Sunday, June 16th, 2024

Good and Bad Dining


I’ve previously described Cambridge as a culinary desert in the past and last weekend confirmed just how bad places really can be…

Last Friday decided to have some pre-dinner snacks since eating later in the day. Against better judgement passed Carluccio’s, it didn’t look at all busy, so decided to grab a table. I’ve never been a fan of this chain- the restaurant they have in Fenwick in London is fine to grab coffee/snack whilst others shop in the store. However, the Cambridge version I have always thought to be bland, poorly stocked in the deli, and the service to be lousy.

Walked in and 5 members of staff standing around doing nothing, waited about 30 seconds before I got annoyed and said ‘excuse me’, one of them made the effort to come over. Got to the table and looked through the menu. Specials board clearly had been written by someone who didn’t speak English natively “Large Pasta Tubes served with Spicy Tomato Sauce“- not exactly appealing ! It reminded me of the English translations you get in restaurants in mainland China where they translate from Chinese to English literally and thus sounds unappealing- something like “deep fried intestine of the cow“.
Ordered drinks – they were out of Lemonade – and some food (bread and ham). Took over 20mins for someone in the kitchen to go to the deli, grab 6 slices of ham and put some bread in a basket. What I find the worst about this place is that Italian Bread is absolutely fantastic, but instead you get some nonsense bread mix that looks like something out of a 1970s tupperware party (where the host has gone to the trouble of trying to find something exotic).

In short, never again !

The Punter

After the Carluccio’s experience and a few drinks, ended up in The Punter with friends for dinner. I’ve been there before and it was very good, sadly not this time.

Okay, mild OCD confession here- I absolutely hate food being all mixed up on a plate and things merging (unless they are supposed to like stews etc.). I once watched a film where a character had a a full English Breakfast, but had to have each of the constituent parts on separate plates. People laughed, I thought it was totally normal to do such things. After all, if we wanted food to be mixed up then we’d just eat out of troughs (a bit like the image you get when you pass Nando’s on Regent Street on a Friday night). I guess it’s the Engineer in me that likes everything to be clean and ordered (like having to write up logbooks at University after the event as I hate untidy notes and writing, I still do this sometimes at work).
I ordered Steak and like any restaurant in Cambridge I had to give clear instructions on what was to be on the plate. It sounds nonsense, but for some reason Cambridge Restaurants have a big thing about drowning salad in balsamic vinegar (that I hate) so I’ve found the only way to ensure that I don’t have to send the meal back is to give the server clear instructions on what is to appear on the plate. In this case it was pretty simple “please ensure that only steak and chips appear on the plate”. I guess I should have been a little concerned at the recent changes to the place, as it was clear that the clientele weren’t used to eating steak and so the knife was labelled:

How tacky !

Later the dinner arrived. Steak and chips on the plate, but sadly a big chunk of salad in the corner. Not balsamic vinegar, but the latest culinary find of the Cambridge chef – Mayonnaise ! I hate Mayonnaise, partly for the taste, but also the fact that anything covered in it reminds of PVA Glue (thick white glue used when I was at school) or something you’d find in a turkey baster at a horse breeder in Newmarket who specialises in artifical insemination !

Another place in Cambridge to strike off the list !

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