The Bagel Bar – Ely

It was New Year’s eve and my wife and I were wandering around Ely looking for a bit of lunch. Unfortunately, many places were surprisingly closed (despite it not being a bank holiday). Luckily, for us, The Bagel Bar, a micro roastery located just off Ely market, was open and serving, so we decided to pay them a visit.

What I like about Bagel Bar is that it tries to work with as many local producers as possible. Most notably Silver Oak Coffee but also an unspecified local bakery. Everything is done sustainably with recyclable and biodegradable packaging but also with a huge emphasis on not working with large corporations, which have historically been responsible for harming the environment.

Historically coffee producers have received a pretty raw deal from large multi-national food corporations. This has meant producers have received inadequate remuneration, been forced to decimate rainforest to increase production and use chemicals such as DEET to control pests. The knock on effects of these practices include increased rates of illness amongst workers, the removal of animal and bird habitats resulting in ever decreasing numbers and the dumping of billions of tons of waste product into river systems. All this is to provide cheap instant coffee, of which the UK is one of the largest consumers.

My wife went for the “big easy” which consists of sausage, bacon, Gouda cheese, and a “local” fried egg. This came to £6.50.

I went for the Frazzle with a seeded bun, which consisted of roast ham, coffee maple bacon, melted brie and Gouda cheese.

Sizes of the Bagels were modest for £6.50/£6.95 but considering that ingredients were locally sourced and sustainable this was probably a fair price.

The coffee was excellent, as you would expect from Silver Oak. I highly recommend the chocolate flakes as it really makes a difference. For me, this is probably the best coffee in the city.

My wife and I were both in agreement that the chips were (surprisingly) the star of the show. They are simply hand cut chips served crispy but they really stood out to us. Portions were decent for £2.45 but also came with some absolutely delicious (what I assume is) home made tomato sauce and garlic mayo. I highly recommend it.

The weather was not overly pleasant on the day but it was great sitting in the little courtyard near the Ely market square and watching the world go by. They provide little gazebos so you can sit outside and people watch no matter the weather, so it’s always worth a visit, especially if you are a dog owner. Dog treats and water are provided.

For more information, visit The Bagel Bar website.

Wildwood – The chain which gets it right for parents.

Once a year my childhood friends and I gather up the kids and meet up for a big Christmas meal. It’s a tradition we’ve managed to keep going for decades now in order to stay in touch and make sure we don’t gradually lose contact.

It’s the usual question every year, where do we go which can host a large group, serves quality food but it’s also good value, and caters to children without it feeling like we are sat in a chain restaurant?

We’ve managed to squeeze nearly twenty of us into one of our homes in the past but it’s not ideal, so a restaurant is usually preferred. One place we keep coming back to answer our question is Wildwood.

It’s stylish, it’s spacious, and comfortable.

Wildwood is a perfectly balanced restaurant, which pulls off the trick of making you feel like you aren’t in a chain restaurant while getting the value of being in one. Another one of its main appeals is how good it is for parents, as it has a set children’s menu, a playroom, and a tabletop football table. This really helps keep the kids entertained so we can catch up in peace.

For starters, I ordered smoked salmon served with horse radish mayo, carpers, and toasted sourdough. This, for me, was absolutely superb and one of the highlights of the evening. I thought the salmon portion especially was incredibly generous for £8.

We also had a burrata for starters which consisted of red pepper tapenade, rocket, walnuts, sand chili dressing.

My boy had a hand-made ‘calabrese artisan pizza’ which was served with dry cured pork sausage, speck, Milano salami, and cherry bell peppers, all on top a riserva cheese topping. Pizzas are a Wildwood speciality, so I was expecting a lot here and they didn’t disappoint. The size was decent, the pizza was succulent, and the ingredients were good quality. I can see myself ordering something like this in the future as it looks fantastic.

I ordered the 10oz ribeye steak, with chips, and watercress with peppercorn sauce. I must admit, this was the first time I have had steak at Wildwood and have not had good experiences with steak in chain restaurants in the past but was pleasantly surprised by the quality. Four of us had steak in total, I asked for mine medium and it was exactly on point. A friend of mine asked for it medium but unfortunately was served rare but another ordered it rare and said it was exactly right. The medium rare was served perfectly too, which gives us a healthy 3/4 in execution.

