The Pint Shop, Cambridge

The centre of Cambridge is a miserable place to drink. I’m not going to rant about this, but between soulless chains, student vomit production-lines, and brave attempts that have failed by becoming a restaurant with an unconvincing pub-shaped mask on, there’s basically nowhere to go for a beer. So when the Pint Shop announced they’d be selling around ten craft keg beers, another five or so cask ales, and serving food while giving equal space to drinkers and diners it seemed a bit good to be true.

After having dinner there last week, I can confirm that it is both good and true.

The remains of ox cheeks at the Pint Shop

If you want to skip the rest of this review, the tl;dr is: go there and eat the Triple Cooked Ox Cheeks – they are heart-stoppingly delicious.

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M-Eating, Mykonos (old town)

Old towns – every resort town has one. They seem to vary only in where they sit on their own little hideous-quaint spectrum, and whether it’s gold, silver, leather or all three that every single shop is somehow staying open by selling. In Mykonos Old Town, it’s “all of the above”, and they’re basically there to provide street lighting.

It’s fine. This stuff is here so you can get off a cruise ship and buy an “ethnic” skirt without actually having to walk too far. It serves a purpose, I’m part of the problem too, and you know, it is kind of nice to be able to see where you’re going while you try to find a restaurant.

Unsurprisingly, I didn’t have high hopes for food in Mykonos. We passed one identikit fish restaurant where the crayfish in the tank full of murky water outside actually managed to look sad. Granted they weren’t in a barrel, but laying into resort food is a little like taking shots at one of them anyway, so I’ll just talk about a place that was superb instead.

Pork with smoked cheese

M Eating is a bistro on a little terrace in the old town. There’s a small indoor restaurant and a large terrace on the veranda, canopied with vines. It’s all distressed white wood tables and pale colours, toning in with the “Cycladic” style of the town. The menu is simple, and in the broad genre of “European restaurant food, somewhat fancy”. It’s bloody tasty, too.

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Eating out in Europe: adventures in meat and beer part three – Zurich

If the exchange rate were two Swiss Francs to the pound, Zurich would basically be London with nicer people and a giant lake where Hyde Park should be.

lake Zurich

The exchange rate is not two Swiss Francs to the pound.

At 1.4:1, Zurich feels almost like someone took a modern European city, filled it with bankers, chased out the poor, and installed a really nice tram system to make everyone feel a bit better about it. Funny, that. Continue reading Eating out in Europe: adventures in meat and beer part three – Zurich

Eating out in Europe: adventures in meat and beer part one – Vienna

Egon Schiele - Self portrait with raised bare shoulder, 1912For the last few weeks, I’ve been in central Europe; which explains the relative scarcity of blog posts, and the mild expansion of my waistline. Germany and Austria do not stint on the carbs. Or the meat, or the pastry, or the beer, or the portion sizes.

It’s been good.

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Midsummer House, Cambridge

Midsummer House is widely held to be the best restaurant in Cambridge. Given it’s also one of only nineteen restaurants in the UK with two Michelin stars, I was prepared to be impressed. Then again, given it has a reputation for service that’s snooty to the point of open class war, I was prepared to be impressed through a veil of gentle fury.

Happily, the food was flat-out excellent, and the only thing that made me feel not really wealthy enough to be welcome was the wine list. I’ll get to that later, because although it didn’t remotely marr the meal it’s a serious problem for the overall quality of the experience.

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Mango and passion fruit delice, with lemongrass ice cream

No, the service was pitch-perfect, and the food while not exactly subtle was probably the best I’ve eaten. The TL;DR version is that it’s absolutely worth going, and it helps to have a slightly sweet tooth.

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Cau, Cambridge

I’ve been eating out quite a bit lately, it seems. The latest place on this list is the new(ish)ly opened Cau on Bene’t Street. This being Cambridge, yes, it’s a chain. But it is at least a small one.

If their shtick weren’t obvious from the name, the grass and sky motif hits it home. This is all about the beef. Their specialty is large sharing steaks in exciting sauces, culminating in an 18oz rib-eye, marinated in chimichurri sauce and slow-grilled.

Rib-eye steak at Cau
A standard rib-eye with chunky fries

Sadly, none of us felt up to tackling one of those, so this review doesn’t really get to the soul of the place. This is doubly sad, because the rest was enjoyable if unremarkable, and I’m worried I’m not doing it justice. I’ll need to recruit some heavy-duty carnivores and return in force.

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Bubbledogs, London – champagne and hot dogs, because reasons

Bubbledogs is a restaurant that only serves champagne and hot dogs.

Yeah. Quite.

BLT hot dog at Bubbledogs
BLT hot dog at Bubbledogs

In the catalogue of self-conscious, posed restaurant concepts, that ranks pretty high. It is also too charmingly goofy an idea not to try at the first opportunity; so try it we did.

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Riddle and Finns, Brighton – seafood and style

I have been to Riddle and Finns twice now; once nearly three years ago, in the early days of my spending a lot of time in Brighton, and again last night. Their online menu (it’s a pdf, I’m afraid. Because restaurants) is a little out of date. On both occasions I enjoyed it tremendously, and I’m reasonably sure that on both occasions I did so by making a wretched mess of myself and the table near abouts, by dismantling an enormous crab. Crab claw at Riddle and Finns The folks I was with ate lobster and sea bass. We had simple sides, a middling Sancerre,  a little dessert, and a gorgeous sweet sherry to round it all off. This set us back about £50 per head, which I felt was perfectly reasonable for the experience, but if you’re less fond of shellfish and/or booze, you could easily spend half that.

Either way, I’d recommend a visit.

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Byron, Cambridge – proper burgers? Yep, pretty much.

Cambridge is not a great place to have dinner. There are plenty of places to eat, sure, and a burgeoning selection of really good places to buy fresh produce if you’re cooking. But the actual choice of restaurants is poor, and heavy on chains.

Byron is a chain. But it’s a small one, and it isn’t photofit Italian, so it’s worth a mention.

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The menu is pretty simple, as you’d expect from a business trading heavily on the idea of doing only one thing and doing it well. “Proper hamburgers” is the shtick, and the selection offers little else. Pick a burger, add some extras or choose a pre-set combo, add sides, and enjoy with an excellent selection of craft beer. It works.

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