La Piazza by Signorelli’s – Cambridge (UK)

Signorelli’s Deli opened on Burleigh Street in 2017 and it’s been a huge success, due in no small part to the hard work of affable owner Alex Signorelli and his team. So when The Grafton started its massive refurbishment and creation of Food Social, it was only fitting that Signorelli’s have a presence there too.

La Piazza by Signorelli's Grafton Cambridge Alex Signorelli

La Piazza by Signorelli The Grafton Food Social Cambridge

Based on the concept of a town centre square, La Piazza by Signorelli’s is a place to gather, day or evening, for food, drinks and good company. The area, right by H&M on the ground floor, is certainly eye catching with its plush velvet seats and fantastic lighting. It’s family friendly too, with highchairs and lots of space for prams.

La Piazza by Signorelli Grafton near H&M Cambridge

La Piazza by Signorelli Grafton Food Social Cambridge

Their counter is laden with hot dishes, salads, cakes and gelato. Signorelli’s bread (including their award-winning ciabatta) is freshly made every day in their on-site bakery at the Deli and there are a variety of sandwiches for a quick bite.

La Piazza by Signorelli's Grafton Cambridge counter

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Chi – Cambridge (UK)

Chi is Cambridge’s latest independent restaurant to open in Food Social, the burgeoning dining quarter in The Grafton, near PureGym and the Vue cinema. Chi offers Asian inspired street food cuisine like bao, banh mi, bubble tea, dumplings, bubble waffles, noodle/rice dishes and more.

Chi Food Social The Grafton Cambridge

Chi Restaurant Food Social The Grafton Cambridge

This new addition to Cambridge’s food scene is expertly developed and designed but it’s definitely not a soulless corporate chain. It’s clear this place has heart and is driven by passion for good food.

Seating Chi Restaurant The Grafton Cambridge

Paulo and I were invited by co-owner Aidan to try the menu and it was nice to hear about his extensive (and impressive) experience in hospitality as well as his connection to our city. Aidan not only grew up in Cambridge, he also grew up in the restaurant business. His father, who’s from Hong Kong, owned a successful restaurant over 20 years ago just down the road from The Grafton.

Aidan Chi Food Social The Grafton Cambridge

Counter seats Chi restaurant Food Social The Grafton Cambridge

Chi sits in a lovely, bright space at the back of Food Social. There are lots of tables and the chairs are comfortable. There is even counter seating with stools, complete with outlets for laptops. It’s also child friendly with highchairs and a kids’ menu featuring fun activities, including making paper lanterns. They even had some creations on display at the order counter. Very cute!

Chi Restaurant The Grafton Food Social Cambridge

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Cotto – The Gonville Hotel, Cambridge (UK)

There’s no doubt the food scene in Cambridge has been steadily evolving but Cotto has remained a top dining destination for 12 years and counting, initially at its humble location on East Road and now at the luxurious Gonville Hotel. In fact, chef-owner Hans Schweitzer’s culinary presence in Cambridge goes even further back than that. He opened Confiserie Schweitzer on Magdalene Street in the late ‘80s and is responsible, along with a partner, for Midsummer House’s existence by converting the old Victorian home into a restaurant.

Cotto Cambridge The Gonville Hotel Bentley

Hans Schweitzer trained as a Master Chocolatier (read on for the chocolate piano, one of his most famous creations). He qualified as a Master Chef (Maître de Cuisine / Küchenmeister) and earned a Michelin star at his restaurant in Germany, both before the age of 30. We are indeed fortunate to have a chef of this calibre in Cambridge.

Cotto Cambridge The Gonville Hotel

With the move to a purpose-built section of the refurbished Gonville Hotel in 2017, Cotto now has the sumptuous setting to match its renowned tasting menu. Not to be confused with the hotel’s Atrium Brasserie, Cotto sits prominently in a modern glass extension at the front of the hotel, with a beautiful terrace overlooking Parker’s Piece.

Cotto Cambridge terrace

This was me and Paulo’s first visit to the new location, after having dined several times at the previous one. We kicked ourselves for waiting so long to go back. After all, we stayed at The Gonville Hotel in the past and also enjoyed Enchanted Cinema’s screenings in their beautiful gardens so we really had no excuse for not booking dinner at Cotto sooner, other than time flies!

Enchanted Cinema Gonville Hotel Cambridge

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68 Market Street – Ely, Cambridgeshire (UK)

Ely’s foodie scene is expanding and 68 Market Street is an exciting addition to the city’s food and drink offering. It’s all in the name. Not only is it the address but the word market denotes freshness, provenance and sociability… and this eco-friendly, sustainably-focused restaurant delivers in spades.