The steak was just under £20 in total, which is about right for the quality, especially keeping in mind the rising cost of living. I don’t think anyone coming here is going to have any complaints with the steak and we were all in agreement that they were happy with the quality.

One of us had the seafood linguine, which was unfortunately described as “bland and flavourless”. I did not get a photo of this dish as I was sat on the other side of the table but I do recall it looking very ordinary.

All the desserts were very nice. The chocolate brownie with vanilla ice cream went down very well and my ‘lotus biscuit’ caramel cheesecake was utterly sensational. These were hovering around the £6-7 mark, which was getting on towards the higher end of what I would like to pay for a dessert but I feel they just about justified the cost. Luckily children had their desserts covered in the children’s menu, so in total the desserts did not add up too much.

With all this said, the restaurant is not a place we would consider if it didn’t cater for the children. The playroom made the evening so much easier for us to get a chat without being harassed by little terrors (especially with some of us bringing up to 4 children each). It was paramount that we were able to feed them cheaply and that’s what Wildwood provided.

The kids menu offers a set of mains, dessert, and a drink for £7.25. It’s all familiar food you’d eat at home so you don’t have to worry about children being picky or fussy. Sadly, my twelve year old son eats more than I do but for little children or ones without a huge appetite this likely saved some of us between £20-30.

Tabletop football!

One thing I miss about Wildwood is the ‘candyfloss’ machine, which they used to give out free at the end of meals for children. This was a real pull for us when going out, as there is something magical for children watching it being made. This has been discontinued for years now but I would love to see come back.

Overall, the meal was a huge success. The service is always fantastic and everything was brought out in a good amount of time. The children were served first to avoid drama and the waitresses were friendly and engaging. The playroom made the evening quieter for us parents and the surroundings were very modern and tasteful, which almost made us feel like we were out as fully functioning adults.

This isn’t going to be a place for foodies (especially if you like seafood linguine) as the menu is very generic but you’ll always get a good meal at a fair price but for parents I can’t think of a better place which ticks all the boxes quite like this.

Same time next year and merry Xmas! 🌲

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

 

German Sausage – Ely Market

While mooching around Ely market the other day, my family and I were feeling a bit peckish and were looking for something to eat. All of a sudden I spotted that glorious flag! 🇩🇪

I love German food. It’s something which I feel gets overlooked too often when compared to other countries. Granted, a German sausage is hardly cuisine but I’ve always thoroughly enjoyed a novelty sized Germanic sausage while on the go. They are always very satisfying in their simplicity, easy to eat, and I am a sucker for the German mustard which I cannot seem to find anywhere else. 

Prices have gone up since my visit last year, from £5 to £6. This is to be expected considering the rampant inflation at the moment . This still makes it cheaper than I’m Chip (loaded Belgium chips) which came to £7.95 for a cone of potato.
The stall is done like a wooden chalet found at the German Christmas markets, which is a nice touch. It is a shame they did not sell gluhwein wine too, as that would have brought the true German Christmas market experience home. 
One I ordered last year
As expected, the sausage did not disappoint in terms of size and was made to look even larger by the small roll it is put in. It is a noticeably step upward in quality from the usual hot dog stands we often find lingering around Cambridge, in my opinion. Even if you are more partial to English sausage, German sausages are harder to come by and its nice to have this choice. You get a choice of sauerkraut, bacon bits, and a selection of sauces, such as German mustard, BBQ sauce, spiced mayo, chilli & garlic, garlic & herb, and a selection of others. 
The German Sausage staff at last years Christmas market.

The German Sausage stall is almost always at Ely Market, so if you fancy giving it a go it is a safe bet it will be there. Don’t forget to keep an eye out for them at Christmas time too. Nothing beats doing Christmas German style. Let me know in the Cambridge Foodies what you think! 

 

Thanks for reading!

I’m Chip – Ely Market

It was a Saturday morning and the family and I were wandering around Ely market looking for something a little different for lunch. We come here often and there is always something interesting to try but we were getting to a point where we had sampled everything the market has to offer.

