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.
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).
There’s a welcome addition to Mill Road in Cambridge and that’s Lagona, a new Lebanese restaurant offering good, reasonably priced food. The location used to house Jaffa Net Café but now it’s a bright, cheerful restaurant that includes a separate shisha area at the back, if that’s your sort of thing. A little something for everyone… to me, that’s what Mill Road is all about.
Lagona opened fairly recently, in July 2016, and judging from the steady stream of customers, word has already gotten out that this is a must-visit. They don’t have a website and have very little social media presence so their custom is basically all word of mouth. That’s a good thing! I recommend this place for a casual, relaxed lunch or dinner. The portions are generous and service is friendly and helpful.
We did encounter some minor problems but not anything that would deter us from returning. I believe the issues stemmed from being rushed in the kitchen, perhaps due to it being busy that evening. I have to say that the staff were excellent in dealing with our complaint and quickly rectified the issue. More on that later.
Prana is the Sanskrit word for “life force” so when Prana on Mill Road recently relaunched after an extensive refurbishment, it was like breathing new life into this Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant. I visited Prana three times so far and my first visit was an invitation to the relaunch. To be honest, I’m glad I was invited because Prana stopped being on my radar after passing by many times and always seeing it closed. After speaking to owner Kobir Ahmed, I now understand the issue. When Prana was first purchased it operated as a tiny Chinese and Indian takeaway while Kobir continued his job as a banker. Then it was a proper restaurant but it was limited by a very small space with seating in the basement. A decision was made to close the restaurant and extend it significantly, which took quite a long time.
It was worth the effort as the restaurant is now spacious with stunning decor. Once you pass through the front door and manoeuvre the small step (limitations of the building), there is welcoming staff on hand to show you to tables topped with crisp, white tablecloths and napkins. The place is comfortable yet elegant, but not stuffy.
Kobir has made running the restaurant his full time job and his sister Rosie is also on board. Both are passionate about the restaurant and its food. There’s a real family connection as Kobir and Rosie’s uncle is the owner of renowned Maliks in Cookham, Berkshire (with other locations in Gerrards Cross and Marlow in Buckinghamshire). Prana is based on the exclusive menu designed by Maliks 30 years ago, which has evolved and now includes some of Kobir’s family recipes. We are fortunate to have this prestigious culinary link right here in Cambridge. Many dishes have secret spices but one thing is clear: Prana do not use curry powder. The results are clean, vibrant flavours that are a delight to the taste buds.