Independent business Eric’s Fish & Chips is a welcome sight amongst the giant fast food chains in Abbey Retail Park in St Ives, Cambridgeshire. It may appear to be an unlikely location at first but once you know where it is, it works. It’s a destination restaurant with a fun and unique vibe, serving sustainably caught beer battered fish, beef dripping chips, quality meat, small plates, drinks and more. Ample free parking makes it easy to pop in for a take-away or eat in. This is executive chef Eric Snaith’s second opening, built on the success of Eric’s Fish & Chips in Thornham on the north Norfolk coast, which I have visited several times and wrote about here.
Granted, the experience isn’t fish & chips near the sea in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty but once you step inside, the blue and green subtle maritime décor and stone-embedded front counter evoke the Norfolk coast and you almost forget you’re in a retail park unit. The exposed whitewashed brick, multi-coloured wall tiles, plush teal banquette seating and circular light fittings create a welcoming, modern atmosphere.
I eagerly awaited the opening of Eric’s Fish & Chips in St Ives to see how the food and ambience would compare to the one in Thornham, where we have been known to take a day trip just to feast on their fish & chips. So when the invite came to visit the new location, I welcomed the opportunity to taste more of their menu.
It’s been over 3 years since Prana relaunched after an extensive refurbishment (I wrote about it here). Since then, this upscale Indian restaurant on Mill Road has taken its place among Cambridge’s best eating establishments and even won a few prestigious awards along the way. It’s no secret Paulo and I have been regular customers – the food has always been flavoursome and prepared with quality ingredients.
The food and drink scene in Cambridge, particularly on Mill Road, has been evolving and expanding. Prana’s bar now offers over 40 gins, making them the biggest Indian restaurant gin bar in Cambridge. There are gins from all over the world as well as local ones. The front of the restaurant facing Mill Road is the area for walk-ins to enjoy a G&T or two. It’s not necessary to dine in to try the gin bar (snacks are available) but we decided to have our G&Ts with our dinner (Silent Pool for Paulo, Brockmans for me). There is a choice between Fever-Tree and Schweppes tonics (we’re team Fever-Tree).
Owner Kobir Ahmed kindly invited us to try Prana’s new menu, which has been streamlined, thereby putting less pressure on the kitchen, generating less food waste and simplifying the previously overwhelming choice. Most of the favourites are still on the menu and these dishes continue to be several notches above the bog standard curry houses. The new menu features five additional dishes, some exclusive to Prana, which have replaced a few of the traditional ones that made the old menu so extensive.
Curiosity got the better of us so we ordered all three of the new starters. They were packed with clean, vibrant flavours as Prana continue to use their own spice blends rather than curry powder. The Samosa Chaat (vegan) was a feast for the eyes as well as the palate with its spicy heat that wasn’t too overpowering. It was beautifully presented, consisting of crushed chickpeas and potato, topped with a vegetable samosa and drizzled with sweet and tangy sauce, all on a bed of fresh salad leaves with pomegranate seeds and a sprinkling of Bombay mix from fellow Mill Road trader Al-Amin.
There’s a new chef in town (well, the pretty Cambridgeshire village of Eltisley) and it’s Jamie Mountford, a man with an impressive culinary resumé. If his name seems familiar, it’s because he was a finalist in Masterchef: The Professionals in 2016. He has built his reputation in some of the finest kitchens in Cambridgeshire and Suffolk, in addition to his tireless fundraising work.
Jamie has taken over The Eltisley’s kitchen with a completely overhauled menu. Now under new management, Jamie’s food finally does justice to this lovely village pub. Out with gimmicks (food on hooks) and a niche menu (100% gluten free) – in with dishes brimming with fresh flavours and quality produce. Featuring a delicious list of starters, sharers, mains, steaks (fillet, sirloin, flat iron), sauces, sides, pizzas, sweets and even kids meals, the menu is varied enough to suit many preferences and appetites but it’s not overly fussy. The vegetarian options are not an afterthought as in many pubs and gluten free dishes are still available.
I was invited to try the brand new menu a few weeks ago. It was only their second day serving the dishes and the team (kitchen, servers, bartenders and front-of-house) were all fantastic. The place was full too, so word has clearly gotten out about the positive changes!
I’ve been to Cambscuisine’s The Crown & Punchbowl several times since it opened three years ago after an extensive refurbishment. I wrote all about their seasonal, modern British food here but had never stayed in their accommodation until now.
This country pub, restaurant and inn located in Horningsea, just 3 miles from the centre of Cambridge, offers the best of both worlds with a village setting but still close enough to the city. Our home is in the midst of renovations so we took advantage of the Sleepy Sundays deal for a little getaway, looking forward to good food and a comfy bed.
Sleepy Sundays at The Crown & Punchbowl features a double, ensuite room on Sunday evenings for only £50 when you spend £75 on dinner in the restaurant, including food and drinks. However, you need to book the deal by contacting The Crown & Punchbowl directly (not through their website) and it excludes Bank Holiday weekends and breakfast (which is an extra £10 per person – more on that later).
