Salus Wellness Clinics – One Year of Successes

Building a business from scratch can be challenging and, at the same time, very rewarding when results are outstanding.

Salus Wellness Clinics celebrated this week its first anniversary; the complementary health centre is now a well established business that fits well in the local community, offering a rich variety of top quality complementary health services to a broad range of members of the public.

Luca Senatore (in the picture on the right) is the sales director and co-founder, who initially planned this venture. He says, “We spotted a gap in the market and then we found this building with amazing potential and we knew it would have been a success given the innovative approach we had in mind for the clinic”.

The extra value added offered by Salus Wellness is to assist all practitioners with hands-on business coaching, consultancy and training, in areas such as sales, marketing and customer service.

Massimo Gaetani (in the picture on the left), is the marketing director and also co-founder of Salus Wellness. He says, “the majority of practitioners decide to qualify in hypnotherapy, massage or acupuncture because they have a passion for helping people which is very rewarding indeed; many of them do it without any previous experience in running a business and they fail to realise the need of entrepreneurial spirit that is necessary to succeed.”

Massimo continued by saying, “when they start offering their services to the general public, they realise that clients are not queuing outside their door and the phone is not ringing constantly; that’s a normal but de-motivating way of starting”.

People who are not used to run small businesses are simply not ready or trained to deal with the new challenges and many struggle to make a decent living for months or even years. In many occasions they give up and go back to full time occupation which, now more than ever, is not always an easy thing to do.

"cambridge", "complementary health", "salus"Salus Wellness offers, apart from the newly decorated and well maintained therapy rooms and full time reception, a comprehensive range of business development and practice management services for all practitioners working at their premises; this increases the chances for everybody’s success and creates the win-win-win situation which Salus Wellness is known for. For more information visit the Salus Wellness website.

Wine of the Month – April

APRIL is the cruellest month, breeding

Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing

Memory and desire, stirring

Dull roots with spring rain.

Winter kept us warm, covering

Earth in forgetful snow, feeding

A little life with dried tubers.

T.S. Eliot (1888–1965). The Waste Land. 1922

These days, I measure the time since I studied TS Eliot’s free verse masterpiece on dusty middle class ennui and spirituality, in decades rather than years.

April is also the month of Easter, the most important festival in the Orthodox calendar, origin of the term “movable feast” and a Pagan fertility / earth re-birth celebration.

These days we may celebrate it by hiding chocolate eggs in the garden for small children to find, but for the ancients, the first signs of a return of the fruitfulness of the land after winter was a cause to rejoice and give thanks to their Pagan gods.

My own bar-stool philosophy is that it must have originated around the end of the last Ice Age when the arrival of spring was a long-awaited event whose outcome was anything but certain and when each winter must have felt like the threat of a return to permafrost.

These days, it is a long time since economic cycles followed the calendar year and in any case, its probably still too early to give thanks to the gods of the free market economy for the return of growth.

Bodega El Cortijo de la Vieja, Iniza Tinto 2008, £10 – Joseph Barnes Wines

A curious blend of 40% Tempranillo, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Syrah and 20% Merlot from slopes of the Sierra de Gador Mountain range in the Alpujarra region of Granada, in Spain, this wine is dark purple in the glass with little suggestion of age.

On pouring, there is a nose of dark fruits and spice; the palate shows lots of sweet, ripe elderberry, plum and black cherry, spice, liquorice and hints of beeswax, leatheriness and undergrowth. It is soft and inky with a mouthfilling texture, liquorice and spice on the finish.

It is a big, effusive personality with a hint of a dark side; my only slight reservation – and it’s a very personal one – is that with so many noble grapes in the blend, it feels a bit like a rock supergroup, with various different varietal characteristics vying for the limelight; at times the cassis of the Cab dominates, at others the plumminess of the Merlot and then there’s the elderberry inkiness of the Syrah.

Dom. Rimbert Cousin Oscar 2011 Vin de France, £7.49 – Cambridge Wine Merchants

There’s scant information on the label; it’s a Vin de Table de France, pretty much the lowest classification there is, but a few tweets from Stewart Travers tell me that it’s 100% Cinsault from St Chinian, 20yo vines, schisty soils and made by J-M Rimbert.

The only other bit of information on the label is the 11% alcohol and holding the bottle up to the light, I can see the wine is very pale.

In the glass, its the colour of Ribena – I’ve had darker Beaujolais and Pinots than this. On the nose, there is soft red fruit, cherries and a hint of Pinot-esque woody undergrowth.

Mrs CWB pronounces it “studenty”, meaning light, quaffable and easy to drink with pizza on the sofa in front of the telly.

I think that undersells this curious wine a little – neither a blockbuster nor an up-front crowd-pleaser, it is elegant, delicate and well-made; light and fruity with low tannins and good acidity, it would work well for drinking in the garden or with tomato-based pasta dishes, such as a spaghetti pomodoro.

La Bascula ‘Catalan Eagle’, 2011, Terra Alta, £9.99 – Noel Young Wines

La Bascula is a joint project involving a British ex-wine merchant who just happens to be a Master of Wine and a South African wine-maker.

Based in Terra Alta, which is apparently somewhere near Barcelona, their Catalan Eagle is a curious mixture of the local but unusual Garnacha Blanca and the more well-known but decidedly un-Spanish Viognier.

Golden in the glass it has a peachy nose with hints of toasty yeastiness and roasted peach skin.

The palate is full of sweet ripe yellow stone fruit, with a peachy texture and a mouthfilling, rounded acidity.

The palate and finish are long, savoury and persistent.

It feels both exceptionally well-made – with great balance and superb depth of flavour – and also very more-ishly drinkable. Match with meaty fish such as salmon.

Duas Pedras, Alentejo, 2010, Quinta do Centro, £10.99 – Bacchanalia

Named ‘Two Stones’ after the granite and schist in the soils in Portugal’s Portalegre region, this is an unoaked blend of the international varieties Syrah and Viognier with the native Tourga Nacional. As a result, it feels rather less distinctly Portuguese than something made purely from local varieties.

Straight from the bottle there is elderberry and black cherry fruit, liquorice, dark roasted spices and tar.

The palate feels inky yet custardy with ripe, sweet black cherry and prune, a slap of leather, some dark spice and a pleasing streak of sour cherry acidity.

On the second day, it seems to have become more understandable and turned into something approaching a classic Syrah Viognier; there is inky, ripe-elderberry-and-pencil-shavings from the Syrah whilst the Viognier adds a peachy texture and perfume on the finish; overall, it feels more harmonious and balanced now, and also more approachable.

