University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge

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!

University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge University Arms Cambridge

Pippa had a wonderfully frothy creation…

University Arms Cambridge

…whilst I stuck with a classic: Rosé Champagne!

University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge

The rooms are luxuriously decorated with little homages to Cambridge to be found.

University Arms Cambridge University Arms Cambridge

Behold: the inspiration for my next bathroom! (A girl can dream…)

University Arms Cambridge University Arms Cambridge

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!

University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge

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.

University Arms Cambridge

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…

University Arms Cambridge

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!

LovedByLaura

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!

University Arms Cambridge

Disclaimer: Food and drink was complimentary on the night, all views are my honest opinion.

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Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

I was recently contacted by Bill’s Restaurant in Cambridge asking if I’d like to visit and review their vegan menu.

Damn right I would – I love that place!

I’ve been a normal paying customer at Bill’s Restaurants both in Cambridge and Peterborough for many years so it was an absolute privelege to be invited there in a blogging capacity. It was also the first time I’d visited since becoming vegan so I was keen to see how the experience would compare.

Upon arrival we were given some of Bill’s cocktails to sample. I found them very easy drinking as each contained deliciously fruity flavours which helped to tone down the taste of the various alchols blended through. The English Country Garden, for example, contained Bill’s Elderflower Gin aperitif with a mix of wild Sussex elderflower cordial, lime juice and cloudy apple juice – absolutely perfect for a hot Summer’s day!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

After sampling the cocktails we switched to soft drinks. I went for Bill’s Pink Lemonade which is my idea of a perfect non alcoholic Summer pick me up. It’s made for them by a small French artisan company that’s been around for more than 100 years and the quality shows – it’s super sparkly and refreshing and served in the cutest bottle. Sian chose a Botanical Ginger Beer and I had a taste of it, so I can vouch for that being another good option!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

When it came time to order food I made my server aware of my dietary requirements and she was happy to offer some recommendations. The menu itself was really easy to follow as all vegan friendly dishes were clearly labelled VE. If you have another type of special dietary requirements or need to avoid a certain allergen there’s a more detailed menu that they can bring out to help so if in doubt, just ask. They clearly take it very seriously and are well prepared if you have questions.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

We decided to start off with some nibbles, so we ordered flatbread, hummus and nicoise olives to share. The flatbread was fresh and warm from the stove with just the right texture for tearing and dipping into the hummus. The hummus itself was incredibly moorish.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The nicoise olives were another hit with us, they had a salty tang and happily were already pitted.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Being gluttons, we’d ordered proper starters too! I chose the Roasted Butternut Squash and Lentil Salad which was a feast for the eyes as well as my tummy. The lentils had a wonderful delicate flavour owing to their lemon dressing and every so often I’d get a little sweet pop from the pomegranate which worked surprisingly well with the squash.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose Crumbed Halloumi Sticks which came with a pot of garlic and lemon mayo. This is a vegetarian rather than vegan option so I couldn’t try it myself but Sian assures me that it was delicious!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Despite already having had squash for my starter, I chose the Rustic Butternut Squash Stew for my main and I’m not overstating things here to say that this dish is an absolute sensation!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

The flavour profile was like nothing else I’ve eaten this year. The freekeh grains were a perfect vehicle to soak up the rich sweet smoky sauce, the chargrilled red pepper and onions added depth, kale kept things fresh and the toasted pistachios provided a satisfying crunch. Honestly – go have this immediately even if you usually prefer a meaty or cheesy option – it’s perfection on a plate.

This look probably says it better than words can.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge Vegan Food Menu

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Sian chose a meaty option of Gnocchi Bolognese with Basil Pesto and Gran Moravia Cheese. Definitely not vegan!

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

We were probably supposed to have completed our review by eating dessert too, but we were so full by this point that there was no way that either of us could have managed another morsel. This actually worked out fine for me because there was only one vegan option on the dessert menu and it contained coconut which I have an intense dislike for.

Thus if I could offer any suggestions to Bill’s on improvements to the vegan menu it would simply be to add a second dessert choice. The same is true for all other non vegan restaurants I’ve been to, the choice seems to stop once you get past the mains and sometimes there’s no option at all.

Bill's Restaurant Cambridge | A Review of the Vegan Menu

Before leaving the manager at Bill’s very kindly gave me a goodie bag from their own range of produce to take away and try at home. They are very proud of the items and rightly so – everything has been carefully sourced and developed with independant suppliers and artisans. I was very happy to find another bottle of Pink Lemonade in there which lasted approximately 2 hours at home (it didn’t even have time to chill properly!) as well as a big tin of Sevilla Green Gordal Olives, a delicious Raspberry Jam, Slow Baked Granola and a bar of White Chocolate Eton Mess. Sadly I had to give the last one away as it wasn’t suitable for me but that made me very popular at home so I’m not complaining!

