The lowdown on where to get the best to eat in and around Cambridge during the winter months
One of the most consistently excellent eateries in the city, Pint Shop never disappoints with its deliciously inventive menu. The Christmas offering is looking typically tempting this year, beginning with homemade cheese straws and sharing starters which include the Pint Shop’s famous Scotch eggs, plus croquettes loaded with Lancashire cheese, parsnips and hazelnuts.
Mains options are hearty and indulgent, yielding treats like overnight pork belly and cider brined turkey with roasted apples and shallots and bacon, while desserts include chocolate and stout figgy pudding and clementine jellies with whisky cream and sherbet. Three courses cost £27.50 and the menu will be served from Thursday 23 November to Sunday 24 December.
Old Bicycle Shop
Another reliably delicious choice is the Old Bicycle Shop, where you can be sure of wholesome, tasty dishes with plenty of veggie options in a cool setting, together with a great choice of drinks. Their festive menu is mouthwatering, featuring treats like twice-baked goats cheese soufflé with beetroot gel, and juniper roasted venison rump.
Traditionalists will love the roasted English Rose turkey with all the trimmings option, while if you’ve got vegans in the party, they’re well catered for with a braised lentil and jackfruit cobbler. Sate your sweet tooth with decadent desserts including sticky fig Eton mess and Christmas pud with brandy butter. The menu is priced at £22.50 for two courses and £27 for three.
Hotel du Vin
There’s a whole host of options at Hotel du Vin for feasting this festive season, whether you want a sumptuous seasonal afternoon tea, a party menu or the all-important Christmas day dinner itself. A handsome townhouse on Trumpington Street, the hotel offers an atmospheric bistro, unique private dining rooms and a subterranean cocktail lounge – plus of course plenty of bedrooms if you want to make a night of it.
The Christmas celebrations menu (priced at £31.95 for lunch and £34.95 for dinner), boasts indulgent French inspired classics such as beef bourguignon and duck liver parfait, plus sweet treats like eggnog panna cotta and chocolate and chestnut pavlova. The hotel will also be offering a Christmas Day feast, plus a Boxing Day lunch, and also a special afternoon tea with a Christmassy twist.
Eschew dry turkey and watery gravy this Christmas and head to SmokeWorks for a slow-cooked barbecue festive feast instead. Running 27 November to 24 December, the ‘Naughty List’ menu features platters of barbecue delights including pulled turkey sliders with cranberry ketchup, pork ribs, Christmas slaw, crispy chicken wings and spiced sausage. There’s a veggie option with a halloumi bun too, and you get party hats and humbugs with all. The Christmas party menu is available from £15 per person at lunchtime and £20 per person for the evening (£17 for veggies).
The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill
A truly hidden gem, The River Bar is tucked away on Quayside’s boardwalk with a stunning location overlooking the Cam and Magdalene College. The building, actually an 18th century warehouse, sings with sophistication, with a glamorous cocktail bar and old-school bistro feel. As the name suggests, steak is their speciality, and we can vouch for the fact that they serve fabulously full-flavoured cuts of 28-day dry aged beef, not to mention delectable homemade puddings.
The Christmas 2017 menu, priced at £29.50 for lunch and £38 for dinner, features simple, crowd-pleasing starters such as Somerset brie with Parma ham and winter salad, or chicken paté with roasted figs and sourdough. For mains, meanwhile, you can tuck into roasted noisettes of turkey with duck fat fondant potato and all the trimmings, or roasted pork loin with chorizo and cannellini beans and Yorkshire puds. The indulgence doesn’t stop there, either, with heavenly desserts like steamed Christmas pudding with proper brandy sauce to round off your feast.