By the third day, it is the turn of the Touriga Nacional and the port-like eucalyptus dominates.

Recommended Wine

Either of the Iberian reds would work well with some roast lamb for Easter, and the Cousin Oscar would be a good garden sipper if we have an early heatwave, but for me the most accomplished and enjoyable wine is the Catalan Eagle for its instant appeal with subtly effortless complexity and sophistication.

Links

Bacchanalia – www.winegod.co.uk

Cambridge Wine Merchants – www.cambridgewine.co.uk

Joseph Barnes Wines – www.josephbarneswines.com

Noel Young Wines – www.nywines.co.uk

Image credit: http://www.digitalbookworld.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/06/ts-eliot-the-wasteland-shot.jpg

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

The Rainbow Café

Cambridge has many attractions and once I was walking down King’s Parade with a friend looking for a nice little restaurant. We came across a small sign taking us down into a cellar off King’s Parade to the Rainbow Café – Cambridge’s only vegetarian restaurant. May is the perfect time to visit the Rainbow Café as the end of this month is National Vegetarian Week.

We were impressed by the friendliness of the staff who greeted us and the very beautiful décor inside. It is a very small place and very quaint. This award-winning vegetarian café has an extraordinary menu and offers a variety of dishes from around the world – including Jamaican Patties, Cuban Pecadillo Pie and Indonesian Gado Gado (said to be Gillian McKeith’s favourite choice when the restaurant was featured on her Channel 4 series, You Are What You Eat).

Although we are not vegetarian ourselves, the menu did not bother us in the slightest as it is quite varied and has interesting dishes that one simply has to try. The Latvian Potato Bake and Spinach Lasagne are two very popular dishes. An example of the à la carte menu can be found here. There are also daily specials offered using local and seasonal ingredients.

The food is beautiful and very well presented. The spices and seasonings used in the Rainbow Café are wonderful and make the food extremely tasty. Children under 10 are catered for with a special kids menu and organic baby food is even provided. Watch the video below for an interview about the Rainbow Café:

We were both impressed by the flavour of the food which is entirely vegetarian. The carrot cake is to die for and the Rainbow Café menu quotes the food writer, Nigel Slater, describing it as “the best I ever tasted”. Other notable desserts are the gluten-free, no-added-sugar fruit cake and the totally vegan Swedish Glace soy ice cream which comes in a selection of mouthwatering flavours.

Looking at the drinks menu, all the wines served are vegan, organic and from exclusive vineyards with Soil Association certification. There is also a small selection of vegan beer & cider. Coffee is Fairtrade of course – as you’d expect from this restaurant fully approved by the Vegetarian Society.

The Rainbow Café is highly recommended so please go and try it out. This vibrant café has become a local highlight and is now so popular that one often has to queue to get a table – but don’t let this put you off because the food here is definitely worth the wait. Whether you are vegetarian or not, you will be sure to find a dish here that will enchant you.

Address:
Rainbow Vegetarian Café
9a King’s Parade
Cambridge
CB2 1SJ
(Opposite King’s College Gates down the flowery passageway)
Tel: 01223 321551

Images reproduced from: rainbowcafe.co.uk and lustrousmusings.blogspot.com

Hay Fever Crisis in Cambridge

hayfeverCompared to last year, hay fever (or allergic rhinitis as it is called medically) has been mild. Only a handful of customers have been coming for every week. More information below to help your friends find the right approach about their seasonal allergy.

While most people put up with this form of allergy, from my point of view, and also of many holistic practitioners, hayfever is a major disturbance of the body’s self-regulating mechanisms, and should be addressed seriously.

From a holistic point of view, what causes hayfever?
Medically, hay fever is caused by a build-up of histamine, and for this reason, the first type of medications are anti-histamines. Histamine is a naturally occurring substance in the body that has many functions. In essence, the level of histamines will increase locally or generally when there is stress in the body. For example, a cut or a wound will increase histamines in the area, and this will trigger an inflammation and then a healing response.

What doctors fail to tell you is that basically everything increases histamine level in the body: the food, we eat (histamine is a key part of the digestive process), emotional stress (histamine is a neurotransmitter), and physical stress. Being dehydrated will increase significantly histamine levels.

Hay fever sufferers have a very high level of histamine when they suffer from hay fever but also at the time when they do not appear to suffer (such as winter). Because of this, their level of histamines can reach the symptoms threshold when being exposed to innocuous stressors, such as pollen, dust, animal hair or plant moulds. The job of a health practitioner is to find the cause of the high level of histamines, and set up a plan to reduce it.

How to reduce the symptoms of hayfever and address it in the long term
Beside trying to stay away from known stressors, there are several simple approaches that can alleviate the condition. To know more, check the full article on my website.

Image reproduced from restorenaturopathy.com.au

Browns Cambridge – Dining with Tradition

This week City Connect is reporting on one of the finest and most famous of all Cambridge restaurants: Browns Restaurant. Browns is situated on leafy Trumpington street in central Cambridge and thus easily reachable by anyone from in and outside of Cambridge. Some of our writers went for an evening at this fine establishment and were very impressed as they enjoyed a fantastic evening at Browns.

The great establishment is in a converted wing of the former building of Addenbrooke’s hospital which opened in 1766. Browns has a restaurant and also a famous bar which attracts people from all over the city. The cocktail menu of the bar is huge and the Bloody Mary has reached cult status in Cambridge. Click here for the lush drinks menu. The bar is ideal for a night out with friends and the restaurant has a great atmosphere suitable for small and big gatherings.

Browns offers great food for all tastes including vegetarian food and hearty meat dishes. The food is prepared beautifully and served with style.

Piano Evenings

Concomitant with a great menu and lovely atmosphere, Browns also offers music nights which give your evening such an additional nice feel.Three times a week Browns offers great live piano-playing  – the perfect accompaniment for drinks and dinner. A pianist will be playing at the following times during the week:

Wednesday: 7 – 10pm
Thursday: 7 – 10pm
Friday: 7 – 10pm

Private room booking

Browns also offers private room bookings and the rooms are stunning. We had the pleasure to see the rooms when the staff showed us around. The rooms are ideal for any medium sized gatherings and can be reserved all week long

The Menu

The menu is lush and has a fine choice of great foods. Here’s a selection of our recommended favourites which we tried before:

Warmed Foccacia

  • Prepared with baked tomatoes, garlic and herbs and served with balsamic olive oil.
Fish Platter
  • Consisting of prawn cocktail, crispy squid, crab and lobster croquettes, salmon pâté, wakame, herb focaccia, garlic cream and tartare sauce.
Baked Camembert
  • Prepared with rosemary and garlic, served with grapes and crusty bread.