Luckily, we stumbled across this Belgium chip stall which I had never seen before. Just when you think Ely market has been conquered, it manages to pull something else out of the hat. Loaded Belgium chips was something I had never heard of, let alone tried, so was excited to see what it was all about.

The stall was proudly vegan and offered a selection of different choices from Christmas themed chips, to ‘No-War’ chips, ‘Pun-jabi’ chips, and ‘Butter-Sprouts’ chips. They were certainly interesting choices and a far cry from the chips smothered in ketchup you expect from a typical market (though ketchup and BBQ sauce was also available here).

Crispy parsnips were on sale too, which you could add to your cone for a mere 49p. To can even get teeny tiny cones for children. It is a fun place which doesn’t take itself too seriously, with googly eyes on the cones and holiday themed options.

My wife went for the Christmas themed loaded chips, which come with ‘xrisspy dip’, cranberry sauce, parsnips, and a vegan stuffing in a blanket.

She thought that the chips were good quality and “really nicely cooked and very fluffy”. The cranberry sauce was a “a nice touch and something I would never think to put on chips but worked well”.

Being in a cone, this was a dish which was significantly easier to eat while on the market when compared to other food vans and was something she said she would buy again. I decided to go for the Tibet Flavour that day but will certainly be looking to try the ‘pun-jabi’ one on my next visit.

I will update this post down the line as I sample more chips.

Thanks for years.

Cambridge Samosa’s – Ely Market

After many months of walking past, Jack and I finally decided to try the Mix & Match deal from the Indian food van. ‘Cambridge Samosa’s’ has been at the Ely Market for a while and despite absolutely loving all forms of Indian and Bangladeshi food, we have never managed to actually try out their offerings.

I was excited to see what they had on offer. There was a menu with a choice between Samosas, Pakora, Onion Bhajis, Aloo Tikki, Paneer Spring Rolls & Naan bread, which were a mix and match deal at 8 for £10 👍 You even got a choice of curry and naan which also came to a tenner.

The team was excellent. The two young girls working there were very helpful and quick to serve us. The main chef in the van is called Sudesh, he was one of the kindest and most polite men I have met in a long time – a real character. He was a real market guy and was great at pulling in the customers.


Everything was so good. My boy demolished his share without taking a single breath between. It was nice to eat something entirely vegetarian for a change too.

This was a takeaway van, with no seating, which meant that unfortunately details and photos are a little light but both Jack and I would thoroughly recommend!

Thanks for reading.

The Sylhet – Doing everything the way it should be.

We have reviewed The Sylhet before but it’s been a while since our last visit and I had started to miss the place.  We managed to pick up a quick takeaway a few months ago but otherwise it’s been over a year since our last sit down meal.

Our Cambridge Curry Community moderator Ollie made a fantastic point today about making sure that we support our local Indian and Bangladeshi restaurants during these hard times.

In this current financial climate, it’s understandable that restaurants are struggling.

It’s important to remember this is temporary, we will get through this and when we do, we want all of our favourite restaurants to get through it too!

If you can afford to, go out and eat at your favourite restaurant, if you can don’t just order a takeaway, go and support them and eat there.

I couldn’t agree more! This evening he decided to go to his local Indian, Cam Spice, so I decided to go to my favourite local, the Sylhet.

When you run an Indian restaurant blog, it is very easy to get carried away chasing every place you can to make sure you don’t miss a thing, but it’s important to make sure you support your local in the process. These are the essential back bone restaurants of your day to day life where memories are made. If they go, a big part of your life goes with it. So it’s important to support them as much as you can.

The Sylhet is one of my all round favourite Indian restaurants. Not because it stands out with a gimmick, a novelty, or concentrating on doing one particular thing very well, but because it gets everything right and is consistent in doing so.

I am always warmly greeted at the Sylhet. The staff always remembers me and takes the time to chat with us at the table. They even remember the dishes I like and it’s these little details which make all the difference. They have all the classics on the menu, both Cobra and Kingfisher on tap, and really prompt and attentive staff. They even have good wheelchair access. There is nothing I can fault.

