Sunday, 18 February 2007

Cambridge City Trip, February 2007

I spent a few days in Cambridge and have compiled some information that might be useful to people who enjoy their food and wine, or just chilling out in a bar.

Cambridge is oozing cultural heritage!

If you have time for a walk in the city I would suggest entering the city from the North through Magdalene Street (see junction with Northampton Street, Castle Street and Chesterton Lane).
From Magdalene Street, go over the bridge and continue on Sidney Street or take right for St Johns Street. From here, just wander on through the maze of little streets and enjoy the atmosphere.

Cambridge does have a very academic (even religious) feel to it, but lacks the youthful energy you would expect from a student city ... well it even seems to lack the youth really ;-)
On arrival make sure to pick up a free Explorer Magazine at your hotel or the nearest bar who offers them. Not only will you have an overview of everything going on in the city, but you will even find some vouchers for a free bottle of wine or a reduction at many restaurants. Also make sure to tear out the map that is printed in this magazine!

Places to Stay:
Having stayed in one hotel, I can only comment on Arundel House Hotel (Chesterton Road).
The location is ideal and when staying in a front room with bay windows you do get to enjoy quite a nice view on Jesus Green park.

The hotel however feels a bit dated and even though the restaurant is being described as contemporary, this statement must have been made a few decades ago.
For business people this hotel might not be ideal because they don't allow laptops nor mobile phones in bar & restaurant. Another major disadvantage is the total lack of Internet connectivity in this hotel.
On the plus-side everything is impeccably clean, the location is spot on and the service is friendly and efficient.

Places to Eat/Drink:
Since I was staying just at the northern outskirts of the city I often ended up eating (and having a drink) in the more "touristy" part.
On Bridge Street you will find many restaurants that are part of a chain. Chez Gerard has recently undergone a face lift and offers decent food in a nice contemporary deco, but Café Rouge seems to be a safer bet. The food is not spectacular but is consistently good and the atmosphere inside is quite charming. Service is friendly and efficient and all of this translates in the restaurant being packed every night while the surrounding places seem to be begging for customers. In the same area you will find Galleria which to my understanding will only be worth your money during summer days, if you can sit on the balcony that literally hangs over the river. Edwinns restaurant does look very good when walking past it, but the place doesn't seem to draw a crowd and when doing some more research about this place the reviews are very mixed.
Although being a bar, B Bar is my favourite place in Cambridge. A nice venue, with a warm friendly atmosphere, that offers a decent wine selection and bar food that is way better than one would expect. Daytime this place is nice to have a coffee and afterwork it is ideal for a drink, a snack (the sharing plates are really good) or a proper meal. The place has a loungy feel to it and you feel like you could spend the entire day here. Since it is quite big, it however isn't the most romantic place for a "tête à tête" dinner.

While being in Cambridge I did quite some research and asked some locals about the best places for food.
Le Gros Franck (read as The Fat Frank) has a really good reputation and is a place I would definitely like to go to on my next visit.
De Luca Cucina & Bar seems to provide amongst the best cocktails in the city and is supposedly a really nice place for an aperitif drink and some antipasti. The food, service and atmosphere seem to enjoy an overall excellent reputation. Another place that is certainly worth visiting!
Loch Fyne Fish Restaurant and Oyster Bar has recently undergone a little face lift. It had quite a good reputation but please check on for recent updates because reviews are mixed nowadays.
Dojo isn't situated in the most cosy spot of the city but seems to offer a good and tasty selection of Chinese, Vietnamese, Japanese and Thai food.

This list is obviously not exhaustive and doesn't include Michelin star restaurants nor the really posh expensive restaurants like Midsummer House .
The restaurants mentioned above are not "cheap" (except for Dojo) but they won't cost you a week's salary either ;-)
If you want to save a few quid when going for food, make sure to register with and print the online vouchers that are available for many of the places mentioned.

Since I was staying in a hotel without Internet connectivity I went on a quest for free wifi!
I wanted to find some "loungy" bars that offer free wifi, in order not to end up in a typical "Internet shop/café" where the background "music" consists out of keyboards being hammered.
It took me quite a while, but finally I managed to find a couple of places where you can enjoy sipping an espresso while checking your mails.
Ta Bouche, opposite to B Bar, offers free wifi (BT) and quite a nice venue with a friendly atmosphere. The food looked really good but the day I went for lunch an overly noisy bunch spoiled my appetite ... how can just 6 people make so much noise? I have no idea why some people think they need to scream at each other instead of talking!? The wifi signal of Ta Bouche reaches B Bar, but you will still need the wifi wep password from Ta Bouche.
The Box Tree is anther loungy contemporary place that offers free wifi, but it's location isn't particularly great next to Grafton Shopping Centre.
The Fountain Inn pub also offers free wifi (Tiscali).
De Luca Cucina & Bar also has free wifi.

So far my travel report on Cambridge ... Just some extra pics underneath to give you a feel for the city

More pics can be viewed on my Picasa Web Album:

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