Hot Numbers – Gwydir Street, Cambridge (UK)

In 2011 coffee shop Hot Numbers opened its first location at Dale’s, the decommissioned brewery on Gwydir Street just off Cambridge’s vibrant Mill Road. Combining owner Simon Fraser’s love for coffee and music, Hot Numbers was named after the former record store in neighbouring Kingston Street (check out the restored mural/ghost sign there).

Since then, Hot Numbers has firmly established itself as an independent specialty coffee company with the addition of a roastery, a coffee wholesale business, a second site on Trumpington Street and an extensive refurbishment at the original location. Hot Numbers hosts a variety of musical, artistic and foodie events such as live music, vinyl listening nights, art exhibitions and weekly food trucks. A unique spot in Cambridge, Hot Numbers delivers the whole package as a place for social interaction, fuelled by quality coffee, drinks and food. It’s firmly on its way to becoming a Cambridge institution.

It’s evident that Hot Numbers strives for progress and maintains a competitive edge, as any good business would do. After all, at one time Mill Road was severely lacking in quality food and drink establishments but it is thriving now. Not resting on its laurels, Hot Numbers has recently developed an exciting new brunch menu for their Gwydir Street location that stands out from run-of-the-mill offerings. It’s a bold move rendered possible by completely changing the kitchen and bringing in a development chef/consultant so the food can be made in-house. The result strikes the perfect balance between innovation and familiarity. It’s an inventive menu that elevates the humble brunch from the norm yet still retains familiar elements.

It all kicks off at 7:30am with “breakfasty” options available till 11am. Choose from apricot yoghurt panna cotta with roasted peaches and granola, coconut milk porridge with raspberries, as well as freshly baked cornbread with three choices for toppings (honey & goats cheese, raspberries & Greek yoghurt and peaches & whipped ricotta).

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Supper Club 22 “Un peu de soirée française” at The Plough – Shepreth, Cambridgeshire (UK)

The Plough in Shepreth, a lovely village in South Cambridgeshire that lies halfway between Cambridge and Royston, is one of those places that has something for everyone. Good food and drink, great people, fun events, live music, art exhibitions… the list goes on! It’s only a 5-minute walk from Shepreth railway station and easily accessible from Cambridge, so there’s no excuse not to visit!

Photo courtesy of The Plough

I’ve blogged about The Plough’s events and food, most recently about their Sunday Lunch, a partnership with catering company Boxed Events. For the past few months there’s been another collaboration between The Plough’s Nick Davis and Boxed Events’ owner/chef James Knight: Supper Club 22, a monthly dinner with 22 people gathered around two tables to share a themed menu and listen to live jazz. And at the price of £22 per person, it’s extremely good value!

Supper Club 22 is held in the Mandolin bar where there is a stage for local jazz musicians. The space is large enough to accommodate the 22 guests but small enough to encourage the communal experience of a supper club. The cosy and chilled out ambience is enhanced by the warm glow of sparkly gin bottles and the mellow sounds of live jazz piano and guitar.

I attended their inaugural supper club in March (a delicious Asian-inspired menu) and another called “Kilners, Verrines and Terrines” in May, serving terrines and other dishes in glasses and jars. I missed their “Starsky & Hutch” 70s retro dinner!

July’s Supper Club 22, titled “Un peu de soirée française”, featured a classic French menu. Before my francophone friends and family point out the dodgy français, rest assured I did mention to Nick that the correct French is “une petite soirée française”. We both had a giggle over it and I came to the conclusion that his version has charm… a bit of Del Boy French. C’est la crème de la menthe, n’est-ce pas? Ooh la la!

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Soboro Bakery – Cambridge (UK)

Soboro Bakery is the latest venture by Dong Hyun Kim, owner of Wasabi, Kimchee and Kimchee To Go. After what seemed like an eternity waiting for the empty unit in the Lion Yard to open, Cambridge finally has the honour of being Soboro Bakery’s very first location.

It was worth the wait. The shop is beautifully designed and well laid out. Its minimalist décor offers clean lines and muted tones. There’s a good feeling about the place: it’s bright, cheerful and welcoming.

Taking its name from the classic Korean sweet bun, Soboro Bakery is very much a reflection of its founder Dong Hyun Kim who was born in Korea, learned his trade in Japan and makes London his home. The website states that Soboro is “based on the fine traditions of Japanese and Korean bakery” but it also offers many British favourites so it’s not strictly an Asian bakery. Actually it’s not just a bakery either. It’s more like a café as it serves sandwiches, soups, salads and yogurt pots in addition to its wide selection of buns, doughnuts, cakes, pastries, muffins, tarts, danish and cookies.

