Somehow Cambridge feels a little bit different in August… the rhythm of the place changes while the hazy summer days and nights give us the chance to explore all the city has to offer. If you venture slightly off the beaten track, there are hidden gems to discover. I’d like to share some of my favourites with you here.
Located about a mile from the city centre, Hotel Felix is an independent boutique hotel offering stylish contemporary accommodation in a stunning Victorian building set in leafy gardens. It’s a place to unwind away from the hubbub, while you check out their modern art collection and enjoy the fresh seasonal dishes on the menu at the two AA rosette Graffiti restaurant. Why not treat yourself to a Stay and Punt package? It’s available until 29 October and includes accommodation, dinner at Graffiti, breakfast and a punt tour along the Backs, giving you spectacular views of historic colleges and their beautiful gardens. Bikes are available if you’d like to cycle in to the city centre and the hotel is dog friendly too.
There’s a rather beautiful neo-classical building on Jesus Lane which was originally built as a Victorian Turkish baths. Behind a plain black door, down in the basement, you’ll find Hidden Rooms Cocktail Lounge where the lights are dim and the vibe is classy but chilled. There’s an extensive menu of classic cocktails alongside wine and beer with nuts and crisps to snack on. The Events Room hosts jazz gigs on Thursday nights, speed dating sessions on Wednesdays and Bachata dance classes on Tuesday evenings. I’d recommend making an advance reservation for your booth area in the table service Cocktail Lounge. And the Hidden Rooms team of expert bartenders will be sharing some of their secrets and tips in free cocktail making lessons during Cambridge Cocktail Weekend at the Corn Exchange from 24 – 26 August.
Magic is happening in the kitchen at Restaurant Twenty Two on Chesterton Road, just north of Midsummer Common. Chef Sam Carter and Alexandra Olivier, his partner in life and business, have refurbished this small intimate space and offer creative modern British food with a twist, using seasonal ingredients from local suppliers. You’ll find seven and five course tasting menus alongside a la carte and a lunch menu which is exceptional value at
£20 for three courses. Sam creates delectable flavours and textures in each dish and every plate of his food is a feast for the eyes too. It’s fine dining but Restaurant Twenty Two is not stuffy or starchy, it has a relaxed atmosphere and has quickly garnered an enthusiastic East Anglian fan base while also receiving rave reviews in the national press, so do book a table in advance. Your taste buds will thank you for it!
Over at the award-winning Cambridge Cookery School in Homerton Gardens, you’ll find a light, bright café serving fresh seasonal dishes with ingredients sourced mainly from a small group of local, sustainable, high welfare producers. The décor, food and wine reflect owner Tine Roche’s Scandinavian heritage and her deep love of Italy. Try the homemade bread and pastries for breakfast, brunch or at lunchtime, when the counter offers colourful grain based salads, filled focaccia and open sandwiches on rye bread. On Friday and Saturday evenings, relax on the peaceful, sunny terrace with wine, cocktails and tapas or make sure to book ahead for the popular Saturday night Bistro set menu.
- Savino’s coffee shop, tucked away in Emmanuel Street. A small yet perfectly formed family run Italian café serving Illy coffee, homemade cakes, soups, panini and salads.
- Stem + Glory restaurant at Mitcham’s Corner. Award-winning vegan food with a weekday fast service lunch to eat in or take away plus table service a la carte menu for lunch and dinner.
- The University Centre Wine Bar in Granta Place. Open to the public and housed in one of Cambridge’s finest examples of brutalist architecture, with views over the River Cam, it serves wine, beer and spirits as well as simple charcuterie and cheese boards.