Simon’s top Indian dishes worth seeking in Cambridge.

I have been around the block a few times when it comes to curry in Cambridge. In that time, I have had the pleasure of sampling some truly special dishes which stand out from the rest. Here is a list of some of my all time favourite experiences that you should go out and try RIGHT NOW!

8. Masala Dosa @ The Banana Leaf – Milton Road

It’s hard to find a good masala dosa in Cambridge, with Vedanta offering a rather anemic take on the dish and other restaurants falling flat on either quality or consistency. Banana Leaf always knocks it out of the park and even gives a generous portion to boot!

If you are one of those people who always goes for the usual British-Indian dishes and is looking to branch out and explore more traditional Indian cuisine, then this is an absolute must!

Full review of our visit here

7. The lime pickle @ Curry Palace – Cottenham.

It feels strange having a side sauce to a papadum on the list but the lime pickle at Curry Palace has always had a special place in my heart. The owner has told me that he goes to London especially to pick it up especially and it is clearly worth the journey (in my opinion). My wife is a lime pickle connoisseur and she absolutely loves it too. It’s chunky, salty, zesty, and sour – everything lime pickle should be! It may not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it is certainly ours!

Full review of our visit here.

6. Ox cheek @ Montaz, Newmarket

I have only had this dish once but it’s all I have ever needed. Till this very day, I have no idea how they managed to make such a tough cut so tender.

The dish is ox cheek in slow roasted spices, aloo chole and chickpeas, in an onion and tomato sauce, with greens, rice, and served with a honey and ginger naan.

The flavour, the presentation, the colour… absolutely remarkable! An absolute must for anyone who enjoys fine dining.

Full review of our visit here

5. Chicken Ruby @ Khaani takeaway – St Ives

It’s not often I try a dish for the first time and rush back within a week because I can’t get it out of my mind! That is exactly what happened when I visited Khaani in St Ives and tried their chicken ruby! So thick and creamy, bursting with flavour, and best of all is accessible to everyone! A chicken tikka masala on steroids!

Full review of my visit here.

4. Russell’s infamous lamb tawa @ Cam Spice – Great Eversden

Everything at Cam Spice is cooked to perfection and is consistent in doing so too. One thing which always stands out for me is Russell’s lamb tawa. It’s delicious and very exciting when brought out on the sizzling platter (which livens up any evening out) but can also be ordered ‘vindaloo hot’ for that added kick!

Just go for it!

Full review here.

3. The dreaded Bengal Tiger @ The Taj Tandoori – Cherry Hinton Road.

Warning: May melt spoon!

The Bengal Tiger is infamous with the regular customers at The Taj Tandoori. Nowadays, it is off the menu but Syed and Jools are more than happy to accommodate on request. Slow cooked mutton in a naga sauce! Need I say more?

Not for the faint hearted but still equally delicious. I have it every time I visit!

Review of our last visit here.

2. Rhubarb seabass @ Lalbagh – Bourn

Their seabass special
Rhubarb seabass

Lalbagh are well known for their seabass dishes and one of my favourite dishes of those is their legendary rhubarb seabass. This pan fried seabass fillet is sweet, sour, and refreshingly unique. It’s the sort of thing many people wouldn’t order by themselves but I assure you that if you take the plunge then you will not regret it!

If you order their seabass special then it’s even served in an adorable fish shaped dish, d’awww!

Full review here.

1. House black daal @ Dishooms takeaway – Cambridge

Dishooms is legendary for its Black Daal. It took the city of London by storm and is now available in Cambridge through a takeaway set up. It is not often something like this lives up to the hype but this truly does in this example. My biggest gripe is that it is not served in bathtub sizes, as I would be more than happily to bathe in this thick and creamy daal. It compliments everything it touches, so just a humble naan will do to accompany it. It is utter heaven in a pot and only costs £4. It’s just a shame that it only delivers to Cambridge. 😭

Review of our last visit here.

Simon’s uninspiring burger joints of Cambridgeshire (updated frequently)

I recently did a top ‘Top 5 burger joints in Cambridgeshire’ post which jogged my memory of some very unfortunate places I visited during my research.

This is part of our opinion page and it is exactly that…opinions. If you feel that any of the businesses on my list do not deserve to be here then remember that this is a community blog and anyone can contribute, so by all means make your own list with us and I’ll happily publish it. I have always taken the position of ‘consumers first’ and I don’t believe in blindly protecting a business when they are offering a substandard service. With that said, I actually quite like some of the restaurants on this list, I just don’t recommend their burgers.

