Let me tell you about one of the best things I’ve recently put in my mouth.
Naturally, it contained garlicky butter. But it also contained a few wonderful simple other things, and it was served at the bistro at the Cambridge Cookery School.
I’m not even talking about this sandwich, and it’s a great sandwich.
The bistro boasts “a strong Scandinavian and Italian influence”, as well as the customary local/sustainable/organic/crafted gubbins. While this sounded like fun, it did not prepare me for the Turkish Eggs. But I’ll get to that.
We went for brunch. We loved it, and we went back.
Inside, the Cookery School bistro is what I think we now call “airy and modern” – a nice open space, simply furnished, white walls, concrete floors, a lovely wooden counter, a giant blackboard, eclectic crockery, and little to baffle the sound. I’m being fussy there: I came for the eggs not the acoustics, and it genuinely is a thoughtful use of the space. Especially when you see the actual cookery school adjoining. This is spacious, modern, light, and looks very well kitted out.
Remind me to come back for a class.
In fact, “thoughtful” may be the watchword here. Everything felt considered, including some great little touches like the water bowls for dogs outside, the big pile of blankets for the cold, and, what’s better, free, homemade dog biscuits on the counter. That’s pretty neat.
While some of ScandItalian shtick manifests more strongly in their (beautifully selected, rapidly rotating) evening menu, the brunch offering is innovative, fun and – above all – tasty. Oozy-gooey camembert toasties, gorgeously rich egg dishes, a solid sense for picking out and foregrounding good produce, and genuinely good coffee – it’s a nice time, and you should go.
On our first visit with friends, we got through “The Nigella”, a last-days-of-Caligula indulgent cheese and prosciutto sandwich, the spicy crab omelette (oh yes), Turkish Eggs (I’m getting to it), and the bacon and avocado from their combinatorial sourdough Smörgåsbord.
On the second visit, frankly we repeated some of these. Did I mention it’s quite good?
If you don’t fancy poached or baked eggs, corn fritters, hash browns, or the gorgeous-looking Swedish Platter, you can pick from an array of sourdough toppings covering the brunch classics: bacon, eggs, avocados, roasted tomatoes, smoked salmon, or fried mushrooms. There’s hummus, too, naturally.
The boyfriend very much enjoyed his bacon and avocado, but I’m afraid I missed the details, as I was too busy making noises of questionable public acceptability over the Turkish Eggs.
These are a little dish of poached eggs and garlic yoghurt, served in an almost upsettingly indulgent pool of chili-spiked butter, with sourdough on the side. The dill is a Scandinavian nod that I thought would be superfluous, but actually helps it all pull together – this is just an amazing balancing act. Dairy plus dairy, plus rich runny eggs risks overwhelming, but the yoghurt is wonderfully fresh and sour, its sharpness accentuated by the herbs. The chili hit is gentle and works well with the garlic.
The fun here is tasting the components singly, then letting it come together on the plate, ending with a kind of sumptuous dip for the bread. Tangy yoghurt, rich creamy melted butter, garlic and chili. There is a genuine chance it is the best brunch dish I’ve had.
“The Nigella” is pretty nifty too. I mean, it’s a camembert and prosciutto sandwich, made with really good examples of those two things. It would be hard to go wrong. But where it goes extra right is the part where they fry it in butter.
The sandwich. Full of cheese and ham.
Fried. In. Butter.
I love this place.
And again, it’s not top-heavy. Partially, that’s a function of absolutely correct portion sizing, but partly it’s the fig compote. This has the fruit acid and just a little heat needed to offset the cheese and sharpen it all up a bit.
The real trick in all of this is that they’ve made these unarguably-rich dishes feel indulgent rather than excessive. You can eat your fried cheese sandwich and not merely feel comfortable, or relatively morally untainted, but still give genuine consideration to cake afterwards.
Cambridge is not exactly embarrassed with brunch choice, especially since the departure of Afternoon Tease, and generic brunch-overspill venue Salt Pig, but I’m pretty sure this is one of the best. Certainly, it’s the best I’ve been to in quite a while. There’s a great spread of fun twists and classics, and you can get a plate of creamy, buttery, spicy poached eggs that take you to the very edges of dignified indulgence.
The bistro at Cambridge Cookery School is off Hills Rd, down the side of the sixth form, and not super obvious from the street, but it’s well worth the trip, even if you’re not usually on that side of town.