We ordered some papdums while we had a look at the menu. Going back to my point about how the Sylhet gets everything right, this was one of the first examples of this. The papadum side sauces were excellent. One thing I’ve noticed lately is how Indian restaurants are giving away measly little portions of mixed pickle, mango chutney, onion salad, and yogurt. Not only was each and every one of them perfect at the Sylhet but the portions were HUGE!

We had some onion bhajis for starters. I don’t usually go for these but we fancied a change and they didn’t disappoint.

These were incredibly meaty bhajis reminiscent of the giant bhajis from Mo Malik’s before it closed down. There is a time and a place for the light and delicate bhajis but if we are really honest with ourselves, this is exactly how they should be! The yoghurt here is absolutely perfect and they were so good for dipping.

After our visit to The Shilpa, my son was shown a wide range of new dishes during his visit, so he was feeling adventurous and decided to choose something different from his usual. After speaking with Zahid, he managed to convince him to try the ‘Sylhet Murgh’. This is a medium chicken dish cooked ‘desi style ‘ where the ingredients are stewed or reused in the cooking process to make the most of the flavour.

I apologise for the photos but the light in my seat was not very good (though it did add to a nice atmosphere in the restaurant!). The dish had a bold flavour and the chicken was very tender. It was presented with a boiled egg which is something I have only ever had with a biryani. My son did not care for the egg but thought the dish was ‘one of the best curries I’ve ever had’. He’s starting to learn that there is life beyond the classic menu of chicken tikka’s, kormas, and madras’s.

This was my fourth curry this week, so I felt like a change. The ‘North Indian Garlic Chilli’ caught my eye and it was also being served with duck, which is something I am not seeing around as much these days, so I decided to give it a go.

The duck was excellent and made a really nice change. The green chillies gave it a Jalfrezi feel but was served hotter, so it still satisfied the spicy side in me. It was an enjoyable dish which I would recommend for someone looking for something a little different.

It was a great meal as usual at the Sylhet tonight. I’d expect nothing less from this consistent restaurant which always gives us a top meal. I always regret not coming back sooner when I visit and will make sure to visit again soon.

Thanks for reading.

Tibet Flavour – Ely Market

My son and I have a little tradition where we will pop by Ely market every Saturday and have some breakfast at one of the food vans. Ely market is becoming a fantastic foodie hotspot for all sorts of diverse cuisine from all over the world and it seems to be only getting better and better.

The market already boasts South African/Portuguese, Mexican, gourmet scotch eggs, an Italian bakery, German bratwurst, Belgium style chips, and Indian food, but now has a Tibetan stall.

Tibet Flavour has a selection of different dishes to choose from. Ranging from Tibetan vegan momos (which are a small dumpling), spinach and chickpea curry with lentil dal, butternut squash and spinach curry, and lentil dal with rice.

Naturally, I went for everything, as I have no self control or moderation, but also because they had a promotional deal which offers a little bit of everything for £10. This was a great chance to try a bit of everything and see what stood out. I highly recommend you also try this if it’s your first visit.

The man running the stall was a delight and was infectiously smiling the entire time. Service was fast and the dish was very generous. He really loaded it on to a point where my hand started to ache holding it.

The dish was absolutely stunning and a visual feast for the eyes. The coriander especially really made this dish pop out. There was a healthy variety of yellow lentils, orange butternut squash, and red chillies which made the dish a rainbow of autumn themed colours. Just by looking at it, I felt like I was getting an exciting meal before even taking a bite.

The momo was excellent. This was filled with spinach, which seems to be a very popular theme throughout the dishes served. It came with a side of spicy chilli sauce which really brought the dish to life. It was actually very spicy too, which would be enough to satisfy us hot heads.

The lentil curry and rice was also very good. It went well with the butternut squash. I mixed in some chillies which gave it a nice kick. I was absolutely stuffed by the end and it resulted in me not needing lunch later on in the day.

I’m really excited to have Tibet Flavour here at the Ely market. It’s another example of how diverse the selection is getting. Each time I visit there seems to be something new here and it’s good to see more vegetarian options available.

