.

Food Social is part of The Grafton’s extensive refurbishment and Amélie is the first independent restaurant – of hopefully more indie brands – to occupy a space. The shopping centre’s refurbishment is coming along nicely (thumbs up to the loos!) and Amélie has already given the place a wow factor with its yellow Citroen H van on the upper floor.

The 55-cover family friendly restaurant has an open kitchen with individual and communal seating. The menu, designed for sharing (only if you wish), focuses of both savoury and sweet Flammekueche but also features a selection of starters such as dips, salads and meat boards. There are lots of options on the menu so there’s something to please everyone, even a mini Flammekueche for children.

Continue reading

Alimentum – Cambridge (UK)

It’s no secret Alimentum went through a rough patch but despite losing their Michelin star last year and chef Mark Poynton recently leaving for pastures new, there is an already great team in place taking the restaurant forward. Run by Maxwell Allwood (Head Sommelier), John Moss (General Manager) and Samira Effa (Head Chef), Alimentum has seen some positive changes to the menu and service. A more relaxed service and a changing menu – featuring seasonal dishes executed with minimum fuss or alteration – are taking Alimentum to its next chapter.

Alimentum is a restaurant in transition but they are doing everything right. The whole team – each and every person working at Alimentum – is enthusiastic about the place. This was reflected in the magnificent food and service we received when we went for dinner. Samira Effa has risen to the challenge and there’s no doubt there are talented chefs in the kitchen.

Photo courtesy of Alimentum

Continue reading

Provenance at The Cambridge Distillery Showroom – Grantchester, Cambridge (UK)

I first discovered Provenance’s fare at their launch party over 3 years ago. Since then, Provenance have been serving their delicious food in various locations in and around Cambridge and also catering wedding and events. The wood fired kitchen in their stunning Airstream produces a menu worthy of a top restaurant, offering modern British food sourced from local farmers and suppliers. They’ve even added a converted horsebox to the family, a smaller operation serving seasonal tacos.

Provenance have been popping up every second Friday of the month at The Cambridge Distillery Showroom, a unique space in Grantchester housed next door to the distillery where some of the best gin in the world is produced. The showroom not only welcomes lovers of gin but regularly hosts pop ups and food trucks as the perfect venue for great food and drink.

So it was only natural to combine Provenance’s impressive menu with The Cambridge Distillery Showroom’s wonderful ambience and surroundings. A relaxing dinner after a walk or cycle into the picturesque village of Grantchester is a lovely way to spend a Friday evening. The Cambridge Distillery Showroom also offers wine and a small selection of cocktails as an alternative to gin.

Continue reading

Long Melford Swan and Duck Deli – Long Melford, Suffolk (UK)

A trip to Suffolk is always a delight. It’s close to Cambridge and there is so much to see and do… not to mention eat and drink! Paulo and I visited the charming town of Long Melford to enjoy the food, drink and accommodation at the very lovely Long Melford Swan, a boutique restaurant with rooms. The adjoining Duck Deli was a bonus – a real foodie haven where we had lunch and stocked up on goodies.

The Long Melford Swan and Duck Deli are part of the establishments run by family business Stuart Inns. I wrote about the Old Crown – their latest venture and first in Cambridgeshire – here. I’ve also been to their excellent Lavenham Greyhound restaurant, so I knew a visit to the Long Melford Swan would be a wonderful experience – and I was right!

The Long Melford Swan is an impressive property with so much to offer – luxury boutique bedrooms, a cosy bar, beautiful garden area, the Duck Deli and a 2 AA rosette restaurant in the gorgeous Garden Room. There is also a chef’s table seating 6-8 people in a private room next to the kitchen where guests can indulge in a six-course tasting menu, which is also available in the restaurant.

Continue reading

Restaurant Twenty-Two – Cambridge (UK)

There’s an exciting addition to the Cambridge food scene and that’s the newly re-opened Restaurant Twenty-Two. It’s now in the hands of Sam Carter (chef) and his fiancée Alex Olivier (front of house manager) who are taking the restaurant to the next chapter of its 30-year history. It has been a labour of love for this lovely couple, who purchased the restaurant from the former owner and painstakingly refurbished it into a business and home.

The converted Victorian townhouse is a real gem along Chesterton Road, understated in its presence among the large pubs and shops but once noticed, it leaves a lasting impression. The exterior is beautifully presented with its muted tones of white walls and dark grey door and window frames, with some gold accents for a touch of luxury. The bespoke stained glass has been retained and sparks curiosity about what lies behind the Dining Rooms lettering.

The 22-cover dining room is small but there is still space between the tables to sit comfortably. It’s cosy but not overcrowded. There is also a private dining room upstairs that seats 14 people.

The venture is a match made in heaven as Sam has an impressive culinary resumé in Michelin-starred kitchens, and Alex is a former solicitor with experience in restaurant management. It’s apparent they have a great team in place as the food, drink and service during our dinner proved to be faultless.

