Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Not quite a Valentine's Day out

There are a whole list of "XXX's day" that crop up throughout the year. Many now taken over by cringeworthy commercialism.

We've just had that Valentine's one. We could have gone out for dinner, but it's just an excuse to cram people into overcrowded restaurants and jack up the prices. We had a nice dinner at home instead.

But we did use it as an excuse to go out on Friday afternoon and evening. There are a number of bars, pubs, and restaurants in Cambridge that have either been refurbished or changed hands, or that we haven't managed to visit for a while, so we wanted to check them out.

First up was The Emperor, now rebranded as a Latin Tapas Bar. It opens at noon and of course the bus was on time for once, so we killed time looking in some of the local shops, then had a drink (in my case, a very pleasant Oakham Inferno) while sitting in the window and watching the world go by. I had never been in the pub in its original guise, so I'm not able to make comparisons. The menu looked interesting, although it's not exactly my style.

We then walked further into town, stopping at Novi. This used to be The Fountain before refurbishment, and I used to go there regularly when we had meetups in the function rooms upstairs. Now it's more of a coffee shop, cocktail bar, and artisanal eatery. Another half (Camden Pale Ale) for me, Mel went for a cocktail. I was getting a bit peckish, and plumped for a superb caramel and pear brownie. The kitchen is rotated between local independents - must go back when Steak and Honour are in residence!

Grabbing the brownie, which might have been seen as a risk of spoiling one's appetite, soon proved its worth, as we had decided to switch banks for one of our accounts. This took rather longer than we anticipated, followed by a quick diversion to get some dried fruit from the market.

The plan was then to go to La Raza, but we had missed Lunch and Happy Hour hadn't yet started, so we did a little more shopping and ran a couple of errands.

Happy Hour (why do people keep calling it that, it's half the evening) at La Raza was a great success. It was pretty quiet, so we were able to sit in peace and try a couple of cocktails. The kitchen was closed, but the friendly and helpful bar staff had no problem in getting together a plate of bread and dipping oils for us. Regular pricing would be a bit steep, but Happy Hour makes it good value.

We then moved on to the Pint Shop. It's popular, it has a reasonable reputation, it's horrifically expensive, and we couldn't get a seat. A decent half of craft stout, but in London I would get a pint and change. We've grabbed it, but don't see anything compelling us to go back.

Walking down the street we had a look through the windows at the Bath House, an old favourite (it's affordable and reliable). I'm sure it's been done up recently, but it didn't seem to have changed, and was pretty packed. Next to it is Bread and Meat, again it was full and after the loaf of bread we had eaten at La Raza we weren't quite ready for more food - one for another day.

Back in the day, there was The Vaults. It's gone now, replaced by 2648. (Their website was working, looks to be broken at the moment.) We were pretty much the only people in there, the "secret" room was open with workmen, and they haven't yet got around to food. Along with a Blue Moon, we had a fun game of table football. It'll be interesting to see how this place develops, as it's only been open a short while and, while showing promise, isn't quite finished yet.

Another place that's changed its identity more than a few times was our final stop, the Grain & Hop Store. OK, so it's a Greene King pub, but very much with a craft beer slant, and their own menu. Downstairs was packed, but we managed to get a table upstairs. I had a Porter (I'm very much into beers that are black), and we shared a delicious freshly cooked home made scotch egg.

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