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.
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.
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.
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!
I was invited to a Tasting Lunch for Press & Bloggers to try out Pint Shop’s exciting new menu, developed by acclaimed food writer and chef Rosie Sykes. It was also an opportunity to check out Pint Shop’s revamp, namely its two new private dining rooms on the first floor and the covered, heated courtyard garden.
Pint Shop’s motto may be “Meat Bread Beer” but the new menu is so much more than that, with a greater selection of vegetarian options and a new vegan dish. Meat lovers can still enjoy beer brined chicken and tender pork belly cooked on their charcoal spit roast, as well as selections from the menu’s dry aged beef section. Dishes from Pint Shop’s charcoal grill include their house curry, grilled stone bass, lamb loin chops and a cauliflower cheese soufflé. But that’s not all… the menu features sharing platters, scotch eggs, small plates, flatbread kebabs, sides and desserts too. The redesigned menu offers greater flexibility so diners can share a variety of small plates as nibbles with drinks or order one of the small plates as a starter, as part of a 3-course meal.
The beer matrix is more impressive than ever with an extra 7 lines added to the bar but there is a fantastic selection of gins too.
To take home, I was given a can of Appalachian Green dry-hopped US pilsner brewed by Marble Brewery in collaboration with Pint Shop as part of their 20th Birthday Collaboration Series. What a treat!
Non-alcoholic options include hand-brewed Shrb sodas that are very low in sugar. I enjoyed Shrb’s Orange Ginger, one of the 4 flavours on the menu. It has a vibrant taste as the ingredients are steeped in cider vinegar for two whole days.
The Momofuku restaurant phenomenon, founded by Michelin-starrred chef David Chang, made its way to Toronto a few years ago and I finally had the chance to visit. Momofuku is adjacent to the Shangri-La Hotel and sits behind an astounding piece of public art created by celebrated artist Zhang Huan entitled “Rising”, a magnificent sculpture that rises over a reflective pool.
If that’s not impressive enough, Momofuku is located in an architecturally stunning three-storey glass cube. What can only be described as a complex, Momofuku comprises of five different concepts. There’s even a subtle map at the entrance to help find your way inside.
Momofuku boasts three restaurants. The Noodle Bar, with its communal tables and bar overlooking the open kitchen, is located on the ground floor. There’s also Daishō (steakhouse) and Shōtō (multi-course tasting menu) on the top floor.
The second floor is home to Nikai, a bar and lounge with food from the Noodle Bar’s menu. Also located on this floor is the Milk Bar, established by pastry chef Christina Tosi. This dessert shop is housed in a small refrigerated glass room.
We booked the Noodle Bar online through Momofuku’s website but it seemed they couldn’t find our reservation so we were shown to Nikai on the second floor. Actually, I’m not really sure what happened when we arrived as there was very little communication. Whether they had our reservation for the Noodle Bar but preferred to seat us in the bar and lounge or had no record of it, we’ll never know. Although we had a nice view overlooking the Noodle Bar below, we were seated on backless stools in a crowded corner so we immediately asked to change place as the stools would have been torture for Paulo’s chronic back problem. We were moved to the bar where the stools were much more comfortable but we had our backs turned to any kind of view of the surroundings. This was a bit disappointing until I realised that the very nice bartender would also take our food order so all was good. We had a captive audience… plus the cocktails were excellent!
Sunday Best, a fringe event for Eat Cambridge, took place on 22 May, 2016 at Church of St Cyriac and St Julitta, a historic church no longer used for regular worship. When the creative minds of organisers Alex Ruczaj and Vicky Fenton of My Little Festival met with talented chef Jay Scrimshaw of Guerrilla Kitchen, the result was a superbly organised event featuring a sumptuous three-course Sunday Lunch in a stunning, communal setting. Plus, the energetic Taffeta Scrimshaw, a fantastic team of helpers and an impressive selection of drinks from revamped horsebox The Spirited Mare all contributed to making Sunday Best a real feasting extravaganza!
Photo courtesy of Guerrilla Kitchen
While lunch was being prepared for this family friendly event, people were seated on bales of hay or spread out on the lawn outside the church, reading the Sunday papers, playing board games or just chilling out with a drink. The Spirited Mare was on hand with a menu featuring Prosecco on tap (frizzante, to be precise), Gin & Tonic, Bloody Mary (including Kimchi Bloody Mary), Aperol Spritz, Ginger & Lemongrass, Brewdog beers, soft drinks and wine (white, red and rosé).
A few months ago, I was kindly invited to sample The Cock’s new à la carte starters and mains menu, designed by talented head chef Wil Findlay. I was seriously impressed and raved all about it here. I also vowed to return and experience the restaurant as a customer. I had that opportunity on Monday!
The Cock, which is one of the restaurants operated by Cambscuisine, isn’t one of their Cambridge locations. It’s located in the picturesque village of Hemingford Grey in Cambridgeshire (out Huntingdon way) and it is definitely worth the drive. Its focus is on high end casual dining, with no sign of pretentiousness. Reservations are strongly recommended as The Cock has been garnering rave reviews and has even been named the 2015 Cambridgeshire Dining Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide.
Paulo and I arrived 10 minutes before the restaurant opened at 6:30pm for dinner so we were able to enjoy a drink in the cosy pub, which has a separate entrance but still connected inside for staff to make their way from one section to another. The Cock’s building dates back to the 17th century so some parts have a quirky layout but it is all quite charming.
Those of you familiar with the best of the Cambridge street food scene already know Steak & Honour and Jack’s Gelato. They formed a dining collective and named it Over The Tracks, a nod to the location of their Cambridge HQ tucked away in a winding industrial estate, just past the train tracks.
Leo Riethoff and David Underwood of Steak & Honour and Jack van Praag of Jack’s Gelato don’t just flip burgers and scoop ice cream. They are proper chefs who expertly create their menus and have worked in some of the best professional kitchens. Over The Tracks is their opportunity to expand their culinary offerings, and in Jack’s case, show what he can do away from the churn.
“Over The Tracks is quality, seasonal and local cooking in an informal and communal setting. With OTT, the guys are taking their product off the street and placing it in another context.” (Eat Cambridge Official Website)
This well organised fringe event for Eat Cambridge, held on 20 May 2015, was beautifully set up inside and outside the industrial unit. The bar was housed inside, along with several large communal tables and charming mismatched chairs. The minimalist décor and ambience worked well in the overall context. The chilled out sounds of instrumental hip hop music added to the urban atmosphere.