6. Herbie’s – A14

I am rooting for Herbie’s, I really am! My son loves coming here for the milkshakes and the quirky retro American interior but they try so hard to be American they forget about physics.

Every burger is a sight to behold, loaded to the absolute brim with everything they can possibly fit inside, which makes it collapse and implode. The bun is the very foundation of the burger and holds it all together. If you scrimp on this then it’s like building a house on sand. After eating this, I was basically eating chilli by hand as the bun dissolved into nothing. This is burger 101.

5. Smokeworks – Station Road

What pisses me off about Smokeworks is that I actually love the place. Check out this review I did a while back.

There is so much to love about the venue, with some of the best (locally sourced) beers on tap, a very cool rock/metal interior decorating, a marvellous team who are incredibly hard working and attentive, and a lively Saturday night atmosphere which is seriously lacking in Cambridge…but that’s where it hits you!

This is a place which prides itself on doing top notch BBQ food and pours is heart and soul into everything but the food, which leads to a very ordinary and flavourless result. The food is slightly better than the other food on the list but what annoys me is that it is pretending to be high end so you end up even more disappointed.


4. Honest Burger – Cambridge

I mean…it’s ok. It shouldn’t cost £30+ for a burger, chips, and a few drinks though. C’mon, guys! It’s just a bun, mince, and a few potatoes. Aren’t chains supposed to offer better value or something?

3. Hartford Mill – Huntingdon/St Ives

For the record, Hartford Mill does a mean roast dinner and offers a wonderful value dining experience for families. With that said, don’t order the burger. You can expect the same price as a Hungry Horse but with less quality. The bun pretty much disintegrates in your hands and the meat is flavourless and full of gristle. It’s a shame too, as it looks the part.

2. The Robin Hood – Cherry Hinton

Fancy paying £12-15 for something you could do better at home? Come to The Robin Hood!

1. Grab A Burger – Ely

Do you want to be charged for a high end burger comparable to Steak & Honour but end up getting something you could have lazily made at Tesco? Grab A Burger is your best bet! This example was particularly depressing but even with a bit of tomato and greenery it is just an overly bland experience. Characterless.

Simon’s top Cambridgeshire burger joints (updated frequently)

Honourable mention: Steak & Honour

I have put Steak & Honour in my list as a show of respect to the Cambridge Foodies. Our poll back in 2021 had them as the clear favourites out of our 6000 members. I’ve only visited once back in 2018 and found them decent enough. I tried to visit them again in 2022 at the Haddenham Cherry Tree pub but they were in such high demand that there was a two hour wait, so I had to miss out. That said, it’s only a good sign if demand is so high!

Cambridge Foodie co-owner and admin, Sean, makes a visit in 2021. Check out his review here.

My Sid Vicious 2018
Sean’s burger

5. Holy Burger – St Ives

I was thoroughly impressed with my visit to Holy Burger last year. So many burger joints focus on quality ingredients that they forget we also want a BIG BURGER too.

Their Black Garlic Ketchup is absolutely killer and their hilarious biblical names really give their food some extra charger.

Cambridge is the undisputed king of Cambridgeshire when it comes to burgers, so it’s great to see a place with such quality and quantity outside the Cambridge bubble.

4. The Alex

The Alexander Pub is a place you would not expect to find a top quality burger but I was blown away by their Canadian style Celine Dion last month. Everything was done to a great quality and you could have an IPA while you’re at it!

I’m not the only one who is a fan of The Alexander Burgers, with other Cambridge Foodies also claiming this to be the best burgers in the city.

3. Grill Plug – Cambridge

Grill Plug is very new to the scene. Located in Cambridge, this delivery only burger joint will deliver to Cambridge and some of the immediate surrounding villages. It has made a real impression on me during my recent visit with their unique style of smash burgers, incredibly moorish chicken wings, and painfully messy (and incredibly fun) waffles.

The team at Grill Plug really pay attention to the details, especially with their ingredients. Ordering beef which has been locally sourced from a small farm. If you love burgers and haven’t given them a go yet, then you are doing yourself a real disservice!

2. Pigcasso

What makes Pigcasso so special for me is that it’s a little different from other burger joints in all the right ways. I have always had a problem with the cost of burgers in restaurants, as they come out to roughly the same cost as a Thai or Chinese, yet they are just a bun and mince with a few potatoes. Pigcasso however manages to give you superb quality pork with a very generous portion. This is possible due to food vans having no significant mark ups to worry about. Better still, they come to you, saving you the painful slog into Cambridge.