Best for big groups
Set in spacious grounds just outside Cambridge, Holiday Inn, Impington is going all out with a huge range of options. Christmas Party Nights, on Thursdays to Saturdays from 24 November, offer an all-inclusive package of three-course meal, drinks and disco. Work off your traditional Christmas (or fishy or vegetarian) feast on the dance floor till past midnight, then sleep it off at the hotel. Overnight rates start at £75; party only is from £34.95. If it’s simply a feast you’re after, a two- or three-course festive lunch or dinner might fit the bill. Choose a date in November or December; with prices from £15.95. The hotel will be open on Christmas Day too, serving a relaxed buffet style lunch with all-inclusive drinks for £69.50.
An elegant country house built in the 16th century and surrounded by spectacular gardens and grounds, Madingley Hall offers a truly memorable setting for your festive feast. Ideal for private Christmas lunches or dinners for groups of up to 100, the venue will also be laying on its popular Christmas Party Nights once again. There are currently spaces available on 16 and 19 December, and for £42 per person you’ll be treated to a beautiful three-course meal and a disco.
Novi’s stunning roof terrace will be transformed into a winter wonderland this festive season, festooned with lighting, blankets and heaters, making it ideal for a festive tipple, and they’ll also be laying on Christmas buffet menus available for large groups at £30 per person. There’s the option to hire one or both of Novi’s upstairs function rooms, and guests will be treated to fizz on arrival with bread, dips and olives, before enjoying a sophisticated buffet – you can even bring your own music if you want to have a boogie.
Raise a glass to Christmas at Revolution this year, where they’re running all sorts of festive specials, from made-to-order Christmas cocktails to tasty festive treats. There are options for buffets from £14.95 per head and a sit-down three-course meal from a very affordable £17.95 per head, plus an events team to make sure your shindig goes off without a hitch.
With a super central location, club room, Cuban-inspired bar and – most excitingly – a heated, fairy-lit roof terrace to hang out on, you’re guaranteed a good night out.
The Royal Oak, Barrington
An ancient inn on the edge of a village green in the ludicrously picturesque Barrington, The Royal Oak is just the ticket for a cosy chow-down this winter. The Christmas menu, available until 24 December, is priced at £28.95 for three courses, while they’re also open on Christmas Day itself and serving up a super indulgent three-course feast complete with Prosecco, canapés, roast turkey and Christmas pudding (£75 per person). Come New Year’s Eve, you can party into 2018 with a disco and hot and cold buffet at the pub, which will be open 6pm until late. Tickets to the NYE party are priced at £30 per person.
Crown and Punchbowl, Horningsea
Set in the chocolate box village of Horningsea, this Cambscuisine-run country pub and restaurant has long held a fantastic reputation for its food offering. The building, which dates back to the 17th century, boasts cosy fireplaces, a luxurious private dining room and a bright conservatory area, while the menu offers a range of indulgent British dishes which always impress.
The Christmas menu is priced at £25 for two courses or £30 for three and features C&P menu favourites alongside seasonal specialities like roast turkey with roast potatoes and Christmas pudding with brandy butter and winter fruit compote. If you fancy raising a few toasts to the season and don’t want to drive, there are five delightful bedrooms upstairs for overnight guests.
The Eltisley, Eltisley
With a gorgeous shabby chic interior and a winning menu of local, seasonal and flavour-packed modern British cuisine, The Eltisley opened earlier this year under management Feast & Frolic, the group behind quirky gastro hotspots The Willow Tree in Bourn and No.77 in Caxton. There’s cosy candlelight, woodburners and a lovely bar for after dinner drinks, making it a splendid spot for a Christmas feast.
The festive menu looks all kinds of tasty, including soul-pleasing celeriac soup with Gruyère and garlic puff, and venison goulash with rosemary mashed potato and roasted swede – plus a toasted marshmallow and fruit hook with melty chocolate sauce and ice cream for dessert. It’s available 1 to 24 December, priced at £22 for two courses and £27 for three. There’s also a Boxing Day festival for when that Christmas cabin fever sets in – pop down for a hog roast, live music and beers on 26 December.
