Five of the Best: Cambridge Food Blog’s top alfresco dining spots
“Should a sunnier day ever arise, you’ll be equipped with some top tips on where to go. . .” Cambridge Food Blog’s Grace Mills shares her favourite al fresco dining spots in and around the city (and crosses her fingers for an Indian Summer)
It is I, Gracie. The idiot who decided that an al fresco feature would work perfectly for the September issue, as we all make the most of summer’s final sun-drenched days. Little did I know, the minute pen would hit paper, the rain would begin and would continue, unrelenting. Whether an Indian Summer is coming this autumn, we cannot tell. But what I can tell you is, should a sunnier day ever arise, you’ll be equipped with some top tips on where to go.
One of my all-time faves. I think Foy is the epitome of doing something simple and doing it really well. Its menu of classic brunch items and staple soups and toasties, including the excruciatingly delicious shakshuka, is consistently well executed. Everything that arrives on your plate feels really considered, from the sourcing, to the making, to the plating. Add coffees, cocktails and beers into the mix and you’ve got yourself a gorgeous little afternoon on the Cambridge quayside.
The River Terrace
I doubt anyone will gasp in shock at this addition. You’d be hard pressed to find a dreamier spot in the region. The menu hits whatever food vibe I might be fancying - fresh, comforting, sweet. The specials are exactly that: special. Worthy of main-menu status, these little visiting legends are worth the trip over to St Ives to grab your favourite one. If they ever take their Turkish Eggs off the menu, I will be creating a change.org petition immediately and lobbying in Government for its return.
Brix + Mortar by Provenance Kitchen
Provenance has got to be the home of one of the best Cambridge roast dinners and I’ll fight anyone who disagrees with me on this. Located in Whittlesford, this rural restaurant has a couple of different outdoor dining options. One of which is its small courtyard, which has a bit of a chef’s garden vibe about it. To be honest, the whole Provenance experience feels like you’re dining at a farmer’s table with succulent meats and earthy chargrilled veggies aplenty. On my last visit, I felt nothing but peace and contentment as I ate my giant cauliflower cheese (don’t get me started on the cauliflower cheese).
The Three Pickerels
Riverside decking framed by weeping willow trees can only mean one thing: The Three Pickerels. This recently refurbished hotel, run by two sisters, sits on the New Bedford River just outside of Ely. With locally sourced food, local beers from Milton Brewery and banging coffee (hello The Brew Project), this riverside spot might just be the perfect place to catch the last of summer. And, if the weather continues to disappoint, they’ve got a pretty remarkable open view of the river from inside the restaurant, so you can still watch the sunset without the need to get wet.
CambsCuisine Country Pubs
Whenever I pictured nice gardens I’ve sat in, the majority belonged to CambsCuisine group and the more I thought about what to include in this article, the more I realised this was a no-brainer. With locations dotted all around Cambridgeshire, these guys understood the outside dining brief. With plenty of seating, manicured lawns, shade if you need it and menus unique to each site teeming with local produce, you can’t go far wrong. Now picture this: you’re polishing off your meal, perhaps with a Rennet & Rind cheeseboard? It’s a mild evening. The sun is warming your skin ever so slightly. Your drink is cool and refreshing and you feel that nice tired feeling after you’ve had a day in the sun and a hearty meal. It doesn’t get much better than that, does it?
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On the basis I really struggled to whittle down to just five venues for this one, there are some other al fresco dining places which I want to take a moment to recommend
Garden House, Cambridge
La Mimosa, Cambridge
Gonville Hotel garden, Cambridge
The Garden Café, Cambridge University Botanic Garden
Limoncello, Mill Road
The Old Bridge, Huntingdon
The Punter, Cambridge
The Blue Ball, Grantchester
The Eagle, Cambridge
The Plough, Coton
The Courtyard Kitchen, The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge (it feels like you’re outside but you’re actually not!)
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