It’s the succulent texture of the pulled pork which wins it for me with Picasso. It’s the sort of thing I sit there and think about while I am supposed to be working or laying in bed….I really need to visit again!

1. The Taj Tandoori – Cherry Hinton Road

The Taj Tandoori is not only one of my favourite Indian restaurants but also one of my favourite burger joints too. Their infamous Shamee Burger fuses together the very best of what makes a burger and Indian/Bangladeshi food great.

A spiced lamb patty, with grilled paneer, an onion bhaji, with tamarind sauce in a brioche bun. This is perfected by being excellently presented alongside some crispy masala chips.

Better yet, the Taj Tandoori is BYOB so not only can you have a beer alongside it but you aren’t looking at £4-6 a pint either, making it very competitively priced.

My top 5 reasons why the Cambridge Foodies is the best!

Well, obviously I’m going to say that but the Cambridge Foodies is doing great! We have hit two massive milestones this past week with the Cambridge Foodies Facebook group hitting 6000 members and the blog now has 40,000 individual views!

Considering the group and blog have only been running for about a year now, that’s pretty good going! Not only has it caught up and overtaken many comparable (not rival) groups but is now catching up with some of the generalist juggernaut groups in Cambridgeshire sitting at 13-15k members, which have been going for many years.

Scrolling through a lot of these communities, I have come to the realisation that there are some very good reasons why we are flying high and growing at such a fast pace. Here are some of my thoughts.

Reason 1: We are a community, not a group.

Scrolling through many other Facebook groups based around Cambridgeshire, the places are dead. Lots of posts (mostly ads) which are left ignored with the occasional like and rare comment. It’s a ghost town. Scroll through the Cambridge Foodies sometime and see how lively it is!

A big thank you to everyone who makes the group what it is! This wouldn’t be the case without you!

Reason 2: We create our own content!

As you are likely already aware by reading this, we have our own blog. Now, whatever you think of my crude attempt to write a blog post, this is a blog which is updated frequently, with posts not only being created by myself and the admins but by members of the Cambridge Foodies community. This gives exclusive content which can only be found here and gives its members a reason to be here, and the best part is, anyone is welcome to contribute! We aren’t a pretentious Telegraph food critic telling you what to like, we are real people sharing our experiences. That’s all.

Reason 3: We have very few ads!

Being a member of any other Cambridgeshire based groups, you will notice that many of them have gradually turned into advert dumps for businesses. These ads mostly get ignored, receiving next to no likes or engagements, and finding content on them has become a baffling ordeal. This doesn’t work for the business, the members, or the usability of the group.

This was nearly the case for the Cambridge Foodies, at its peak getting 12 ad requests a day. We tried to accommodate all these ads the best we could without turning the group into an unusable waste land through different ways but it ultimately became impossible. Since starting our subscription service, we have been able to limit the ads to 3 a week and help fund the running of the blog at the same time. This has helped the business really keen to engage with us and get noticed, reduced the amount of ads to wade through for our users, and makes the blog possible.

Reason 4: We are a family of communities.

It’s not just the Cambridge Foodies, yaknow! We have four different groups in total, which helps members dive into specific interests without getting lost in the largest group.

The Cambridge Curry Community has been going for a staggering 12 years and has been running for so long that it even has Indian and Bangladeshi restaurant owners in the group who you can engage with directly.

The Craft Beer In Cambridgeshire group is a mere 550 members but is incredibly active and full of beer chugging craft beer fantastics with an extensive knowledge of the hobby and local knowledge.

The often overlooked Cambridge Pubs group is also a place people can go to discuss pub culture without feeling out of place in a foodie group.

Reason 5: Our own voice in the media!

Yup, that’s right! We have our own place in Velvet Magazine. A local magazine which has a circulation of 40,000 people. When writing each article I will ask the group to contribute towards the article, often in the form of a top 5 post. We bring our community along with us at the Cambridge Foodies!

Thank you!

I hope you have enjoyed my little celebration of our success. With 2023 now up and running, let’s see what amazing things we can achieve together! Watch this space and don’t forget to get in touch if you want to contribute towards the blog!

Thanks for reading!

Simon’s top 5 Indian restaurants in St Ives.

I finally tickled my last box in St Ives after dining in at Dhaba last night, so thought it would be fun to do a top 5 Indian restaurant list.