Meat Platter

  • Consisting of Gloucestershire smoked beef, prosciutto, chorizo, homemade Scotch egg, herb focaccia, picante peppers and fruit chutney.

Roasted supreme of salmon

  • Served with a lemon and spinach risotto, chargrilled asparagus, crispy capers and basil oil.

Steak frites

  • A 6oz sirloin steak served with a lemon, parsley and peppercorn butter, confit tomato, watercress and seasoned chips.

If you want to see the whole menu, please click here.

Our recommendations

Please read below some quotes from our City Connect writers on Browns:

“When I first entered the restaurant, I had to look around and up the ceiling in awe. What a place! The whole place was vibrant and full of buzz. The decor was extraordinary and the whole place has a very welcoming and warm feel to it. The ceiling is very high rising and gives a great feeling of space. We were greeted by friendly staff straight away who organised a table for us to dine. We had to wait a few minutes as the restaurant was busy, but we grabbed a drink from the bar and set on a nice little table with our aperitifs. 10 minutes later we were seated by one of the friendly staff. The menu was impressive and yet not too pricey. The selection of dishes was very good and some seemed exotic. The service was great and we had a fantastic meal. I personally enjoyed the roasted supreme of salmon for my main course and it was beautifully prepared. The dessert menu was also very impressive and we had an awesome sticky toffee pudding.”

“Wow! When I entered the building I really knew that I wanted to dine here. The staff were so friendly and I loved the atmosphere. I tried one of the famous Bloody Maries and it came with a whole Celery stalk. What an awesome way of serving and a great way to start off the evening.”

“I had never been to Brown’s before and absolutely loved it straight from the beginning. The seating areas outside gave a great welcoming feel and once we entered through the revolving doors I was astounded by the atmosphere of the restaurant. We entered a huge hall with amazing decor and were greeted by friendly staff straight away. I will never forget this evening.”

We highly recommend Browns as a restaurant and a bar and hope you will have as fabulous an evening as we had.

Image reproduced from http://www.browns-restaurants.co.uk and http://www.companyscoming.com

Franka De Mille Q&A

Franka De Mille is a London singer, songwriter and composer. Her debut album ‘Bridge The Roads’  has already received critical acclaim and extensive airplay all over the world. Emotionally raw, original with sophisticated arrangements, Franka De Mille’s music has an elegant blend of Americana, chamber music and alternative folk. Franka’s focus on strong melodies underline the powerful emotional charge of her unique voice and deeply personal lyrics. She is the only independent artist to be selected for the British Phonographic Industry’s ‘Why Music Matters’ campaign.

Franka de Mille

Franka De Mille

Franka De Mille answered our questions ahead of her forthcoming Acoustic Routes performance in Cambridge at CB2.

Q: How would you describe your music?

A blend of Americana and Chamber music.

Q: What is your earliest memory related to music?

Being given a toy Telecaster Guitar for my 4th birthday. There is a picture on my website of me holding it, looking very proud, stood in front of the Xmas tree.

Q: What or who inspired you to become a singer?

I have always sung. Singing and making up songs has always came naturally to me. My parents were very busy and the need to be heard as a child was a major driving force. Music has played a vital role in my life as a protective force, a place of inspiration and solace.

Q: What are your musical influences?

I have a wide range of influences from world music to rock, pop, folk and classical music.
I listen to everything. Artists that have had the strongest influences are Janis Joplin, Patti Smith, Rickie Lee Jones, Kate Bush, PJ Harvey, Joe Jackson, Nick Cave, The Rolling Stones, Tom Petty, Rene Aubry, Tori Amos, Dolly Parton, Elvis Presley, The Smith, The Cure, Dusty Springfield, The Police, Supertramp, Fleetwood Mac, Pink Floyd, Bruce Springsteen, Hildegaard Von Bingen, Satie, Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, Philip Glass to name quite a few from a much longer list.

Q: Describe the process you took when writing your debut album “Bridge The Roads”.

The songs came pretty much fully formed which was magical. I then went into the studio and made demos with all the different arrangements on midi with a keyboard and sampler and got the musicians to record the parts I laid out.

Bridge The Roads CDQ: Who would you most like to do a duet with and why?

My God!…there are so many artists! It is so difficult to choose one…I would say Sting, Kate Bush, Antony Hegarty, Dave Gilmour, Rickie Lee Jones, Tori Amos, Stevie Nicks…any one of them would be a dream come true. Why? because they are all such incredible songwriters and sensitive, truthful artists.

Q: Name your top three favourite songs?

Another hard choice…there are so many songs I adore: Tom Petty – Won’t back down; Rickie Lee Jones – Coolsville; Patti Smith – Dancing Barefoot.

Q: What did it mean to you being selected as the only independent artist for the “Why Music Matters” campaign by the British Phonographic Industry?

I felt privileged to be up there with so many fabulous artists. I feel very strongly about music piracy so it was important for me be part of the campaign. I feel a sense of duty to spread the message that the best way to support artists is by buying their music and not downloading it for free. It does damage to the music industry as a whole but I feel that independent artists suffer the most. It is very important that independent musicians are represented in this campaign.

Q: What is your biggest fear?

In general? To go blind or deaf or impeded physically in any way. On stage: To lose my voice

Q: What has been your biggest achievement to date?

Releasing my album, getting many beautiful reviews and lots of airplay all over the world.

Q: What is your most treasured possession?

Apart from my cats and the ring my dad gave me before he died…my sanity.

Q: What can the audience expect from your forthcoming gig at CB2/Acoustic Routes in Cambridge later this month?

An intimate emotional ride, embroidered in an intricate fabric of musical textures, with violin, cello, harmonica…I might even bring a piano.

Franka De Mille and Band will be performing on 28 September 2013 at CB2 – Acoustic Routes, 5 Norfolk St, Cambridge, CB1 2LD. Ticket price:£6.00. For more information go to www.acousticroutes.co.uk/program.html. For more on Franka, check out her website – www.frankademille.com

A Most Particular Taste: Haut-Brion 350 Years Celebration Dinner

On April 10th 1663, diarist, Cambridge-graduate and upwardly-mobile man-about-town, Samuel Pepys wrote to have “drank a sort of French wine called Ho Bryen that hath a good and most particular taste I never met with”, thereby inventing the tasting note.

