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Monday, 14 November 2011

How good is University food? Would you believe as good as a top London restaurant?

Last weekend my wife and I travelled up to Cambridge to see an old friend from the sixties with whom we still keep in touch. The journey to and from Cambridge was a nightmare, absolutely packed out with very noisy youngsters and when we walked around the city there were literally thousands of them wherever we went. Not just students, but people coming up to see friends, or just to see Cambridge. To go anywhere for a coffee, or to eat lunch was a nightmare, long queues and no available seats.

However, there was one oasis of quiet as on Saturday evening we went to the Riverside Restaurant at the University Centre, described as the University’s (all of them) Meeting Place. You need to be a student, don, staff, retired staff or alumni to access most of the facilities, but the Riverside Restaurant on the first floor is open to all.

The food was presented nouveau style, but three courses filled me up perfectly – and as a South African, I do have a very large appetite! The quality of the ingredients were excellent and each item was cooked to perfection. As an IT Journalist, I have attended press event meals in all the top restaurants in London and I have to say that this restaurant was equal to the finest I have eaten in Britain.

For the first course I had quail, my wife, Pam, had chicken terrine and our hosts both had Black Pearl scallops. We washed all this down with an excellent bottle of Kleine Zalze Chenin Blanc from South Africa and when the main course arrived we ordered a bottle of Kleine Zalze Pinotage which was in the same class. I decided upon roast pork loin and Pam had the same. Our tastes are very similar and we often find ourselves choosing the same dishes. Our hosts chose hake for Hanna and Denham Estate Castle lamb for Tony. By the time we reacher the dessert most of us, except me, were full up. As I normally do, I chose a chocolate dessert and our hosts shared a sweet between them. I wasn't quite sure what it was but it looked appetising.

I was a little disappointed that their dessert wines were only offered in half bottle sizes and not by the glass, as I was the only one of us who would have preferred a glass. But then one can't have everything and should the manager ever see this, he might consider this as dessert wine does keep in an opened bottle nearly as long as fortified wine.

After the meal we moved to a small lounge area and had coffee and petit fours; Pam had a Baileys, I chose a Calvados, and Hanna had a Cointreau (at my suggestion, had a little lemon squeezed into it before it got cloudy which gives an excellent well-balanced orange and lemon flavour).

The bill came to £140.70 (£96.80 for food and £43.90 for alcohol) and any gratuity was up to us to be added, something I always prefer and we tipped handsomely.

At £35 a head it was extraordinary reasonable considering it was a top restaurant, with a top chef, and caring waitresses; our waitress, Anna, looked after us so well.

The University Centre is in the south-west of the Cambridge city centre, opposite the point for hiring punts to Grantchester. The actual address is: University Centre, Granta Place, Mill Lane, Cambridge CB2 1RU.

The phone number for the restaurant is: (01223) 337759, and their email address is


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