If you’re planning a break to this idyllic university town but you’d rather not dine like a student, then you need our tips on where and what to eat…
Opened in 2013 by Richard Holmes and Benny Peverelli, 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 area offers a more extensive menu, with meat cooked over a charcoal spit roast (try the devilled kebab with marinated pork belly). A midweek three-course set lunch is a steal at £26. If you’re in a group, it’s worth keeping an eye on the specials board for any sharing dishes. Mains from £9.
Steak & Honour
In 2017, Steak & Honour added a bricks-and-mortar site to its fleet of street-food vans. The offering remains the same: a brioche bun with lettuce, onions, gherkins, mustard, ketchup and a thick, juicy Riverside Beef patty, made from cattle that graze by East Anglian waterways.
Old Bicycle Shop
Casual dining, child-friendly
On the site of what claimed to be the first bike shop in Britain (Howes Cycles, which is said to have counted Charles Darwin among its customers), the Old Bicycle Shop is open all day for brunch, lunch, dinner and drinks. There’s a varied menu, from wild mushroom ramen to fillet steak and chips, and the cocktail list has plenty of tempting options. Try ‘the fixie’, made with Buffalo Trace bourbon, amaretto, lemon and aquafaba. Mains from £14.50.
Casual dining, kid-friendly
This is a haven of barbecue, beer and bourbon, offering finger-licking buns, wings and ribs. Try the deep-cut St Louis pork ribs, cooked low and slow and slathered in a sticky BBQ sauce. There are two SmokeWorks joints – one in the centre of Cambridge and one towards the south-east of the city. Check the website for special events, such as the chilli wings eating challenge or bourbon masterclasses. Mains from £10.
This iconic tearoom down the road from the Fitzwilliam Museum was rescued from closure in 2011 by food writer Tim Hayward. Its sticky 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 £19.
This riverside spot is the city’s only Michelin-starred restaurant and is best saved for special occasions. The ever-changing menu showcases the best seasonal produce. £50 for the set lunch menu, £135 for the eight-course tasting menu.
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, E. M. Forster and Alan Turing, among other notable guests. Enjoy a relaxing afternoon with tea and cakes in the sunshine. The lunch menu includes sandwiches, quiche, soups, burgers and sharing platters. From £7.50.
The Clarendon Arms
This is an independent real-ale pub just off Parker’s Piece. Try the glazed, smoked shoulder gammon with poached eggs and chips, or check out the ever-changing specials list for more creative dishes, like roast garlic, white bean & macaroni pie or crisp fried panko pork belly dumplings. On Sundays, the menu is limited to classic roasts. It’s a small, popular neighbourhood pub, so booking ahead is advised. Mains from £10. Sunday roast £14.
This South American-influenced tapas pub often has live Latin music and dancing. Meat-lovers should try the bistec a lo pobre (a traditional Peruvian steak dish) or the beef tacos with marinated onions, while fish fans should opt for the fresh and citrusy ceviche. Wash your meal down with Colombian rum or a pisco sour. Tapas from £3.75.
Blue Ball Inn
This small, cosy pub is believed to have been named after a hot-air balloon that once landed in the nearby meadows. The beers are all East Anglian (with at least one ale from Adnams always on tap) and the menu features simple, hearty home-cooked dishes such as roast beef, chilli con carne and sausage casserole, all for around £9. Soups and filled rolls are also available. There are a couple of B&B rooms available, and there’s often live music on Thursday evenings. You may recognise the landlord and pub from ITV drama Grantchester.
After a few summers selling from his tricycle, ex-chef Jack van Praag opened a shop on Bene’t Street. The menu of freshly made ice cream and gelato changes daily, and features incredible flavours like raspberry and red wine or goat’s milk and wild honey. It’s open late, 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
As the name suggests, this is a meat-focused sandwich shop offering thick-cut slices of meat served in a ciabatta roll. Try the porchetta served with fresh salsa verde or the Philly cheese steak with cheese curds, roasted green peppers and aïoli. Sides include potato wedges, roasted veggies and the Canadian classic, poutine. Brownies and ice cream finish things off nicely. Sandwiches from £8.
This unique hangout spot opened in the city’s east in 2015. 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 for a filling breakfast, washed down with a cup of coffee made from the ever-changing roster of beans. Brunch from £5.90.
This independent speciality coffee shop has two cafés in Cambridge and a roastery in Shepreth, serving coffee made from ethically sourced, 100% Arabica beans, gently roasted for maximum flavour and complexity. Brunch options include date and cacao porridge, kimchi & feta eggs and French toast. From £3.50.
The Cock at Hemingford Grey
Special occasion, casual dining
Voted ‘National Pub of the Year’ by the Good Pub Guide 2019, The Cock in Hemingford Grey dishes up top-quality modern British food – choose fresh fish from the daily fish board or opt for a classic of homemade sausages with mash. There’s a steak night every first Tuesday of the month. A tight wine list focuses just on the Languedoc-Roussillon area of France. Gluten and dairy-free options are available. Mains from £7.
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. Try the best-selling melanzane alla Parmigiana, made daily to a traditional family recipe by owner Rocco’s mum.
Cambridge Cookery School
Hidden in this excellent cookery school is a fantastic neighbourhood café, serving up breakfast, brunch, lunch, coffee and cakes. It stays open late on Fridays (as a wine, cocktail and tapas bar) and Saturdays (offering a set-menu bistro supper). Check the site for special events, dinners and tastings, such as a beginners’ bread-making class or a yoga and mindfulness session.
This colourful collective of street-food traders pops up at various locations around the city and is where you’ll find the next generation of food businesses in Cambridge. Traders include Guerilla Kitchen, which serves up delicious steamed bao buns and Kura Kura, which concentrates on Sri Lankan and south Indian curries.
5 foodie places to try
The Gog Farm Shop
An excellent farm shop and award-winning butchery that also hosts Sundowner Sessions during the summer.
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 rock 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 in Great Shelford, five miles south of Cambridge. It offers great coffee and freshly baked breads, cakes and pastries.
Like these? Check out our other city guides…
Best places to eat in Belfast
Best places to eat in Bristol
Best places to eat in Newcastle
Is there anywhere we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below…