What’s all this I’m hearing about ‘Grill Plug’?

I am hearing a lot of hype about Grill Plug on the Cambridge Foodies Facebook group as of late. Located in Cambridge, at the Barnwell Business Park, Grill Plug offers American style smash burgers delivered straight to your door.

For those of you who don’t already know, smash burgers are when you get a ball of mince and smash it into a flat metal grill. This enables more of the mince to make contact with the grill which crisps up a greater surface area and traps in more of the fat. During the cooking process this leads to the burger being cooked in its own juices, sealing in more of the flavour.

With numerous burger joints in Cambridge already, it’s going to be hard to break the market. But by offering a slightly different take on burgers, the team at Grill Plug could just stand out enough to make a success of it. I have never tried a smash burger myself, so I decided to pop by to see what it was all about.

We started off with their buffalo wings. These were not only delicious but something quite special. They were crispy, succulent, and had decent portions too. You can order these mild or spicy. I’ll leave you with the photo above to speak for itself. If you order from Grill Plug and do not order the wings then you are doing yourself a huge disservice. These, in my opinion, are as central to Grill Plug as the burgers.

Next, we had potato waffles caked in cheese, chillies, and jalepino’s. These were beautifully presented with brilliant vivid colours which made the dish pop the moment you opened the box. It was a frantic mess of utter delight. This is something you need to be careful while eating, I highly recommend a fork. Yet, at the same time, there is something about this which just cries out to be eaten with your fingers…the messy way!

We decided to sample the chicken and beef burgers in order to get a better idea of what Grill Plug had to offer.

The beef burger was exactly as I was expecting. It was succulent, juicy, and melted in my mouth. The texture was absolutely perfect. The burger bun did a great job at holding together even after being in the car for 20 minutes. Like with the waffles, this can get messy. Though this is part of the fun. Everything is just dripping with flavour and fun!

I noticed a very deep flavour in the beef, which is something which can often be missed with burgers, mostly because there are so many other ingredients which masks the flavour. After speaking with the team, they explained that the term ‘Grill Plug’ is supposed to mean “the source” of the grill. This means that they go that extra mile to make sure that the beef is acquired from locally sourced farms in Cambridgeshire. This is impressive for a takeaways burger joint and gives you an idea of the passion and dedication that the team has to provide excellence. You certainly notice it in the bite and it is a great example of how Grill Plug may just manage to stand out from other burger joints in the city.

Speaking of which, they have already caught the eye of a few of our fellow Cambridge Foodies.

Finally got to try the new Plug in town.
The Grill Plug The smash burger was one of the best that I have had the privilege in devouring. Burger was Juicy, with a good balance of sauce against meat. The patties literally melted in my mouth, absolutely smashed it boys!!
The loaded fries were exactly what it said on the box. What stood out is how fresh the ingredients were ie the salads used on the fries, very moreish.
The service was very prompt as its delivery only.
The drivers very polite and professional.
You can see thier is a lot of love and passion gone into the brand.
I hope you guys keep up the consistency and wish you the very Best of luck with your new venture.

Amin Syed

Well I would like to introduce you to the grill plug, on facebook so please check them out and give a follow, we’ll I went for some variety so went for the 2on2 with buffalo sauce and cheese, gotta say very tasty, I would have like it bigger but can’t have it all, rich juicy meat tho, I got some waffle fries, ziggy fries, all tasty fresh, I also had some loaded fries with beef and Mexican salad , bangin btw, I have chicken marinated in some sweet sticky spicy marinade which I wish came in toothpaste form lmao, few different shakes to try , Mars bar brownie and oreo, kids had some other flavours, all in all a very nice meal, defo recommend to anyone e looking for a messy meal to enjoy fully with your hands , please feel free to leave comments, thanks for reading .

Daniel Huckle

Unanimous praise!

If you are interested in giving them a go then make sure to visit their Facebook page. I don’t know about you but I’ll certainly be giving it a smash!

Don’t forget to visit back as we add more comments and reviews as more of our foodies visit!

Thanks for reading!