68 Market Street Ely vegetarian restaurant CB7 4LS

The street name is certainly a lucky coincidence but the rest is down to a clear vision of sustainability and a strong environmental ethos. The focus is on the region’s seasonal produce which supports farmers, producers and the local community. Food wastage is also of utmost importance as it impacts the environment. This is one of the reasons for 68 Market Street’s already popular Sunday Spread, which needs to be booked in advance.

68 Market Street Ely eco-friendly restaurant

68 Market Street Ely view of kitchen

It doesn’t stop there – the business recycles as much as possible with all non-recyclable waste going to a zero-landfill waste carrier. The furniture has been reused or repurposed. There are even bespoke branded tables. Works by local artists adorn the walls.

68 Market Street Ely tables and local art

68 Market Street Ely tables and pew

68 Market Street Ely bespoke table

The bar area is a welcoming little space to sit and have a drink. In fact, the whole refit is well laid out, considering the limitations of the building and awkward corners and levels.
68 Market Street Ely bar local beers

68 Market Street Ely bar seating area

68 Market Street Ely CB7 4LS vegetarian restaurant

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Prana, launch of new menu and gin bar – Cambridge (UK)

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.

Prana Indian Restaurant Cambridge gin bar

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).

Prana Indian Restaurant Cambridge gin and tonic

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.

Prana Indian Restaurant Cambridge Mill Road menu

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.

Prana Indian Restaurant Cambridge samosa chaat

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The Eltisley – Eltisley, Cambridgeshire (UK)

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!

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The Tasting Table with Dulcedo, The Baking Jin and Bumble & Oak – Cambridge (UK)

I love it when a plan comes together. It’s no secret that I’m a great fan of the sweet treats produced by Andrew Hunter (Dulcedo), Jin Yee Chung (The Baking Jin) and Riadh Falvo (Bumble & Oak), but what if I brought together these three inventive makers for a special event? Some of us knew each other well, others only a little… but somehow they got on board with my idea for a collaboration, even though it was a lot of extra work for them. Jin and Riadh have full time jobs. Andrew and Joanna lost several hours of trade that day by closing early, not to mention the effort involved in all the preparation and using Dulcedo as the venue. I am so grateful for their trust in me to sell out the event.

The Tasting Table at Dulcedo Cambridge

The Tasting Table Dulcedo Cambridge

The three of them concentrated on designing and developing the 8-course menu – a sweet (mostly) and savoury parade of innovative dishes, fusion bakes, high end patisserie and artisan chocolate. I took care of all the marketing and admin stuff, such as the event description, photos and ticket sales. Riadh came up with the name The Tasting Table.

The Tasting Table Cambridge Dulcedo, One Two Culinary Stew, Bumble & Oak, The Baking Jin

Photo by Jin Yee Chung

The event formed part of my personal commitment to support independent producers and businesses so I didn’t charge for my services and paid for my own ticket and drinks. I did have a few advantages though, such as guaranteeing a ticket for myself and Paulo and getting a sneak peek at the menu so I could type it up and print individual copies. And of course, a glimpse behind the scenes is always a privilege.

The Tasting Table Dulcedo Cambridge Pina One Two Culinary Stew

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Sleepy Sundays at The Crown & Punchbowl – Horningsea, Cambridge (UK)

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.

The Crown & Punchbowl Horningsea Cambridge

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.

The Crown & Punchbowl Horningsea Cambridge pub restaurant rooms

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).

The Crown & Punchbowl Horningsea Science Wing

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).

The Crown & Punchbowl Horningsea Cambridge Hawking room keys

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Mozzarella Class by Biagio Staiano at Signorelli’s Deli – Cambridge (UK)

In March, Cambridge welcomed master cheesemaker Biagio Staiano for a fun and hands-on Mozzarella Class at Signorelli’s Deli. The event was made possible by Francesco Amato of online Italian food shop Agrumia who collaborated with Alex Signorelli to bring Biagio’s ‘art of making mozzarella’ to a group of 30 enthusiasts of Italian cheese.

Biagio showed us how to make the famous mozzarella from his family’s well-respected cheese factory in Ravello on the Amalfi Coast, Caseificio Staiano. It was such a privilege to draw on its 100-year history of artisan methods and taste the ingredients local to the ‘Milky Mountains’ (Monti Lattari) along the coast.

We enjoyed a welcome drink (a requisite Aperol Spritz for me) and our gregarious host Alex introduced Biagio and his lovely wife Karolina, who was the interpreter.

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Parker’s Tavern, University Arms – Cambridge (UK)

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!

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