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Best Independent Restaurants, Pubs, Bars and Coffee Shops

Recommendations for Cambridge’s Best Independent Restaurants, Pubs, Bars and Coffee Shops

Cambridge is host to a fast growing number of excellent independent establishments. We also have our fair share of chain restaurants too, which we will include at the end of our list.

Here are our recommendations, we hope you have a fabulous time eating and drinking your way around Cambridge!

Mill Road

It’s only fair to start with Mill Road, a street with a strong independent spirit and a reputation to match. If you’re looking for authentic North African or Turkish cuisine, a great coffee, an award winning cocktail or a michelin starred dining experience, Mill road has something for everyone

Spicy:

1)Al Casbah-a family run Algerian restaurant, charcoal grill, lively atmosphere, delicious food

2)Bedouin-run by the same family as Al Casbah, deliciously earthy Moroccan cuisine-many vegetarian options

3)Prana-authentic indian cuisine, many familiar Indian dishes from all over India, lots of vegan options

4)Atithi-experimental Indian fusion from chefs with experience in Michelin starred kitchens, a more upmarket  dining experience than aforementioned Prana, no passandas or tikka masalas here, but if you’re looking for Indian with a twist this is the place to be

5)Samaan-North African cuisine, lots of vegetarian meze

British:

6)Vanderlyle-a small restaurant that works directly with farmers, growers, producers and suppliers to create ingredient-led menus that ebb and flow through the seasons. Led by chefs Alex Rushmer and Lawrence Butler, Vanderlyle’s primary focus is on sourcing and cooking local, ethical and sustainable produce and using it to create a daily changing menu driven solely by what the suppliers deliver every morning. Tables can be hard to come by so be sure to book in early

Pizza/Italian/Spanish:

7)Scott’s All Day-on Mill Road’s most bustling corner, Scott’s All Day is a neighbourhood cafe by day and a pizzeria by night. A very relaxed atmosphere, pop in for a coffee/beer or stay for lunch/dinner-anything goes here. Vegan cheese and gluten-free bases available

8)Tradizzioni-a no frills pizza/pasta restaurant, good value and great for families. Vegan and gluten free options available

9)Limoncello- an Italian delicatessen serving tea/coffee/wine/beer, with a simple but delicious pasta based lunch menu including salads and antipasti. Limoncello is a shop as well as brasserie, stocking some common and some more rare Italian food imports

10)Tu Casa-you guessed it-tapas! Homemade tapas and larger dishes, menu changes regularly. Some vegetarian options

Coffee/light bites:

11)Relevant Records-doubling up as a coffee shop on the ground floor and vinyl record store in the basement this place, near the end of Mill Road, serves excellent coffee and is large enough to comfortably accommodate pushchairs.

12)Cafe Blue Sage-run by an extremely friendly Turkish couple this diminutive place is a real find. The coffee is excellent, the food is homemade and delicious (meze) and the service is polite and welcoming. Try anything with their filo pastry-it’s to die for!

13)Hot Numbers-not technically on Mill Road, Hot Numbers is tucked around the corner on Gwydir Street. This is their flagship store, they have expanded into two other premises since opening the doors here in 2011. Excellent coffee from their very own roasterie, simple food menu with cakes and pastries

14)The Garden Kitchen-opened in 2014 by the team behind the Garden Café at the Botanic Garden. Carefully sourced ingredients used to prepare rustic, hearty dishes. Some on the healthy side, others more indulgent. Their take-away packaging is 100% biodegradable (vegware) including their coffee cup lids and salad pots, which are made from corn starch.

Bars and Pubs:

We have included pubs from the Mill Road area (not on Mill Road) as the back street neighbourhood pubs are the best in our opinion. 

15)196 Mill Road Cocktail Bar-forget hipsters, curly moustaches, braces and an attitude that says ‘we’re too cool to even make eye contact with you’, this bar is authentic, welcoming, cosy, genuine and above all, they make the best cocktails in Cambridge! The cocktail list is extensive but each one is made perfectly, and their menu of charcuterie, pate, bread and olives among other tasty bites means that once you get settled there’s no need to move on. Arrive early to guarantee a seat, after 8pm you might have to wait at the bar. 

16)The Petersfield (Sturton Street)-a warm, welcoming atmosphere and acting as a hub for residents of the surrounding area. Relaxed décor, tempting menu and friendly service

17)The Alex (Gwydir Street)-quirky local pub with a beer garden. In summer there’s live music at the weekends, the menu changes regularly and the scene is always jovial and relaxed. Good beer and good food, nothing fancy

18)The Empress (Thoday Street)-If the Alex is quirky the Empress is off the wall! Christmas decs go up Early November and pub landlord rules the roost. Local characters give the place its reputation for being a social club/soap opera, pop in for a swift half and soak up this local scene!