The menu, which changes every fortnight, focuses on contemporary British dishes with a creative twist. There is a definite emphasis on seasonality with many of the ingredients sourced from local producers. An à la carte menu is available but I heartily recommend the tasting menu (five or seven-course) for the complete gastronomic experience. Paulo and I went for the seven-course menu with the additional cheese board option because we wanted to taste ALL OF THE THINGS. Luckily we agreed as the tasting menu must be ordered by the whole table. Each bite was an explosion of flavours and textures and I found myself eating every last crumb and scraping the last bit of sauce on my plate. The food was that good.

Continue reading

The Waterfront Restaurant and Y Spa, Wyboston Lakes Resort – Wyboston, Bedfordshire (UK)

Wyboston Lakes, located between Cambridge, Bedford and Milton Keynes, is a 380-acre resort offering conference facilities, a training centre, serviced offices, a golf course, spa, hotel and restaurant. With such a focus on business, it’s easy to forget that The Waterfront Hotel houses a luxury spa and a wonderful restaurant. Admittedly the premises have a corporate and industrial feel – our first impression driving in the area – and the exterior of the hotel is a tad dated but all that was quickly forgotten upon entering the bright welcoming space.

I was invited to experience Y Spa, including lunch, then enjoy dinner afterwards at The Waterfront Restaurant. Men are welcome at the spa; they even offer treatments especially for couples, so I was delighted to have a little luxury break with Paulo in this peaceful oasis.

The spa was simply outstanding. All of the staff were friendly, helpful and welcoming. The facilities feature the spa café, treatment rooms, relaxation areas and thermal spa suites, including an 11-metre outdoor hydrotherapy pool, saunas, steam rooms and showers. We received waterproof wrist bands at check-in which proved handy to charge any food or drinks, open doors and securely lock our lockers.

After filling in a medical questionnaire, we were welcomed at the café with a mango tea, complete with hourglass to time the desired brewing strength.

Continue reading

C’est Japon à Suisha – Ottawa (Canada)

It’s been over 25 years since I visited Ottawa so a trip to Canada’s capital was long overdue. It’s a city I took for granted whilst living in Montreal and Toronto but now that I’ve been in England for over a decade, I decided to squeeze in a quick visit between Canadian cities. Besides, Paulo had never been to Ottawa before.

I did no foodie research before arriving (very unlike me, I know) and decided to go with the flow. On our last day in Ottawa, I surfed the ‘net and found recommendations for a great Japanese restaurant: C’est Japon à Suisha, formerly known as Suisha Gardens. I noted it has been around for over 40 years – always a good sign! Interestingly, I noticed the address was on the same street as our hotel but what I didn’t realise was that it was right across the road. There’s some irony in discovering a place online that was in front of my face all along!

The establishment’s name, C’est Japon à Suisha, is a bit of a mouthful but it works. “C’est Japon” is French for “this is Japan” and reflects the authentic menu and setting. “Suisha” is the water wheel gracing the front of this traditionally styled restaurant and a nod to its previous name. The whole place oozes charm, from our warm and welcoming greeting to the short walk to our table past a badger, a brook babbling over stones, a samurai helmet and a lucky cat sitting on the sushi bar.

Wait, what? A badger? Yes, it seems the tanuki is traditionally a symbol of business in Japan. TA-NU-KI also means to excel over others. Not so random after all.

The basement has Japanese-style tatami rooms and private rooms for parties, gatherings and meetings.

We weren’t seated at the sushi bar but could observe the chef from our table. The stunning bar, complete with sushi floating on boats, is the crowning glory.

Continue reading

Carriages – Fen Drayton, Cambridgeshire (UK)

I’ve always wanted to dine on a train. No, not a sarnie and a bag of crisps on the 1.45 to King’s Cross – I’m talking about eating in style with white tablecloths, fine china and weighty cutlery. I had that opportunity last month aboard Carriages, a series of refurbished vintage trains in a purpose-built railway station in Fen Drayton, less than 15 miles from Cambridge city centre.

Access to the railway-themed restaurant is through Bannold, a supplier of landscaping materials, where a staff member will lead you past the display gardens to the impressive station house and carriages.

There’s a railway station in Fen Drayton? Well, not quite. The trains are stationary so you’re not actually going anywhere, but a visit to Carriages does take you back to the 1920’s and 1930’s, the golden age of luxury rail travel. There are even moving train sound effects to complement the experience. Carriages is the brainchild of Bannold owner Michael Attle who was inspired to build the concept when he purchased a disused part of an old railway platform. The recreation is remarkable, complete with signal box and original Pullman style carriages.

The station house has been meticulously recreated with a booking hall, station master’s office, traditional waiting room, real fireplace, antique seats, cigarette dispenser, luggage trolley and old-fashioned suitcases.

The menu features cream tea (two scones, homemade jam or lemon curd and tea or coffee) or afternoon tea, which needs to be booked in advance for 1pm or 3pm. I made a reservation for afternoon tea to spend time with friends and celebrate Alison’s birthday along with Paola and Meggy. We loved every minute of it!

Continue reading

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?

Continue reading

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.

Continue reading