I thought I’d leave you with a short video of our visit so that you can see what went into the making of this post – basically a lot of standing up in the middle of a restaurant to take photos and rearranging the table… no wonder we were there for about 3 hours!

Videography and the photos of me in this post are by the wickedly talented Sian’s Photography

Food photography is by me, as seen in the video!

Music by Eme Hache: http://freemusicarchive.org/…/EME…/Chasing_Time/Help_me_1484.

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: I’d like to extend a big thanks to Bill’s Restaurants for providing some wonderful hospitality. As stated above my food and drink on this occassion was complimentary, but this just meant was that I got to try out a few more things than I would normally order on a trip there to give a more comprehensive review of what’s on offer there. The friendly service and the quality of the food lived up to my past trips as a paying customer and I’d thoroughly recommend a trip to Bill’s in Cambridge if you’re in the area, or your nearest local branch if not!

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Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I was incredibly excited to hear that The Ivy was opening a new restaurant in Cambridge and nearly fell off my chair when I received an invite to their opening day breakfast celebration – what a privelege! I’ve been to the original restaurant in Covent Garden a few times and it still remains up there as some of the best food I’ve ever eaten, so it’s fair to say that I had high expectations for The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

The interior is just stunning. The emerald green chairs, brass, marble and sparkling glassware evoke an opulent, art deco feel and there are splashes of colour in every corner from the mustard yellow and cerise cushions to the bold and bright art work on the walls.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I wasn’t sure if I’d over dressed for a breakfast meeting in my floral dress and pink blazer, but I felt right at home as soon as I sunk into one of those chairs. This, I thought, is how to do breakfast right!

Since it was a little early for cocktails, I chose a refeshing Beet It Juice made from beetroot, carrot and apple. The rest of my table opted for the Green Juice with healthy spinach and avocado cleverly hidden beneath the delicious flavours of apple and mint.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I’d notified ahead of the day that I was vegan and thus dairy free and The Ivy couldn’t have been more friendly and accommodating. Our impeccably dressed waiter directed me to the suitable options on the menu but also reassured me that if I had any questions or special requests just to ask.

I opted for the crushed avocado on gluten free toast and was a bit worried when it came out that the caraway toast might be a disappointment as it looked very dark and dense, but I was proven wrong. It was full of flavour and a perfectly pairing to the zesty, creamy topping.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

I make avocado on toast at home but The Ivy’s was elevated to something much more finely tuned and accomplished. I’m totally stealing the idea to add pomegranate seeds to the top, they gave it a little fruity pop of sweetness that I adored.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

It shouldn’t really be any surprise that the food at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie is so good, after all the Head Chef Stuart Conibear was personal chef to Prince Charles for 3 years. The phrase ‘food fit for a king’ has never been more apt.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Other options on the seasonal menu include Eggs Benedict (which Kat raved about), hot buttermilk pancakes and there was another vegan option too – coconut yoghurt and berries with crushed pistachios, chia seeds and basil.

I loved the attention to detail on all of the cutlery, condiments and china. It’s all very discreet but there are little ivy leaves everywhere which somehow made the experience feel even more special. Even my cappucino got ‘The Ivy Treatment’. (It was a damn good cappucino too by the way!)

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Feeling happily stuffed, our group were invited to go have an explore of the rest of The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie. It’s a lovely big space which goes back further than I’d have guessed from the outside, with an impressive onyx bar running along one side. I can see myself partaking of a few cocktails when I’m next there – they even have a signature Cambridge cocktail on the menu.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Added to this, there’s a hidden room tucked away downstairs…

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

…The Boat Room.

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Now this is a little bit special, because it’s designed specifically for the Cambridge restaurant with wall to wall prints celebrating the city’s heritage and history. It’s a room that can be hired out for private dinner parties or special events and it’s certainly got the wow factor to it. Can you imagine holding your birthday or maybe even an engagement party in here and sitting down to a 3 course meal surrounded by seasonal flowers and tea lights? They even produce complimentary menu cards and place cards – how dreamy!

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

Now let’s talk about the prices. My avocado on toast cost £7.25 and a Full English Breakfast is £13.50; mains from the A La Carte menu start from £12.75. It’s certainly not somewhere I could afford to eat every week, but for the exceptional service,  sophistication of the food and the overall experience it fits very nicely into the ‘once in a while as a special treat’ category.

A huge thanks goes to The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie for hosting our group, and a big hello to all the lovely Cambridge bloggers that I met and chatted to whilst there!

Breakfast at The Ivy Cambridge Brasserie

LovedByLaura

Disclaimer: Our food was complimentary on the day but as always I’ve provided my honest views.

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