I’ve been a loyal customer of OliveOlive for several years now, regularly stocking up on their excellent halloumi and extra virgin olive oil from Cyprus. I have the added foodie bonus that this Cambridgeshire based company is local to me so my orders are delivered by owners Pam and Rob Marsden – a nice opportunity for a little chat. I often see them at markets and foodie events too.
Their first press, unfiltered olive oil comes from Pam’s family farm in Cyprus. It’s produced in a coastal village using handpicked local olives and cold pressed within 24 hours. It really is of superior quality, including their olive oils fused with basil, chilli, garlic, lemon or oregano. Their Cyprus Village halloumi is handmade the traditional way by their friends in Cyprus, the Stefani family. It’s way better than the supermarket stuff. These personal connections are the best kind of quality control.
Our cooking often features their products so I was excited to learn that Pam and Rob wrote their own recipe book – The OliveOlive Mediterranean Cookbook, published by Meze Publishing. I was looking forward to checking out all the recipes so I was delighted when Pam and Rob gave me a complimentary copy.
The cookbook features 45 recipes contributed by Pam, her family, their friends, customers and chefs who use OliveOlive’s products in their restaurants. There is page after page of mouth-watering photography of the dishes but I also liked the personal photos… the family farm, Pam’s relatives (mum, dad, aunt and uncle) in Cyprus as well as Pam and Rob on the farm and in their kitchen.
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.
I was delighted to get a sneak peek of The Wine Rooms ahead of their official opening on 8 June. Located at 57 Hills Road near Station Road, this place is an exciting new addition to Cambridge’s independent food and drink scene. The focus is on wines paired with a modern, seasonal menu with New Zealand-born Cambridge chef Liz Young at the helm.
The Cambridge based owner of The Wine Rooms is an experienced vintner and wine management and cellarage provider so the wines naturally take centre stage. It’s more of a wine bar and shop for high end wines than a restaurant but that in no way diminishes the food offering. The changing menus, featuring an All Day Bar Menu of Small Things and Sweet Things and an Evening Menu of more substantial dishes, are designed to complement the carefully curated wines by the glass.
The wall of wine bottles on wooden shelves (some only accessible by ladder), the combination of table and counter seating, the specials boards next to the small window into the kitchen, the bar at the back complete with brass pendant lights and antiqued mirror… they all set the scene for fine wine and good food in an unpretentious atmosphere with friendly, knowledgeable service.
Mercado Central is bringing expertly prepared, market fresh produce to the heart of Cambridge. The painstakingly refurbished building on Green Street now has a cohesive presence with its uniform colour and striking hand painted sign. This independent restaurant is warm, classy and welcoming – the type of place that stops you in your tracks and makes you want to step right in.
The interior is elegant and modern, with subtle Spanish accents such as greenish-blue tiles (reminiscent of Cambridge Blue) and a gorgeous Sargadelos ceramic tap for pouring Estrella Galicia beer. There is a cosy area near the bar where customers perched on stools can enjoy drinks and nibbles.
There are more tables at the back but the main dining area is on the first floor. It’s a stunning space with high ceilings, soft lighting, beautiful wood flooring, sumptuous curtains, linen napkins, wooden and velvet chairs as well as tables without stuffy tablecloths.
The inspiration lies in Spain’s historic markets and restaurants and Mercado Central certainly deliver. It’s clear in their excellent food and drink offering but the owners (the majority Cambridgeshire locals) have the background, expertise and experience to bring a restaurant of this calibre to Cambridge. They are Daniel Grana of local company Pata Negra Spanish Food, Spanish retired footballer Gaizka Mendieta who is a childhood friend of Daniel’s, and brothers Lee and Mark Hughes, part of the popular Provenance Catering Airstream and horsebox.
Cam Spice has been on my list of Indian restaurants to try so I’m happy we finally had the chance to visit. It’s located in Great Eversden, Cambridgeshire in a pub named The Hoops and it has retained its charm despite the refurbishment. The big car park is a bonus.
The restaurant makes great use of the space with a cosy bar that’s popular with the locals, an area with additional seating amid the exposed beams as well as round tables ideal for groups behind the impressive bubble water wall.
Paulo and I were warmly welcomed by Baba and given a table in a little nook by the window – very charming! Baba was very helpful and helped us decide what to order, as the menu was so tantalising it was hard to choose. He was the perfect person for a foodie like me to talk to as he is a chef himself and he took the time to understand our tastes and preferences. I liked the fact that the kitchen was flexible enough to adjust any of the dishes – in my case less spicy and for Paulo, kicking the chilli level up a few notches.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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 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 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.
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).