Best places to eat in Cambridge

  • By Andrew Webb

Fancy a mini-break in Cambridge sampling local brews, gourmet burgers and Michelin-starred menus? Check out our A-list of the best eateries in town.

 Punting on the river in sunny Cambridge

If you're planning a break in this idyllic university town but you don't want to dine like a student, then you need our tips on where and what to eat...

Pint Shop
Casual dining

Pint Shop
Opened in 2013 by Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli in what is becoming Cambridge’s foodie quarter, this gastropub serves craft brews from the UK and abroad and a great selection of artisan gins and homemade soft drinks – best enjoyed with a pie or hot Scotch egg. The restaurant offers a more extensive menu, with meat cooked over a charcoal spit roast (the devilled lamb shoulder kebab is amazing). A midweek three-course set lunch is a steal at £13. If you’re in a group, it’s worth keeping an eye on the specials board as they often have sharing dishes. Mains from £12.  

Steak & Honour
Cheap eat

Steak & Honour
Earlier this year, this popular food truck parked in a permanent location. The offering remains the same: a brioche bun topped with lettuce, onions, gherkins, mustard and ketchup with a thick, juicy Riverside Beef patty, made from cattle that graze by East Anglian waterways. They also do a great mac ‘n’ cheese with American cheeses, Emmental, cheddar and a crunchy crust. Burgers from £7.

Old Bicycle Shop
Casual dining, child-friendly

Old Bicycle Shop
On the site of what’s claimed to be the first bike shop in Britain (Charles Darwin is said to have been a customer), Old Bicycle Shop serves coffee and pastries in the day and cocktails at night. Try Darwin’s First Ride, made with Chivas Regal whisky, amaretto and orange. Chef Dale Griffiths offers a varied menu, from shakshuka to sirloin & chips, and brunch is particularly good. Mains from £11.

Smokeworks
Casual dining, child-friendly

Smokeworks
A barbecue, beer and bourbon joint offering finger-licking buns, wings and ribs. Try the St Louis cut pork ribs, cooked low and slow and slathered in a sticky BBQ sauce. Check the website for special events, such as the chilli wings eating challenge or bourbon pairing classes. Mains from £9.90.

Fitzbillies
Casual dining

Fitzbillies
This iconic tearoom opposite the Fitzwilliam Museum was rescued from closure in 2011 by local food writer Tim Hayward. Its Chelsea buns are a local institution. As well as being a great spot for afternoon tea, it also offers a bespoke hamper service of finger sandwiches, scones and cakes, perfect for a picnic on The Backs (the grassy banks of the Cam behind King’s College) or on a punt down the river. Afternoon tea from £18, bespoke hamper service from £6.50.

Midsummer House
Special occasion

Midsummer House
This riverside spot is one of two Michelin-starred restaurants in the city (the other is Alimentum), and is best saved for special occasions. Chef-patron Daniel Clifford produces an ever-changing menu showcasing the best seasonal produce. You can choose between two extensive tasting menus: five courses at lunch or eight courses at dinner. New for 2017 is a lovely jasmine garden in which to enjoy a pre-dinner drink. £56.50 for five-course lunch, £120 for eight-course dinner.

The Orchard Tea Garden
Casual dining, child-friendly
A part of Grantchester life since 1897, the Orchard Tea Garden has hosted the likes of Virginia Woolf, Rupert Brooke, EM Forster and Alan Turing among other notable guests. Enjoy a lazy afternoon with tea and cakes in the dappled sunshine. Lunch is a choice of sandwiches, jacket potatoes, soups or quiches and cream teas ranging from £4.50-20.

The Clarendon Arms
Casual dining

The Clarendon Arms
This real-ale pub off Parker’s Piece serves homemade food. Try the glazed, smoked gammon with poached eggs & chips, or check out the ever-changing specials list, which includes dressed crab with a warm potato salad, brown bread & saffron mayo. On Sundays, the menu is limited to classic roasts. It’s a small, popular neighbourhood pub, so booking is advised. Mains from £9. Sunday roast £14.

The Emperor
Casual dining
This South American-influenced tapas pub often has live Latin music and dancing. Meat lovers should try the lomo saltado (Peruvian stir-fry) or the grilled lamb chops marinated with amarillo chilli sauce (£8), while fish fans should opt for the fresh and citrusy ceviche (£8). Wash your food down with Colombian rum or a pisco sour.

The Blue Ball Inn
Casual dining
The Blue Ball Inn
This small, cosy pub is named after a hot air balloon that once landed in the nearby meadows. The beers are all East Anglian (Adnam’s, Woodforde’s and Elgood’s) and the menu features simple, hearty home-cooked dishes such as chilli con carne, beef stew and sausage casserole, all for around £8. Soups and filled rolls are also available. New for 2017 are B&B rooms, and there’s often live music on Thursday evenings. You may recognise the landlord and pub from ITV drama Grantchester.

