Cambridge Restaurants: A Foodie’s Guide to the Delights of Cambridge
Discover the culinary wonders of Cambridge as we guide you through the city’s top restaurants, cafes, and hidden gems.
Embark on an epicurean adventure through historic streets to find the best Cambridge restaurants. You’ll experience the city’s rich culinary scene while walking in the footsteps of Charles Darwin, Alan Turing, Isaac Newton and Sylvia Plath. GFC editor-at-large Philip Seaman shares his recommendations for some of the best food and drink experiences in Cambridge, from world-famous Chelsea buns to innovative fish dishes.
Fitzbillies: A Sticky Sweet Start
Starting at Cambridge train station, make your way into the centre for a coffee and world-famous Chelsea Bun at Fitzbillies on Trumpington Street. This institution is a must-visit for anyone visiting Cambridge. Walking through the town centre and not trying one of Fitzbillies’ legendary sticky Chelsea buns is almost a criminal offence! There’s plenty more on offer here too, and this bustling foodie honeypot serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea. It comprises a 70-seater waiter-service restaurant, a cake shop and a coffee bar.
Fitzbillies was founded in 1921 by Ernest and Arthur Mason, using their ‘demob’ money from the First World War (their initials are still visible on the original art nouveau shop front in Trumpington Street). However, 90 years later, in 2011, the shop went bankrupt and closed its doors. A campaign by Stephen Fry, amongst others, followed, and food critic Tim Haywood and his wife Alison Wright stepped into the breach to breathe new life into the town landmark.
Fitzbillies continues to bake great cakes alongside their famous Chelsea buns. It also serves excellent coffee, making this a terrific place for a quick coffee, breakfast or light lunch.
Cambridge Cheese Company: A Cheesy Treasure Trove
Next, try The Cambridge Cheese Company in All Saints Passage, where you’ll find 200 different kinds of cheese. This shop is festooned with old enamel signs and tucked away down a side passage off bustling Bridge Street in the heart of Cambridge. It is a treasure trove of wonderful English and Continental cheeses, charcuterie, and much more including olives and antipasti, wines and beers, chutneys and preserves.
Opened in 1994 by Paul and Jacky Sutton-Adam, the shop is an important part of the Cambridge food scene. Paul and Jacky are certainly close to their cheese: Paul has an advanced diploma from the Specialist Cheesemakers’ Association and knows exactly how to store and mature his products.
Friendly and knowledgeable staff are always on hand to offer advice, and tasting is positively encouraged. Indeed, the Sutton-Adams’ expertise is a big draw: no matter what your question, when it comes to cheese, they have the answer, so follow your nose and seize the cheese!
Bread & Meat: Sophisticated Sandwich Satisfaction
Then dip into the nearby Fitzwilliam Museum (free entry) for a dose of culture before heading off to Bene’t Street to Bread and Meat for a hot Porchetta and Salsa Verde sandwich.
Husband-and-wife team Simon and Michelle Cheney have set out to produce honest, excellent food, and in sophisticated sandwich shop Bread & Meat, they have succeeded in spades! Boring sandwiches are not an option here.
Take their trademark porchetta sandwich, for example – overnight-cooked outdoor-raised pork rolled with garlic, rosemary, thyme, sage and white pepper with crackling and the most vibrant green salsa verde (made in-house), encased by wonderful sourdough ciabatta. Or how about a Philly cheese steak sandwich comprising slow-cooked beef brisket, fresh unpasteurised cheese curds, roasted green pepper and onions with aioli?
Bread & Meat also serves great coffee, wines and craft beers. And don’t forget to try their wonderfully thick shakes. You’re sure to leave with a smile on your face!
Jack’s Gelato: Heavenly Handmade Ice Cream
A few doors down, you can then indulge your ice cream fantasy at Jack’s Gelato, which serves a dazzling choice of ice creams that change daily.
Jack van Praag spent many years making ice cream at home and at restaurants before starting Jack’s Gelato in 2010. At first, he served his ice cream in Cambridge from a custom-made tricycle, before setting up his own gelato parlour right in the centre of town.
Making everything by hand in small batches, using the best organic ingredients including herbs and vegetables from Jack’s own allotment, the team serve up an ever-changing and bewildering selection of gelato and sorbets.