The Three Horseshoes, Madingley
A pretty thatched inn out in Madingley, the Three Horseshoes has been one of the area’s most celebrated fine dining spots for years, and serves up a menu brimming with bright, seasonal and flavour-packed dishes. They’re laying on a host of festive treats over the festive period, from the Christmas party menu at £35 per person, to a New Year’s Day lunch. We love the look of the indulgent Christmas Day menu, which begins with cranberry Bellinis, includes a roast turkey with all the trimmings and ends with divine desserts and then cheese and biscuits – sounds like heaven to us! There’s also a New Year’s Eve dinner, which offers a sophisticated option for anyone looking to celebrate with good food and wine, but without a big, noisy party.
The Shed, Lode
You’re guaranteed to have a Christmas cracker of a feast at The Shed, which is located in the pretty village of Lode a few miles from Cambridge.
Grab your friends and family and head over to enjoy their Christmas Party Menu, priced at a £25 for three courses or £20 for two, featuring hearty fare like roasted vegetable soup with goats’ cheese and braised beef with horseradish creamed potatoes.
There’s also a traditional turkey with all the trimmings, or a tempting sounding vegetable Gorgonzola Wellington for veggies. If you fancy letting someone else do the cooking and washing up on Christmas Day itself, they have a menu for that too, £75 for adults and £37.50 for children.
The Willow Tree, Bourn
A gorgeous gastro pub in Bourn, The Willow Tree offers quirky decor and beautiful food. Their festive menu is available from 1 to 24 December, priced at £25 for two courses and £30 for three, and features a selection of dishes endowed with the flair this eaterie – which is mentioned in The Michelin Guide – is known for. Feast on a trio of pork terrine with apple ketchup, grilled baby leeks and pork crackling before tucking into hake fillet served with crushed new potatoes, kale and a shrimp and chive velouté. There’s also a splendid looking traditional roast turkey, complete with rosemary and garlic roasties, sprouts, braised red cabbage, chestnut and sage stuffing plus lashings of gravy.
For an extra special private dining experience, you can hire the outdoor tipi – which seats 10-20 around a large fire pit and is available all year round. A Festive Pow Wow (private dining in the tipi) can be yours for £50 per person, which includes three courses from the festive dining menu and a glass of fizz or mulled wine on arrival, plus you get a dedicated server.
The Grove, Cromer
Whether you fancy a romantic winter minibreak, a big group party or an intimate dinner, the family-run Grove hotel on the Norfolk Coast in Cromer has it all. The in-house restaurant is a fine-dining hotspot, with two Rosettes and a menu bursting with top-quality local produce and seasonally inspired dishes. The Christmas Party Menu, available from 28 November to 23 December, is priced at £24.95 for three courses or £19.95 for two, and ranges from a classic roast turkey with winter veggies to rolled haunch of venison with goose fat fondant potato and blackberry jus.
The Grove can cater for larger groups of up to 39 guests – and there’s also the option to reserve the entire place and have the dining room, lounge, study and orangery bar all to yourselves, as well as full use of the gorgeous grounds and indoor swimming pool. For 2017, they are offering exclusive hire from £7000 for two nights, which includes dinner, bed and breakfast for up to 39 people.
Hop continents for a Thai feast at Caxton’s No.77, where they’re laying on a festive feast from 1 to 31 December.
Recently selected for inclusion in The Michelin Guide for a third consecutive year, the traditional exterior of this gorgeous restaurant belies its delightfully quirky interior, with its copper bar, chandeliers and sumptuous velvet furnishings.
The festive menu features Thai sharing platters of favourite dishes including duck rolls, chicken Thai curry, king prawn pad thai and panang curry, and costs £25 per person.
Zara Indian Cuisine
Spice things up this winter with a trip to one of team Edition’s favourite curry houses – Zara Indian Cuisine. Located in Great Shelford, this top-notch restaurant is housed within a converted railway building and serves up a huge range of beautifully put together, creative Indian dishes. Going way beyond your bog-standard offerings, Zara offers regional recipes and speciality dishes aplenty, all freshly made using the finest ingredients. A perfect winter warmer!
