A new restaurant serving locally-sourced Cambridge fare has become an instant city classic
When University Arms opened on Parker’s Piece in Cambridge last summer, a bright spotlight fell on the chef, Tristan Welch, who had taken up residence at Parker’s Tavern – the new restaurant in this classic, revamped hotel.
Welch set the Cambridge food scene on fire, his menus bringing a delicious, decadent irreverence to invigorate the city dining scene with the foods and flavours of his East Anglian heritage. “I’m cooking food that I want to eat, food that my friends want to eat, and food that I hope the city wants to eat” says Welch, with a lack of pretension that belies his pedigree. Welch who honed his culinary skills, as well as his imagination, in the kitchens of Gary Rhodes and Marcus Wareing.
The bar is a cut above the usual Cambridge drinking establishment, where the chink of ice and the stir of cocktails continues late into the night, customers sinking into velvet sofas in a dark, wood-panelled room for a private tête-à-tête. In the main dining room, red leather benches and dark wood give evening meals the feel of a city classic, gently lit by night. By day, the dining room is flooded with sunshine from windows featuring stained glass shields of Cambridge colleges, which look out onto Parker’s Piece.
For winter 2019, an ever-evolving menu to add to the well-loved Parker’s modern British classics of tandoori roasted quail, spaghetti bolognese and nut-buttered sole. New to the scene: local duck wings with a chilli jam, and Cantonese-style steamed char siu buns stuffed with goose meat, plum sauce and mushroom soy. Langoustines from the West Coast of Scotland make an appearance – a Welch favourite – grilled and served with a herb dressing that’s so simple, you just know the chef is going about his days scouring these British Isles for great quality ingredients.
For lighter bites, there’s a wedge of iceberg lettuce with a dressing of blue cheese and bacon, and a delicious seasonal mushroom soup. For the blow-out celebration, Welch has added a whole baked turbot in a bag for two people, as luxurious as the menu’s lobster macaroni gratin. And for the taste of the Norfolk coast? Atlantic wolffish: a sustainable fish, with an out-of-this-world texture, cooked with a crispy batter to seal in the moist flesh inside, served with triple-cooked chips and home-made tartare sauce. It’s not the usual British fish and chips, but then Welch knows the best location in Cambridge demands a different kind of flourish.