Saturday, 11 August 2012

Cambridge Places: Eating Vegetarian at The Free Press

The Free Press is one of my favourite pubs and a thorough mention on the Blog of this fantastic Cambridge place is long overdue and much deserved. Cambridge's true pub lovers, of the old school, traditional kind, will already know it well. I have often found it to be overlooked by locals, however, especially where eating out is concerned. The pub's great food was actually, I am rather ashamed to admit, introduced to me by a very good friend from university who hails from Germany! So, I unfortunately can't claim that The Free Press is entirely one of my own local finds, but it is quickly climbing to the top of my list of "locals," and its atmosphere, draught ales and ciders, and fantastic home-cooked food never disappoint.  If you're into celebrating great British food, you will definitely love exploring the fresh and seasonal menu.

Dressed crab and samphire

The pub is tucked away in a residential area made up of narrow, winding roads and alleyways between Parker's Piece and the Grafton Centre. Last weekend we decided it was a great mid-way point to meet friends from both the north and the south of the city centre for Sunday lunch. I had also received feedback that I don't often feature vegetarian food on the Blog so I sought out my best veggie friends and tweeted The Free Press to put my order in (I had heard great things about a Sunday nut roast option). Even the process of finding somewhere which might offer a good vegetarian option on a Sunday lunchtime made me appreciate how little consideration is given to special diets by most pubs and restaurants (and food blogs!) so I will be making an effort in the future to regularly feature non-meat dishes and reviews on the Blog.

British Platter

When we arrived at The Free Press, to a friendly welcome, a sunshine-filled bar and an extensive Sunday food menu, I was so impressed by the vegetarian options on offer that I decided to give my usual Roast Beef a miss. Of the six of us dining on Sunday, two were bona fide vegetarian, one was opting to follow a temporary veggie diet, one was merely curious (me), and the other two were firmly carnivores. For once I didn't even have to persuade my companions to opt for a variety of options ("please, for the Blog") - I'll definitely be inviting these wise and obedient diners out again - and was thrilled to get photos of and opinions on three different veggie dishes. First up, the lentil and nut roast which the chef had kindly cooked up for us was the focal point of my roast lunch. It was slightly strange to see the usual roast potatoes (nice and crispy), Yorkshire pudding (huge) but no slices of roasted meat. Once I added a generous dousing of the vegetarian gravy and sampled the delicious combination of the sweet nut roast and acetic red cabbage (cooked with sultanas), I was very happy with my choice. The nut roast consisted of lentils, crushed nuts and sweet, soft chunks of butternut squash. I think we also tasted some pine nuts, which gave a further sweet and nutty flavour. With no previous nut roast tasting experiences to draw upon, I had to ask my real veggie pal for her honest evaluation and we both agreed that it wasn't your bog standard, run of the mill vegetarian option and provided a filling and tasty alternative.

Nut Roast

We also sampled the vegetarian Pie of the Day, which was a Mediterranean Vegetable and Feta Pie, served with generous helpings of mashed potatoes and the same red cabbage as the roast dinners (which proved to be a very popular accompaniment). The pie was colourful, attractive and packed with fresh and tasty roasted vegetables and sliced olives, all served in an individual pie dish and topped with homemade pastry.

Mediterranean Vegetables and Feta Pie

Finally, the part-time vegetarian among us decided to mix it up and go for the Mushroom and Aubergine Curry. I didn't make it to his end of the table to sample it for myself but the aromas wafting over to me from the huge, fragrant dish made my mouth water and I had a craving for curry for the rest of the day! The chunky vegetables were fresh, well-cooked and paired with a thick, medium-spicy curry sauce. It was an unexpected, but very welcome, addition to the usually traditional Sunday lunch menu.

Mushroom and Aubergine Curry

Overall, a great food pub with plenty of veggie, meat and drinking options in a traditional, welcoming environment close to the city centre but tucked away from the crowds.

Enjoy! :-)

The Free Press 
7 Prospect Row
01223 368337