You might find flavours such as Roasted Banana & Bourbon, Borage Honey, or Beetroot & Black Cumin alongside more traditional favourites like Strawberries & Cream. Sorbets are equally adventurous: think Pink Grapefruit & Tarragon, Poached Pear or Alphonso Mango.
The Free Press: A Cosy Alehouse Retreat
Next, take a walk across Parker’s Piece past the wonderfully restored University Arms Hotel to The Free Press in Prospect Row and time travel back to an alehouse of the 1800s for a libation.
Tucked away down a little backstreet in Cambridge, far from all the tourists, this cosy pub is run by Megan and Thomas Stepney (Cambridge-born siblings) and always offers a warm welcome to all including your furry buddies.
It’s a real find and offers a large array of award-winning beers and ales – sit by the cosy fire in the winter or head outside to the garden in the warmer months. The food menu changes often to reflect what’s in season and it’s always best to book in advance for lunch and dinner. Typical dishes could be ham, egg and chips; IPA beer-battered fish and chips, and broccolini and wild garlic pesto pasta. It’s all delicious and there are always options for vegetarians. Looking for a quick bite to eat? Opt for one of the Doorstep Sandwiches.
Fin Boys: An Innovative Seafood Restaurant
For supper, book a table at Fin Boys in Mill Road for some innovative fish dishes before making your way back to the station via Mill Road (the whole street is a foodie’s delight).
Fins Boys is an exciting restaurant & fishmonger that champions British fish and only works with suppliers who share the same values they do. These include sustainability, knowledge and quality.
Step inside and you’ll be amazed at what’s on offer, and the team can always recommend something new and delicious to try. If you want to sample fish at its finest, why not book into the restaurant?
Lunch is seasonal and the menu changes depending on what’s been caught. And dinner is a tasting-style menu, typically ten courses that will really open your eyes to the versatility of fish and seafood.
Restaurant Twenty-Two: Michelin-Starred Delights
If you are looking for something more formal in the evening, head to the excellent Michelin-Starred Restaurant Twenty-Two.
Owners Sam Carter and Alex Olivier took over this Cambridge stalwart in early 2018. Sam has worked at some top Michelin-star restaurants, including Maze and Hambleton Hall. He describes his style as “creative seasonal British with a twist”.
On our visit to Restaurant Twenty-Two, Guinness bread and Guinness butter provided a good start, followed by a black truffle arancini and a confit of sea trout. A main of Norfolk chicken with peas, asparagus, burnt lettuce, baby onion and a wonderfully intense bacon jus and bacon crumb hit the spot perfectly. While a vegetarian option of celeriac, morels, black truffle and hazelnut was a picture to behold! To finish, a Yorkshire rhubarb, hibiscus and cucumber desert offered a sprinkling of light, delicate flavours.
Parker’s Tavern: Timeless British Brasserie
For the final stop on your Cambridge food adventure, visit Parker’s Tavern, which has been a feature of Cambridge life since 1834. Back then, it was known as a place where those travelling to London would break their journey. Today, it’s less of a stop-off and more of a destination.
This British brasserie is, without doubt, one of the city’s most stylish dining venues and was designed by renowned designer Martin Brudnizki, while chef Tristan Welch has worked in some of the best kitchens in the world and delivers meals that will be consumed, but never forgotten.
On the menu, you’ll find dishes such as honey and thyme slow roast Norfolk duck with bitter greens and silky creamed potatoes; spaghetti Bolognese; nut-brown buttered sole; and, for a truly special occasion – roast rib of beer cooked over coals with truffle mashed potatoes, braised shallots and sauce Bordelaise.
Popular meat-free dishes include roasted cep and Messia mushroom tart and salt-baked beetroot hache. Dessert is a must, too, and we love the sound of ‘Ripture Rapture’ described as “an eruption of ice creams, parfaits, sauces and sweets” – a celebration pudding serving up to six people. Book at table here.
Time to book your train ticket!
As you can see, Cambridge offers an abundance of food and drink experiences that will satisfy any foodie’s cravings. From the legendary Chelsea buns at Fitzbillies to the diverse and ever-changing menu at Restaurant Twenty-Two, there’s something to delight everyone’s taste buds. So, why not treat yourself to an epicurean adventure in Cambridge? Walk the historic streets, soak up the rich history, and indulge in the culinary delights this beautiful city has to offer. Happy feasting.