I am regularly asked where is good to eat in Cambridge that isn’t a chain but still good value for money so I thought I collect my regular haunts here, categorised but in more or less random order. This list is by no means inclusive and I will update it regularly.
This is basically my local as it’s on my home from work and the pubs close to where I live are either meocre chain pubs or downright dangerous.
Refurbished (revealing beautiful ceiling beams and adding open fires) and reopened by Milton Brewery and run by the same company who run the Devonshire Arms off Mill Road, The Haymakers offers a similar selection of beers (Milton, guest and bottled beers) and ciders as well as Italian food. The pizzas are quite excellent and the burger served in a flatbread isn’t bad, either. They turned the former courtyard into a nice garden, perfect for warm summer evenings (but beware the widely spaced slats of the tables, pints can topple!).
Open since 4th of November and eagerly anticipated by the Cambridge beer, gin and foodie community, especially by those who attended their popup during Eat Cambridge earlier in the year, this pub, bar and restaurant on Peas Hill (next door to the new Zizzi) offers mostly meat and fish dishes, many of which cooked on charcoal, spit roasted or slowly braised. Their twitter feed already gives a mouthwatering glimpse of what we can expect. The bar offers a large and constantly changing selection of (local) craft beers and spirits incl. their house gin created by The Cambridge Gin Distillery. There is even courtyard seating (yes, I was surprised there is one, too) in summer.
The menu consists of mainly roasted, grilled and braised meat dishes but you will also find at least one fish and one vegetarian option in starters and mains. The quality of ingredients is excellent and the cooking is spot on. While their main menu is on the pricier (due to location and quality of ingredients) side, the all day/early evening menu (before 7pm) is probably the best value for money in Cambridge.
This great pub at the bottom of Pound Hill serves restaurant-quality food. The menu changes regularly and offers both pub favourites as more restaurant type dishes. There is also a £5 lunch special that is very hard to beat. Their regular beer selection is from Adnams. Reservations highly recommended.
The Free Press
A great little pub with a good, rotating ale selection (outside their Greene King staples) as well as bottled beers. For the summer there are two areas with courtyard seating, one behind the building and one on the road.
Currently, their weekday food offering is not their own but various street food vendors, most of which can also be found at Foodpark (see below): Braizing Saddles (tacos, Mondays), Curly Kale Cafe (vegetarian, Tuesdays), Inder’s Kitchen (thali on Wednesdays and their kati roll van on Saturdays), GoGo Gogi Gui (Korean burgers, Thursdays) and Guerilla Kitchen (US style cooking, Fridays). The lineup fluctuates a bit so best follow them on twitter (their website is not up to date).
The Old Spring
Another pub offering restaurant quality food with a good selection of staples and a regularly changing specials menu. I’ve found the quality a bit variable for the price but would still recommend it.
The Wrestlers (Thai)
This pub on Newmarket Road is a perfect lunch spot for me as I only need to cross the Riverside Bridge and the tesco car park to get there. I don’t go there as often as I should but it’s mostly a timing issue on my part, not the pub’s (it’s easily possible to have lunch there within an hour if you don’t pick a busy time). The menu is tried and tested and hasn’t changed much in the last almost 18 years I’ve been going (except for the prices, of course). My favourites are the Panang curry and the Tom Ka soup for their excellent depth of flavour, not too hot but spicy. Of course, if you want some serious heat, the green curry is for you.
Jo Kruczynska, home baker extraordinaire and current supplier of places like Hot Numbers, Urban Larder and the café at the Folk Museum, has opened her own café at 13 King Street. Jo, together with Miss Igs offer not only cakes and pastries, coffee and tea but also savoury toasties, sandwiches soups etc. for lunch and all-day brunch on weekends.
Everything I have tasted so far (chocolate stout cake, brownies, brunch mushroom toastie, bacon muffins, coffee and tea) has been excellent. The coffee (from Caravan) deserves special mention as even a regular flat white has no ill effects on my sensitive stomach.
This Sicilian cafe opened to great anticipation which turned out to be entirely justified. Their coffee is superb and their pastries, especially the cannoli are excellent. On the savoury side there are arancini and various pizzette as well as sandwiches. As you walk past it you can watch the pizza maker at work. They have recently acquired another shop on Peas Hill which should hopefully lessen the pressure on the first as pretty much the only problem with Aromi is a lack of space. When it’s full – and it is most of the time – it is hard to move as the queue threads down to between the tables.
They now have a second cafe around the corner on Peas Hill with a similar food offering plus excellent gelato.
Cafe Oriental (no website, in Burleigh St., opposite Primark)
This is a small place specialising in dumplings (boiled, fried and sweet) with other typical Chinese dishes as “side dishes”. This is now my favourite place for a quick snack before or after the cinema. There are also soups, sweets and bubble tea.
Good coffee, nice cakes and pastries.
If you are serious about your coffee, this is the place for you. They roast their beans themselves and have made making coffee a sort of science. There are also cakes (from Afternoon Tease, among others), pastries and sandwiches.
