Sunday 1 March 2015

Foodie Finds in Cambridge

My aunt has a flat that she rents out in Cambridge and a couple of weeks ago it became vacant for a few days in-between new tenants arriving. She kindly offered it to us to use as a base for a few days. My mum and I jumped at the chance and enjoyed a lovely girly weekend away.

Central Square Market
The first day we spent shopping, exploring the famous outdoor market, winding passageways and arcades. We decided to eat out at lunchtime and then buy some goodies to take back to the flat to enjoy for dinner. We couldn’t resist getting these grapes off the market – just look at the size of them, absolutely gigantic! I’ve never seen such large grapes in my life, and they only had 2-3 tiny seeds inside too. They were deliciously crisp and sweet. We went back at the end of our stay to try and buy some more but sadly he wasn’t there that day.

There is also a fantastic bread stall called The Earth’s Crust, for those lucky people who can eat gluten. My mum bought a delicious walnut bread and sourdough from here which she enjoyed with our giant grapes and some local cheese in the evening.

I’d planned ahead and taken my own gluten free bread, but also indulged in some delicious artisan cheese from the CambridgeCheese Company. This is hidden down a side alley and well worth hunting out. It’s a real treasure trove of cheeses, meats, olives, oils and other assorted gourmet ingredients.

Rainbow Café – King’s Parade
For lunch we decided to try Rainbow Café. It’s an entirely vegetarian café that also caters magnificently for vegans, coeliacs and dairy free diets. It’s almost a secret restaurant, as it has no obvious shop front along the street but is secluded down a narrow alleyway, situated directly opposite the famous Kings Collage Cambridge. So if you see this you know you are in the right location.

Look out for the Rainbow Café sign down the alleyway and follow it down until you get to a door surrounded by hangings baskets filled with flowers. Open the door and walk down the steps into the depths below. This opens out into a few interconnecting rooms, hidden beneath the street above. The ceilings are low and the wooden tables are clustered into nooks and crannies. The walls are brightly coloured and adorned with mirrors giving it a very inviting and cheery atmosphere. You really feel like you have stumbled upon a hidden gem.

It may have a secret location, but it’s by no means a secret to the locals – we got there early and within minutes all the tables were taken. Some people have a set, somewhat negative view of what vegetarian food is. If you know of any such doubters – take them here – the food is outstanding, a real mix of international flavours and dishes, and not a boring mushroom risotto or goats cheese tart in sight! Instead you have dishes like Jamaican Roti Cups, Latvian Potato Bake or Enchilladas.

I should think 70% of the menu was naturally gluten free, which made me very dithery and indecisive over what to choose from the menu – I’m not used to so much choice! In the end I had Pepper Pot: A West Indian favourite - fiery hot as the Caribbean, jewel peppers, seasonal pumpkin, carrot, onion, garlic, tamarind and coconut. This was served on rice’n’peas and topped with a large wedge of fresh pineapple and a side salad. The photos don’t do it justice, but being underground doesn’t lend itself well to photos.

It was amazing. Sweet yet slightly spicy, the heat growing as I ate it. It was creamy from the coconut and a generous amount of nutty brown rice underneath. The fresh pineapple was sweet and juicy and was great to take bites from in-between spicy mouthfuls. I’ve never had a dish like it.

We were both full after our lunch but we couldn’t pass up the opportunity to try one of the desserts from the specials board – not when 10 of the 13 dessert specials were gluten free – what choice!

We decided to share the Lime & Zucchini cake as this sounded a bit different. It came in a generous wedge and had a fabulous pudding-cake texture. It was moist, dense and fudgy. The top was doused in a zingy lime syrup and flecks of courgette/zucchini were visible speckled throughout the cake. It reminded me of sticky toffee pudding in texture, and we think we picked up on a subtle hint of ginger too. Amazing, especially as it was gluten free, dairy free, egg free and vegan. I’d love the recipe. This place really is a must visit for the charm, food and fun top secret location alone – whether you have dietary requirements or not.

