The 23 best restaurants in Cambridge

There's more to Cambridge than punting and books. Find the ideal dinner spot with our list of the best restaurants in Cambridge
By Rosemary Waugh |
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Possibly the most English of all the English cities (limestone gallore, bucolic river walks, wide open parkland), Cambridge is flat-out beautiful. But along with punts on the river and Kings College Chapel, the thing you need to know about Cambridge is this: it's the land of pubs. There's enough real ale on offer here to fill the river Cam twice over, and many of the best pubs serve hearty grub as well. Or, if you're looking for something a little posher, the city's not exactly short of high-end restaurants. Book into one of the best hotels in the city, then drink all the afternoon Pimm's you desire at one of the best restaurants in Cambridge.

Best restaurants in Cambridge

1

Trinity

Why go? Oysters-and-champers venue giving you a taste of the Cambridge high life.
Trinity, Cambridge - the restaurant not the college - is the sister restaurant 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 oysters. High-end to blowout (depending on how you order).

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© Jason Lowe

Pint Shop

Why go? Hipster-y take on historical beer houses in fabulous building.
Before pubs took over each and every corner of Britain, beer was consumed in ‘Beer Houses’, where even children were welcome to quaff a half instead of braving the cholera-ridden water. These days, the drinking water’s safe in Cambridge, but that’s no reason to ignore this palace of hops and its gastro pub menu. Mid-range with affordable set menu options.

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3

The Old Bicycle Shop

Why go? Darwin’s cycle shop transformed into a haven for hummus-lovers.
Cambridge loves cycling almost as much as Amsterdam does and rumour has it Charles Darwin bought his two-wheeler at this very shop. It’s now a busy cafe/restaurant serving inventive middle-eastern inspired food throughout the day. It’s a must-visit for vegans and veggies, with the breakfast menu making the Full English a distant, flaccid memory. (The cider and chips are damn fine too). Mid-range.

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Midsummer House

Why go? It’s the fanciest restaurant in Cambridge, you have something big to celebrate, and someone else is paying.
Midsummer House is a twice 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’s 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). Blowout.

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5

Stem + Glory

Why go? Vegan café where turning plants into food is something of an artform.
Stem + Glory 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. Alternately, book a table at Chesterton Road and take your time sipping vegan wine over food that’s nothing but good for you. Mid-range.

6

The Oak Bistro

Why go? Top quality British bistro with a walled garden to dine in.
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 (trout, beef and duck) and is perfect for people who like classic dishes done well. High-end.

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Red Lion at Grantchester

Why go? Super friendly pub well worth the riverside walk from the centre of Cambridge.
One of the pleasures of living in or visiting Cambridge is being able to walk or cycle out to nearby Grantchester. Work up an appetite for a relaxed lunch or dinner of quality pub grub at the Red Lion. Lots of outdoor seating to enjoy the sun in. Mid-range.

8

The Garden Room at The Tamburlaine Hotel

Why go? Classic afternoon tea served in a room that looks as good as the scones taste.
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 whilst admiring the Victorian wallpaper. Mid-range/High end.

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9

The Rupert Brooke

Why go? Simple-yet-fancy bistro located in green, green Grantchester.
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. High-end.

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The Anchor Pub

Why go? The perfect punt-spotting pub for casual afternoon drinking.
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. Or, sit outside and share a jug of their extra-fruity Pimm’s with friends. Mid-range.

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11

The Petersfield

Why go? Cosy, stylishly decorated pub that does a top Sunday roast.
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. Mid-range/high-end.

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The Senate

The Senate

Why go? Lovely Mediterranean-influenced brunch and lunch spot in the tourist heartland.
Just across the road from King’s College Chapel is The Senate, an unpretentious restaurant offering everything from morning eggs through to evening steaks. 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 & Earl Grey martini. Mid-range.

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© R Streeter

Graffiti

Why go? Victorian hotel just outside of Cambridge centre, with an orangery for afternoon tea.

If you fancy escaping the busiest tourist spots of Cambridge, 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. Alternatively, dollop on the clotted cream with afternoon tea in its delightful Orangery. High-end. 

14

The Clarendon Arms

Why go? Another superb Cambridge pub, this one doing a posho Sunday lunch.
If Cambridge is like any other city, only a little bit posher, then the Claredon Arms’ Sunday lunch is the Cambridge of roasts. Succulent beef, lamb and veggie options are pared with creamy suede, broad beans, sweet shallots… and that’s before you get to the rhubarb crème brûlée. Mid-range/high-end.

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15

Vino E Sapori

Why go? Southern Italian food created by two chefs who are big fans of wine.
If there’s one thing better than pasta, it’s pasta with wine. And if there’s one thing better than gnocchi, it’s gnocchi with wine. And if there’s one thing better than tiramisu… OK, you get the idea. This hotel-based Italian restaurant is the place to take you mama for montepulciano. Mid-range/high-end (has a cheap set-menu for lunch).

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St John’s Chop House

Why go? Very nice restaurant in a very old building with some very nice ales.
Need we say more? You can’t swing a cat in Cambridge without it hitting its furry head against another great inn serving quality food. The selling point of St John’s Chop House is real ale decanted straight from the cask. Soak it up with – what else – a locally-sourced chop and seasonal veg. Mid-range/high-end (affordable set lunch menu).

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Espresso Library

Why go? Get you daily caffeine fix at this café dedicated to the cycling-mad.
Everyone cycles in Cambridge. As in, everyone. But even in a city of cyclists, there are some who like it more than most. The Espresso Library is a warm and friendly café that’s a home-from-home for cycling fiends. Hang out with like-minded pedlars whilst downing a speciality coffee and indulging in a hipster and healthy brunch. Mid-range.

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The Punter

Why go? Well-loved shabby chic gastro pub named after Cambridge’s favourite hobby.
Stay in Cambridge any time at all (even just one afternoon) and before you know it you’ll be punting down river. So it’s no surprise they chose to name a pub after this honourable pastime, and it's a good pub at that. The tasty food menu has some pleasingly cheap bready options for cash-poor students, along with a few fancy steaks and other trad classics. Mid-range.

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19

Tradizioni

Why go? Tasty Italian food that’s way better than its casual environment and bargain prices suggest.
Tradizioni might not look like the most high quality restaurant, but any snobs are missing out big time. They don’t have a licence, so you need to BYOB, but these guys are the masters of dough. Square-shaped pizzas are crammed with classic toppings, and the desserts are never-fails like tiramisu. Bargain-Mid-range.

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Bedouin

Why go?Fun North African restaurant loved by local students.
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. Mid-range with some cheap set menu options for groups.

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21

The Geldart

Why go? Live music pub where both the drinks and the food are served on the rocks.
The Geldart Pub is a fave with Cambridge locals who love it for its relaxed atmosphere and frequent live music. The quirk here is cooking food on ‘hot rocks’ which are so hot they continue cooking the food after it arrives at the table. Mind your fingers and sample meats including crocodile, kangaroo and ostrich. Mid-range.

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Rainbow Café

Why go? Colourful vegan and vegetarian restaurant filling the whole family’s bellies.
The Rainbow Café menu is made up of dishes taken from cuisines across the whole globe. They like a good dash of spice and their dishes are as pleasingly pretty to look at as they are to eat. A dedicated part of the menu is reserved for little ones and it’s an ideal lunch venue for anyone who would rather order lettuce than lamb. Mid-range (on the cheaper side).

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Shanghai Family

Why go? Authentic Chinese food that Cambridge insiders really rate.
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. The spicy aubergine is a winner. Bargain/mid-range.

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