Pimp My Fish – Chesterton Road

On a freezing cold winter’s night, for some bizarre reason still unknown to myself, I decided to battle my way through the Milton Road roadworks, the ice and snow, and the cyclists flying out of the dark with no lights on like some Atari computer game, all with the purpose of finally visiting Pimp My Fish.

Luckily, I was able to order on their website before arriving, so I was able to turn up and pick up without too much waiting in the cold. I thoroughly recommend doing this, especially if you are driving into Cambridge.

The menu was small but had a really good and diverse selection of options. Obviously, you had fish and chips but also tacos, burritos, burger and chips, and large sausages. All the things you’d expect from a fish and chips place. You even got your mushy peas and curry sauce, as well as home made desserts.

As it was my first time, I decided to order their signature dish, the aptly named ‘Signature Fish & Chips’. The first thing I noticed was that it was priced at £10.50. This was quite surprising as a large cod at Rumbles was only £9.50 during my last visit. Keeping in mind that all the fish at Pimp My Fish are responsibly sourced from sustainable fish stocks and the chips are double fried, in terms of value and quality, it seems to be winning already. Rumbles can make no such claim on sustainability and also did not come with chips with their price.

The curry sauce was immense. A completely different league compared to the usual fish and chips curry sauces we are all used to. This feels like it was made at an authentic Indian/Bangladeshi restaurant. I got a real zesty note from the sauce which really complimented the fish. This came to £2.50 which is getting quite high for a sauce but the quality was on another level. I highly recommend this.

A thing of beauty. Their sustainably sourced cod and double fried chips with curry sauce poured all over from head to tail.

Fellow Cambridge Foodies admin, Sean, joined me for dinner and ordered the B.I.G Burger and chips. This consisted of crispy panko cod with wasabi tarte sauce, spicy peppers, candied lemons, and a toasted brioche bun. He also had a pot of the curry sauce.

I had the B.I.G. Burger with Chips and Curry Sauce, and was pleasantly surprised by the whole experience. It was like a fish finger sandwich pepperred with little bursts of flavour, the highlight undoubtedly being the candied lemon. The lemon took me a little by surprise, having ordered the day before. I wasn’t sure after the first bite, but as I went on I realised it balanced the sandwich quite well and offset the heat from the roquito peppers nicely.

Chips are always a contentious topic, and I have to say, I thought they were excellent. A little crunchy for my taste, as I tend to prefer a floppier chip shop chip. I can imagine them being absolutely amazing with a nice steak, and using them to mop up the juices. They were served with Sriracha Mayo, which I did enjoy, but I would have perhaps preferred a high quality plain mayonnaise as the meal was already hitting hard with punchy flavours. This was even before factoring in the curry sauce, which SLAPPED so hard I don’t think I’ll look at chipshop curry sauce in the same way ever again. Resulting in me putting something from a chippy in the fridge to enjoy the next day for the first time in my life, and I’ve had my fair share of chippy teas!

They’ve not reinvented the wheel here, but they’ve definitely put some bells and whistles on the cart. All the while maintaining a price point comparible with a regular mid-range chip shop.

I was not sure what to expect from Pimp My Fish before coming here. Is it gourmet? Is it just a bog standard fish and chips? Was there a gimmick? The answer, I feel, is neither. It’s just good quality, ethically sourced fish, with double fried chips with some of the best fish and chip shop curry sauce I’ve ever had. Everything is done very well but is also reasonably priced for what you get. You are looking at slightly more than your standard fish and chips but certainly getting that (and more) in quality.

Is it worth a battle through the ice heart of Cambridge rush hour? Probably not, with so many other fish and chips between but if Pimp My Fish is ever in the area, this will be my first choice every time.

Thanks for reading!

The Alexander – The best burgers in town!

After a couple of excited posts on the Cambridge Foodies about the burgers at The Alex, on Gwydir Street, I decided to visit for myself and see what all the fuss was about.

The pub is a lovely place to be in, with a lovely back area making it significantly more roomy than it appears on the outside. It’s great for summers and winters alike.