Now, I know what it’s like when you do a top 5. People get bent out of shape because their favourite did not get rated as high as they wanted but this is just a little bit of fun and not to be taken too seriously. I have not visited some of these restaurants in years and I am having to go by old reviews, memories, and from what I’ve heard from other people in the Cambridge Curry Community. Generally speaking, St Ives does very well for Indian restaurants and most of them are very good, so it is really just a list of winners.

So, without further ado, here are my personal top 5 Indian restaurants in the town of St Ives!

5. The Sultan – London Road

The Sultan has been a family favourite for decades and we’ve had some great memories here over the years. Unfortunately, due to a very basic interior and slightly below average food, it falls short when compared to the very stiff competition in the town.

Full review here.

4. Montaz – Merryland

Montaz is quite popular in St Ives but my visits have been inconsistent. One night it will blow you away, the next will disappoint. Maybe I need to visit more frequently but I can only call it like I see it. Hopefully if I visit again it might drag itself further up the table but until then it’s 4th.

Full review here

3. PR Masala – Chapel Lane

PR Masala has a cult following and I completely understand why. It is consistent with its food and has marvelous customer service. It’s a beautiful restaurant too, which is very large when you get in, which means it can host large parties. Best of all, it’s competitively priced. It’s great to see both Cobra beer and a Kingfisher on tap also! The food is always good but it just never seems to stand out when compared to some of the others, like it’s missing that x factor.

Full review here

2. Dhaba – Bridge Street

I recently declared Dhaba my favourite Indian restaurant in St Ives in a previous review but after reading through my previous visits to other Indiana in St Ives, I decided to put it second to Zzohanna. Dhaba gets so much right. It’s modern, atmospheric, has some of the best lime pickle and yogurt, and does a mean vindaloo. It just missed a few very trivial things which made it lose out on 1st place (by the skin of its teeth). I still highly recommend it to anyone!

Full review here

1. Zzohanna – Bridge Street

It’s been a while since my last visit but Zzohanna made quite an big impression on me. I am not alone in thinking this too, with dozens of people also telling me that it is their stand out favourite in the town. The food is simply excellent. Portions are a little small but otherwise you get all the bells and whistles you have come to expect from an Indian restaurant which you might not get anywhere else, such as chocolates, a hot towel, and Kingfisher beer on tap.

Full review here

Here are my top five. What do you think? I’d love to hear your feedback below.

Simon’s top 5 port cask whiskies

I have been enjoying whisky for well over twenty years. When I first started drinking, it was a spirit which immediately stood out to me over the others, with its complex taste and proud history. I remember popping my first bottle vividly and immediately being hooked on the world of scotch. Like with most of us, it started with the usual supermarket brands, then, as time went by, I started to explore the ranges through independent retailers and websites.

A photo taken after I started to get more adventurous in the supermarket

There is so much depth to whisky. As an individual dives down the rabbit hole, the more they discover that there is an entire world of different types, ranging from regions, countries, age, histories, traditions, and casks. Over time, you naturally find the type which fits your pallet and reflects your style as a drinker. For me, a port wood Scotch has always been a favourite of mine.

The ruby colour given by a port cask on the right when compared to its regular equivalent.

Port cask whisky means that the whisky has been finished off in port barrels towards the end of its ageing process, which blends whisky and port together to give a superb marriage of flavour between the two. The port casks give the dram a deep ruby finish which really cannot be found anywhere else. It’s a great fireside drink which also compliments chocolate and other sweet snacks very well.

Without further ado, I would like to share my top 5 favourite pork cask whisky. If you feel I have missed any out then do not hesitate to get in touch!

5. Balvenie Port Wood Cask – 21 years – 40%

Apologies for the picture quality here. It’s an old photo.

You’d be wrong in assuming that a higher aged whisky automatically results in a better taste. The way to look at whisky, is that a distillery has an idea of a particular taste they wish to create and will do what it takes to most accurately replicate what they envisioned. If that just so happens to require 21 years then so be it! That generally suggests a better taste, as a distillery would not go to such trouble of waiting so long for nothing, but it is not a set rule.

The first thing you would assume looking at the Balvenie is that with 21 years of ageing under its belt, that the port should a robust port flavour, but unfortunately, the whisky is only aged in the port cask barrels for a couple of months out of those 21 years! This makes the port more subtle in the whisky than perhaps one would like but does make it an incredibly smooth dram.