Thanks for reading.

An English breakfast at the Royal Standard – Ely

The wife and I had the day off, so we decided to ask the Cambridge Foodies for their recommendations on an English breakfast. As usual, the community didn’t disappoint, with great suggestions all round. There were so many places I wanted to try from the list but in the end decided on the Royal Standard in Ely.

This was not only geographically convenient for us (living on the same side of Cambridge) but I had also heard good things about the pub before. The pub has a good reputation and Ely has free parking with a huge car park right behind the pub, which makes visiting stressless and easy (are you listening, Cambridge?).

The pub is very clean and well decorated with a real traditional ‘old English pub’ vibe going on. They were already getting into the spirit of Christmas too, with decorations plastered all over the venue, including Christmas music in the background. It was done very tastefully and was not just a bombardment of tinsel and glitter.

Looking at the breakfast menu, there were three main cooked breakfast choices. A vegetarian option, steak and eggs, and the full English. There were also pancakes, eggs Benedict, and fish available too. All the classics you’d expect.

It was edging towards £14 for a full English and this only came with one sausage. I requested an extra one, which came to £3.50. This pushed it to £17.50. There was no getting away from it. It was expensive, but the sausages are locally sourced from the village of Haddenham, so I presume this factors into the price. This was not a cheap and cheerful greasy spoon from Street Cafe but something trying to be a higher (or royal) standard.

The coffee was done to an inoffensive standard. It served us well enough. Not much else to say.

The cooked breakfast was superb. The village of Haddenham really knows how to make sausage. There were two thick cut slices of bacon underneath all the food in the picture, as well as a black pudding and a potobello mushroom.

Another stand out piece of this breakfast was the baked beans which were slow cooked. This gave them a really thick texture and deeper flavour.

The poached egg was unfortunately over done but it was hardly enough to spoil the meal. The vine tomatoes made a good impression on me, especially since I’m not a huge fan of fresh tomatoes myself. The portions of butter were very generous for one slice of toast.

It’s also worth pointing out that the service here was excellent. The chap serving was friendly, attentive, and was always available. The food came out in good time and we never felt rushed out.

Both my wife and I thoroughly enjoyed our meal. Sure, it was not cheap but I don’t think the Royal Standard is trying to be. The surroundings were pleasant and tasteful, the service was really good, and the quality of the ingredients was excellent. This is where your money is going.

If you want a greasy spoon then by all means go to Street Cafe down the road but if you are looking for something more (like taking your wife out for breakfast) then this is going to be my first choice every time.

Thanks for reading!

A quick takeaway from The Sylhet – Ely

I had a hankering for an Indian takeaway tonight and was given the usual choice in Ely between The Sylhet and Le Spice.

I think both restaurants are superb in their own right but I couldn’t help but feel like The Sylhet was going to offer me the consistency, reliability, and service I was looking for.

I was interested in trying the new Indian Garden 2 in Fordham as we were driving through but they wouldn’t answer my calls.

A great choice of Indian beers.

I’ve been meaning to do a full blown review of The Sylhet since the start of the new blog as it’s one of my favourite restaurants in the city. Unfortunately, a takeaway will have to do for now but watch this space in the future.

What I love about The Sylhet is that it gets everything done right and is consistent in doing so. You can visit without having to worry about the quality of the food or the service provided by the team.

Upon visiting the food was still being prepared so I had a friendly chin wag with the staff at the bar. They were kind enough to offer me some superb and very meaty complimentary onion bhajis. They were a good size and a great taste!

I ordered saag aloo to bulk out our meal. It’s the perfect side to go in a curry. The saag aloo was a great portion and the perfect addition to the meal.

Chicken tikka vindaloo
Chicken curry.

My chicken tikka vindaloo with saag aloo and mushroom rice was superb. Hot, full of flavour, and generous portions. As it should be.

My boy thoroughly enjoyed his curry and there wasn’t a single mark left on the plate. I’ve seen dishes come out of the dish washer with more sauce left on the plate!

The Sylhet Indian restaurant proves once again that it’s the reliable choice. I’ve never heard a bad word said about the restaurant and I can’t see it happening in the future.