There were some decent beers on tap. I didn’t see anything craft but I did see a lovely pale ale called Ice Breaker and a pilsner called Wolfpack.

There is a good choice on the menu, with some American and Canadian style burgers, as well as a “burger of the month” option, which was a Christmas themed during my visit. They mostly hovered around the £12 mark with chips at a very reasonable £1.50. There is also a 2 for 1 deal (well, 2 for an extra £1) from Monday to Friday lunch times, which is certainly worth looking into!

All burgers are served in a brioche bun and are hand made. I decided to go for the “Celine Dion”, which is a French Canadian inspired burger, which comes with a 6oz patty, maple cured bacon, and goats cheese.

The burger was not huge but a good size none the less. The maple cured bacon was thick and juicy and the goats cheese really made this burger pop as well as give it a very succulent texture. The chips were thin cut but were still absolutely superb. It’s hard to get excited with chips but I thoroughly enjoyed them myself.

I must admit, these are some of the best burgers I’ve had in Cambridgeshire. The ingredients are clearly all very good and nothing is scrimped on. The portion of goats cheese is generous and the bacon is cut well. The sweetness from the maple cured bacon gives the burger an extra dimension and the cheese gives the bite great texture.

The Mexican burger – make sure to visit Hungry Man in UK.
The Mexican burger – Hungry Man In UK

Check out these photos from the Cambridge Foodies. The Mexican burger – ground mince, jalapenos, and smoked cheddar.

Certainly worth checking out for any burger fans out there!

Thanks for reading!

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

Cambridge has always been the beating heart of the Cambridgeshire foodie scene. 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.

With half of the top Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants 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, as well as the rise of food vans which are 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?

The Park – Cambridge Regional College

Cambridge Foodies member Janice reviews The Park in Kings Hedges, Cambridge.

A 3 course Christmas dinner, with canapes and finishing off with brownies and fudge.

It was delicious with generous portions, sprouts were cooked well not soggy and still had a good bite to them.

The service was good and very reasonably priced.

The tea my friend ordered was apparently undrinkable but we were not charged.

Apart from that would definitely go again and would recommend.

For more information on The Park visit their website here.

Thanks for reading!

Thirsty – Chesterton Rd

I’ve only gone and made it!

Thirsty is one of the most popular places for craft beer on the Craft Beer In Cambridgeshire group. Unfortunately, if you don’t live in Cambridge, it can be quite a challenge to get too. So it’s been longer than I had hoped before finally visiting this iconic proprietor.

I decided to take the plunge however and make the effort to visit to see what all the fuss was about. After wrestling with one of those god forsaken parking meters out the front, I managed to pop in and take a look around.

For those of you on the Cambridge Foodies, Thirsty has a selection of food trucks who visit from Tuesday-Saturday, such as Al Chile, Scotties, Taco Man, and the Wandering Yak. This means you can soak up the craft beer with some great food and make an entire night of your visit.

The place is small but they’ve done great with the space available. They have an almost Bavarian Beer Hall feel with the long benches, which makes it easy to fit in large crowds but also encourages people to socialise between themselves too. I can see this really gaining a lovely atmosphere in the evenings with people sharing tables and getting to know each other.

The bar was glorious. Look at all those taps! There were 22 in total, ranging from IPA’s to, sours, to stout’s. I noticed some familiar names on the board, including Verdant, The Kernel London, and Cloudwater. It was great to see a local beer by Pastore, based on my home village of Waterbeach.

If you can’t find something you like on draught then their fridge selection is monstrous too. Filled with mostly craft beer and wine. As if four large fridges weren’t enough, they were even stocking beer on top!

I went for a half pint of ‘Lightbulb’ by Verdant. I’ve always been a big fan of fruity sessionable pale ales. The chap who served me really knew his stuff and was kind enough to let me sample the ‘Il Tramonto Del Sol’ by Pastore & Cloudwater. This is a raspberry and lime sour which was right up my street, as I love sour food and drink. What I love about Thirsty is the little details, as the sample was served in a micro pint glass.