There is no doubt that The Balvenie is a superb take of port cask whisky, as it was actually my first introduction into port casks. Nobody will drink this whisky and feel disappointed but it does come at a hefty £180. This is high end territory and for the price really needs to justify itself, which is where it falls down on my list.

Another feature which lets it down is that at 40% it appears to be chill-filtered. This is where the whisky is filtered through a process to prevent clouding by bringing the dram to a very cold temperature (often below 0 degrees). A simple way of explaining why chill-filtered can be an issue for some drinkers, is that it can take out some of the nuances in the flavour in the same way an MP3 takes some details out of the sound quality of a song. Chill-filtered keeps the fundamental taste of a whiskey (and sometimes the negative effects will barely be noticeable at all) but many claim that it loses some of its character and edges which can give a whisky it’s character.

Chill-filtered can be forgiven with most whisky and it does not make a huge difference overall but for £180 this is something you should not be expecting. The Balvenie is as good as some of the others on my list but loses points for its cost to quality imbalance – with the price being nearly 4 times as much as some of the others on the list.

4. Penderyn Portwood – 46%

The Welsh entry on the list. Penderyn has always been one of the best supermarket whiskies available but it was only recently I learned they had a port cask version. Naturally, I bought this as quickly as possible after finding out and was pleasantly surprised by what it has to offer.

Surprisingly, this was going for a mere £40 on Amazon, of all places. Looking online, this is going on average for £50. It was also included in Prime for free next day delivery, so consider this the bargain of the bunch.

The Penderyn has a 46% cask strength with no chill-filtered processing. This is a rich and very deep whisky, which is exactly what you would expect from a port cask. Hints of dark chocolate and oak, creamy with honey and fruits. A perfect winter dram!

3. Arran Port Cask – 50%

Arran is a quality port cask whisky which offers no artificial colourings and also boasts to be a non chill-filtered whisky. What a great start!

At 50% you are heading almost towards cask strength and for £45-50 it is significantly better value than the Balvenie Port Cask. It comes in at 20% more than I paid for the Penderyn but for that extra tender I think it offers a more robust flavour. Especially considering that in most instances online, it’s actually the same price.

Arran port cask whisky can be harsh on the nose but has a good depth compared to some of the other port wood whisky. It is a great addition for anyone looking to introduce themselves to the port cask range which ticks all the boxes you would expect from a quality dram. I can really see myself drinking this with something sweet like chocolate by the fireplace…wholesome!

2. Dalmore Port Cask – 46.5%

Smoking is bad, m’kay?

The Dalmore Port Wood was very nearly in first place. I must have sat here for an hour trying to decide whether or not to include this at number one but after some long consideration, I decided that due to its £65 costs, it was just a little too expensive compared to its competitor at number 1.

This is probably my favourite whisky overall. This is obviously open to interpretation and down to personal taste but with hints of toffee, chocolate, coffee, and cherry, this is very much up my street. It also gives a rich creamy taste which, I feel, fits a port wood flavour oh so well.

This is a non chill-filtered whisky at 46.5%. It offers very little detail in terms of it’s process, so I an unable to tell you how long it has been in the port casks but all you need to know if that with a little splash of water and you are golden!

1. Glenmorangie Quinta Ruban – 14 years – 46%

The Glenmorangie – ‘The Quinta Ruban’, is (in my opinion) the ultimate port cask whisky. It offers the best value at a very fair £50, while still ticking all the boxes on what makes a great port cask whisky.

Getting its name from the wine estates of Portugal (Quinta) and the Gaelic word for ruby (Ruban), the Glenmorangie offers non chill-filtered whisky, aged for 14 years, and uses their famous tall stills for a deeper flavour.

Unlike with The Balvenie, which offers port cask ageing for a mere couple of months, the Quinta Ruban offers 10 years in American oak casks then a very generous 4 years in port casks. This gives it a more prevalent port flavour.

As if that was not enough, Glenmorangie are famous for their tall stills which stand at over 16 feet! What does this mean? It means a slower distillation and lots of vapours running back down the neck in a process – known as reflux. This shape also gives extra cooper contact which helps get rid of the heavy oil off-notes which can ruin the target flavour of the whisky. This removes unpleasant sulfur which can sour the overall taste.

The Quinta Ruban gives an orange, biscuit, and chocolate taste on the pallet which has a rich aftertaste. For £50, this is the ultimate port cask whisky and the perfect example of what port whisky should be.

