A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of spending the evening with local blogger friends at the newly reopened University Arms hotel in Cambridge. From sampling signature cocktails to a peek at some of the best hotel views in the city, it was a wonderful night. We topped it off with a stunning meal in their new bar and brasserie Parker’s Tavern. I’m still thinking about the food now, I can’t wait to show you!
Built in 1834, the University Arms is a landmark in Cambridge city centre’s history. However for the past four years it’s been closed whilst undergoing a huge £8 million huge transformation. The result is something very beautiful indeed, befitting of its history and, just as importantly, its future.
You can’t miss the University Arms hotel now. Situated on Regent Street, it’s fronted by an immense stone porte-cochère supported by huge stone pillars.
The grand reception has an elegant art deco feel with geometric cut glass windows and muted sage paintwork. This is contrasted by pops of bright colour and sumptuous textures on the furnishings. Then every so often the artwork throws a little curveball with nods to ‘in jokes’ between the designers. I couldn’t get them to reveal the story behind why Winston Churchill resides behind the concierge desk!
Through yet more impressive doors, we found ourselves in a cosy wood panelled room filled with comfortable velvet sofas and chairs in lamplit corners and floor to ceiling bookcases. I could see myself cosying up in there on a quiet Winter evening with a good book and a little tipple.
This was not that kind of night though, so instead we moved through into the main bar to sample some of the Cambridge inspired cocktails, each aptly named as explained in the menu.
Pippa had a wonderfully frothy creation…
…whilst I stuck with a classic: Rosé Champagne!
At this stage we were joined by Tristan Welch, an amazing chef who amongst other career highlights was head chef at Gordon Ramsey’s two michelin star restaurant Petrus. He has now returned to his hometown of Cambridge to be Head Director of Parker’s Tavern, creating a seasonal menu around the best local produce the area has to offer.
Tristan was so clearly passionate about this new venture, from explaining the history of the hotel and how they’ve carefully brought it up to date whilst retaining its unique personality, to giving us the guided tour of the accommodation.
The rooms are luxuriously decorated with little homages to Cambridge to be found.
Behold: the inspiration for my next bathroom! (A girl can dream…)
The most impressive rooms found on the top floor offer a substantial balcony with views looking out across Parker’s green and the city beyond.
And so onto the food at Parker’s Tavern!
I couldn’t find any guidance on the menu as to whether any of the options were suitable for vegans but quietly asked one of the waiters. He was very helpful and advised me of the dishes that were able to be adapted.
The rest of the table enjoyed tempura courgette with honey, as well as homemade burrata and heirloom tomatoes with a basil dressing. I opted for the heirloom tomatoes dish minus the cheese.
You might think that removing such a key element would make it rather bland. Thankfully that wasn’t the case at all. The tomatoes were infused with flavour and held their own on the plate. I’d order it again and would love to know how to recreate it at home.
Then this happened…
I know what you’re thinking, steak tartare is definitely not vegan. It is, however, entirely plant based! The ‘steak’ is actually Beetroot Hache, transforming the humble vegetable into something meaty, textural and full of flavour. The ‘egg’ is a delicate yellow tomato and horseradish cream.
I don’t say this lightly, but this is a 10/10 dish for me, truly superb.
What a brilliant evening with fantastic company and some of the best food I’ve eaten in ages. Well done Tristan Welch and the team behind this amazing hotel and restaurant. University Arms is truly back on the map!
PS. It was also an opportunity to catch up with Pippa and put some very exciting plans into motion. Keep an eye on my twitter for a big announcement coming very soon!
Disclaimer: Food and drink was complimentary on the night, all views are my honest opinion.