Afternoon Tease – Kings Street
Afternoon Tease (love the name) is a buzzing café located just outside the main shopping square in Cambridge. It serves a wonderful selection of brunches, lunches and of course plenty of mouth-watering cakes for afternoon tea. Everything is made fresh daily on site, and the menu is always changing according to seasonality and what the team feel like trying out on the day. I think this is a wonderful idea and keeps it fresh and exciting. You never know what’s going to be on offer each visit. Look at their facebook site for some very drool-worthy photos.

We visited Afternoon Tease for morning coffee and cake on our final day. I’d emailed the lovely owner Jo in advance to ask about gluten free cake, and was told they always had at least one offering. Sure enough when we arrived there was a choice of gluten free pistachio lemon drizzle loaf cake or almond financiers. It was so nice to see something other than the bog standard gluten free brownie.

I went for the pistachio and lemon drizzle loaf cake and it was one of the best cakes I’ve ever had out. It was damp and closely textured, yet wonderfully soft and light. It had a pale green tint from the nuts of which there were also a few chunks scattered throughout the cake, giving it a nice bite. The top had been doused in a zingy lemon syrup which complimented the pistachio flavour perfectly.

My mum went for a slice of ginger cake with lemon cream cheese frosting, which was also studded with chunks of glace ginger. She enjoyed it, but after tasting mine she got cake envy and has made me promise to try and recreate the pistachio cake at home. The coffee was excellent too. I’d love to go back to try their lunch options sometime.

Mill Road
Another place to explore is Mill Road which is a bit outside the city centre. It’s a long street lined with a whole assortment of independent shops, restaurants and cafés. I even found a vegetarian wholefoods and stocked up on some gluten free bread, noodles and crackers, all brands I’ve only ever seen online before.

The Sea Tree – Mill Road
Walk right to the end of Mill Road and over the railway bridge and you come to The Sea Tree which is a fabulous fresh fish and chip shop. They can cook you fresh gluten free fish and/or chips any day of the week. They have a separate fryer for their chips and also use this for any gluten free requests, of which they have a separate gluten free batter. They only serve fresh fish, no pizzas or burgers and you can get them to eat in or take away. Everything is fresh and you are not limited to cod or haddock either. If you want calamari, scallops or sea bass that’s not a problem and you can also have it battered, fried or grilled. You can’t beat a freshly cooked, piping hot crisp chip, eaten straight out the paper with your fingers. Another must if you are staying locally.

Fitzbillies – Trumpington Street
Finally, if you are not needing to eat gluten free then you must also stop by Fitzbillies. A traditional wooden fronted bakery/café that has been going since 1921, and is now run by the famous food writer Tim Hayward. They are famous for their huge (and my mum declares delicious) sticky Chelsea Buns.


Choclette said...

Ah what a useful and interesting post Katie. You are always so thorough in your reviews and paint a good picture of a place. We've been meaning to go up to Cambridge for years now to visit the Botanic Gardens. If we managed to make it this year, I will now know where to eat. The Rainbow Cafe is close to my heart as I worked at a vegetarian cafe of that name when I was a student and loved it. Not that it was in Cambridge.

Emily said...

Oh my goodness, all of the food looks amazing! I'd love to try the lime & zucchini cake, especially. Yum!

Gluten Free Alchemist said...

It's years since I visited Cambridge. It is such a beautiful place and it sounds as though you found some fascinating (and very tasty) haunts! Makes me want to go back and visit again!!

Johanna GGG said...

Oh I so want to go to Cambridge - did go there once but very vague memories - your food adventures sounds fantastic - I think that cake at afternoon tease sounds amazing

Kelly Michelle said...

The Rainbow Cafe is definitely somewhere I need to try next time I'm in Cambridge. I've visited Afternoon Tease a year or so ago and it's great that they had two options - unfortunately there was only one chocolate option on the day I visited. Cambridge is definitely my favourite place in the whole of England; I'm so glad that you went gluten free hunting in Cambridge xx