Haut-Brion, the only Bordeaux first growth based outside the Medoc, was purchased in 1935 by US financier Clarence Dillon, and is now run by Prince Robert of Luxembourg after Dillon’s granddaughter married into the family.

To mark the 350th anniversary of this earliest recorded assessment of the wine, Cambridge University Wine Society arranged a Celebration Dinner, starting with a talk by Dr. Jane Hughes, Samuel Pepys Librarian and Fellow of Magdalene College, on Pepys, the diary and the 1660s.

This was followed by a reception and viewing of the diary entry itself (unintelligible to most as Pepys wrote in shorthand) and an earlier factual record by Charles II’s cellarmaster in Magdalene College’s Pepys library.

The reception, on a sunny spring evening in the college cloisters, featured a Pol Roger 2002 – a beautiful, elegant fizz with wonderful poise – whilst the finale of the evening was a candlelit dinner in the college with wines from the domaine.

Starter: pan-fried scallops with pancetta, garden pea puree and lemon oil

We started with two whites, La Clarte de Haut Brion 2009 and Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc 2003.

La Clarte is a limited bottling of 50% La Mission Blanc (purchased by Domaine Clarence Dillon in 1983) and 50% Haut-Brion Blanc from a very good year indeed; the 2003 is from a very warm year in which the grapes had to be picked as early as August 13th to preserve freshness.

La Clarte de Haut Brion 2009 a blend of Semillon and Sauvignon, just 1,000 cases made; wonderful palate length, complexity and balance. Feels extremely elegant and precise. Really lovely, Very Good Indeed.

Chateau Haut-Brion Blanc 2003 so picked early to maintain freshness; not a wine for long ageing. Starting to tire a little already, the fruit has mostly faded and it lacks the weightiness and length of the 2009. Good fresh acidity.

Main: oven roasted fillet of Norfolk venison with chanterelle mushrooms, rich red wine jus, dauphinoise potatoes, celeriac puree and green beans

Following the school of thought that serves the best wine first when people are more attentive and palates fresher, the main was accompanied by the stand-out wine of the evening, a 1989 Haut-Brion.

In her summing-up at the end, Serena Sutcliffe MW referred to this wine as “a monument” and I was unable to find anyone who did not consider this the best wine of the evening.

Chateau Haut-Brion 1989 still dark in the glass, with few signs of age. Incredible, complex secondary aromas of leather, bell pepper, soy and well-hung game with good fruit; wonderful freshness, matched with elegance and precision. Very Good Indeed – and then some.

Chateau Haut-Brion 1995 lots more ripe fruit on the palate and much less evolution – amazingly youthful for a wine at almost 20 years and feels to have much more life left. Very Good.

Cheese: cheese board with biscuits, grapes and celery

I have never quite understood the idea of matching red wine with cheese – especially young reds with mature, hard yellow cheeses.

Whilst the cheeses were all lovely, for me this was the one part of the meal where the matching did not work.

Le Clarence de Haut-Brion 2008 this could easily be the top wine at any other tasting, but coming after the poise and refined elegance of the previous reds, it feels too young to be drinking now; lots of primary ripe fruit feels like a slap round the chops compared to the preceding wines. Good.

Dessert: traditional creme brulee, shortbread biscuit and seasonal berries

There are few desserts better than a creamily unctuous creme brulee with a thin, crisp, perfectly-browned topping. Add in a rich sticky dessert wine and you have pudding heaven.

A dessert this good needs no additions and the shortbread-and-berry additions were a case of more is less.

Clarendelle Amberwine 2003 lovely dessert wine with peachy, beeswax aromas, waxy texture and plenty of concentrated botrytis. Long on the palate with good fresh acidity; reminds me of a Ruster Ausbruch from Austria, but with just a touch more levity. As expressive and lithe as a ballerina. Very Good.

Links

Domaine Clarence Dillon – website

Chateau Haut-Brion – website, twitter

Copyright Tom Lewis 2013

Wine of The Month – October 2012

In a recent post, Will Lowe says that the start of autumn is marked by one’s first opening of a Châteauneuf-du-Pape .

I think this is spot-on and as the evenings get darker, the weather more blustery and the leaves russet and golden, the idea of a wine with more southern warmth and spice becomes ever more appealing.

This month we have two classics and one curve ball from our Cambridge merchants; interestingly, they all come from within a fairly narrow north-south band: two from the Rhône in southern France and one from Rioja in northern Spain.

Saint Cosme Côtes du Rhône 2011, Noel Young Wines £11.35

The most northerly of our wines this month, this is 100% Syrah from the classic northern Rhône region.

Dark purple in the glass, blackberry and black cherry fruit on the nose, some spice. The palate shows lots of ripe, sweet black cherry fruit, soft yet mouthfilling texture.

Good fruit expression, acidity and savouriness. Lovely balance, elegance and finesse. Lovely finish with a touch of spiced prune or baked fig – very accomplished and showing well despite its youth.

Mas de Libian, Vin de Petanque 2011, Vin de France, Joseph Barnes Wines £10

Our next French wine is a whole lot funkier – unfilitered and unfined, this needs to be allowed to settle for a few minutes before serving.

Labelled as a humble Vin de France, it comes from the Ardeche in the southern Rhône and is mostly Grenache with some Syrah in the blend.

A dark ruby garnet in the glass, there is some elderberry and black cherry on the nose. The palate shows pure, quite primary, black cherry fruit on first opening with a prominent, almost Italian-style acidity – with aeration it all rounds out a little more into elderberry and prune.

Good savoury depth, clean acidity and lovely balance with soft tannins and a persistent finish.

Rioja Navajas Crianza 2008, Cambridge Wine Merchants £9.50

(reduced to £7.12 during October)

Rioja, from northern Spain, is another classic and a staple of autumnal evenings.

This 2008 Crianza from Cambridge Wine Merchants spends over 12 months in American oak and has a textbook “Rioja nose” of sweet vanilla with cedar, woodsiness, spice and cherry fruit.

A deep cherry red in colour, it is not quite as bright and youthful as the other two youngsters and shows a slight paleness around the rim.

On the palate, there is more sweet vanilla and mellow oakiness, with cherry fruit and meatiness. The texture is soft, supple and mellow. Long on the palate, a touch of pepperiness and eucalyptus develops.

Good, savoury and well-balanced finish, held together by well-integrated tannins. This is a very classy – as well as classic – wine and a textbook example both of what a Rioja should be, but also of the harmonious mellowness that comes with a bit of age.

And if Rioja is your thing, Cambridge Wine Merchants will be having wine and tapas tastings every weekend, masterclasses and some fine dining menus with restaurants.

