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23 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 right now

Written by
Huw Oliver
,
Rosemary Waugh
&
Bethan Kapur
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Have you built up an appetite after cycling, punting or just trekking through all the rooms in the Fitzwilliam? Allow us to recommend a decent place to sit down and eat. Whether you fancy quintessentially English grub, Middle Eastern falafel or Italian pasta done right, Cambridge has an impressive range of choices; the limestone walls of the city might be beige but the food certainly isn’t. If you’ve tried completing everything on our expansive list of the best things to do in Cambridgeyou may want to try somewhere calm and relaxing. A riverside pub, perhaps? Or maybe you fancy a sugar boost at a place that serves American-style milkshakes? Whatever floats your (punting) boat. These are the best restaurants in Cambridge right now.

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Best restaurants in Cambridge

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.

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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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

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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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.

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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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.

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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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…

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. 

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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.

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.

 

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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.

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.

 

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What is it? A gastropub that does classic British food with style and flair.

Why go? At Parker’s Tavern you can expect your cheddar to be spiced up a little (with cayenne straws). This place is perfect if you’re looking for something British that’s slightly fancier than a chip-shop pie. The dishes are presented with care and attention. We’re talking swirls of balsamic around the goat’s cheese and a coronation chicken salad that looks like a finely pruned shrub.

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

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.

What is it? A fairly swish deli-restaurant with one wall covered in plants. If you love classic Italian food, look no further.

Why go? Fancy some truffle shavings on al-dente tagliatelle or an antipasti board? Love a pizza that’s never quite circular, with lovely uneven charring? This is your place. When the weather's warm, this restaurant on Mill Road feels just like Tuscany – especially if you make use of the flowery outdoor patio. Saluti to that!

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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). 

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.

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What is it? Your best shout for American-style barbecue food.

Why go? Smokeworks has a no-bookings policy that’s perfect for rainy days when you get a sudden urge for something indulgent. The food is served on a large tray; the meat is glazed, the buns are brioche and the french fries are plentiful. It’s where to go for instant gratification, whether you desire a large salted caramel milkshake or a waiter to serve you every time you flick a switch on the wall (bizarrely, they offer a neon light-operated service).

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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What is it? A North African restaurant that mixes traditional and modern cuisine.

Why go? Cosy up at a candlelit table decorated with mosaic tiles and enjoy creamy hummus, some falafel or a tender lamb shoulder that falls apart when you nudge it. If you’re avoiding alcohol, this is the ideal dinner location – because they don’t serve any. Instead, there’s a selection of fresh juices: apple celery and parsley, anyone? Although the lamb is excellent, there are also plently of veggie options including ingredients like artichokes, halloumi and stuffed peppers.

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