He also recommended me an IPA I had not tried before. I had seen it absolutely everywhere on my travels but I had never got round to trying ‘Bop’ by the Beak Brewery. Located near Brighton, this was an absolutely superb IPA. This stuff absolutely rocked my socks off and was so good I even decided to buy myself an extra can to take home.

I must admit, I’m a huge fan of Thirsty. I can see why it gets the hype it does. It’s such a shame that it is impossible for me to catch public transport here otherwise I would visit more often. I really want to come back again and take a punt at the food van and make an evening of it. I can really see this being a good place to bring a group of people and spending an entire evening here, especially since there are other great places close by too.

Thanks for reading!

BrewBoard takes over Green Street.

After hearing the devastating news of The Swoop Retail Taproom closing down on Green Street recently, I was left feeling anxious about what was going to replace it. The Swoop offered a wide range of local products from craft beer master classes, chicken wing take over events, and Hot Numbers coffee. It was a perfect shop for anyone like myself who loved to sample locally sourced products in one handy place and it was going to be a hard to replace. 

My fear was that it was going to turn into another blasted charity shop but luckily another familiar company has decided to take over and continue to offer locally sourced craft beer – BrewBoard. 

For those of you who aren’t already aware, BrewBoard is a Harston based craft beer producer which has appeared on the Cambridge Foodies Blog many times before. Also, making frequent appearances on our Craft Beer In Cambridgeshire Facebook group too. So, I was delighted to hear that they were now going to be more accessible for people, as their Harston brewery is a bit of a journey, mainly due to being located in the heart of an industrial estate. 

Upon entering, the venue was quite bare. This can be forgiven, as they have only been open a few weeks, but I look forward to seeing what they do with the place down the line. You can see that they have used some of their kegs from the brewery as seats and had some of their iconic framed art work on the walls to give it a personal touch. The place was busy, which was great to see, with some people coming all the way from Peterborough just to pop in. There was seating downstairs, so the place is bigger than it looks when entering. Nobody was left without a seat, so it can easily hold 40-50 people. 
The bar offers their BrewBoard selection, including their recently redone Beasticus (which is one of my favourites). There are other types available from their Porters, Gose beer, NEIPA’s, and dry hopped lagers. There should be something for everyone here, especially since they also have a giant fridge full of their cans too. You have to be a fan of BrewBoard to drink here as I saw no other selections of beer. 
Naturally, I went for Beasticus, a sessionable NEIPA coming in at 4.9%. I have not stopped being able to drink this after discovering it one night at The Orator. I really enjoyed this new batch of Besticus after the previous one left me feeling a little flat, so make sure you try it!  My sister had the dry hopped lager called Rex (4.6%) which she thoroughly enjoyed.

The atmosphere was great and there was enough seating for all. They had a hilarious photo cut out board of some of their art work to help entice people from the streets.  Being the excessive man child that I am, I decided to embarrass myself with a photo. 

I am really pleased to see Brewboard in Cambridge, as they have previously been very hard to access (unless you want to buy their cans from a third party). There is nothing quite like drinking it from draught, as it really brings the quality of their beer to life. I am going to really miss The Swoop Retail Taproom as it offered a wide selection of local products but if it is going to be replaced by anyone, then it has to be Brewboard. 

I wish them the best of luck! Long may they last! 

Thanks for reading!

The Tamarind – Teversham

I have lost count at the amount of times I have been to the Tamarind over the years. My family and I visit frequently, I’ve reviewed its wheelchair access on Jim’s blog, we’ve had our 20th Cambridge Curry Community event back in 2015. Heck, I’ve reviewed it so many times on my own I felt it easier to just compress them into a 3 in 1 review! 

I’m not surprised I keep coming back either as it never fails to give us an excellent meal at great value. Even my friends who aren’t heavily into Indian restaurants have told me that they are big fans of the establishment.

So, to say that the Tamarind was one of my favourites is an understatement. Like a protective parent, when I heard that the Tamarind had changed management, I was keen to visit and make sure that one of my most treasured restaurants was being looked after by a capable pair of hands.

