Friday, October 27, 2006

Trockel Ulmann und Freunde

(££) ***1/2 This little German-run brightly-coloured soup cafe on Pembroke Street is literally at the heart of the universty centre. Three different fresh, homemade and generaly delicious soups are dished up each day, and the atmosphere is bustling with students and academics from the nearby New Museums and Downing sites. The walls are decorated with old art and theatre posters, and the atmosphere is convivial and animated, despite the strangely dour staff. Unattractive features include the baguette sandwiches offered as accompaniment to the soups are routinely dry and unappetising, as is the murky, gungy filter coffee that goes under the name of 'espresso'. There are no proper tables and chairs, only tall stools to perch on - a fact which discourages one from lingering for a leisurely lunch. Yet in spite of all this, Trockel Ulmann and Freunde remains a very pleasant and well-loved spot for a quick lunch.

Monday, October 02, 2006

Pembroke College Bar and Coffee Shop

Y (£) ***** Pembroke is the latest college to re-invent its bar-cum-common room as a cafe serving top-notch Italian coffee. We were impressed enough by the stylish decor in this carefully-preserved set of Edwardian rooms in the centre of the college to conclude that it has overtaken King's Coffee shop as the most pleasant university cafe venue. It feels like something crossed between a youthful cutting-edge bar in a wealthy continental city and a gentlemen's club. It is open to members of the university, and, as far as we could tell, members of the public. At night, the coffee shop morphs into the college bar.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

La Raza

(£££) *** We were pleasantly surprised with an al fresco lunch at La Raza (Rose Crescent), the only establishment serving decent tapas in the city. By contrast to The Bun Shop/'Alchemy' Bistro's greasy, unimaginative tapas, or the defrosted bits of rubbish La Tasca attempts to pass off as food, La Raza serves fresh, innovative dishes using seasonal ingredients. A plate of baked figs with goat's cheese was the perfect dish for late September. The fact that we felt quite well-fed with only this and a plate of bruschetta with copious tomato and pesto salsa is testament to the entirely adequate size of La Raza's portions. All this comes at a price, however, and this moderate meal for two with two glasses of house wine set us back well over £30. In the warmer months, La Raza is an outdoor cafe in the busy Rose Crescent. La Raza's other reincarnation is as a very stylish basement nightclub, where this excellent food is also served. (reviewed separately under Nightlife).

Thursday, June 01, 2006

Dave's Fish and Chips (Sheringham)

Y (££) *** For a set price, you get chips, mushy peas, milky tea, tartar sauce and more fried fish than you can shake a stick at at Dave's Fish and Chips in Sheringham, a typical North Norfolk seaside town an hour's drive from Cambridge (also accessible by train via Norwich). It doesn't get any more traditional and full-fat than this, and, although the menu features a la carte items, the majority of patrons, almost exclusively local families, order the set meal. Come on a Sunday afternoon to see North Norfolk coastal society out in full force.

Cambridge Union Bar

(£) *** Entrance to the Cambridge Union Bar (Bridge Street), open every night, is technically restricted to members and their guests. The bar is atmospheric and grandly old-fashioned, and in the evenings after a debate or lecture, you’re more likely than not to run into someone famous there, or at least mix with future cabinet members and MPs. The Union often throws parties here, and on certain nights the bar will remain open until 1 AM. Coming here and watching the slightly obnoxious Tory undergraduates that run the society in action is always an edifying experience.


(£££) * Savino's has the look and feel of an authentic provincial Italian cafe, although the sort one would avoid if one actually was in Italy. It serves tasty but very overpriced panini and decent coffee. However, the nasty, superior macho staff alone make this cafe one to avoid. It's location at the heart of the bus station means that the cafe is generally filled with exhaust fumes and the experience of sitting on the street at one of its two outdoor tables is dismally coloured grey fumes and revving motors.

Monday, April 17, 2006

Our Ratings Explained

Our Ratings

(£) to (£££££) Price on a scale of 5 (£ being a real bargain, £££££ being quite extravagant)

* to ***** Our opinion of quality on a scale of 5 (* being not worth a visit, ***** one of the nicest places in Cambridge)

Y = Coup de Coeur

Saturday, April 15, 2006

The Van of Life, Van of Death

(£) **½ The vans of life and death are two mobile units dispensing kebabs, burgers and chips to mostly drunken students and locals from 9 PM until 3 AM. Both have become something of essential Cambirdge institutions. Depending on the time of the year, one encounters either a friendly, chatty crowd in the queue waiting for food, or downright aggressive drunks. Especially in the winter months, the heart of Cambridge takes on a ghostly, desolate air, and the market square with its two vans becomes, for better or worse, the animated centre of post-closing-time social life in the centre. Read an interview here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

King's Vac Bar

Y (£) ***** If you can manage to get through the gates before they shut for the night, King’s Vac Bar (inside King’s College, two stories above the main bar) is by far the best place to go for cocktails in central Cambridge during out-of-term time. Extremely potent concoctions with creative names (e.g. ‘something in your pigeonhole’) start at just £2. The crowd is mostly pleasant and very gay-friendly, and the selection of music is always excellent. Red walls and dim lighting create a relaxed atmosphere. The bar is open from 10 until midnight, although if you are not a member of the college, it will be impossible to exit through the front gates unless the porters let you out or you are with someone from the college. The schedule of opening times can be found here.

Sino Tap

(£££) * Following the unfortunate dismantling of the friendly old Town and Gown, the premises at Pound Hill briefly became a venture known as the Rope and Twine. We re-discovered it with most recently with great expectation as a Chinese cuisine-cum-real ale establishment, The Sino Tap. Initially, the combination seemed quite promising - we looked forward to gourmet Chinese cuisine similar to the likes of that at Peking (Burleigh Street), but a bit less expensive, with a good selection of beers to accompany it. We were sorely disappointed. We were served tiny, overpriced portions of gloopy, unimaginative pan-Chinese fare, and the one real ale from the miniscule selection available proved to have run out. In the end, our meal was so unsatisfactory we went down the road for another lunch at the Castle Inn (Castle Hill).