Let us introduce you to the city’s top private dining experiences
The Tamburlaine Hotel
For sheer wow factor, The Tamburlaine Hotel (above) takes some beating. A few short steps away from Cambridge train station, it’s a gleaming new landmark in the impressive makeover of this once rundown corner of the city. The fit-out is stunning, from the bold chandeliers and plush furniture to the dramatic marble bar that forms the centrepiece of the expansive dining room.
There is a variety of private dining spaces in which to host more intimate gatherings, including the beautiful Garden Room, which can seat between 24 and 90 (up to 120 for drinks receptions), and features a Colonial-era inspired design. The food menu changes regularly, but current dishes include roasted cauliflower with pickled dates, capers and mint oil, and seared salmon, cockle and leek risotto with parsley oil.
The Ivy brand’s design nous transformed this Trinity Street building from humdrum high street shop to exceptionally good-looking restaurant, decking out the space with marble flooring, a glittering onyx bar and a profusion of colourful artworks. Pretty as it all is, if you want to escape the hubbub of the 160-cover restaurant, check out The Boat Room downstairs, which boasts panelled walls, vintage paintings and jazzy, botanic-inspired seating.
It’s ideally suited to groups of between ten and 16, and makes for a great location for a business meeting or special meal. There’s no minimum spend or room hire fee, and it’s available from breakfast through to dinner (with no need to pre-order food). The menu is all about modern British classics, with signature dishes such as The Ivy Collection shepherd’s pie and truffle chicken sandwiches, as well as luxurious afternoon tea.
Crown and Punchbowl
Cocooned in the chocolate box village of Horningsea, The Crown & Punchbowl is a quaint country pub, restaurant and inn with an impeccable reputation. It’s part of the Cambscuisine group, a definitive kitemark of quality on the local dining scene, and serves indulgent, classic British and French fare: think sumptuous beef wellingtons, venison haunch smothered in red wine sauce, and sticky toffee puddings.
The pub has a ‘semi-private’ dining option, which gives you your own space without being closed off from the ambience of the pub. The building, which dates back to the 17th century, offers a choice of the Oak Room, which can seat ten to 20 people, or the Front Room, which is slightly larger, accommodating between ten and 24 diners. If you’re after a crackling-fireplaces-and-timber-beamed bit of rural charm for your event – corporate or social, C&P could be just the place.
With a bright and contemporary decor and pretty views across manicured gardens, Graffiti at Hotel Felix provides a lovely setting for a special meal. Whether your party is a handful of friends or a large group of up to 60, the hotel has four function rooms to accommodate your needs, and the team have bags of experience catering everything from formal dinners to casual buffets and drinks receptions.
The menus are flexible but the overall food philosophy is contemporary fine dining teeming with fresh, seasonal ingredients. There’s also ample free parking: something of a rarity in Cambridge.
Hotel du Vin
A handsome converted townhouse, Hotel du Vin has long been a go-to for those in search of a luxurious overnight break or special occasion dinner. There’s now more competition than ever on the local restaurant scene but, with its classy, Parisian bistro feel and indulgent Gallic dishes, HdV remains a favourite.
For a private dining experience with a bit of old-school glamour, check out the Lombard Room, which seats up to 22 and features a huge bespoke mural, plus original features including an old range cooker. You can also enjoy drinks and canapes feeling like a true Cambridge don in The Library, surrounded by books and leather chairs, or the smaller Common Room, which offers a light-filled space for up to eight diners.
For large events, there are few halls in Cambridge that compare with the grandeur of the University Arms’ ballroom. Offering sweeping views across Parker’s Piece, this light-filled space boasts huge, stained glass windows decorated with college crests, with statement chandeliers overhead. Mahogany panelling frames the room, which is centered by an original marble fireplace. There is space for up to 180 seated guests, or it can be divided with a solid oak wall to form two separate rooms – The Crick and The Watson. Eat here, and you get a taste of Cambridge’s hottest culinary sensation: Parker’s Tavern, the University Arms’ in-house restaurant, presided over by chef-director Tristan Welch. Expect a fully bespoke private dining occasion with a feast of British classics made using the finest Cambridgeshire produce.
Across the courtyard from The Punter pub is The Barn: a rustic dining room filled with paintings, plants, candles and charmingly mismatched furniture.
You and your group (of up to 40 people) can enjoy exclusive use of the space starting from £200, and the food on offer is elegant, exceptionally tasty pub grub: think duck confit with dauphinoise potato/epic burgers.
Serving contemporary Indian cuisine with a sophisticated twist, Atithi has been shaking up Mill Road’s dining scene since opening earlier this year. Under the steer of head chef Kamaladasan, who spent eight years at the Michelin-starred Tamarind in London, the restaurant has crafted a menu inspired by flavours and techniques from across India. For larger groups, there’s the option of a Dawat sharing menu, plus the usual tasting or à la carte menus.
Overlooking Parker’s Piece, the four-star Gonville is another Cambridge hotel that’s undergone an impressive refashioning in recent years. There are stylish bedrooms, the bright, colourfully furnished Atrium bar and restaurant, plus fine dining restaurant Cotto to enjoy, not to mention the secluded spa in the hotel’s walled garden. There’s a variety of options for private dining, with a choice between two function rooms, plus the Atrium can be hired out on a semi-private basis. There’s a range of menus to choose between, all created and prepared by the acclaimed Cotto chefs – expect inventive fine dining fare served with flair.
The Mews at Bedford Lodge
The four-star Bedford Lodge has a solution for when a private dining room just isn’t enough luxury for you: your own private house! The latest addition to this Newmarket hotel, The Mews takes things to the next level, with not only its own dining area but three luxurious bedrooms. Hire it on an exclusive basis (prices start at £1200), and you can enjoy all the trappings of the hotel but in your own, intimate setting.
Come dinnertime, you have the option to dine in your own private space (seats up to eight), or at the hotel’s Squires restaurant: either way you’ll be treated to the creative flair of this 2 AA Rosette eatery. As well a special meal with bells on, The Mews can also be hired for hen parties, bridal parties and groups of wedding guests looking to elongate their stay.
The buzz around this restaurant, which reopened in March last year with new owners, an elegant new look and an exciting new food offering, is yet to die down. And it’s little wonder that tables continue to be booked up far in advance and the national press continue to fawn: food, service and ambience are all exquisite at this Chesterton Road eatery. If you’re after a location for a really special meal, it’s pretty hard to beat in the city – and has become a favourite choice for those in search of a venue for birthdays, weddings, graduations and corporate affairs that pack a punch. The private dining space, the upstairs Chesterton Room, seats up to 12 people and there’s no cover charge unless there are fewer than eight of you.