We have been working in partnership with the team at Tamarind over the past few months, as they have wanted to take advantage of our new Cambridge Foodies advertising packages. You have likely noticed their adverts across our groups which has helped us fund some of the blog over the past 6 months. This made me want to visit even more to make sure that a restaurant meets the standards of what I think The Cambridge Curry Community represents.

From the outside the restaurant has not really changed since its previous management. It was still the same beautiful historic building with bright blue neon lights lighting up the village. I was pleased to see that they have kept the wheelchair ramp making disabled access possible.

Upon entering you get a very clear idea of the style they were going for. Tamarind has always had a modern interior and no changes have been made here. They have put in those trendy table lights which can be found at other contemporary style Indians such as Lalbagh. The place is spacious (which is another point for wheelchair access) and feels very clean throughout.

The menu can be found here. Considering the rate of inflation, restaurants are understandably raising their prices across the board at the moment but personally, I feel prices here are fair. I was a little disappointed in the beer prices which came to approximately £4 for 330ml (which comes to around £5.68 a pint!). There was also no draught which was also disappointing but they did have a good selection, with Cobra, Tiger, Kingfisher and some generic beers available.

I honestly thought the only Indian restaurant in Cambridgeshire which still did a buffet was the one in Sawtry, so I was pleased to see that this is still going here! For anyone looking for a buffet option in Cambridge, this is the only place which I’m aware of which does it.

Naturally, we ordered some papdums while we discussed what to order for our mains. The place was quiet but the service was very polite and attentive.

We ordered ten papdums but got a few extra free for our troubles. The lime pickle was superb, as was the onion salad. It was also worth noting that they gave us two pickle trays between the six of us, which is more than the usual one stretched across as many people as possible like in other restaurants. The mango chutney and the yoghurt were both very nice in their own right but a little runny.

My wife ordered the chicken tikka masalas which she thought was “really nice and the chicken was incredibly tender”. My sister had the lamb biryani which she described as “a top contender” and “one of the best Biryani’s i’ve had, I’d definitely go back”. As you can see, they were both excellently presented and the biryani especially was a large portion.

Needless to say, I went for the lamb tikka vindaloo with saag aloo and pilau rice. It’s my usual benchmark to compare restaurants which gives me all the right things to test an Indian restaurant in one meal – lamb quality, heat/spice balance of a dish, and use of colourings.

My vindaloo was fantastic! The vindaloo sauce was a healthy colour and it had a heat to it which I could really feel build up slowly over the meal. For regular readers, you’ll know that I’m always complaining about mild vindaloo’s served in restaurants to prevent customers sending them back, but they really respected the dish here and served it as it should be! After all, it’s a vindaloo! The lamb portions were very generous and cooked perfectly. It fell to pieces on my fork and was very succulent. Top marks all round!

The saag aloo was a good portion and absolutely delicious. It’s a hard dish to get wrong but they did a fine job none the less.

The Tamarind has recently won “chef of the year” at the BCA Awards for their rendition of Jalfrezi, called Tamarind Jalfrezi, which is pictured on the right in the picture above. I’ve never been a huge fan of the Jalfrezi dish myself, finding it quite sharp, but this had a much smoother taste from what I’ve had in the past and I must admit, I was won over from the sample I tried. My step dad who ordered it thought it was very good and said it had a fair kick to it.

The naans at the Tamarind were excellent. Like a fool I forgot to take a photo of the keema naan but it was one of the best I’ve had in a long time and was one of the highlights of the evening.

One common problem with keema naan is getting that horrible dry slice of meat cut through the middle of the bread but this was done almost like a light kebab with small slices laying on a very succulent naan. It was superb! Pictured above is my wife’s garlic naan, which she said was also very good.

We were offered a dessert menu after our meal which was the usual generic dessert menus you get in most restaurants. Nothing too exciting but nothing offensive either.

Our meal came with some heated wipes. It’s always sad to see the hot towels disappearing across Cambridgeshire but I suppose this is slowly becoming an inevitability these days. They were good quality none the less and very thick, so they get good points for that at least!