All three wines have a distinctly autumnal, warming feel to them matched a European elegance and food-friendliness.

Match with stews such as beef and root vegetables or chicken, tomato and rosemary.

Recommended Wine

All three are very lovely wines and improve with a bit of air Рhowever, my personal favourite here is the classy, elegant and complete C̫tes du Rh̫ne from St Cosme.

Links

Cambridge Wine Merchants – http://www.cambridgewine.co.uk/

Joseph Barnes Wines – http://www.josephbarneswines.com/

Noel Young Wines – http://www.nywines.co.uk/

This article also appears on my blog.

© Tom Lewis 2012

Wine of the Month – July (and a Pie on the Side)

Now that Wine of the Month is into its second year, I thought it might be interesting to start mixing things up a little by adding a matching food element – and a competition.

Whilst Cambridge may still not be a great dining-out city (due in part to the large numbers of tourists we get who want only recognisably familiar, high-street chain restaurants), there has been something of a food revolution on the last half decade or so with a vast increase in the number of smart eating establishments.

At a more grass-roots level, there is foodie heaven to be found in the various delis, farm shops and the like that have opened up, too.

Amongst these is a relative new-comer, Pavitt’s Pies; founded by Carri Pavitt who gave up a career in events at CIE less than a year ago, the award-winning pies are hand-made from fresh local ingredients.

Carri suggested that I try her Label Anglais Chicken and Mushroom pie, so I asked the merchants to provide something to match.

For details of the chance to win a couple of Carri’s pies, see the bottom of this piece.

Domaine de Menard, Cuvee Marine, 2011 – £8.99, Joseph Barnes Wines

From Gascony in South West France, the name of this wine is a reference to the subsoil which is full of shellfish fossils and gives this wine a minerally, slightly smokey elegance.

Made from a blend of local varieties Ugni blanc and Gros Manseng, it is aromatic on the nose, with zesty grapefruit, orchard fruits and some white flowers.

On the palate it is crisp and fresh, zesty and slightly herbaceous with peach and pear fruit, zippy acidity and a persistent, minerally finish.

Pure and focused, it makes a great summer sipper, aperitif or a match for mozzarella with oil and basil or oily fish such as mackerel.

Gayda Figure Libra Freestyle Blanc, IGP Pays d’Oc 2010 – £13.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants

Gayda is a relatively new winery, established in just 2003 in Languedoc. This Figure Libre (meaning “freestyle”) is a curious mixture of varieties – 43% Grenache Blanc, 20% Maccabeu, 20% Marsanne, 14% Chenin Blanc, 3% Roussanne – and as a result carries merely a humble Pays d’Oc tag.

Each variety is fermented separately in oak before blending and further aging in vat – on the nose there is citrus, orchard fruit, blossom and spice. The palate is full-bodied and complex with more ripe stone fruit, buttery, vanilla-spice oak, fresh acidity, a peachy texture and a savoury, toasty leesiness that persists on the finish.

Quirky and characterful in a typically Languedoc way, this is a great food wine that would match with roast chicken or pork.

La Forge Estate Chardonnay, IGP Pays d’Oc, 2010 – £9.29, Bacchanalia

A decade or so ago, oaky Chardonnay was synonymous with “a glass of white” – then it started becoming too big, sweet and monolithic and the ABC (“Anything But Chardonnay”) backlash against oaked whites began, first with kiwi SB and then Pinot Grigio.

This oak-fermented Chardonnay is grown on limestone and gravel near Carcassone, with grapes are picked at night to retain freshness. Fermentation is in a mixture of new oak and stainless steel with extended aging on the lees. The end result of all this is a balanced, elegant wine, with good depth of flavour, gentle oaking and good acidity.

On the nose there is tropical fruit, blossom and spice, whilst the palate is full and supple, with lovely toasty, sweet, vanilla oak cut through with tropical fruit acidity and a savoury, leesy finish.

This to me is exactly what a warm-climate, nicely-oaked Chardonnay should be – elegant yet crowd-pleasing, it is a lovely, easy-drinking, food-friendly wine in a textbook style.

As with the previous wine, match with pretty much any dish based on white meats – roasted, stews, with cream and pasta. Also with cheese.

Papaioannou ‘Saint George’ Agiorgitiko 2011 – £10.49 Noel Young Wines

This organic Greek red from Noel Young wines is from the Nemea region of the Peleponnese and was spotted by Noel at the International Wine Challenge.

Made from the agiorgitiko grape, whose name translates as St George, it is pale ruby red in the glass with cherry fruit, aromatic green herbs and a touch of spice of the nose.

The palate shows cherry fruit, smokey toasty, slightly herbaceous aromas and vibrant, juicy acidity. Good depth of flavour and a balanced, poised finish.

It feels very well-made with a clean freshness that I associate with organic wines.

It has soft and velvety on the palate with an almost Pinot-esque texture – and, like Pinot, can be served slightly chilled.

Chicken and Mushroom Pie – Pavitt’s Pies, £2.50

Made from free-range Label Anglais chicken thighs and chestnut mushrooms, this is is a rather superb pie indeed. Deeply filled, with a thick sauce of butter, cream and sherry, it is one of the best pies I have ever had. There is absolutely nothing fancy about it – nothing unusual, quirky or overly fussy – just a really well-made and extremely tasty home-made pie from great ingredients.

Recommended wine and pie match

As ever, this is a great collection of wines, but the winner this month is the elegant yet crowd-pleasing Chardonnay from Bacchanalia.

The best-matching wine with the pie is either the Chardonnay or, even better, the Figure Libre.

Pavitt’s Pies are available from Urban Larder, The Larder at Burwash Manor or direct from Pavitt’s Pies via home delivery; full details here.

Competition

To win a couple of Carri’s award-winning chicken and mushroom pies, just answer the following questions:

– If you could ask Carri to make you any pie at all what would it be ?

– Why ?

– Where would you serve it, and with whom ?

To enter the competition, just leave your answer as a comment to this article. Carri will judge all the answers and pick a winner to be announced some time next month. Please make sure you leave some contact details, so we can let you know if you are the lucky winner.

Competition rules are that Carri’s decision is final and she will deliver the pies to the winner in Cambridge, otherwise you’ll need to come to this wonderfully historic university town to collect.

