All images: Michael J. Sim
Nicola Foley samples the new bar menu at this stylish venue
With The Fountain now a distant memory, Regent Street’s Novi has fully matured into its new incarnation as a hip, design-led café and cocktail bar – an evolution which has seen pumping tunes and late-night raves replaced with botanical cocktails, artisan coffees and Instagram-friendly brunches.
You can’t deny they’ve done a beautiful job with the fit-out, in my opinion creating one of the best-looking venues in Cambridge. From the sumptuous upstairs cocktail bar, with its vibrant green upholstery, low-hanging pendant lights and deep wood panelling, to the pared back, Scandi minimalist feel downstairs, with its immaculate marble tables and flashes of burnished gold – the whole design sings with sophistication and understated cool.
Nice as all that is, Novi has much more to offer than a pretty space – starting with their superlative, regularly updated cocktail selection. Fruit, herbs, spices and home-made syrups and tinctures are expertly blended to create blissful boozy concoctions for all tastes.
Sate your sweet tooth with the Tickled Pink (Chase rhubarb vodka, rhubarb syrup, sorrel and lemon juice), or slurp down one of my personal favourites, the Hot Dram; a heady, fragrant blend of Havana Club three-year old rum, pineapple syrup, pimento dram, lime oil, cinnamon and fresh lime juice, garnished with dried pineapple. You might well have to wait a while for these glorious creations, but I promise that you won’t mind as soon as you taste them.
And so to the food offering, which Novi has recently brought back in-house after a year or so of hosting a rotating line-up of local street food traders. And as much as I’ll miss being able to pop in and feast on anything from Vietnamese bao to Caribbean curry, the new evening food menu had me salivating from the first look.
The centrepiece for us was the vegetarian sharing platter: a smorgasbord of veggie treats including fluffy courgette muffins, quinoa falafel, hunks of still-warm sourdough bread, tangy sun-dried tomatoes and a selection of excellent cheeses which included a rich Manchego, creamy Brie and a pungent Gorgonzola. Chutneys, olives and dipping oils completed the platter, which also comes as a meaty edition featuring chorizo, salchichón, lomo and serrano ham. Either way, it’s ideal nibbling food which makes a perfect bedfellow for a cocktail or two.
“The new menu is imaginative, well thought out and delicious”
We also dipped into the large plates selection, sampling both the grilled chicken, which had the most lip-smackingly delicious honey and lime marinade and home-made slaw, and the sirloin steak, which was my highlight of the meal. Perfectly tender and juicy, the succulent slices of steak were a match made in heaven for the piquant chimichurri and avocado and spinach salad they came served with, making for a beautifully balanced dish. Added indulgence was provided by a side order of Parmesan truffle fries, smoky baked chickpeas and a dish of deep-fried gherkins – all scrumptious additions to our meal, even if we did end up ordering enough to put us both well and truly into a food coma (I’d recommend consulting the staff on whether you’re ordering roughly the right amount of food if you want to avoid a similar fate).
All in all, I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Novi – the new menu is imaginative, well thought out and delicious, and coupled with Novi’s super-stylish interior, central location and killer cocktails, it’s a total winner in my book. It’s open all day too, serving up health-conscious (but still satisfyingly indulgent) brunches, plus well-being boosting smoothies, speciality coffees and home-made cakes. There’s also an ever increasing line-up of events including the odd guest foodie pop-up, comedy nights and cocktail classes too – plus, rather excitingly, we hear they’ll be opening their roof terrace come springtime, adding yet another string to their already impressive bow.
Novi, 12 Regent Street, Cambridge