19)The Cambridge Blue (Gwydir Street)-Cambridge’s Real Ale Paradise. Up to 14 real ales, 12 keg beers and 7 real ciders on at any one time. You’ll find it difficult to find something you don’t like here. They also stock an array of gins and other spirits (and one of the largest whisky collections in the city). Along with three fridges filled with hundreds of Belgian beers of all styles. Serving up good old fashioned pub food seven days a week alongside Pieminister pies and different specials. There’s also a secluded beer garden, ideal for a lazy summer’s evening

20) The Live and Let Live (Mawson Road)-one of those locals where heads turn as a stranger walks through the door. Don’t be put off though, you’ll quickly become an accepted club member! Awarded CAMRA Cider Pub Of The Year 2015 and Member of Oakham Ales – Oakademy of Excellence. An always changing range of real-ale including at least one beer from Oakham Ales, usually Green Devil and Citra.Over 140 Rums

21) The Salisbury Arms (Tennison Road)-a neighbourhood hangout serving up freshly made artisan pizzas, bubbling pots of comfort food and seriously tasty beers. Dog friendly bar area

Regent Street

Regent Street is gathering a reputation for being the best place to find authentic Chinese food in Cambridge. Cambridge welcomes a large number of chinese tourists and visiting academics annually and thankfully the cuisine found on Regent Street caters to this market, the quality of the food found here is outstanding. In addition to delicious Chinese food, regent street is also home to an authentic Greek restaurant, Mexican street food, an independent Italian, a converted bicycle shop turned gastro pub, and a gorgeous coffee shop!

22) Yim Wah Express-Top of the list for a very good reason. This is the best Cantonese food in town! The food here is consistently excellent. The founder of this restaurant grew up in Hong Kong and the family had a strong culture of cooking and eating together. This business has been built from scratch and is as successful as it is simply because what they do, they do exceptionally well. Expect a bustling restaurant day and night, filled with Chinese students and academics who know great food. The service is fast and efficient and prices are very reasonable

23) Seven Days- ‘I lived in Beijing for 10 years , this is the closest thing to authentic Dongbei cuisine I’ve found in the UK’ says one fan on Facebook. Another excellent Chinese restaurant serving authentic food from Northeastern China 

24) The Olive Grove-Their menus showcase the best of Greece. Gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan items are integral to the Greek diet, so something for everyone here. The Olive Grove pioneer sustainable sourcing & cooking with low-wastage values. Their ethos is to use seasonal, local, and mostly organic vegetables, while meat & fish are cooked from nose-to-tail. Official members of the SRA (Sustainable Restaurant Association)

25) The Old Bicycle Shop- In 2013, a much-loved Cambridge institution closed its doors and now this quaint old building has a new lease of life as a bar and restaurant, with a quirky interior designed to celebrate the heritage of the original shop. Open all day for brunch, lunch and dinner, serving fresh, locally-sourced food, with plenty of tempting choices for vegetarians and vegans 

26) De Luca Cucina and Bar- modern Italian restaurant offering great quality food at reasonable prices. They source local and seasonal fresh produce to create dishes bursting with Italian flavours. Upstairs piano bar every Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

 26) Bould Brothers Coffee-Muted tones and cosy lighting, all very ‘on-trend’ here. Max and Alex have a Decade of experience working with speciality coffee. Their attention to detail and tireless pursuit of quality has produced this charming place. Pastries and cakes also available

27) Nanna Mexico- In dedication to the founder’s grandmother who brought authentic Mexican cooking to life in her home, street and neighbourhood, this restaurant/take-away serves deliciously fresh Mexican street food. This is one of three stores in Cambridge, but is still very much an independent venture. Great for gluten-free deliciousness if you go for their corn options

As well as on Mill Road and Regent Street, the rest of Cambridge is home to so many hidden treasures-far too many to include here, and some are just best discovered ‘on the hoof’. However, we’ve included our list of favourite haunts should you wish to do some ‘googling’ for yourself. So, in no particular order…

28)Norfolk Street Bakery (artisan breads, cakes and pastries)

29)Charlie’s Coffee Company (actually a family run wood fired pizza restaurant!)

30)DoppleGanger (awesome burgers)

31)Espresso library (large coffee shop serving lunch, great for pushchairs)

32)Benets Coffee Shop (coffee and homemade ice-cream with great views of King’s College)

33)Bread and Meat (American style, loaded sandwiches and other daily dishes)

34)SmokeWorks (ribs, burgers, roast chicken)

35)Chop House (traditional British dishes, meat heavy, hearty food)

36)Mercado Central (Newly opened, modern spanish restaurant)

37)Thirsty (wine and cocktail bar, often has food-truck parked up, you can bring food purchased into the bar)

38)Stir (nice family friendly coffee shop/cafe, avocado on sourdough etc.)