A Cambridge institution, shut a few years ago and revived by the eponymous Tim Hayward in the autumn of the same year. Excellent cakes and pastry, including the world famous Chelsea Buns. A suberb savoury lunch is also served as well as dinner on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings (see below).
An independent burger bar at the former Cafe Carrington site. Beef, iberico pork and veggie burgers with a selection of toppings, a number of sides, craft beers and bourbons. First impressions here. Good competition to Byron.
Tucked away off Bene’t street (where the tiny restaurant with the huge menu used to be), Smokeworks offers US style BBQ and opened to great hype in summer. Pulled pork and beef, ribs, smoked sausages, smaller bites, a good selection of sides and rich milk shakes make up the menu. There is an excellent but small selection of craft beers and American whiskeys, too. Here‘s my review of a preview night. Since then, they’ve introduced a salad side and a halloumi bun as a token vegetarian option.
HK Fusion (Chinese)
They have two restaurants, one near the Round Church, opposite St. John’s and one in Burleigh St. (where the Peking used to be). Simple Chinese food a bit away from the usual fare.
Don Pasquale (Italian)
One of the few family-run restaurants around market square. Great pizzas and pasta dishes as well as other Italian favourites, lovely gelato and desserts, all at a very decent price considering the location.
The Olive Grove
Greek cuisine is somewhat underrepresented in Cambridge but this one is excellent. They offer a good selection of Greek classics, a lot closer to what you’d get in Greek restaurants on the continent, from simple dishes like their excellent Moussaka to perfectly cooked lamb chops, lovely starters (the honey baked feta is sublime) and tasty but rather rich desserts. The wine list is short but interesting, varied and all Greek. The value, considering its prime location on Regent Street, is also very good indeed, a three course meal with a glass of wine will be around £30 per head.
On Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings dinner is served, concentrating on classic, hearty British fare, similar to St. John in London. Generous portion sizes and superb puddings will make sure you will not leave hungry.
Alimentum (Modern British)
Being a Michelin-starred restaurant, Alimentum is obviously on the more expensive end of the scale (the 10-course Chef’s Tasting Menu is £85) but at lunchtime and in the early evening (and all evening on Mondays) you can have a fantastic and quick three-course meal for (currently) only £24.50 plus service. This menu offers the same high quality cooking just with less expensive ingredients.
NOVI (small plates)
Opened for dinner end of July 2015 at the former Fountain Inn site in Regent St. A selection of fish, meat and vegetarian dishes plus sides. The bar offers a few reasonable beers on tap as well as bottles and quite an interesting looking cocktail list. I have been once for lunch for a plate of cured cod cheeks with a salad which was tasty and reasonably priced. For dinner it’s smaller plates of which I would say you need at three to be sated. No desserts/sweets yet.
This Indian delivery only service creates some of the best Indian food I’ve eaten, even at restaurants. They have a well thought out and regularly changing menu, offering both freshly cooked/delivered hot and chilled to reheat dishes. There is something for every palate, from various areas of India. One of the great features on their website is that you can order in advance, to be delivered at a set time (half hour slots). For the environmentally conscious, their plastic containers are recyclable and the paper bag is perfect for collecting stuff for the green bin. Bonus: if you order your food to be delivered before 18:30, you get a 10% discount.
Easily the best delivery pizza in Cambridge. Proper crispy, thin crust base with good toppings, not overloaded.
Steak & Honour
The burger van (two in fact) in Cambridge. Leo and Dave are out and about all week with Food Park during lunchtimes and other locations in the evening (keep an eye on their twitter account of where he’ll be when, but Cambridge Wine on Cherry Hinton Road on Thursdays is one regular spot) and serves the best burgers I’ve had anywhere. The meat is local (Riverside) and everything else is well sourced, too. The standard menu has the classic, cheese and mushroom burger and there are regular specials (pork, BBQ, added brisket etc). When they team up with a pub (The Free Press and Flying Pig are regular collaborators), you can sit down and have a nice pint with your burger, too.
Superb, home made, Italian style ice creams and sorbets, both in traditional and more unusual flavours. Again, watch his twitter for location and time. Various retail outlets now serve his gelato, too, for example Nord (the Scandi cafe/clothes/stuff shop in Sussex St.)
A regular street food venue in the CB1 development along Station Road, roughly opposite the junction with Tenison Road. This is currently run Thursdays and Fridays with breakfast from 8am and lunch from 12. You’ll find local favourites like Steak&Honour and Guerilla Kitchen as well as a van from Inder’s Kitchen offering khati rolls, a Scandinavian hotdog stand, coffee and snacks from Warm Your Cockles. Check the website for details and this week’s lineup which is constantly expanding.
They recently expanded with a new site at the West University Site on Wednesdays and in Science Park on Thursdays.
This page will be expanded as time goes on. There are a few planned openings that are bound to make this list.