Links

Bacchanalia – http://www.winegod.co.uk/

Cambridge Wine Merchants – http://www.cambridgewine.co.uk/

Joseph Barnes Wines – http://www.josephbarneswines.com/

Noel Young Wines – http://www.nywines.co.uk/

 

Pavitt’s Pies – http://www.pavittspies.co.uk/

Urban Larder – http://urbanlarder.co.uk/

The Larder at Burwash Manor – http://www.burwashlarder.com/

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Let’s Go Punting

A list of the Top 3 Things To Do on a visit to Cambridge would probably include looking round King’s College chapel, seeing The Backs and going punting.

Having lived in Cambridge for over a decade now, I occasionally find myself becoming rather blase about the city’s charms – before a trip to the historic centre reminds me of why it’s such a wonderful place.

With two small children to occupy, school holidays are often a good excuse to explore with them the historic and more picturesque parts of the city, so this Easter, I accepted an invitation from Lets Go Punting to meet one of the company’s founders, Simon, for a chat whilst he chauffeured the three of us up and down the backs.

Passing the usual row of touts on Bridge Street, we followed the boardwalk on Quayside towards Jesus Green and found our host.

Simon has been working independently as a chauffeur for well over a decade now – having tried a day-job for a few years immediately after graduating and finding it not to his liking – and plies a second trade as a tree surgeon for the off season.

Unlike perhaps most punt chauffeurs, Simon is a local, being actually from Cambridge originally, and did not go to the university here; as a result, the bits of talk he gives us as we wind our way up and down the river focus more on Cambridge as a lived-in city, offering a local’s eye view rather than merely a standardised recitation of the splendours of the university; the river as a trading route with the fens, its course and how the water levels have been managed over time.

It is a sunny but chilly day and so, despite it being the start of the season, the river is quiet. The children ask various questions, eat the snacks we have brought with us and have a go at taking photos (which I think they do rather well).

As anyone who has walked by the river on a hot summer’s day will know, there is no shortage of punting touts eager for business, so I ask Simon how Let’s Go Punting plans to tap into the market.

A relatively small start-up, the company’s strategy is to offer something a little different from the usual chauffeured punts for tourists.

Rather, the aim is to go after a more corporate and events-led market with “punting plus”, that is punting plus something else, such as wine-tastings, afternoon teas or hot snacks.

Part of me finds this a little bit gimmicky – combining two experiences does not, in my opinion, make them into a single super-experience, it’s just two experiences put together.

But that’s my pedant’s Old-School approach and the Combined Experience is the very stuff of corporate away-days, significant-birthday parties and the like; wine tasting on a punt is aspirational dynamite and ranks highly for dinner party one-upmanship for the generation that cannot ever merely do one thing at once.

From a business perspective, it’s also a great point of differentiation – there are only a few examples of themed punting events, such as Halloween Punts, so as well as being a talking point, this potentially creating a new category.

The Combined Event also has the potential to be more effective from a marketing perspective as it allows two local companies to market jointly and thus share costs; there is also the potential for the fabled “revenue synergies” or cross-selling; try a wine you like on a punting trip and you are more likely to go back to the merchant to buy more.

And as I wrote in a previous post on branding, events are where it’s at in marketing terms these days with, for example, rock bands making their money from touring rather than album sales.

Back at the quayside, we hop on to dry land, say our thanks and wander down to Jesus Green lock for a quick game of Pooh Sticks, before heading off in search of somewhere that serves mains with chips and ice-cream for lunch.

Links

Lets Go Punting – http://www.letsgopunting.co.uk/

Image credits: King’s College Chapel – http://www.cambridge2000.com/gallery/html/P7117484.html

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Hedonist Wines‏ at Cambridge Food and Wine Society

I first came across Hedonist Wines when owner Anthony Jenkins got in touch after reading an article of mine in the local press in Cambridge.

We exchanged emails and I agreed to review a couple of his wines and was reasonably impressed, so I later arranged for him to give a presentation to the Cambridge Food and Wine Society.

The tasting took place this weekend and in the interim, Anthony has gone from being something of a hobbyist with a “real day-job” to having wine-retailing as his main activity, so clearly something has worked well.

Whilst Hedonist remains a small operation, perhaps what is most interesting about it commercially is that the business model involves buying directly from producers, by-passing the traditional importer-distributor networks; of itself, that is not especially innovative, but it does seem to be part of a growing trend of new, small-ish wine concerns working directly with producers from Europe.

Clearly, the rise of budget airlines, improved, lower-cost communications technology and a more developed logistics industry have a role to play in this, but Hedonist’s price range, mostly priced at a little over £10, says something about wine-drinking habits in the UK.

The wines themselves are sourced from individual producers, mainly in the better-value parts of classic European regions, and the limited list is essentially a reflection of Anthony’s palate and preferences; he describes his typical wine as the sort of wine you enjoyed on holiday from a small, local producer.

All the wines are exclusive to Hedonist and we started with a Cr̩mant de Bourgogne from Domaine Joussier; made from 100% Chardonnay from the C̫te Chalonnaise Рgeographically in the middle of Burgundy Рit had a crisp nose with yeasty brioche aromas.

The palate shows ripe apple and pear fruit with a fine mousse – it feels elegant and well-made if light and not overly complex. It would make a good aperitif or celebration wine and at £11 is reasonable value for a classic French wine with bubbles in.

Next was a 2009 Côte Chalonnaise “En Reviller” from the same producer which had spent three months in oak – with ripe orchard fruits on the nose, it felt rounded and creamy on the palate with fresh apple and pear fruit and a minerally finish with just a touch of oaky buzz.

This was followed by something more unusual – a white Rioja Caecus Verderón 2010 made from 100% Viura with 3 months in oak. Pale straw coloured in the glass, it had a similar profile to the previous wine with ripe pear fruit and a toasty creaminess on the palate, but felt bigger and fuller.

The first red was a Burgundy, a 2008 Mercurey from Joussier – I was a little bit blind-sided by this wine; it is quite dark in the glass for a Pinot and shows aromas of ripe berry fruit, but with none of the typical Burgundian mushroomy, truffley undergrowth I had hoped for.

With good, primary fruit and a depth of flavour it was perhaps more typical of a good Beaujolais than a Pinot – very balanced and enjoyable as a wine, but just not at all what I had expected.

The 2008 Rioja Crianza from Caecus was surprisingly oaky but had a soft, smooth texture with cherry fruit, spice and liquorice on the nose and a grippy finish.

The 2006 Reserva, also from Caecus, had a degree more alcohol and more intense aromas on the nose as a result, as well as more complexity – dark purple in the glass, it shows berry fruit, liquorice and spice and feels riper and more perfumed. On the finish, it feels to have a better balance of fruit and grip.

