In a city as diverse as Cambridge, it seems only natural that one is spoiled for choice when it comes to food. Boasting everything from elegant restaurants to fresh arty venues and local, family-run haunts; Cambridge has something for everyone. From student eats to extravagant meals, these ten restaurants represent the best of Cambridge dining.
As you walk the cobbled streets of Cambridge, admiring the spires of Gonville and Caius, you may miss this tucked-away gem; but it’s a real delight to find. The menus at Michaelhouse Café change daily and with an ethos of making simple food perfectly, the meals are fresh, tasty and reasonably priced. The menus feature mouth-watering cooked breakfasts, as well as delicious lunches which regularly boast a selection of the cafe’s famous quiches and casseroles. Aside from the undeniably lovely food, the Michaelhouse Café is wonderful for its setting. If you can grab one of the upstairs sofas, it is the perfect place to relax and enjoy a tea and scone with its airy, open feel and interesting collection of books and paintings.
The Eagle sits at the heart of the town, and is one of the oldest inns in Cambridge, dating back to the early 14th century. This place is famous for being the place where Watson and Crick announced to the world they had discovered ‘the secret of life’, that is DNA. Look up and you will see the notorious RAF ceiling which has the signatures of RAF pilots from all over the world who, upon returning from the Second World War, signed their names on the ceiling using only cigarette lighters, candle smoke and lipstick. Serving traditional pub grub (the sausage and mash is gorgeous, and the burgers are packed full and stacked high) and cask ales, this pub has a truly British homely feel. In the summer you can sit outside in the courtyard-style outside and watch the hustle and bustle of Cambridge go by.
Possibly the most perfectly situated restaurant in Cambridge, Don Pasquale resides on the edges of the Market Square. As one of the city’s most admired and long standing establishments, many say it’s the best Italian restaurant in town. Family-run, the food quality here is always impeccable. With generous portion sizes and freshly made pizza dough, guests are guaranteed to leave feeling comfortably full but wanting to come back for more. It is worth ringing in advance to guarantee your place. The prices are very reasonable for the standard of food, and really, what could be better than sitting outside in the market with a proper cup of Italian coffee?
This visually stunning Victorian public house has been a regular retreat for many of Cambridge’s local residents and visitors over the years, having stood at the centre of the city for over two centuries. More of a late-night bar, rather than a traditional restaurant, The Fountain Inn is nevertheless an essential stop for anybody wanting to experience the diversity of Cambridge. The modernised bar has a unique, industrial feel which jars with the elegant exterior and it is easy to feel as if you have been transported to a cool London warehouse party. Open every day from 11 a.m. until 3 a.m., this bar manages the transition from day to night effortlessly. Sit and enjoy a selection of herbal teas alongside homemade flatbreads before meeting friends for cocktails in the evening (2-for-1 cocktails on a Monday night). From unusual club nights to art exhibitions, this bar is the place where anything goes and is definitely the hippest place to be seen.
Unique in Cambridge for serving only vegetarian food and specialising in vegan and gluten free food, The Rainbow Café has established itself as one of the city’s best-loved alternative restaurants. Independent and with refreshing originality, this is a one-stop-shop for brightening your mood. Fully approved by the vegetarian society, everything is freshly made daily with natural ingredients free from colourings, additives or flavourings. The famous homemade soups are both filling and healthy. Guests can eat with a clear conscience here as the wines, beers and ciders are vegan and ecologically produced, all eggs are free-range, and the food is organic.
As an independent cafe, Stickybeaks has got a reputation in the city for providing delicious, picture-perfect food that looks as if it has jumped right out of a recipe book. A hive of making and baking, the kitchen is open-plan and has a feel of crisp summer about it. The cafe has got a worn and lived-in look and is always busy and buzzing, especially on Sundays when brunch is served. But what really gets people talking are the cakes: the chunky chewiness of the rocky road and the nostalgic taste of the oat strudel slice demonstrate why this modern, minimalist cafe is renowned for its sweet treats. Served alongside a big cup of tea, this is a perfect stop for a break from shopping. If you are looking for something more substantial, then look no further than the lunch menu. Although it changes daily, you may see beef bourguignon, smoked mackerel and pea frittata, a puy lentil lasagne or a leeks and cream cheese salmon en croute.
If you fancy a break from the multitude of shops in The Grand Arcade, step outside onto the main street for a cheap and cheerful Italian. In a prime location, Café Milano is often over-looked by shoppers but it is definitely worth taking the time to go in. With a surprisingly wide-ranging menu, guests are spoiled for choice. From ham and brie paninis, to goat cheese salads, and traditional pizzas, Milano is sure to satisfy your appetite. For a quick meal at a very good price and with generous portions this is a great place to put your feet up amidst shopping and sightseeing.
This independent Sicilian café has made a massive impact on the city. Based in the city centre, a short walk from Kings College, Aromi is rather small with a few tables available on the ground floor and downstairs and it makes for a real Italian experience. Cosy and stylish tables are contrasted with modern art on the shelves, which is available to purchase. You can see the dough being prepared and cooked at the shop window, and the staff are really friendly, which adds to the homely atmosphere. Fresh and fragrant food at relatively cheap prices means that it is often very busy, and you may have to queue for a while at the counter (which also serves the take-away food). Choose from a delicious range of fresh handmade pizza slices (one portion is two slices and you can mix and match toppings) before moving on to the Sicilian profiteroles. You may have to wait, but it is certainly worth it; even Cambridge Food Society openly praise the establishment.
This bakery-cafe is famous for its giant, sticky Chelsea buns. And rightly so: syrupy, swirls of dried fruit, cinnamon and sweetness are a staple for any visitor to this cafe, which is situated at the busy crossing outside the gorgeous Pembroke College. But Fitzbillies is much more than that. Not only a restaurant serving high-quality food such as egg and bacon pie, confit duck, flagelot soup, and potted venison with crab apple and rosehip jelly; there is also a counter-service corner coffee bar, with an expansive range of cakes range and teas. You’ll have to be quick to get a table as Fitzbillies is often completely packed during the day, not surprising considering the vintage shop front and exquisite detailing in both food and furniture.
A bit pricier than other establishments in Cambridge, this restaurant is definitely worth the money. A sister of CCH produces classic British dishes, has Cambridge real ale from the cask, and is a perfect place for an up-market meal. It sits at the heart of the city centre, 50 yards from Kings College Chapel and only a short distance from the Arts Theatre. The ground floor has wide windows, providing unrivalled views of Kings Parade and Kings Chapel. The speciality here is the meat, and to aid you in your choice are the friendly and attentive hosts who are very knowledgeable and passionate about meat. Steaks are cooked to request, and the pig fritter starter is divine. The wine menu is expansive, and the desert menu tantalising, if you can find space after the generous main course, that is.