Overall, we were unanimously in agreement as a family that the Tamarind’s high standards were being honoured by the new team. The service was attentive, the food was excellent, and the interiors was pretty much unchanged. There were a few little niggles which aren’t enough to ruin and evening and the price easily reflected the quality.

I am really looking forward to hearing people’s opinions on the restaurant, so don’t forget to share on the Cambridge Curry Community!

Thanks for reading!

The Taj Tandoori: A new dish and a new charity.

To celebrate their success reaching the final on the biggest British Asian TV talent show “The Catering Circle”, Jools and Syed hosted a huge launch event for the dish which got them there – “Mackerel Three Ways”.

It was a formal affair with all the big names from Bangladesh Catering Association, Channel S, the Lord Lieutenant of Cambridgeshire Julie Spence, Mayor Mark Ashton, and a string of local restaurant owners offering their support.

This was more than just a party however, with Jools and Syed also honouring their late father (Syed Abdul Hekim) and mother (Hussanara Chowdhury – Dolly) with the promotion of their charity The Dolly Foundation.

Their father Syed will be well-known to many people in Cambridge as he founded the Taj Tandoori in the 1980’s – and, it turns out, he was the first person to bring a tandoori oven into Cambridge (at The Curry Queen, in 1980). As well as leaving them the legacy of the Taj, their parents also inspired their devotion to their community and so they founded The Dolly Foundation, named for their mother, to continue their charitable legacies by helping the local community, as well as aiming to fund orphanages, schools, and even build wells.

Crispy chilli panko mushroom

Everything was done to a high standard (as you would expect from the team at the Taj). Even the canapés were absolutely out of this world and presented in a fun and accessible way which really fit into the mood and style of the evening.

Bhel puri

The Bhel Puri was presented in a cone which made it easy to eat while cha(a)ting away to guests (…sorry!). The fish pakoras were easily my favourite, which you can probably tell by the fact I was eating them so quickly…that I forgot to take any photos! Surely, a testament to Jools’ wizardry in the kitchen.

Mocktails galore! The blueberry mocktails were an absolute dream.

For people who insist on an alcoholic drink, one of my favourite things about the Taj is it’s BYOB policy, which not only gives customers and guests more choice in what they drink in the restaurant, but also save customers money from oppressive pint prices across the city. For me, the mocktails were perfect to enjoy on this particular evening.

Looking at the menu, there were 5 courses coming our way, with the “Mackerel Three Ways” coming out as a ‘3 in 1’ dish.

The stuffed paneer pepper was one of the highlights of the evening for me. It was everything a starter should be: light, vivid, and full of flavour. Absolutely superb!

While we were enjoying our meal, the speeches were rolling, starting with Syed talking about their journey over the past few years with the transformation of the restaurant, their success with “The Catering Circle”, and the legacy of their mother and father which led to the birth of their new charitable foundation.

The “Mackerel Three Ways” came out charmingly presented in nostalgic Heinz cans served with mackerel rice. This came with a mackerel fillet with a potato cake and radish.

I have always said that restaurants don’t do enough mackerel and low and behold I get three portions in one! I have never had anything quite like it. It was presented in such a unique and humorous way, it truly reflected the dedication, passion, and attention to detail that the team at the Taj put into their food but also shows the light hearted and fun side which makes me keep coming back. It was a true reflection of who they were.

For dessert we were treated to “rose mango creme brulee”. This was another lovely piece, which offered a light and very sweet experience. There was nothing quite like cracking through that sheet of caramelised sugar.

He couldn’t hide in the kitchen forever! Towards the end of the meal Jools came out to a thundering round of applause for the incredible meal he had prepared this evening, but also for his great success over the past few years.

Alamin and Shaz from Alamin Media did a great job of managing the projections and media for the evening and made sure Jools’s hilarious boxing video was being played on the big screen as he came out. This was a video used to promote Jools’s success winning the Best Chef at “Asian Restaurant Owners Networ” a few years ago.

