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Cambridge Eat List
Photograph: The Grantchester

20 restaurants in Cambridge you can’t miss

Michelin-starred fine dining, a homey Italian and gourmet pubs galore – these are the very best restaurants in Cambridge to book when lockdown lifts

By Rosemary Waugh and Huw Oliver
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March 2021: Fingers crossed, it won’t be long until Cambridge’s restaurants can swing open their doors again. Under the current lockdown exit strategy, UK restaurants will be able to reopen from April 12 at the earliest for outdoor meals and from May 17 indoor dining will be on the cards again, subject to social-distancing rules. In anticipation of being able to eat delicious dishes without having to do the washing up afterwards we’ve updated our list of the best restaurants in Cambridge. From Michelin-starred heavyweights and enduring student favourites to new emerging joints and top-notch pubs, here are the hottest tables in Cambridge to book once lockdown lifts. 

Welcome to the land of pubs. There’s enough real ale in this picturesque place to fill the River Cam twice over – and many of the best pubs in Cambridge serve brilliant gourmet grub too. But this quintessentially English city’s food scene goes way beyond fish and chips. So, after you’ve punted your way round the dazzling limestone centre – among our pick of the very best Cambridge things to do – go straight in for lunch or dinner. The best restaurants in Cambridge take in everything from a homey (and indulgent) Italian to a Michelin-starred blowout by the river. And like we said, don’t overlook the many, many tip-top pubs. Need some kip after all that? Then bed down for the night at one of Cambridge’s best hotels.

Eaten somewhere on this list and loved it? Share it with the hashtag #TimeOutEatList.

Best restaurants in Cambridge

1. Trinity

What is it? An oysters-and-champers venue that’ll give you a taste of the Cambridge high life.

Why go? Trinity, Cambridge – the restaurant not the college – is the sister of Varsity, another popular Cambridge jaunt to splash your cash in. Trinity specialises in meat and fish of the ‘pan-fried pigeon’ variety. Come here to celebrate finally passing your PhD with slippery, sexy seafood.

© Jason Lowe

2. Pint Shop

What is it? Fancy pub grub served in a Grade II-listed building that was once home to EM Forster.

Why go? Onion and pork bhaji scotch eggs, charcoal-grilled burgers and buttered kale, is the sort of fare on the menu here, but the drinks are where the Pint Shop really shines. The gin menu alone is three pages long and the whisky and wine menus aren’t far off. 

Time Out tip: Troop up to the bar to check the board, which changes regularly and features breweries from all over the country.

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3. The Old Bicycle Shop

What is it? Inventive British dishes served in what once was Britain’s oldest bike shop. 

Why go? If the name wasn’t enough of a hint, there are themed bits and bobs around the place, like the chain cog candle holders, which are a very nice touch. While the prices aren’t on the cheap side here, this is a great option for vegetarians and vegans. Forget boring old bean burgers, you can get things like za’atar crusted tofu kebabs and wild mushroom and miso ramen here. Come for brunch, lunch or dinner. 

Midsummer House

4. Midsummer House

What is it? Hands down the fanciest place to eat in Cambridge. 

Why go? Midsummer House is a two-Michelin-starred restaurant right by the River Cam. It’s famous enough to have its own Wiki page, and its head chef is Daniel Clifford. If you can afford to go, it serves insanely pretty portions of French-inspired food. Midsummer House is where you go when nothing but pure decadence will do (and if you get an invite, all the better).

Time Out tip: Can’t quite fork out £230 a head for the evening tasting menu - the lunch menu is half the price. 

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5. The Anchor Pub

What is it? The perfect punt-spotting pub for casual afternoon drinking.

Why go? No one spends any serious time in Cambridge without venturing down to the sinuous River Cam, either for a walk or a boat ride. Book a table at one of the most popular pubs in town for comfort food done the English pub way. 

Time Out tip: If the weather’s looking good, or you want a more Covid-safe sit down, there’s a lovely riverside terrace where you can share a jug of their extra-fruity Pimm’s with friends.

6. The Oak Bistro

What is it? An iconic Cambridge bistro. 

Why go? The Oak Bistro ticks two boxes: it’s in central Cambridge and it offers outdoor seating. And not just any outdoor seating. One of the perks of eating here is enjoying its lovely walled garden. The menu is full of ‘big’ flavours (halibut, beef and duck) and is perfect for people who like classic dishes done well.

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7. Stem + Glory

What is it? A vegan-friendly restaurant where turning plants into food is something of an artform. 

Why go? These vegan-friendly folk have two premises in Cambridge. Their new King St venue is the place to head when you’re in a rush but mustn’t miss your five-a-day. It’s healthy fast food where coffee and cake meets quinoa and carrots. Alternatively, book a table at Chesterton Road and take your time sipping vegan wine over food that’s nothing but good for you.

8. The Garden Room at The Tamburlaine Hotel

What is it? Enjoy classic afternoon tea in a room that looks as good as the scones taste.

Why go? The Tamburlaine Hotel is a hop-skip-and-a-jump from Cambridge’s main station. Hidden inside its modern exterior is the seriously pretty Garden Room. Prop yourself up on a velvet sofa and indulge in traditional afternoon tea while admiring the Victorian wallpaper.