The congestion charge will be the death of the Cambridge foodie scene.

Cambridge has always been the beating heart of the Cambridgeshire foodie scene, by offering disproportionately high numbers of excellent restaurants and food vans for its population and area.

This has been slowly changing over the years, with Cambridge already losing dominance to surrounding villages and towns, as businesses move out of the city. This is mostly driven by sky high property prices, business rates, and unnecessarily painful access into the city for the 5/6 of the people in Cambridgeshire.

Half of the top Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants are now outside of the city, more and more diverse restaurants are popping up in the surrounding towns, excellent craft beer establishments popping up in St Neots, St Ives, Ely, Harston, and Linton. Food vans are also now able to take their cuisine out of the city into hubs like Cambourne and Northstowe. Why bother having to jump through the hoops, waste half your day, and fork out for unreliable and expensive public transport just for a sandwich? Especially with the likes of Amazon and other online retailers chipping away at any reason to go into the city for shopping too.

The balance is already tipping away from Cambridge, with the only thing keeping a lot of restaurants open in the city is the high amount of people traffic, but with the news that a congestion charge is now on the table looking to charge people £5 to drive within the Cambridge city limits, could we finally see people unwilling to battle through Cambridge to eat and drink?

The proposed congestion charge zone

People I have spoken to are almost entirely against the congestion charge (usually people who aren’t lucky enough to live in the city). I am hearing people not just refusing to pay the congestion charge on financial ground but a moral one too. The proposed public transport upgrades to help mitigate the congestion charge immediately falls flat for anyone who isn’t close to the city, with proposed bus routes still looking like they will take up to an hour to get into the city and some requiring changes between. It’s just not a realistic thing to expect people to do. It’s going to be quicker, easier, and with significantly more dignity to pop between the numerous surrounding towns for dinner rather than battling into a city which is trying to push them away.

Can you imagine getting into Cambridge from Chatteris?

With demand soon to be falling thanks to the congestion charge and a half arsed attempt to introduce a cop out bus service, I predict that the future of good food and drink will move even further away from the city and into the surrounding villages and towns as demand drops significantly.

In a way, the congestion charge might actually make life easier for real people. It’s just a shame so many businesses will suffer because of it.

What do you think?

Why Ely gets it right.

Ely is known for many things; its stunning cathedral, the beautiful fenland countryside, and its copious amounts of tea rooms. It isn’t, however, well known for being a foodie hub, especially after the damning Muscle Food magazine piece citing Ely as one of the worst foodie hot spots in the country last year. 

Ely Market has been looking to change all that with its Foodie Friday events, by trying to push more food vans into the market over the weekend. This is aimed to give consumers a reason to come to the high street rather than sitting at home and shopping online. Shopping in Ely is now a day out, an experience, and entirely hassle free. 

The city planners really know what they are doing when it comes to the high street in Ely. While Cambridge is looking to alienate 500,000 of the 650,000 Cambridgeshire residents with a congestion charges and still enforcing extortionate parking charges, Ely is still offering free parking and a food market experience which has ever changing cuisine from all over the world.  People can pop in, stroll around with the family (without feeling like they are being charged by the hour,) and embrace the historic beauty of the city while sampling ever changing food vans. 

For example, I was able to try Tibetan style food from Tibet Flavour while doing my Christmas shopping recently. This is a food unavailable anywhere else in Cambridgeshire. Next week, it could be something entirely different. I guess I will have to come in to find out!

The best thing about food vans is the lack of a mark up. During these hard times of inflation, every penny counts. Without having to run an entire restaurant food vans are able to pass on the savings to the customer or put it back into the ingredients. This means you can have an affordable snack with top quality ingredients, such as Scotties Hot Scotch Egg’s, Al Chile, or Mrs Lekka without breaking the bank.

Every time you pop into Ely, you are faced with the potential of something new. It is not the same restaurants over and over again. Even when you have very good restaurants on the high street, can get tedious, and does not have the lame lure as a market of ever changing food vans serving food from all over the world. 

It is not just food vans either. They have marvellous Italian bakeries, stalls selling fresh produce, hot sauces, and a ‘cheese and pie man’ I have lovingly dubbed “the most dangerous man in Ely”.  All from local producers and small independent businesses. In fact, you would be hard pressed to find any chain restaurants in Ely without having to visit a painfully dull Pizza Express. This is the way it should be, a place where small independent businesses run rife, rather than having to hunt them down or find them tucked away.