The two final reds were both from Panizzi, based in Tuscany – the first, a 100% Sangiovese Chianti Riserva 2008, was purple in the glass with a hint of aged brick red; the nose is ripe with dark berry fruit, whilst the palate shows plummy fruit with a distinct smokiness.

An easy-drinker, it feels soft, rounded and mellow.

The Folgore 2003 “Super Tuscan” was a noticeable step-up; with small amounts of Cab and Merlot in the blend, it is labelled as a humble rosso, but was the most complex wine of the night, albeit the priciest at £16.

Intended to be aged for up to 20 years, the 2003 has only just been released. Inkily dark in the glass with an aged brick red rim, the nose shows forest fruit aromas. On the palate it feels mellow, muscular and complex, with good juicy acidity and grip.

Recommended Wines

For me, all the wines were well-made and, as a minimum, pleasant and drinkable even if few were really impressive.

There was no clear consensus either on our table or at the event generally on which ones were most popular – which is perhaps a good sign – but there were plenty of orders made at the end of the event.

And whilst I would happily drink any or all of these wines again, for me, the best was the Panizzi Folgore 2003.

Links

Cambridge Food and Wine Society – http://www.cambridgefoodandwinesociety.org.uk/

Hedonist Wines – http://www.hedonistwines.com/

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

A Sunday Morning in Saffron Walden

Last weekend, I took #2 child on a Boys’ Trip out down to the genteel market town of Saffron Walden, which lies just 15 miles or a half-hour’s drive south of Cambridge.

One of the unfortunate things about Cambridge is that, although very beautiful indeed, it is a rather tiny city, surrounded by rather dull countryside – something I particularly notice having spent my teenage years between the hills of the Peak District and the vibrant, buzzy and cultural hotspot that is central Manchester – so it is easy to become complacent at times about the city’s charms.

Most of the surrounding villages and towns near Cambridge are pleasant enough, perhaps even rather nice, but somehow not quite worth the trip out, but there are a small number of exceptions to this (places such as Ely and Bury as well as Saffron Walden) if you are looking for an easy visit somewhere different.

Saffron Walden is actually even smaller than Cambridge so that, whilst a weekend will suffice to see all of Cambridge’s best sights, a morning spent wandering around Saffron Walden’s market square and surrounding lanes is more than enough.

Like Cambridge, the town has plenty of neat and well-appointed historic buildings to admire, with timbered Tudor houses, old coaching inns and elegant Georgian townhouses. It is also relatively hilly – compared to Cambridge, at least.

More notable sights include the parish church dating from 1250 (but mostly built in the late 1400s / early 1500s) and the castle ruins dating from the 1100s.

However, for me, it is the elegance of the market square and surrounding streets that provide Saffron Walden’s charm and a quiet Sunday morning is a good time to appreciate the local architecture (there are 27 Grade II* listed buildings to admire) as the town proved to be almost deserted.

Sadly for us, the town’s coffee shops all seemed to be closed as well and we ended up queueing in a clean and pleasant but uninspiring Costa Coffee chain-outlet for rocky road muffin and juice (Young Man) and a latte and a Bakewell slice (me).

It also made a pleasant change from Cambridge that most of the clientele that day seemed to be locals rather than tourists or visitors which made for a more friendly atmosphere.

For wine enthusiasts, Saffron Walden is also home to Adnams and Joseph Barnes (see my review here).

Links

Saffron Walden Tourist Information – http://www.visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk/

Downloadable Tourist Trail Map – http://www.visitsaffronwalden.gov.uk/pdf/Saffron-Walden-Town-Trail.pdf

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Wine Of The Month – March

For me, early March, when the days become perceptibly longer and the weather perceptibly milder, is a time of hope and optimism, a prelude to the opportunities of a new year after the cold seclusion of winter.

Longer days and warmer temperatures mean a scarf and gloves are not always required when stepping outside, which in itself becomes more appealing and leads to a greater chance of bumping into a friend or acquaintance somewhere.

It is a time to start making plans for the rest of the year – summer holidays, Easter breaks and, for those of us with small children, half-term get-aways.

Despite all the plans and optimism, though, it can still be a chilly old time and so this month’s wines are all warming, spicy reds.

Domaine de Fondreche, Cotes du Ventoux Rouge, ‘Mas de Fondreche’ 2009 – £8.99 Joseph Barnes Wines

This 2009 Ventoux from Joseph Barnes is from village of Mazan in the Ventoux region of the eastern C̫tes du Rh̫ne and made from an unoaked blend of Grenache and Syrah. Whilst very palatable on first opening, really benefits from a decent amount of aeration РI tried it over three days and it was still improving even as we were finishing it off.

On the nose, there are aromas of plum, black cherry  and elderberry, with hints of spice, liquorice and undergrowth developing over time.

On the palate, there is more dark fruit, cool mintiness and, increasingly with air, a wonderfully soft and texture and a rounded acidity.

With a grippiness on the palate, it feels very well-made and pure, if not especially complex, with a persistent finish.

Match with dark plain-roast meat, such as lamb or beef.

Orcia DOC Malintoppo 2006 Simonelli-Santi – £13.99 Cambridge Wine Merchants

This Sangiovese from the Orcia DOC in Tuscany is an altogether classier proposition, if priced accordingly.

At six years of age, it is brick red in the glass with cherry fruit and complex spice, cigar box, liquorice and undergrowth on the nose.

The palate shows a lively if slightly stewed cherry fruit acidity (that’s 14.5% alcohol for you), a soft but firm texture and an incredible depth of complex flavour.

It has the mellow harmoniousness of its age and a long finish with peppery grip.

This really is a class act and although the price is well into “special occasion” territory, it is worth every penny given the quality and age.

Whilst drinking well now, it still improves with air after decanting and I’d be seriously tempted to buy a case of this to see how it continues to evolve.

Match with slow-roast beef or darker game such as duck, pheasant or venison.

Opawa Pinot Noir 2010, New Zealand – £10.49, Noel Young Wines

Although best known for Sauvignon Blanc, with its cool climate New Zealand is becoming Pinot’s second spiritual home after Burgundy.

NZ wines are typically technically well-made with good, pure fruit and this wine is no exception.

Pale ruby in the glass, on first opening, this wine shows ripe, red cherry fruit, with more-typical Pinot aromas of woody mushrooms developing with air.

On the palate, the fruit is ripe and pure with a soft, sensual texture, a good depth of savoury flavour and a balanced, lingering finish.

Whilst it may lack some typically Burgundian vegetal, farmardy aromas and food-friendly sour-cherry acidity, this is a lovely wine and provides a good mid-level introduction to what this grape can do in NZ.

