Sunday 22 February 2015

Restaurant Review: Cambridge Chop House

This year I spent Valentine’s day in Cambridge – not quite as good as Rome but still a lovely weekend away none the less. I went to university there and other than a reunion dinner hadn’t been back for several years, and my boyfriend had never visited the city, so I really wanted to show him around.
We went to Duxford (part of the Imperial War Museum)  on the way up, did a walking tour of a couple of the colleges in the morning and I showed him around my college and some of my old haunts in the afternoon, then on Sunday we went to the Computer History Museum, which I highly recommend – located on an industrial estate on the edge of the city centre, I wasn’t expecting much – but it’s a treasure trove of computers from every decade, where I spotted the computers we had at primary school, the Commodore 64 my sister and I had at home, and much more besides. You can even play on most of the games consoles! My boyfriend was in his element particularly when he came across a certain remote control car he had as a child, which he spent a few minutes playing with.

I’m never keen on set menus for Valentine’s day – I can understand why restaurants do them, but I’d much rather choose from the a la carte menu even if it means the potatoes aren’t cut into heart shapes. I looked on the internet to see what restaurants there were in the centre of Cambridge – much has changed since I studied there, though some are still there. The first two I contacted, over a month before Valentine’s day, were already fully booked which was a bit worrying, and the third sent me a set menu that only had a choice of three dishes for each course, none of which my boyfriend would have liked.
The Cambridge Chop House and its sister restaurant the St John Chop House were highly rated on Trip Advisor, conveniently located (the former is opposite King’s and the latter where the name might suggest, albeit at the back of the college near Madingley Road). There wasn’t a huge amount of choice on the menu if you didn’t want steak or chops but I knew we’d be happy with steak – in fact that would be my boyfriend’s preferred Valentine’s dinner. I was able to get a table but only for 6pm, but at this point – still several weeks before Valentine’s day – was happy to book it.
In the end having an early dinner was a good thing as we were quite tired from walking around all day. The restaurant is deceptively big – it only has a few tables at street level then you go down into the restaurant which has a nice cosy feel without being cramped. Our server was friendly and I chatted to him about what the restaurant used to be called in my student days as I couldn’t remember – it had the imaginative name of No 1 King’s Parade back then.
My boyfriend ordered the sirloin medallions (£28 for 255g) while I decided that I fancied fish after all, and had the roasted cod fillet with lemon and parsley crust with sweet potato rosti, chicory and shellfish sauce (£16). The cod delicious and flaked off at the touch of a fork and the sweet potato rosti was a nice change – I might have to make this at home! I loved the sauce but had never eaten chicory before and decided that I really didn’t like it!
Wine was reasonably priced and it was nice to see it available by the half carafe (500ml). We both chose the same dessert – sticky toffee pudding with butterscotch sauce and ice cream (£6.25) which was a good-sized portion and very tasty.
We had been told on booking that they needed the table back by 8.15 and as it took 45 minutes for our food to arrive I was a bit worried we would feel rushed but that wasn’t the case at all. We had a lovely meal with good service and I would definitely go back when I’m in Cambridge again. I have several friends who live there and I think my boyfriend is looking for another excuse to potter around the computer museum again!

Earlier we had been told about the Cambridge Light festival where various buildings were lit up that weekend, which made for a very pretty walk back to our hotel - this is the Senate House.


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