City centre hotspots
One of Cambridge’s favourite recent-ish additions to the drinking and dining scene, with its trendy industrial-inspired interiors, quality food and ales, Cambridge Brew House is already a popular choice for that after work drink with colleagues. Make it the setting for your staff Christmas party and you’ll be offered the Tank Room (for groups of up to 14) or the upstairs Locker Room, which can seat up to 45, or 80 standing. Complete with its own bar and private roof terrace, it also has a big screen to display any entertaining photos you might have accumulated over the year. Alternatively, just book a table at the restaurant and enjoy their Christmassy menu. This includes lobster bisque and other sumptuous starters (vegetarian and vegan options included), bacon-wrapped turkey breast with stuffing, wild mushroom and mixed nut wellington or winter game stew on the main menu, and classic Christmas pud, winter berry Eton mess or chocolate and orange fondant for pud. It’s £23 for two courses or £26 for three. Throw in some bubbles on arrival for £3.50. There’s also a delicious nibbles menu of festive canapés if a more informal drinks do is more your style.
One of the hottest new openings of the year in Cambridge, Smokeworks is a great spot for a get-together with friends in a relaxed setting, right in the heart of the city centre – making it the ideal place to begin a big night out. Food-wise, you can expect a range of simple but delicious barbecue dishes like smoked ribs, pulled pork buns and southern fried chicken, along with amazingly tasty sides including sweet potato fries, meaty bbq beans and home-made coleslaw. While you’re there, warm your cockles before hitting the town with one of Smokeworks’ heavenly milkshakes and a shot of bourbon.
With its buzzy atmosphere, super stylish interior and to-die-for steaks and sides, CAU has quickly established itself as one of Cambridge’s hippest dining spots. The Bene’t Street restaurant will be serving up a seasonal menu this winter that features the usual impressive range of Argentinean beef, alongside some innovative nods to traditional festive fare. On the Christmas menu you’ll find dishes like roasted pumpkin and sage risotto and for dessert, a decadent Christmas pudding sundae or baked panettone bread and butter pudding with ginger and cardamom custard. The menu is available from 24 November, with prices starting at £23 for two courses and £29 for three courses.
A firm favourite whatever the time of year, this sophisticated King Street eaterie boasts a great atmosphere, fantastic food and one of the best wine lists in the city. Ideal for an intimate candlelit dinner à deux or a larger group, the restaurant also offers private dining in their atmospheric wine shop, which is located in a separate building to the left of the main restaurant. Take advantage of the Christmas menu and you’ll be treated to a slap-up festive feast: free- range Norfolk bronze turkey or slow-roasted rib of beef with crispy roast potatoes, spiced carrot puree, buttered savoy cabbage, pigs in blankets, red wine jus and roasted seasonal vegetables. Go the whole yule log by finishing your meal with a traditional Christmas pudding with brandy egg custard and candied walnuts. £23.95 for two courses or £28.95 for three.
Come in from the cold and warm up with one of Caffè Sicilia’s dreamy hot chocolates or cappuccinos – with a seasonal twist! The staff have been practising their cappuccino art (we love the cheeky snowman!) and hot chocolates come piled high with real cream and topped with cocoa powder. They will also be giving a Christmas twist to their range of panini (turkey, brie and cranberry, or brie, red grape and cranberry), and bringing in traditional continental treats like Baci chocolates and panettone. The Hills Road café now boasts a pizzeria too, which serves delicious pizzas to eat in, take out or get delivered. In search of a gift for a foodie friend or family member? The café is also selling Christmas hampers, chock-full of authentic, tasty Sicilian products. Caffè Sicilia is located on Hills Road and Regent Street, as well as offering catering for events and parties.
Eschew tinsel and turkey with a trip to Mill Road’s Bedouin for an atmospheric North African feast. The intimate restaurant, which twinkles with colourful Moroccan lamps and cosy Bedouin rugs draped on the walls, transports diners to exotic climes and serves up brilliantly authentic food. Opt for a warming tagine or some delicious hummus, drizzled in olive oil and topped with diced marinated lamb, or try the felous mahshi: oven roasted chicken stuffed with spiced Mediterranean vegetables, glazed with honey and served with flavoursome couscous.
If you’re after cocktails, music and tasty food, look no further than La Raza on Rose Crescent. This subterranean restaurant and nightclub is especially good for large groups (so listen up if you’re in charge of planning an office shindig), as they offer a range of set menus, which combine dishes from their tapas selection with some festive treats. On the menu you’ll find Spanish style roast turkey (rubbed with paprika, cumin seeds, cinnamon and cayenne), chicken and chorizo paella and sweets including bread and butter pudding with a light orange custard and peaches baked in cava served with whipped cream. Prices start at £19.95 per head, with a free glass of fizz included. And of course, La Raza turns into a buzzing nightclub once you’re ready to hit the dance floor for a boogie, making it a great all-in-one destination.
A long-standing local favourite, The Kingston Arms is without doubt one of the cosiest drinking spots in town. With roaring log fires, twinkly fairy lights, an ever-changing selection of real ales and a stack of board games, it’s the perfect place for a lazy afternoon or evening with friends. It’s the top-quality pub grub which sets The Kingston apart though, with the Sunday roasts, handmade burgers and amazing chips especially popular. If the party season means you’re a little short on cash, hit the ‘recession menu’, that offers up pocket-friendly dishes including cottage pie and fish and chips – all at a bargain £4.99.