The next time you want a day out or are thinking of doing some Christmas shopping, take a look at the Ely Market website and come pay the city a visit. Park up for free, try something new from the food vans, visit our award winning tea rooms, take a leisurely walk along the river, pop by Draymon’s Son or 3@3  for a craft beer or mulled wine, then visit the stunning Ely cathedral. No muss, no fuss! 

For more information, check out the Ely Market website


Why Muscle Food’s swipe at Ely’s foodie scene doesn’t make sense.

You may have recently read a piece on Cambridge Live about Muscle Food’s research into the cities across the UK ranked on their foodie scene.

This study ranked Ely as the third from bottom out of 69 cities across the United Kingdom, which has led to numerous people scratching their heads as to why?

Ely has an abundance of tea rooms, a thriving market, a diverse choice of restaurants for its size, and a very good cost of living when compared to other cities, so what’s the deal?

After digging through the study and looking into their metrics it starts to raise alarm bells immediately. It’s also only applicable to a small proportion of the population and judges the foodie scene on some very unusual measurements.

Here is a list of things I found reading the study.

Uber Eats?

Two of the metrics used to measure the study are the usage of Uber Eats.

Are Muscle Food’s sponsored by Uber or something? Who cares!

Not only are there other delivery companies out there but not having everything within the click of a button is no bad thing. Part of the passion of being a foodie is stumbling unexpectedly across a hidden gem. Some of the best restaurants are run by older generations who have been running their business the same way for generations and feel no need or urge to connect up to the app.

This may be important for youngsters but for a majority of people this is meaningless.

The purpose of the study.

Muscle Food is a fitness publication. Its perspective is to judge cities based on its healthy restaurants…which it claims Ely has only one.

Unless you are one of the 1 in 10 people in the UK who only eat healthy food exclusively then this is a pretty pointless statistic. If you are in the 90% of the population who range from never eating healthy to mostly eating healthy then you are still going to be able to indulge in some of Ely ‘s wonderful cuisine.

Now you could argue that being a health food website, what do you expect? But their study is called “The UK’s best cities for foodies in 2022” with no mention of healthy eating in the title. How many people have read the Cambridge Live article (which makes little effort to highlight this other than briefly mentioning healthy eating as one of their metrics) thinking this is a damnation of the Ely’s foodie scene as a whole?

Fact is, healthy diets are about balance and moderation. A restaurant can serve both “healthy” and “unhealthy” food without being considered a healthy restaurant. What you choose to eat is down to you as an individual.

The Old Fire Engine House, Sushi & Salad, and The Cutters Inn aren’t “health food restaurants” but have healthy food on their menu. Yet in the study they count Ely as only having one without specifying which restaurant that is. 🤷‍♂️

The data is wrong.

You can forgive a Nottingham based company for doing an article on a city in the fens without visiting. We can hardly expect them to travel across the country investigating every place in the UK for the sake of an article but it has become abundantly clear that the data being used is either out of date or quite simply wrong.

One of Ely’s strengths is its wide selection of tea rooms from Julia’s Tea Room, to The Almonry, to Peacocks (which has been repeatedly voted one of the best tea rooms in the county). Yet, for some reason the data shows that Ely only has 5. Please, Ely is pretty much a city of tea rooms and coffee shops!

Also, there seems to be a strange phenomenon in Ely at the moment where all the restaurants have suddenly decided to stop serving desserts? As you can see, Ely gets marked down as a 0 for this category. It seems strange for a health food publication to use desserts as any form of metric in judging a foodie scene too.

Looking further at the chart above, apparently we don’t have any bakeries either. I’ll let Grain Culture and Barker’s Bakery know that they don’t exist.

Counting at the top of my head we have Boswell’s, Tom’s cakes, Lemon Tree Deli cafe, Grain Culture, and Market Kitchen which all offer baked goods such as bread, cakes, and rolls. That’s 5 alone without counting specialist cake stores like Hand Crafted Cupcakes.

Population balance

Did you know that Ely doesn’t have a population of 9 million? Me either! Any study worth its salt does not compare a city the size of London with the city of Ely which hovers around 18,000.

London will naturally dominate any foodie scene in the world, let alone the country when judged as a whole, so it’s unfair to compare without some sort of balance.

Should we be measuring cities as a whole when the best dessert could be 45 minutes on the tube from the best main course? It seems pretty unlikely that this is going to have any relevance in real world practicality, whereas Ely has everything within walking distance (in stunning historic surroundings, may I add?).