39)Stem and Glory (vegan cafe, very fresh, buffet style)

40)Steak and Honour (orginated in food truck, moved to fixed premises, brioche burgers)

41)Pelonia Club (Polish restaurant)

42)Navadanya (extremely good Indian food, Michelin star kitchen experienced chefs)

43)Midsummer House (Cambridge’s only restaurant with a michelin starred chef)

44)Aromi (at least two sites in Cambridge, Sicilian pizza and ice cream)

45)The Orchard (something of a Cambridge institution, ideal for lazy summer days-Grantchester)

HISTORIC PUBS:

46)The Pickerel-Dating back to 1608 this historic pub is located in the heart of ‘olde Cambridge’. The place itself is run by the Green King Brewery and as such lacks some authenticity, but is still an historic building and drinking house with a crusty charm. Sharing plates, sandwiches and pub classics all served daily. 

47)The Alma-Tucked away on a residential back-street in the heart of Cambridge The Alma is a traditional pub with hardwood floors, old-time beer barrels and memorabilia adorning the walls. Serving more laocals than tourists, always a warm welcome. Hearty food served. 

48)Champion of the Thames-A real pub serving real ale.An open fire in the winter months creates a cosy feel in this Cambridge institution. Once you settle in here it can be hard to leave. And try your luck at being the customer to purchase their daily scotch egg-yes, that’s right, they serve one per day!

49)The Eagle-A very historic and well maintained pub just a stone’s throw from the renowned and beautiful King’s College.The Eagle was established in 1667 and is famous for being the favourite pub of Watson and Crick who discovered DNA and celebrated that phenomenon here. Also renowned for the hundreds of WW2 RAF pilots who left behind a wall of messages in the hope they were never forgotten, which can still be seen today on the ceiling of the back room.

50)The Mill-Idyllically located on the grassy banks of the River Cam overlooking Laundress Green, the 19th Century Mill is one of Cambridge’s most iconic pubs and renowned for its wide choice of well-kept real ales. Pub classics, vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free options.

In the summer, take your drinks and food outside to enjoy next to the Millpond. Dog-friendly.

 

51)The Fort St George- Another pub operating under the Green King Brewery. Usual fare, recently modernised interior, its selling point is really its picturesque riverside location. Perfect in summer but can get busy. 

52)The Cricketers-A really cute, small and quaint neighbourhood pub serving excellent Thai food (Luk Thai). This pub is set amongst historic town houses on a quiet backstreet in the centre of Cambridge. Great food, drink and relaxed, friendly atmosphere. 

53)The Red Bull-Well, we might just be a little bit biased here-The Red Bull pub is not only home to one of our favourite Airbnb listings (https://www.airbnb.co.uk/rooms/33602376?s=67&shared_item_type=1&virality_entry_point=1&sharer_id=192510354) it is also a fantastic gastro pub too! Situated just minutes from the centre of Cambridge, a short walk to the City Centre (and the walk is along the ‘The Mill Pond’ which is along the Cam) and just a short walk to Grantchester, the Red Bull will provide the perfect pit stop for a tour of Cambridge by foot or by bike. There is a lovely, south facing, beer garden where you can enjoy lunch/dinner along with drinks. In the winter time there’s a wood burning open fire, lit throughout the day and evening. And to top it off, their wood fired pizza is divine!

54)The Granta-Perched on the willow fringed Mill Pond, The Granta is as much a port as a pub. From their pontoon punts can be hired, otherwise drink, feast, and enjoy this punters paradise.

55)The Rupert Brooke-located in historic Grantchester on the edge of Cambridge this is a  modern and relaxed brasserie-style pub/restaurant. Focusing on the best seasonal, regional produce; lunch, afternoon tea and dinner is served throughout the week. Pop in for a drink at the bar or enjoy a seat on their striking roof-top terrace. ​Grantchester is rich for scenic country walking but if you are visiting by car, there is also ample free parking.

56)The White Swan-This pub offers late night drinking, a lively atmosphere and some colourful characters! Not a place to take children or older folk, can get rowdy but usually all in good spirit. 

57)The Geldhart- A backstreet pub in the heart of Cambridge serving quality real ales, wines and spirits along with innovative and exciting food on the ‘hot rocks’ as well as great homemade pub favourites. They Regularly host live music and proudly feature local artists on their walls. Known for ‘bending the rules’ on their closing times, a late drink is usually possible, but arrive before 11pm. 

58)The Free Press-First licensed in 1834 to serve homebrew the Free Press, ironically, takes its name from a local paper set up to abolish the drinking of alcohol. Thankfully the Free Press pub outlived its newspaper counterpart and is now a well-loved, traditional backstreet public house within walking distance of the heart of Cambridge. Locally sourced quality produce, evolving seasonal menus and an extensive selection of award winning beers and ales in comfortable and welcoming surroundings. In the winter they have large open fires and a cosy snug area, while in the summer months they serve outdoors in the courtyard garden. This is an authentic little gem of a pub. It is small, so arrive early for a seat. 

59)The Flying Pig-Live music at the weekends, this is a rough and ready pub full of charm and character. Close to the centre of town it’s easily accessible on foot or by bus. Always a jovial atmosphere and a friendly welcome. 

60)The Portland Arms-The Portland Arms is a traditional English pub serving real ales, speciality beers from around the world and home cooked food in a cosy, friendly setting.

A key player in cambridges live music scene, check out their website for scheduled events. 

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