Thursday, 3 May 2012

Review: Cambridge Places - From Pubs to Cocktail Bars...

Continuing my celebration of all things Cambridge, I spent a lovely day on Saturday visiting some delightful drinking establishments with Best Friend Jess. Umbrellas at the ready, we braved the rain to drown our winter sorrows, check out some good pub food, and soak up the atmosphere (and cocktails) of a night out in Cambridge.

Ignoring the miserable weather outside, and determined that summer is on it's way, we kicked off proceedings with a couple of strawberry-laced summer cocktails and toasted a hard afternoon spent trying on wedding dresses (me) and holding back tears of happiness (Best Friend Jess). Obviously I can't give details in case The Boy is reading this but if any local brides are looking for a fabulous selection of designers and dresses with excellent customer service, they should give Mia Sposa on Homerton Street a call.

Summer Cocktails!

First stop, and at the top of my 'must-visit' list of Cambridge pubs, was The First and Last on Melbourne Place / Prospect Row, a few hundred metres from Parker's Piece and the city centre. I love this pub just as much for it's newly styled, trendy interior as for the fond memories I have of it as old man's pub The Cricketers, especially as an 18 year old first discovering fun afternoons of pints of lager and cider. Although almost unrecognisable now, with contemporary chandeliers and stripped wood floors, the pub still feels just as welcoming. 

The First and Last

We merely muttered that we were considering eating at the pub later in the evening and the personable barman immediately grabbed the menu that he'd just finished scribbling on in Biro and talked us through the delicious menu of the day. As much of the food is produced using local and fresh ingredients, the menu changes frequently but always features a variety of tasty and tempting dishes. The special twists on pub grub included devilled chicken livers with pickled red cabbage and beer battered hake and thrice cooked chips. With an impressive new wine list, with 15 wines now available by the glass, and local favourites like Aspall cider on tap, I could easily spend every Saturday afternoon here for the foreseeable future! 

A winning pub menu

Rustic charm of The First and Last

Next on our agenda was a touch of Parisian glamour courtesy of The Jolly Scholar bar and brasserie on King Street. As always we received a very warm welcome, much needed after battling through the wind and rain, and faultless customer service. It was my first visit on a Saturday night and I was pleased to see the downstairs bar and restaurant buzzing with chattering customers and twinkling with candlelight. A couple of hours spent sipping a nice sparkling wine and sharing a seafood platter transported us away from the dark, wet streets of Cambridge. A visit to The Jolly Scholar's sister establishment, The Jolly Sailor in Orford in Suffolk, easily achieves the same feeling but with a very different ambience. I definitely recommend a visit to this traditional seaside pub with a huge helping of personality to see for yourself.

The Jolly Scholar

Crémant d'Alsace at The Jolly Scholar

What better way to round off a lovely evening of cheer than with a night cap at some of the city's most sophisticated party venues. We sipped dirty gin martinis at the underground lounge and club room, The Hidden Rooms, tucked away beneath Pizza Express on Jesus Lane. As most of the club is divided up into private booths or areas, all guarded by drawn curtains and reserved signs, there isn't really much going for the area set aside for "general admission". After being bustled and jabbed by too many conference delegates sporting rucksacks (one of which spilled half of my lovely martini at my feet), we cunningly found our way into a huge curtained area with plenty of space for dancing, reclining and drinking our cocktails without spillages! 

Gin Martini at The Hidden Rooms

There's always room for one more (!) so we finished off the night with cocktails and conversation at Ta Bouche on Market Passage. I always love Ta Bouche's cocktails, effortlessly served by the slickest bar-tending from the ultra cool team of bar staff in the low-lit room, with bright pink-lit fridges, and pumping background music. A couple of sweet and fruity Parakeet cocktails combined with lots of fun and friendly punters made sure we ended the night on a high and giggled all the way home in the taxi!  

P.s. I was lucky enough to bump into the Head Chef of a lovely little foodie pub in a Hertfordshire village. Watch this space for a review soon! Enjoy :-)