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Posts Tagged ‘cambridge’

Hotel du Vin Bistro – Cambridge

Trumpington Street
Cambridge
CB2 1QA
01223 227330

A week ago today Tim and I went to the newly opened Hotel du Vin Bistro for our last lunch before he left Cambridge. Having cycled by the Hotel du Vin almost every day during its construction we were both eager to try it out and having recently heard about their lunch specials, we decided to give it a go.

The lunch specials are £15.50 for two courses or £17.50 for three, which is clearly the better deal, but we were stuffed after the first two courses. As a starter Tim had the Caesar salad that came with an egg that appeared to have been poached and went with the salad beautifully. He had the bangers and mash for the main course and said, and I quote, “the bangers had a lovely rich taste”. I started with the Cauliflower soup which was very creamy and filling and then had a sweet pea risotto for my main course. I enjoyed the risotto even though the rice didn’t seem to be arborio rice, which I use for risottos. I probably would have had the bangers and mash if I hadn’t already taken some sausages out for supper.

We thought the service was great, even though we were a bit under dressed with our rucksacks and trainers, and the food the excellent too. We were a bit disappointed by the 10% service charge that was automatically added to the bill, but maybe that is just for the lunch specials. It seems more and more restaurants are adding service charge. Having been a waitress for a few years I know the value of tips and gladly tip 10% for average service (in the Europe, 15% in North America) and up to 20% if the service is particularly good. But when I see that 10% has just been added to my bill, I get a bit offended. It’s almost like they don’t trust me to tip well enough. However, the service charge has not put me off returning to the Hotel du Vin Bistro and I am looking forward to trying their dinner menu.

Update:

Saturday night Rob and I went to Hotel du Vin for dinner. Once again this week I was unsuccessful in securing a reservation but we decided to take our chances and turn up anyway. Just before we arrived they had a cancellation and we were seated immediately. As with lunch, the food for dinner was excellent.  Rob had a smoked duck starter and the venison main and I had a goat cheese crottin for starter and the double-baked cheese souffle for a main course. Dessert was also yummy.. Rob had the apple tart and I had a selection of ice creams. After dinner we went downstairs to the bar, where we drank another bottle of red wine. It wasn’t a cheap evening, but as our taxi driver said “it’s worth it!”.  Overall a great night out.

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Stazione Restaurant

1&3a Market Hill
Cambridge
CB2 3NJ
01223 352607

This Italian restaurant had been shut down for renovations for much of my time in Cambridge but reopened sometime in the spring of 2007. When I rang to book a table I was told they take cash only.. no cards, no cheques! which I thought was a bit strange for an upscale restaurant, but at least we were warned to visit the cash point before dining. The restaurant is below ground and upon climbing down the stairs we were quite pleasantly surprised by the nice decor and ambience.

For starters I ordered the calamari, which was strips rather than the rings I was expecting, but was tasty. On the waiter’s recommendation Rob ordered the baked mushrooms in some sort of creamy sauce. He find them to be overly good, but admittedly it wasn’t the sort of dish he would normally order. For the main course, I had the spinach and marscapone lasagne which was very thin and exceedingly cheesy. I typically find lasagne portions are far too big, but this one was just right. My dessert was champagne sorbet and was amazing. Rob’s chocolate fudge cake however looked like it had seen better days. It was served toppled over and falling apart.

The whole experience left us with the feeling that they were trying but just didn’t quite get it. The service staff were a bit disorganized. I think we were waited on by 5 different people and they came to take our drink order twice. We never got the feeling that anyone was looking after us, more that we were served by whoever happened to be passing by.

The live jazz, by a female vocalist and pianist and a male guitarist, was great and definitely made the evening. At one point the musicians and the rest of the diners were summoned to sign Happy Birthday to someone, which in general I don’t have a problem with, but if you having an expensive meal at an upscale restaurant, this is not the kind of thing you are expecting or looking for. Although the atmosphere was good for a Saturday night and we were inspired to go out afterwards, I wouldn’t say we are in a rush to go back.

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D’Arrys Wine Shop

2-4 King Street
Cambridge
CB1 1LN
01223 505015

Situated where the old Cambridge Arms Pub used to be, D’Arrys is a relatively new entrant to the Cambridge scene. I’m not sure when they opened (I would say at least six months ago), but since most of our taxi drivers haven’t heard of it, I would still classify it as a new restaurant.

Rob and I have been to D’Arrys for dinner several times and it has always been busy but good. I don’t think they take bookings but Rob and I like to have a drink at the bar while waiting for a table anyway. We’ve had a variety of things off the menu on other visits but this visit Rob had the Chicken stuffed with Chorizo on Rosti Potatoes and Salad and I had the Fish Pie with Roasted Potatoes and Garden Veg, both of which were yummy. Rob has also had the fish and chips a few times (and probably would have again if I hadn’t persuaded him to try something new).

We go back to D’Arrys because we like the buzzing atmosphere and the friendly staff. We tend to go late (9 or 9:30ish) and by having a drink before dinner, we can turn a meal into a nice night out. The menu does seem to be small though (but don’t forget to check the specials board) and the tables we get seated at are quite tiny. The tables for four people seem to be larger but cozy seems to be a theme. The wine menu is extensive although we usually get a bottle of our favourite, the Stump Jump red.

I definitely recommend D’Arrys for a nice meal with friends or a romantic dinner for two.

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Alimentum

Restaurant Alimentum

152 – 154 Hills Road
Cambridge
CB2 8PB
01223 413000

Last Saturday night Rob and I went to Alimentum, the new restaurant on the Cambridge scene. I had had been wanting to try it since I first saw the sign go up a few months ago. It is so great to see another independent restaurant in chain-riden Cambridge. Their website, which is mainly a blog by the owner, describes it as “modern French food with some Spanish and Italian influences”. The blog idea makes the website different from most other restaurant sites, but it is a really personal touch. Reading the blog entries made me feel I had a connection to the place and made me want to try the restaurant even more.

The service was great, which impressed me as often the nicer restaurants don’t pay much attention to younger people, who I guess they assume won’t tip well or can’t afford to pay the bill. We started with a drink at the bar, and because we had a late sitting (9:30), we were asked if we would like to order before being seated at the table to speed things up. At first I didn’t like this idea, but in hindsight it was brilliant. It meant that by the time we sat down, our starters were ready.

I found it very difficult to select only one starter as they all looked amazing. In the end I chose the Watercress & Endive with Pear, Roquefort & Caramelised Walnuts and Rob had the Ravioli of Chicken, Girolles with Iberico Ham both of which were fabulous. I had more difficulty choosing a main course, and although I’m sure they are all delicious, I went for the Sea Bass, Cannelloni of Crab, Fennel purée & Shellfish cappuccino. I wasn’t a big fan of the cappuccino, which was a foam on top, but the sea bass was perfectly cooked. Rob tried the Rump of Lamb, Confit of Shoulder Moussaka & Lambs Sweetbreads which he also really enjoyed.

I liked the decor, which is very modern, but Rob wasn’t a big fan. Most of the tables were nicely spaced but where we sat on the banquette I found it a bit too easy to eavesdrop on our neighbours who were very close to us. The menu was small but I hope it will get larger with time. I guess it’s safer to start out with a few dishes and do them really well than to try too many. There are some pics of the food at Kake Pugh’s flickr site.

I would definitely go back to Alimentum. It was more expensive than most of our Saturday night dinners around Cambridge but I thought it was worth it. The whole experience exuded attention to detail and a passion for food and service that you just don’t get in many other restaurants.

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