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Red Lion at Grantchester
Photograph: Shutterstock

9. Red Lion at Grantchester

What is it? A picturesque thatched-roof pub serving up traditional British dishes. 

Why go? This pub is a hefty walk along the river from the centre of town, but trust us, it’s worth it. The walk alone is worth it in fact, with beautiful views of the Cam, old architecture and quaint countryside. The pub itself is an old thatched-roof cottage, with a tastefully renovated rustic interior. There’s plenty of seating inside and out, where you can enjoy good ol’ British dishes: the roast chicken comes from Suffolk, the tomatoes from Sussex, pork belly from Hampshire, lamb from Norfolk…

Graffiti
Photograph: Courtesy R Streeter

10. Graffiti

What is it? An award-winning restaurant cooking up modern British plates with locally-sourced ingredients. 

Why go? Just beyond the city centre, you’ll find this Victorian hotel with an orangery. If you fancy escaping the city’s busiest tourist areas, take a short drive to the Hotel Felix. Its restaurant, Graffiti, is an award-winning fine-dining venue that prides itself on using local ingredients.

Time Out tip: Pig out on the clotted cream during afternoon tea in the restaurant’s delightful Orangery.

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11. Tradizioni

What is it? Moreish Italian food that’s way better than its casual environment and bargain prices suggest.

Why go? Tradizioni might not look like the most high-quality restaurant, but any snobs are missing out big time. These guys are the masters of dough. Square-shaped pizzas are crammed with classic toppings, and the desserts are never-fails like tiramisu.

Time Out tip: They don’t have a licence, so you need to BYOB. 

12. The Petersfield

What is it? Cosy, stylish and does a top Sunday roast.

Why go? The Petersfield serves food throughout the week, but it scores particularly highly as a Cambridge restaurant for Sunday lunch. There’s not a soggy spud in sight here, and the sticky toffee pudding could feed three (or, you know, just one). Wash it all down with a pint of still cider.

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13. The Rupert Brooke

What is it? An elegant pub in a pretty Cambridgeshire village.

Why go? Another Grantchester haunt (yes, it’s time to dust off those walking boots), The Rupert Brooke is the place to go if you want the leafy surrounds of Grantchester but something a little more upmarket than the Red Lion. You can get everything here, from breakfast, lunch and dinner, to Sunday roasts and afternoon tea.

 

The Senate

14. The Senate

What is it? A lovely Mediterranean-influenced brunch and lunch spot in the tourist heartland. 

Why go? Just across the road from King’s College Chapel is The Senate, an unpretentious restaurant offering everything from morning eggs through to evening steaks.

Time Out tip: It’s especially good as a lunch spot, with antipasti sharing boards and khobez flatbreads taking a ‘quick bite’ to the next level. Treat yourself to a gin and Earl Grey martini.

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15. The Clarendon Arms

What is it? Another superb Cambridge pub that does a posho Sunday lunch.

Why go? The Clarendon Arms’ is the daddy of roasts. Succulent beef, lamb and veggie options are paired with creamy swede, broad beans, sweet shallots… and that’s before you get to the white chocolate cheesecake.

 

Espresso Library

16. Espresso Library

What is it? Get your daily caffeine fix at this café dedicated to the cycling enthusiasts (i.e. everyone in Cambridge).

Why go? The Espresso Library is a warm and friendly café that’s a home-from-home for cycling fiends. Hang out with like-minded peddlers while downing a speciality coffee and indulging in a healthy hipster brunch.

 

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The Punter

17. The Punter

What is it? Well-loved shabby chic gastropub named after Cambridge’s favourite hobby.

Why go? Any stay in Cambridge will see you punting down river before you know it. So it’s no surprise they chose to name a pub after this honourable pastime, and it’s a good pub at that. The superb menu has some pleasingly cheap bread-y options for poorer students, along with a few fancy steaks and other trad classics.

18. The Geldart

What is it? An unassuming pub nestled among rows of cute Victorian terrace houses with special dishes served on hot rocks. 

Why go? With seating both indoors and out, it often has live bands playing in the corner, but the biggest draw has to be the hot stones. These will set you back the best part of a £20 note, but they come with two filling sides and mains like pork tenderloin and lamb neck skewers.

Time Out tip: If you’ve got a train to catch, The Geldart is a perfect place to eat, as it’s only a 15-minute walk away (and that’s if you’re taking your time). 

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19. Bedouin

What is it? A vibrant North African restaurant loved by students.

Why go? If you’ve got creaky hips, this might not be the best restaurant in Cambridge for you. A visual feast of bright fabrics, Bedouin seats its diners down low on cushion-covered carved wooden furniture. Its affordable menu features well-seasoned, succulent tagines for you to top off with Algerian desserts.

Shanghai Family
Photograph: Shutterstock

20. Shanghai Family

What is it? Authentic Chinese food that Cambridge insiders really rate.

Why go? The outside of Shanghai Family might not look like it’s up to much, but as with Tradizioni you’d be a fool to walk on by. The family-run business cooks traditional Chinese dishes that will take you outside your chicken chow mein comfort zone. 

Time Out tip: The spicy aubergine is a winner.

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