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SmokeWorks – Station Road, Cambridge (UK)

The opening of a second SmokeWorks on Station Road is great news for BBQ lovers and fans of the restaurant. A bigger kitchen means they can offer an expanded menu such as brunch and dessert options. All of the SmokeWorks favourites are still on the menu, with some items only available at this sister restaurant. They take reservations at this location – bonus!

Executive Head Chef Vladimir Hromek is still at the helm with his expertise in the culinary arts. His vast knowledge of traditional and modern BBQ techniques, complemented by extensive travel and research, brings the authentic flavours and textures to SmokeWorks. They have their own smokers and ovens imported from the US and they smoke, pull, brine and season their own classic BBQ food.

There’s no denying SmokeWorks is a meat lover’s paradise but there are some non-meat options such as salads, fish, eggs and vegetable dishes.

The building gives SmokeWorks the room it deserves to thrive. There is ample seating, spread out over two floors, with a nice bar area for drinks, cocktails and nibbles.

As with all restaurants in the Cambscuisine group, the interior design is stunning. The décor features science fantasy, technology and industrial elements. The wheel cogs on the wall not only reflect SmokeWorks’ logo but also the train theme, a nod to the restaurant’s location on Station Road, near Cambridge train station.

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Browns – Cambridge (UK)

Browns has been a Cambridge institution since it opened its doors in 1987. The beautiful building was part of the old Addenbrooke’s Hospital originally built in 1766 and the outpatients department, with its majestic columns, was built as a memorial to King Edward VII in 1914.

I visited Browns a few times when I moved to Cambridge and I have to admit it was looking a little tired and the spaces didn’t flow. Browns has now been completely transformed thanks to an extensive interior refurbishment. It’s contemporary and luxurious with a touch of glamour in every area, from the sweeping bar and its grand piano to the various purposely designed spaces for public, semi-private and private dining. Ideal for parties, family gatherings, business meetings and romantic dinners, there are sections for every occasion.

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Café Rouge’s Spring Menu – Cambridge (UK)

Spring is in the air and with that comes an appetite for seasonal flavours. Café Rouge’s Executive Chef Bruno Balle, inspired by his recent travels across France, created a new Spring Menu featuring à la carte dishes and a set menu sourced from the best ingredients and suppliers. Having enjoyed Café Rouge’s excellent Autumn Menu last year (I wrote about it here), Paulo and I were delighted to return to the Cambridge location to sample the new menu.

I’ve been to other Café Rouge restaurants but I love the Cambridge location. It sits among Bridge Street’s historic buildings and even has a bicycle themed entrance to their secret garden.

The inside is quite charming and cosy with a pleasant and relaxing ambience. In fact, if you book after 7:30pm, you can enjoy your table for the rest of the evening, embracing the French way of life of taking your time and savouring the dining experience.

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Nando’s, Cambridge Retail Park – Cambridge (UK)

Those who have been reading my blog over the past 3 years know that it’s all about sharing my food experiences. I’m not a food critic or even a reviewer. I simply enjoy eating and writing about it! I don’t consider any place beneath me or not good enough for me to set foot in (that would make me a terrible food snob). Besides, I think it’s good to try a variety of places. Chains, independents, cheap eats, posh nosh… I think all of us have a balance, based on needs, budget and preferences. Whilst it’s obvious I definitely have a preference for independents (my father was a restaurateur), I’m not averse to popping into a chain once in a while. Paulo and I travel extensively for our work and sometimes we end up in towns with just chains as options, so I think it’s good for this blog to offer some alternatives, based on my own personal opinion of course.

When I received an email announcing that Nando’s opened its most sustainable restaurant right here in Cambridge, I was curious to see the building. Sustainable construction is of personal and professional interest to us. Appointed as a “Next Generation Nando’s”, the location at Cambridge Retail Park is the first in the world to be powered by 100% renewable electricity and gas. It has 97 solar panels that generate 10% of its overall activity.

The restaurant is complimented with eco-friendly additions such as natural insulation made of Cumbrian sheep’s wool, a living wall of plants and intricate lampshades made from mushrooms.

The timber frame building boasts a green insulated roof which keeps the restaurant warm on the inside. It’s also been cleverly designed to harvest rainwater to keep the plants hydrated. The location is a good one too, with plenty of free parking (making it easier for families to get there) and great chilli pepper-shaped bike racks for the cyclists.

The chilli pepper theme continues upon entering the restaurant, with fresh chilli peppers growing in abundance in the lobby (I was tempted to pick some).