Jack's Gelato
Cheap eat

Jack's Gelato
After a few summers selling from his tricycle, ex-chef Jack van Praag opened a shop on Bene’t Street in spring. The menu of freshly made ice cream and gelato changes daily, with incredible flavours such as roasted banana with bourbon or goat’s milk & wild honey. It’s open until 9pm (10pm on Saturdays), so you can enjoy a postprandial evening stroll with a cone and pretend you’re in Italy. From £2.50 a scoop.  

Bread and Meat
Casual dining

As the name suggests, this is a meat-focused sandwich shop offering thick-cut slices from joints of meat served in a ciabatta roll (£7-8). Try the porchetta served with fresh salsa verde, or the Philly cheese steak with cheese curds, roasted green peppers and aioli. Sides (£3-5) include potato wedges, roasted veggies and Canadian classic, poutine. Brownies finish things off nicely.

Espresso Library
Casual dining

Espresso Library
Start your day in a multi-format space centred around a love of road cycling, healthy food, local art and great coffee. Try the mashed avocado and smoky chickpeas on toasted sourdough (£7.50) for a filling breakfast, plus a cup of coffee made from their ever-changing roster of beans. The venue hosts a number of food and drink pop-up events, kitchen takeovers and private views. It also stays open late on Fridays and Saturdays for drinks and dinner.

Afternoon Tease
Cheap eat
Afternoon Tease
After several years as a baker and cake maker Jo Kruczynska opened Afternoon Tease in 2013, offering breakfast, brunch and of course, an extensive range of homemade cakes (£2.60-£3.50 a slice) to accompany your cuppa. Try the chocolate Guinness cake with cream cheese icing, or seasonal special, blueberry and sour cream. Refer to Twitter for a daily changing menu as well as an excellent ’thought for the day’ on the blackboard outside.

Hot Numbers
Casual dining

This independent, speciality coffee shop and creative space is housed in an old Victorian brewery, serving coffee made from ethically sourced, 100% Arabica beans, gently roasted on site ensuring maximum flavour and complexity. To eat, there are freshly made soups and sandwiches (£4-5) with a good selection of vegan and veggie options. In the evening, events range from live music to ‘drink and draw’ art lessons to ‘barista training’. Thursday night is jazz night with Middle Eastern-style street food from the Wandering Yak.

The Fleur de Lys
Casual dining

The Fleur De Lys
A charming village pub presided over by Chris and Ellie Rossetto, you can be assured of great, hearty food here. The Sunday roasts (from £13) are particularly good, as is the range of local cask ales and the short but considered wine list, all enjoyed in the large garden – if the weather’s good. It's popular with cyclists and walkers looking to explore the villages a little further afield from Cambridge. 

The Cock at Hemingford Grey
Special occasion, casual dining

The Cock at Hemingford Grey
Named National Dining Pub of the Year in 2013 as well as Cambridgeshire Dining Pub of the Year for 2017 in the Good Pub Guide, the menu here is modern British with mains starting at around £15. Every Tuesday is steak night when you can choose from a range of cuts. A tight wine list focuses just on the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France. Gluten and dairy-free menus are available too. 

Balzano's
Kid friendly, casual dining

A bright, airy family-run café, bakery and delicatessen, this is where you'll find the best Italian coffee, cakes, pizza and breads. As well as tables inside, there’s a small courtyard garden that's perfect for sunnier days. Try the best-selling melanzane alla Parmigiana (£6.50) made daily to a traditional family recipe by owner Rocco’s mum.

Cambridge Cookery School
Casual dining

Cambridge Cookery School
Hidden in this excellent cookery school is a great neighbourhood café open from 8am offering coffee and freshly made croissants (£3.75) with more on offer through brunch, lunch and afternoon tea (£6-8). On Saturdays it's open till midnight when cocktails and wine are served along with a variety of themed sharing platters (Middle Eastern, Scandinavian, Italian as well as vegetarian; £9-12). Check their site for special events, dinners and tastings.

Food Park
Casual dining

Food park
This colourful collective of street food traders pops up at various locations around the city – it's where you'll find the next generation of food businesses in Cambridge. Traders include Holy Schnitzels who make authentic Austrian food (£6-10), Choux Stopper who offer great choux pastry buns with a choice of fillings, Guerrilla Kitchen specialising in steamed bao buns (£7) and Kura Kura who concentrate on Sri Lankan and south Indian curries (£6).
 

5 foodie places to try

The Cambridge Cheese Company
The Gog Farm Shop
An excellent farm shop and award-winning butchery that also hosts Sundowner Sessions during the summer.

Burwash Manor
A great deli and butcher’s form the centrepiece of a clutch of retail shops in this rural location.

The Cambridge Wine Academy
Ex-musician Steve Hovington went from rocker to rioja – he now teaches a number of wine-related courses.

The Cambridge Cheese Company
Carefully selected cheeses and deli goods, as well as a deadly collection of super-hot spicy sauces.

Days Bakery & Food Hall
A quaint village shop and bakery 30 minutes south of Cambridge. It offers great coffee and freshly baked breads, cakes and pastries.
 

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