Hannah Burton’s guide to spending Christmas in and around one of the UK’s most picturesque cities…
Cambridge is steeped in history and was named by Forbes magazine as one of the most beautiful cities in the world – think gloriously maintained architecture dating back to the 13th Century and a picture-perfect setting along the River Cam.
A day spent punting along the river or watching rowers hard at work is perfect during the summer, but as the temperature drops, the magic of this historic city really sets in. The university buildings look magnificent on a crisp, frosty day – on the approach to Christmas, Cambridge is hard to beat.
Though the city might be best known for its scholars, the dining-out scene in the UK’s second-oldest university city is starting to emerge, putting it firmly on the foodie map. Those following the Michelin-star trail will be thrilled by Alimentum and Midsummer House, the latter of which has earned two of the coveted stars. Christmas is all about food, so read on for a handful of ideas about where to dine this Yuletide.
The Willow Tree – Bourn
The Willow Tree is widely known for assembling menus of exquisite seasonal fare and for throwing great events, so you know you’re in safe hands over the festive period. The festive dining menu will be available until January and includes starters like Vichyssoise leek and potato soup and salmon gravadlax. For your main course, why not tuck into a goose roast with all the trimmings, or a venison stew, then move on to one of the suitably decadent desserts, with options including a mulled pear and fig tart. Take all of the stress out of cooking for the relatives by simply booking in at The Willow Tree on Christmas day – the food is excellent, the atmosphere warm and the staff are always looking to add a little magic and whimsy.
Earlier in December The Willow Tree hosted a magnificent Narnia Supper Club, and they’re set to ring in 2015 in similarly spectacular style. The Once Upon A New Year’s Eve party will be an unforgettable affair, not least because of the fairytale and folklore dress code – who else can claim to have linked arms with ice maidens and woodland creatures for Auld Lang Syne? The evening will feature an incredible five-course gourmet dinner and some fantastic (and often fantastical) entertainment, as well as dancing until the small hours. The NYE bash costs £90.
La Raza – Cambridge
La Raza has been delighting the people of Cambridge for over ten years now with exquisite Spanish cuisine. This Christmas why not buck the trend of turkey and trimmings and instead dive into an authentic Spanish feast? La Raza are offering two different set tapas menus for your special events, priced from £19.50 to £29.50, with a free glass of fizz for every guest. Tapas is perfect for social dining, so La Raza is a great choice for your Christmas do. The menus include delectable treats like paella with chicken, chorizo and piquillo peppers, and cured serrano ham. The prawn and pancetta brochettes are sure to be popular, as are the goat’s cheese and quince pasta crostini. Once you’ve finished your evening meal, this classy venue is transformed into a lively cocktail bar where you can dance the night away to live music and DJs.
It’s not all just about Christmas though, as New Year’s Eve gets the special La Raza treatment too. Why not see in 2015 at a Prohibition party? Be transported to a nightclub in the 1930s, when gangsters, flappers and old money reigned. The night will start with canapés and cocktails before a live band takes the stage, to be followed by a DJ until the wee hours. The dress code is vintage or Great Gatsby-themed, so dust off your trilbies and headdresses and get ready to dance 2014 away.
Fitzbillies – Cambridge
Fitzbillies is a Cambridge institution, having opened in 1921. Though the ownership has changed since then, the recipes and care taken over the quality of food has not, and Christmas time is a great chance for them to shine.
Fitzbillies is perfect for a special event at Christmastime, and both feasting menus and set menus are available so there’s something for everyone. The feasting menu is comprises large platters to share between the group so is perfect for a group of friends or colleagues. The menu includes superb dishes like a roast rack of Dingley Dell pork or a dish of roast birds, served with duck-fat-roasted potatoes and all the trimmings.
The set menu has similar options, with starters of game terrine served with sourdough toast and main courses like partridge in cream sauce served with chestnut mushrooms. Desserts include festive favourites such as Christmas pudding served with brandy snap.
Fitzbillies is also a wonderful spot in the run-up to Christmas. Get all of your festive sweets sorted or buy gifts for your loved ones from the broad range of Christmas cakes, Yule logs and treats. For an extra special gift, why not prepare a gorgeous hamper or gift basket filled with Fitzbillies goodies? You can even send a parcel of their famous Chelsea buns directly to your loved ones.
The Red Cow – Chrishall
There are a few things that Britain does better than anywhere else in the world, and in my opinion they include pubs and Christmas. The Red Cow in Chrishall manages to bring together both for a quintessentially British, traditional Christmas. With log fires roaring and mulled wine flowing, The Red Cow is perfect for those longing for a Christmas card-worthy Yuletide celebration.
The pub is opening its doors on Christmas Day again this year for a family-friendly and, above all else, fun lunch. There a real sense of community at The Red Cow, so don’t expect to be sitting back waiting to be served, as everyone mucks in. Whether you’re giving the gravy an extra stir or pulling a few pints, you’ll be part of it, making the superb lunch taste all the better. The menu has seasonal favourites like starters of roasted partridge served with a pear poached in mulled wine, as well as goose terrine with caramelised onions and toast. A traditional turkey with all the trimmings is available, of course, as is sea bass fillet served with red cabbage, fennel and garlic and sweet potato mash. For dessert, tuck in to a plum pudding with brandy cream. Two courses cost just £20 and three are priced at £25.