The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie – Cambridge (UK)

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is the latest addition to The Ivy Collection’s string of sister restaurants to The Ivy, the renowned London landmark in Covent Garden founded in 1917. Staying true to the restaurant’s premium heritage brand, the Cambridge location on picturesque Trinity Street delivers the same elegance and prestige but still retains the individual elements of this historic city. There are many nods to Cambridge including artwork inspired by academia, science, punting, rowing and cycling. There’s even a cocktail named Newton’s Apple. The Ivy’s notable harlequin stained glass has been recreated for the front doors to showcase the brand’s iconic look.

The interior design is pure art deco opulence, featuring striking contemporary art, vibrant colours, polished marble floors, bronzed antiques, plush armchairs, buttery leather banquettes, soft lighting and a shimmering bar. The bartenders are clad in white jackets and black bow ties. There’s a coat check at the door. The whole building is the epitome of glamour!

The restaurant is bigger than it looks from the outside as it goes quite far back. There’s even The Boat Room, a private dining room in the basement.

The layout is open with some seating facing outwards so you can see and be seen – in true Ivy celebrity style. There are also cosy corners that still give a sense of space. The ambience is conducive to socialising without being loud.

The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is sophisticated and polished, but it’s also approachable and casual, as reflected in their “smart casual” dress code. It’s old-school hospitality without the stuffiness, a relaxed atmosphere amid high luxury. The best of both worlds!

The kitchen at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is overseen by Head Chef Stuart Conibear. Food and drinks are served from dawn to dusk, offering an all-encompassing menu of British classics and global contemporary dishes. Breakfast, elevenses, weekend brunch, lunch, afternoon tea, lights snacks, dinner and cocktails – they promise a lot. So how’s the food? Is the restaurant merely style over substance?

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The Three Horseshoes – Madingley, Cambridge (UK)

The Three Horseshoes has been an integral part of Madingley, a lovely village three miles from the centre of Cambridge. The charming pub/restaurant entered an exciting new chapter in January 2018 when it joined Cambscuisine, a local independent restaurant group. The Three Horseshoes is Cambscuisine’s ninth venture, which includes their other country pubs The Cock (Hemingford Grey), The Tickell Arms (Whittlesford) and The Crown & Punchbowl (Horningsea). I’m a big fan of Cambscuisine’s model of good food, service and ambience. I’ve blogged about The Cock here and here, as well as The Crown & Punchbowl here.

Photo courtesy of Cambscuisine

It was a smooth transition as Cambscuisine inherited the excellent team at The Three Horseshoes. In addition, the building didn’t need a full redecoration and was already in fine order. However, some beautiful decorative touches recalling the building’s history have been added, such as antique saddles, mirrors with bridal leather surround and wall-mounted horseshoes. Gone is the formality of white tablecloths. The solid oak tables are bare and fuss-free, lending a more relaxed vibe to the dining experience.

The dog-friendly pub area is more approachable with its cosy corners and wood fire… and the pints are now cheaper – bonus!

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The Cock – Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire (UK)

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 sign

The Cock side sign

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.

Collage The Cock

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.

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Menu Tasting at The Cock – Hemingford Grey, Cambridgeshire (UK)

The Cock in the beautiful village of Hemingford Grey is one of the fabulous Cambridgeshire restaurants operated by Cambscuisine. I’m already a huge fan of one of their places – SmokeWorks, which I raved about here and here. I have been meaning to try out their other restaurants so I was delighted when Jessica Donnithorne, who’s in charge of marketing and people development at Cambscuisine, invited me to a sneak peek of The Cock’s new à la carte starters and mains menu, which launches on 14 May, 2015. I was impressed, not only by the delicious 20 or so dishes served, but by the very well organised, professional and hardworking team. It was also great to meet one of the owners, Oliver Thain, as well as head chef Wil Findlay who designed the new menu. I was joined by fellow blogger Miss Sue Flay, who made a rather neat video of the tasting session. You can view it here.

Tasting table

The Cock’s ethos is to provide high end casual dining and they’ve definitely hit the mark with their menu and decor. The food is guided by the seasons and there is an emphasis on sourcing fresh, local ingredients. It’s no wonder The Cock has been named the 2015 Cambridgeshire Dining Pub of the Year in the Good Pub Guide.

The Cock Collage 2

It’s worth noting that the new à la carte starters and mains menu is mostly gluten free, which will please coeliacs, allergy sufferers and those with dietary preferences. There are plenty of meat-free options too, such as risotto, polenta, truffle gnocchi and smoked camembert.

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Salt House Tapas – Liverpool (UK)

I have been struggling to find decent tapas for quite some time so when I found out I was going to Liverpool I knew I just had to go to Salt House Tapas as I had heard great things about the food. I had no idea what to expect but the imposing listed building which houses the restaurant made a good first impression.

Salt House Tapas

Salt House Tapas in Liverpool

I never had tapas in Spain and don’t really know what traditional tapas are supposed to be like, if there is even such a definition. However, the emphasis at Salt House Tapas is delicious, expertly prepared food with fresh ingredients. They certainly delivered!

The restaurant’s layout and close tables lend a wonderful convivial atmosphere.

The eating of tapas is very much a social activity. These are little plates that are meant to be shared and enjoyed together.

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