Jools paid tribute to his late mum and dad and shared his inspiration for his signature dish for the evening. It is clear for anyone to see that Jools and Syed are incredibly passionate about the food they produce, and the experience they deliver in the restaurant.

It was an electric evening full of sensational food, celebration, and great people. I want to thank Syed, Jools, and the entire Taj team for such an amazing night. I wish them the best of luck with their new dish!

Goodluck on the 15th November for the season finale on Channel S!

Don’t forget to check out The Dolly Foundation – you can even make a donation if you want to support the great work they are doing.

Thanks for reading!

Smoke Works – Station Road

We all know Smoke Works. It’s been a Cambridge institution for some time now, offering American style BBQ food and a great selection of beer on tap.

I haven’t been since my first visit to their Free School Lane venue in 2015. The restaurant really impressed me back then despite the disabled access which was restricted due to the historic limitations of the building, so I was really excited to see how far they had come in this time.

Upon entering, the place looks fantastic. A real gritty American style BBQ with lots going on. I have always thought that this would be the ideal place for a birthday event as it has a great bar, long tables, and a lively vibe.

The menu came with all the things you’d expect a BBQ place to serve. Ribs, wings, sausage, loaded fries, cole slaw, etc. Prices are about right and the menu was easy to understand.

They had some superb beers on tap too, including some of my favourites such as Juice Rocket by local brewery Three Blind Mice. I also noticed Big Bang Theory by Nene Valley. There was also Roadkill New England IPA, Smoke Vurks by my favourite Brewery Brew Board, and Neck Oil by Beavertown.

I went with what I knew and had a Juice Rocket by Three Blind Mice. I must admit, this tasted better than my visit to Drayman’s Sons a few weeks ago, which means they do great work in looking after their beers.

We went with some smoked “mac n cheese” fritters which came to £6.50. This came with an absolutely lovely BBQ dip. I thought they were really meaty, a good size and perfect to share between two people.

Just switch it!

It’s worth noting at this point that the staff here were simply excellent. They were some of the most attentive staff I’ve met in a long time and were overly polite and energetic.

Smoke Works uses a switch system where the table can call for help by flicking a switch. I really liked this system, especially considering the staff were at our table almost as quick as the light switched on. We really couldn’t fault the service!

After slaving away at their “Mac n cheese” fritters, I decided to quench my thirst with a Big Bang Theory by Nene Valley. This is a perfectly balanced pale ale which is versatile enough to go with any of the food served at Smoke Works. I’m not sure if this was selected intentionally but it’s a great addition to our meal.

Everything at Smoke Works had been exceptional to this point, with the service, the beer, the interior, and the overall atmosphere of the restaurant being second to none. However, as the mains came out we couldn’t help but feel like the food was not meeting the standards of everything else.

My wife decided to go for the chicken burger with fries. This was by no means a bad meal but she felt underwhelmed by it. She also felt the garlic sauce was “not very garlicky”.

I went for the ribs and wings combo. This came with an absolutely fantastic coleslaw with a very succulent corn on the cob. The ribs lacked any serious meat which was disappointing. The wings were quite anemic too but were saved by a lovely spicy sauce.

Reading this, you may feel like I’m being too harsh but there was nothing wrong with the meal. Personally, I feel the restaurant is a victim of its own success by offering absolute sensational service, a brilliant atmosphere, and a superb selection of locally sourced craft beer. In order for the food to keep up would have to be extraordinary but it felt average. It was a disappointment set by the high expectations of the experience.

Not only does Smoke Works do so much right…but does it absolutely perfect. It just falls flat on the one thing it’s set out to do, BBQ. Maybe I’ve been spoiled by Daniels Dips Sauce hot wings and ribs but I can’t help but feel like they didn’t quite meet the expectations they set for themselves.

I still absolutely recommend this restaurant. It’s the perfect place to start off a night out or have a party but if you are a foodie looking for a high end BBQ then I can’t help but feel like there could be better alternatives out there.

There is no doubt I’ll be back in the future and I can’t wait to do so!

Thanks for reading!