We fall a little bit more in love with The Alex on Gwydir Street every month. October saw them host a blinder of a music festival, complete with a line-up of live bands, great burgers and top beers, and the pub is now welcoming the colder months and sporting a cosy new look for winter. It’s an ideal spot for a festive get- together with friends or colleagues, and they’re offering a delicious party menu from 24 November right the way through to 16 January (take note, those in the hospitality industry looking for a festive team outing after the busy period). At £12.95 for two courses or £14.95 for three, it’s excellent value – plus, there’s special offers on drinks for advance bookings.
A 16th century inn set in the heart of the rolling Cambridgeshire countryside, the King William in Heydon is a cosy, quirky gem. With a clutch of awards to its name, it has a great reputation as a foodie destination, especially among vegetarians (its veggie menu is vast and packed with interesting dishes). This winter, they’ll be serving up enticing entrees of honey roasted butternut squash soup and gooey whole baked Camembert studded with rosemary and garlic, served with caramelised red onion and artisan bread. For mains, tuck into a roast free-range Norfolk turkey with all the trimmings, or an asparagus, chestnut and sun blushed tomato strudel with pesto and rich tomato sauce. The Christmas menu is £24.95 for three courses.
If it’s a quintessentially English Christmas setting you yearn for – log fires and mulled wine included – make a beeline for the Red Cow at Chrishall. This year they will once again be opening their doors on Christmas Day for a fun and family-friendly lunch. There’s a set Christmas party menu too, bursting with traditional festive fare including roasted partridge, roast turkey and all the trimmings and traditional plum pudding with brandy cream for dessert. £20 for two courses and £25 for three.
Best for fine dining
Described by The Independent as ‘easily one of the best restaurants in England’, the Three Horseshoes at Madingley has a sterling reputation for serving up innovative fine dining fare in a charming country setting. The Christmas party menu looks set to be a showstopper, featuring intriguing sounding dishes like home-made cheese and bacon bagel bombs, poached deep fried egg with kale, comté and mustard and bacon crumbs, whilst the Christmas Day lunch is £65 per person.
One of Cambridge’s most celebrated dining spots, Graffiti at Hotel Felix offers innovative modern British cuisine in a cool and contemporary setting. This Christmas all your festive foodie desires are well catered for, with options for lunch or dinner parties, as well as Christmas day itself. The Christmas party lunch for 10-60 people, priced at £25 per person, is a delicious three-course meal including mince pies and coffee, or you can opt for a dinner party for 40-60 guests in your own private room, which comes complete with a dedicated bar, festive decorations and options for additional entertainment in the form of a disco – or even a casino! From £45 per person.
Boasting an elegant French-styled bistro, cosy library and super-cool labyrinthine cellar bar, Hotel du Vin on Trumpington Street is one of the city’s most enchanting venues for a truly memorable meal. Available from 24 November, the festive menus range from traditional favourites to innovative fine dining fare, all prepared using top-quality, seasonal ingredients. For Christmas parties, the hotel offers a delicious-looking three- course menu with mince pies, coffee and a complimentary glass of fizz priced at £32.50 for lunch and £39.50 for dinner (party menu runs 24 November until 4 December). If you fancy letting someone else do the hard work for you on Christmas Day itself, there’s a classic festive lunch menu with all the trimmings priced at £99 per person, plus packages available to include overnight stays. We also love the look of the Boxing Day and New Year’s Day brunches, which feature a lavish French market table buffet heaving with charcuterie, pâtés, rillettes, seafood, salads and a range of fresh breads, after which you’re treated to lunch favourites including traditional roasts, followed by delectable desserts.
We just love the new Marco Pierre White Steakhouse Bar & Grill at the DoubleTree hotel, with its sumptuous décor and delicious menu, so we’re pleased to note that the hotel is pushing the boat out this festive season with a host of options for party nights, lunches and dinners and even a special festive afternoon tea, which features turkey and cranberry sandwiches, mini mince pies and Christmas fruit cake, amongst lots more deliciousness. There’s also a Christmas Day lunch on offer, plus a glamorous New Year’s Eve bash that includes a five-course gourmet menu, plus dancing, for £85 per person. Find out more at the website.
This winter, set out with friends, family or colleagues for the enchanting gastro pub in Bourn for hearty and delicious seasonal fare – perfect for warming the cockles. The Willow Tree’s Festive Dining menu launches this month, and runs until January. On it, you’ll find starters of Vichyssoise leek and potato soup with croutons and crispy leeks and a duo of salmon gravlax. For main course, there’s a choice of roasts – goose, turkey or nut – with all the trimmings, as well as cod fillet, venison stew or squash, spinach and cranberry wellington. Then indulge in a dessert of Cointreau and orange crème brûlée, a Willow Sundae or mulled pear and fig tart. There’s also a Christmas Day menu – book early as it’s a popular choice! Known for its decadent events, The Willow Tree is also hosting a magical Narnia supper club on 7 December – keep an eye on the website for more details.
In the heart of Newmarket, Bedford Lodge Hotel’s in-house restaurant, Squires, boasts two AA Rosettes and a great reputation for contemporary fine dining in a setting full of artistic flair. The Christmas Fayre menu features classic festive favourites like Norfolk turkey with chestnut stuffing, roast potatoes, chipolata and bacon and cranberry sauce, and runs throughout December – perfect for celebrations with friends or colleagues. For a larger group, check out the party nights, which start at £41 per person and begin with drinks in the bar, followed by a three-course dinner and an evening of dancing and entertainment at the hotel. There’s another special menu for Christmas Eve, which offers delectable dishes including honey duck breast with caramelised beetroot and baby parsnips, or Suffolk pork belly with celeriac and mustard puree and sage velouté, whilst for Christmas Day itself you’ll be treated to champagne and canapés on arrival, followed by a truly spectacular five-course feast. Look out for the New Year’s Eve gala dinner and black tie ball too, to see in 2015 in style.