There are five rooms (Erasmus, Coleridge, Forster, Woolf and Marlowe) in The Crown & Punchbowl’s traditional old part of the building, where the restaurant is just down the stairs. Our room, the Hawking, was on the upper floor of the adjacent Science Wing, their latest extension featuring a total of four rooms named after influential scientists with a connection to Cambridge (Stephen Hawking, Alan Turing, Rosalind Franklin and Jane Goodall).
When friends and family come to visit, I tend to see Cambridge through the eyes of a tourist. My cousin Marc from Montreal stopped by Cambridge for a quick visit after his business trip to Wales. He was only here for one afternoon and evening so I had to carefully consider where to show him around. Cambridge has so much to offer, more than just the colleges but I did want him to experience the city’s stunning architecture in the few short hours he was here.
In terms of dining options I chose Parker’s Tavern, the restaurant at the extensively refurbished University Arms hotel. Its décor has the feel of a University college. The dishes, drinks and even the cups are linked to Cambridge’s history, without being too gimmicky. And what’s more, Parker’s Tavern – which operates independently from the hotel – is headed by award-winning chef Tristan Welch, who grew up near Cambridge and has returned to live here with his family. It’s also nice to know that the focus is on producers from Cambridge and East Anglia.
I have been to Parker’s Tavern many times over the past 8 months (breakfast, dinner and Sunday Lunch) so I was confident that we would have a great experience. I wasn’t looking for fine dining – just good, unpretentious, modern British cooking (with a little twist) in a relaxed and informal setting. We all felt at ease having a good catch up over dinner but still experienced a touch of luxury.
We were the first to arrive for dinner so the room was empty (I wouldn’t have taken photos otherwise) but the place filled up shortly after we arrived. The stained-glass windows overlooking Parker’s Piece are stunning!
I was born and raised in Canada but I’m from Italian parents (Lazio and Molise regions). I often miss the old-school Italian food I grew up on. I’m talking comforting plates of pasta, succulent sauces and traditional favourites. As much as I love modern cuisine, sometimes I’m just looking for some no-nonsense linguine. Di Rita’s Italian Cuisine is just the place we needed to be on a Monday evening.
With an enviable location right by St Ives’ historic bridge in Cambridgeshire, Di Rita’s is open Mondays to Saturdays. The family-run restaurant lights up this little corner of Bridge Street with colours of the Italian flag above their sign and soft purple tones inside.
It’s popular with families, children, couples and groups – these customers and the staff give the place its warm ambience. What it lacks in décor, it makes up in charm and friendliness… and Di Rita’s has these in spades. Their video below is a good representation of their food and atmosphere – it tells the story better than my pics. I didn’t want to photograph the other diners (the place was buzzing) and the multi-coloured lighting made it tricky to take proper photos.
The Brampton Mill, near Huntingdon in Cambridgeshire, underwent a stunning refurbishment and re-opened on 16 February 2019. I was delighted to be invited to their press night for an exclusive first look a few days before their big re-opening. The invitation included dinner and drinks for 4 people so I brought along Paulo and our good friends Peter and Jenni.
I had visited The Brampton Mill in the past and it was lovely. Located down Bromholme Lane with its riverside views by the River Great Ouse, extensive garden and cosy seating areas, this 500-year-old pub was already impressive. However, the significant investment by Mitchells & Butlers – one of the largest operators of pubs, bars and restaurants in the UK – has given their Premium Country Pub a more contemporary look and feel whilst still maintaining its traditional features, like the fully functioning water wheel. It really is a sight to behold!
The whole place is now more modern, open and stylish. It was dark when we arrived so I couldn’t see the garden area and outdoor bar but they have added new furniture. The Brampton Mill have kindly provided some daytime photos.
Photo by The Brampton Mill
Photo by The Brampton Mill
Photo by The Brampton Mill
As soon as we stepped in, we were wowed by the gorgeous makeover. What a difference! We were shown to the bar for pre-dinner drinks and canapés. For the event, they had a gin station with a large selection of garnishes to personalise our G&Ts.
Since launching their food truck business in 2015, Provenance have been serving delicious restaurant quality food from their Airstream and horsebox trailers all over Cambridgeshire and beyond at events, pop ups and private functions. Now with the addition of a bricks-and-mortar establishment (aptly named Brix + Mortar), Provenance can actually serve their innovative, modern British menu in a physical location – their permanent restaurant, café and deli in Whittlesford.
The location is convenient – it’s just seconds off the M11 and there is ample free parking. The building itself is impressive and there is lots of room, inside and outside. With dedicated spaces for the deli, café and restaurant, Brix + Mortar are able to expand their food offering.
There is a welcoming bar and the café is spacious, with a long communal table in the centre, individual tables on the side and cosy corners by the floating fireplace.
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.
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.