The Tea Rooms, Grantchester, Cambridge
To Oxbridge, where the Orchard Tea Rooms has hosted Rupert Brooke, Virginia Woolf, Alan Turing and Stephen Hawking. Grantchester is charming, the walk lovely and rewards for your morning stroll include a spot-on bacon sandwich, an exemplary cuppa, and very good smoked salmon and scrambled eggs.
The Perch, Binsey, Oxford
Then there’s a very fine lunch on offer at this Oxford institution. It may be one of the city’s oldest pubs and the menu may dip heavily into the world of classics, but there’s been no resting on laurels, particularly on the vegetarian side of things, with a fine pumpkin, fig and blue cheese tart, and roast cauliflower “steak” with walnut and parsley butter. Blooming good chips too.
The Cinnamon Club, Old Westminster Library, London
While other places can claim stronger literary ties, it’s hard to get more bookish than The Cinnamon Club. It was, 16 years ago, London’s first foray into “upmarket” Indian food – and is in a beautiful conversion of the Old Westminster Library, with many nods to the site’s history, from the private dining area – The Reading Room – to the books on antique shelving that line the restaurant interior.
The recent spruce up has kept things looking sparkling, service is warm and accomplished, and Vivek Singh’s creative, elegant and consistent cooking as good as ever. The relatively recent addition of “sharing mains” has added some marvellous theatre to proceedings too, and the arrival of a whole rack of Romney Marsh lamb, in saffron-rogan josh sauce, turns all heads.
Elsewhere, it’s business as usual, with Singh’s smart take on Indian classics, and his Indian take on classic British ingredients. The Bengali-style lobster thermidor is as good as it was on day one, although it was tandoori octopus (with chutney aloo, fennel salad and tomato lemongrass dressing) and Rajasthani-spiced Scottish pheasant breast, jungle curry of legs and pilau rice, that stole the plaudits. The black lentils are also every bit as comforting, warming and delicious as ever, provided that you’ve never studied Vivek’s – and original founder Iqbal Wahhab’s – excellent Cinnamon Club cook book for the recipe.
Trust me, you really don’t want to know how much butter and cream has gone into a portion…
Desserts continue the theme – of clever Anglo- Indian flourishes, rather than the cream and butter, although the garam masala sticky toffee pudding with caramelised banana ice cream incorporates both. Again, it’s probably best not to ask. The green cardamom brulée, with rose petal biscotti, no doubt has its own calorific punch, but it’s a beautiful and delicate combination.
Other upscale Indians may have stolen some of The Cinnamon Club’s thunder – and it’s a constant mystery why some but not Vivek have Michelin stars – but this original remains a classic.
Dish of the Day
“Lobster thermidor is as good as it was on day one”
The Cinnamon Club