I have to admit that I haven’t set foot in a Nando’s since 2004. When I lived in Chiswick, my tiny overheated kitchen located above a dry cleaner didn’t inspire me to cook much so I regularly succumbed to a cheeky Nando’s. I was also on a very tight budget then so this place was the ideal balance between a fast food joint and a restaurant. It still is. An overload of Nando’s and the increased ability to try new places put Nando’s to the wayside.

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Cambridge Cookery School Café’s Saturday Evening Menu – Cambridge (UK)

We already know Cambridge Cookery School is a state-of-the-art learning facility (I wrote about their courses here and here) and their café serves some tasty food during the day (I wrote all about it here)… but did you know they are open on Saturday evenings too?

Every Saturday, Cambridge Cookery School Café transforms into a chilled out wine bar in the evening. It’s a bright, airy space with great views (no more construction, yay!) and ample seating outside. The décor is Scandinavian cool and features commissioned artwork by local artist (and foodie) Naomi Davies.

With the lights dimmed as it gets dark and enjoyable music in the background, the café becomes a wonderful spot for relaxing and socialising. It’s a great place to go if you want to avoid the Saturday night crowds in the city centre.

The Cambridge Cookery School Café is open until midnight on Saturdays and the menu features a selection of global platters, such as Scandinavian, Italian and Middle Eastern. They can be created to serve 1, 2 or 4 people and adapted to a vegetarian option. They use wonderfully fresh produce from Croxton Park in nearby St Neots. There is a cheese platter too and some fabulous mini desserts.

The drinks menu includes carefully sourced wines as well as cider, lager, ale and all the requisite aperitifs: G&T, Pamplemousse Rose, Aperol Spritz, Mojito, Negroni and Bloody Mary.

Paulo and I were kindly invited by co-owner Tine Roche to sample the Saturday Evening Menu and it did not disappoint. The table was beautifully set with flickering candles, crisp cloth napkins and colourful Iittala tableware. We were offered the Pamplemousse Rose, a refreshing cocktail made with Edmond Briottet pink grapefruit liqueur and Prosecco.

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The Cambridge Chop House – Cambridge (UK)

The Cambridge Chop House, one of the great restaurants in the Cambscuisine group, is located in the heart of town amongst many of the visitor attractions. However, this ideal location on King’s Parade doesn’t mean it’s a tourist trap. The Cambridge Chop House, a renowned dinner spot, has always consistently delivered excellent food, ambience and service.

So one can be forgiven if breakfast at The Cambridge Chop House doesn’t readily spring to mind. The good news is that a traditional British breakfast menu is now served every day between 9am and 11:30am.

It’s definitely worth popping in if you need to be in Cambridge early and want a hearty meal to start the day. Paulo and I went before the shops opened. We got to relax, admire the stunning views and enjoy a quiet, leisurely breakfast before the town came to life.

The ground floor is bathed in natural light with large windows wrapped around the corner of King’s Parade and Bene’t Street. It’s a cheerful spot to start the day right!

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À Mesa Supper Club: A Blossoming Spring – Cambridge (UK)

Stella Pereira is a true artist in every sense of the word. Her artistry is well known in Cambridge and the media, particularly her stunning Instagram. Stella’s artwork and culinary creations are inspired by the changing of the seasons, perfect timing for her latest À Mesa Supper Club held on 25 March. Titled “A Blossoming Spring”, the supper club (or “gathering”, as Stella prefers to call it) was held in her cosy living room. I had the honour of attending two of Stella’s previous gatherings in her home (An Autumnal Gathering) and at Espresso Library (Twelve at EL), which you can read about here and here.

We were a small group of (lucky) people who snapped up a place at À Mesa (Portuguese for “at the table”). Even though I have been to Stella’s supper clubs before, she still amazed me with her dishes, presentation and setting. It’s more than a supper club or gathering, it’s an EXPERIENCE.

Stella is a firm believer that food brings people together so the biggest part of her supper clubs is the comfortable, intimate environment where guests eat, drink, sing, laugh… and leave as friends. She serves modern Portuguese cuisine inspired by traditional ingredients (featuring staples in Portugal such as pork and salt cod) but she presents her dishes with a contemporary twist and this is where her artistic spirit really shines.

Preparations for A Blossoming Spring started way before the food and this was apparent in the little details, meticulously created to make up a truly unique experience. Stella’s tablescape was dotted with freshly picked blossoms, sliced bread (charmingly stacked in glass jelly moulds) and olives, both symbolising peace. We were intrigued by the variety of items handcrafted by Stella herself or her husband Carlos. All of the pieces on the table came together to tell a story, a reflection of Stella’s skills as a gifted food stylist.

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