Finally the doors are open to the most anticipated launch in Cambridge for years; the University Arms Hotel and its restaurant, Parker’s Tavern.
After three and half years and a multi-million pound refurbishment, I couldn’t wait to step behind those grand entrance doors and see if for myself. Upon entering, the stature of the building is impressive, think high ceilings, shiny brass and buttery tan leather.
I was greeted by a smiley hostess who promptly showed me to my seat in the spacious dining area. The restaurant itself has a relaxed vibe with rich red and green interior and furnishings complete with quirky artwork, which plays homage to Cambridge’s history. My husband and I dined accompanied by the sound of cheery laughter of other diners and clinking glasses in the adjoining stylish bar.
At the helm is chef Tristan Welch, a Cambridge boy who grew up playing on the Parker’s Piece and whose career has taken him across the world and back home. I was excited to tuck in.
Staff were attentive and helpful, when I struggled to pick a dish from the menu which serves up some of the region’s best local produce; Saffron Walden lamb, Norfolk lobster and an East Anglian pulse masala.
To start I opted for the fish cake with chopped egg, parsley, capers & lemon butter sauce (priced £8). Beautifully presented and perfect starter size, it would also make a tasty option for lunch with a side of spinach, as suggested by Tristan.
My dining partner opted for a Somerset truffle risotto (priced £16/£22), also my choice for main, a filling and flavoursome dish. My partner chose the ‘special of the day’ for main, a light delicious piece of monkfish with peas and broccoli.
Tristan’s talents are clearly shown through a choice of appetising dishes, influenced by his experiences such as holidays to North Norfolk, which is reflected in the nut brown buttered sole with Norfolk brown shrimps (priced £15).
“There’s something for everyone,” said Tristan. “I wanted a regional restaurant with great produce and we’re lucky to have some of the best locally.”
Diners favourites have quickly become the sole with shrimps and the honey and thyme slow roast duck, which comes with bitter greens and silky creamed potatoes (priced £17). I was tempted to ditch my eight months as a pescatarian for the duck but I stayed strong…but only just!
Expect classic desserts such as tarts, a crème brûlée and an enticing Valrhona dark chocolate bar. A quirky touch is the booklet which allows diners to choose from either two or three scoops of ice cream, multiple toppings and sauces. You simply tick your choices and hand it back to your waiter.
I chose strawberry and pistachio ice cream with honeycomb toppings and a caramel sauce, while my guest relived his childhood with chocolate and vanilla ice cream, marshmallows and caramel.
Overall Parker’s Tavern is a delightful addition to the Cambridge food scene for lunch, dinner or simply a drink at the bar. I’m already looking forward to returning!
Review by Emma Kemsley