Judging a city per sample of 10,000 would be a fairer way of measuring it. With London being 9,000,000 and Ely 18,000 that makes London 500 times the size. Let’s see the results when we cater for that adjustment?


Studies like this are well and good when you are comparing large cities of a similar size (despite some strange metrics and unreliable data) but the fundamental issue is that the way it’s measured is disproportionately promoting the big and wealthy cities at the cost of smaller communities.

Ely has one of the best tea rooms in the country, a market with a superb Italian bakery, Brazilian food, and Hong Kong fusion. Not to mention one of the best sushi joints in the county, a Jamaican restaurant, The Old Fire Engine House (which speaks for itself), and an up and coming South American restaurant opening on the river front. We also have a microbrewery, the Ely gin company, and several locations to buy craft beer.

Ely may not be perfect but it punched well above its weight. I encourage the team at Muscle Food to visit our beautiful city and try our foodie scene for themselves!

7 Curry Houses I really miss in Cambridge.

I’ve been eating a lot of curry in Cambridgeshire over the past 20 years. Here are some of my favourite Indians which are no longer with us but I really really miss!

Curry Garden – Regent Street

It’s been 12 years since our last visit to Curry Garden. Remembered for its vivid green sign lighting up Regent Street and it’s brightly coloured interior walls. Curry Garden always did a blinding hot curry like nowhere else, which was always welcome on a Saturday night!

RIP old friend!

Cafe Naz (The Cambridge Curry Centre) – Castle Street.

Cafe Naz was a superb Indian restaurant which gave a taste of Brick Lane in Cambridge but has unfortunately (and shamefully) been replaced by a generic noodle bar (Update: This has now been turned into Nameste Village).

They used to offer a fantastic buffet for £6.95 on Sundays, which my friends and I used to visit for a late breakfast after a heavy night out. The best thing about Cafe Naz was its sleek modern interior and huge size. Perfect for large events such as my friend stag do. So many contrasting memories of fun parties and painful mornings healing with curry.

Goodbye and farewell!

Maharajah – Castle Street

The Maharajah was famously known in the Cambridge Curry Community as the rudest Indian in Cambridge. They would have a go at you if you didn’t leave a tip, rush you out the door once the bill was paid, and I even had a waiter break down and cry while serving me…but my word, what amazing food!

The Maharajah had a stylish vivid interior with charming outfits for their waiters, which were reminiscent of Captain Scarlet. This all added to the unique experience of the Maharajah which you couldn’t find anywhere else.

Being next door to Cafe Naz…it was nearly impossible to choose between them!

Update: The Maharajah had since been reopened. Check our review here.

Kohinoor – Mill Road

Speaking of stunning interiors, I accept that The Maharajah’s interior was not everyone’s taste but nobody could dispute the beauty of the Kohinoor on Mill Road.

The Kohinoor was not only a stunning place to be but it was great value, offering bargain deals plastered across the window. This was perfect back when I was a poor student but still had that curry craving. They also had a selection of 3 Indian beers on draft too which was unheard of!

A little known fact is The Cambridge Curry Community had their first ever event here 12 years ago!

Make sure to check out one of our old reviews here!

The Slap Up Tandoori – Waterbeach

I used to live around the corner from The Slap Up Tandoori when it was in my early 20’s. My friend and I used to swing by so often we even managed to go twice in one day!

The place looked depressing from the front and…quite frankly, looked depressing on the inside too, but they always managed to do a good spread! It was one of the last Indians I remember which could do a blinding hot vindaloo. They just don’t do em like they used to!

Golden Curry – Mill Road

The Golden Curry was one of the big 4 of Mill Road. It was never brilliant for it’s food but offered a wonderful atmosphere thanks to its fish tanks and large windows to people watch as you dined in.

We even managed to have our 23rd Cambridge Curry Community event back in 2016!

You’ll never be forgotten Golden Curry!

India House – Newnham

India House was always one of my favourites. They were one of those places where you would visit after a year and they would still remember you and what you had the last time.

The food was excellent, the service was prompt, and it was also located on the beautiful Mill Pond.

After a fire it was never able to recover and finally closed its doors for good. Goodbye my friend! The memories won’t be forgotten

What do you think of my list? I know there are many of you out there who are older than I am who will be able to remember significantly older restaurants I’ve missed on my list. Please don’t hesitate to let me know if I have missed any gems!