A stalwart of the Cambridge food scene for over a decade, De Luca Cucina on Regent Street can be relied upon for delicious, hearty Italian fare, top wines and cocktails, plus a great atmosphere. It’s a long-standing city centre favourite for good reason. As ever, they’re getting into the seasonal spirit with a special set menu this winter, featuring three courses for £32.
Begin with chorizo and fontina arancini or deep-fried squid with sweet chilli and ginger relish, then move on to ‘Secondi’ including baked turkey escalope stuffed with sausage meat and dates, served with roast potatoes. Desserts include De Luca’s boozy, creamy tiramisu, and you shouldn’t leave without popping upstairs to the cocktail lounge and enjoying a tipple or two.
The wow factor
Located on the sixth floor of the Varsity Hotel & Spa, Six drips with style, from the glittering bar to the cool monochrome floor tiling and the dazzling views out across the city’s skyline. As settings for a winter feast or Christmas party go, it’s hard to beat.
The three-course Christmas menu boasts woodstone roasted salmon with Welsh Rarebit potato and creamed spinach, slow roast pork belly and oven baked aubergines with grilled halloumi, not to mention desserts including ‘mince pie mess’ with vanilla ice cream. It’s priced at £29.50 per head for lunchtime and £38 for dinner, and they’ll even throw in Christmas crackers for your group.
A venue finding service for the city and surrounding area, Meet Cambridge has a vast portfolio of venues for your seasonal shindig, whether you’re looking for historical grandeur or cool and contemporary; an intimate lunch or a formal dinner party for 300+ guests. Highlights with wow factor include King’s College, boasting a variety of spectacular dining spaces from the Saltmarsh Rooms to the magnificent Hall, where you can dine while soaking up the stunning architecture of one of Cambridge’s most treasured landmarks.
There’s also the impressive Millennium Grandstand at Newmarket Racecourses, which will be transformed into a ‘White Christmas’ setting. Enjoy a welcome drink followed by a three-course festive dinner before taking to the dance floor. The Dining Hall at Westminster College, meanwhile, provides the perfect Christmas party setting: it offers a range of packages, from lunches to private dining.
Over the last couple of years, Thirsty has gone from small drinks shop with big dreams to major player in the Cambridge nightlife scene, hosting festivals, a summer biergarten and pop-ups all over the city.
It’s back at the Museum of Technology this winter, this time transforming the garden into an après-ski style, all-weather Wintergarten, complete with giant tipis, funky lights, firepits and plenty of seating. As ever, the Thirsty bar will be serving up a huge variety of craft beers on tap, along with wines, gins and Glühwein, and a variety of food trucks will be popping up in the cobbled yard at the back.
Thirsty also has a range of tempting party packages available if you’re looking for something more bespoke, booking you in at the Wintergarten itself (which can accommodate up to 250), the ‘bunker’ at their Chesterton Road shop (up to 50 people), or even bringing the fun to you with the help of their Thirstybus mobile bar, which can provide drinks for events of up to 1000 people. For all of these, there’s the option to include top street food from local traders.
The My Little Festival team will be bringing a serving of their glittery good-time vibes to the city this Christmas with an extra pop-up event at the Cambridge Union.
The Reindeer festival will see the historic debating chamber transformed into the ‘Winter Chamber’, a snowy, twinkling winter wonderland filled with surprises where guests will enjoy a four-course banquet made by Guerrilla Kitchen’s Jay Scrimshaw. The fun doesn’t stop there; guests will also be able to enjoy flowing cocktails, a kitsch disco, quirky interactive cabaret, live music, DJs, and a photo booth – plus a Santa’s Grotto with a difference. The event takes place on 20 December and costs £65 per head, which includes dinner, half a bottle of wine and a glass of fizz on arrival.