Although Pinot is one of the few wines I never decant, as its ephemeral aromas rarely benefit from significant aeration, this wine is still showing well, if not even a little better the following day and I recommended it via Twitter to fellow blogger and Pinot / self-doubter Charles Saunders as an example of what Pinot Noir can be.

Match with game such as duck and pheasant or a Burgundian stew.

Pascual Toso Malbec 2009, Mendoza Argentina – £8.99, Bacchanalia

If Pinot is a dreamy, sensual hedonist, Malbec is a Blue-Collar hero – a macho, peppery, steak-eating, cattle-wrangling gaucho in open check shirt and leather chaps.

Dark in the glass, this Pascual Toso Malbec shows lots of ripe up-front bramble and blackberry fruit with liquorice and vanilla spice on the nose.

The palate is full and ripe with more sweet cassis fruit and spicy, leathery earthiness. There’s plenty of aromas on the finish too and, if it’s a little rustic, it is at least polite enough to wipe its feet on the doormat before enquiring if it left its boots under your bed, ma’am.

A spicy, warm-hearted Big Red with bags of crowd-pleasing, easy-drinking appeal, match it with a juicy steak.

Recommended Wine

This is a really good set of wines and all are worthy of investigation – however, this month’s winner is the Malintoppo from Cambridge Wine Merchants for its depth of flavour, mellowness and value for money as a really well-made, aged Tuscan wine drinking nicely right now for just over £10 with case discounts.

Links

Mas de Fondreche reviewed by Tom Cavanan – http://www.wine-pages.com/temp/osud.htm

Malintoppo reviewed by Vinoremus – http://vinoremus.blogspot.com/2011/07/general-tasting.html

Main image credit – http://www.galenfrysinger.com/cambridge.htm

Copyright Tom Lewis 2012

Wine Buying in Cambridgeshire

City Connect’s wine critic – Tom Lewis, the Cambridge Wine Blogger – shares his thoughts and recommendations on wine buying in Cambridge and the surrounding area.

For the enthusiastic wine aficionado, the most enjoyable way to buy wine can be to get in the car and go to one or more of France’s wine regions and buy direct from the producer. However, the reality for many people seems to be the local supermarket and, faced with rows of wines to choose from, the easiest option is often to pick what’s on special offer.

Is there a middle way? Some way of picking out more interesting and enjoyable wines without having to travel too far? Search the internet and you will find specialists such as Laithwaite’s (who also supply the wines for the Sunday Times Wine Club), who provide lots of glossy photos of beautiful hillside vineyards which can feel almost as good as being there yourself.

However, for those who prefer the personal touch and want to support local businesses, Cambridge and the surrounding areas have many independent wine merchants, educators and even its own Master of Wine and vineyard owners.

Stand opposite Kings College or take a look down the river on Bridge Street and you will be next to a branch of Cambridge Wine Merchants – founded 17 years ago by Cambridge graduate Hal Wilson with business partner Brett Turner, together they now run 4 shops in Cambridge itself, with several franchises beyond the city, and have recently won Independent Drinks Retailer of the year. If that is not enough, they also supply a number of the University’s May Balls, offer professionally-recognised wine courses and have opened a tapas bar in their Cherry Hinton Road branch.

With branches on either side of the river, Bacchanalia was set up in 1997 by Paul Bowles with the philosophy of sourcing the very best drinks the staff could find and selling them at a fair price. Regularly voted amongst the top ten shops in Cambridge, it’s clear that this approach has proved very popular indeed.

South of the city in Trumpington, Noel Young Wines has been in business since 1991 and won many awards over the years and also has a vineyard in Australia.

Outside of Cambridge, Hector Scicluna of HS Fine Wines in Impington, specialises in importing fine Italian wines from small estates, whilst Steve Vincent from Histon runs the Cambridge Food and Wine Society. Slightly further afield, The Old Bridge in Huntingdon is run by Master of Wine John Hoskins, whilst Neil Courtier of GrapeSense in Bury runs a wine education business. Finally, let us not forget that Cambridge has its own vineyard at Chilford Hall in Linton.

All of these offer wine-tastings of one sort or another which is a good way to get introduced to wines of different types and see what you like; the Cambridge Food and Wine Society, a not-for-profit organisation, uses a mixture of outside experts (both specialist educators and vineyard owners) and committee members (who are all experts in different areas from Spain and Austria to the International Wine Challenge) to present its monthly events.

Tickets for a wine tasting usually cost around the same price as two good bottles of wine and for that you should get to sample around 8 wines, pose questions and discuss opinions, possibly with some accompanying food.

Families and Friends Dinner at Fitzbillies

Last week, I took the family to a revived Cambridge establishment, Fitzbillies, for dinner.

We had been invited by Old Persean Alison Wright, half of the husband-and-wife team who, on reading of the demise of the the famous source of Chelsea buns via a Stephen Fry tweet, decided to give up their metropolitan careers in journalism and marketing services respectively and re-launch a Cambridge legend, but on a more businesslike footing with a restaurant as well as the cake shop.

The deal from Alison and husband Tim Hayward was this: pay only for the drinks, food is on the house, as long as we give feedback and tip the waiting staff appropriately.

 

We had planned to get there at a child-friendly time of before 7pm, but a combination of various train problems on my commute back from London meant that it was closer to 8pm before we eventually arrived, feeling somewhat flustered and hungry.

However, the welcome from Alison was warm and friendly, immediately putting us at ease as we were shown to a table at the far end of the restaurant near the kitchen and brought menus.

Starting with drinks, the children ordered lemonade in raspberry and straight versions and tucked into some delicious slices of hearty home-made bread with generous portions of butter.

There is no children’s menu and all the dishes have a least one ingredient that might prove unfamiliar or challenging to younger palates; however, #2 child announced he would have the duck to start with, whilst number #1, who was a little cold, opted for a bowl of ham broth, with Mrs CWB also opting for the duck leaving me to try the smoked salmon, but in the end we all tried a bit of everything.

The duck plate came with both smoked and cured duck breast as well as some cooked duck meat – in what was perhaps to set the tone for the evening a little, the duck breast was extremely tasty and very generous; slicing to a third or a quarter of the thickness would have resulted in no less flavour and a touch more elegance. The accompanying picked prunes were also delicious (even if the children turned their noses up) but the thyme croute (a piece of fried bread) didn’t really add anything.

#2 child’s clear ham broth with sherry, chopped egg and mint and ham popovers was a more elegant affair, full of flavour and with the touch of mint adding a delicious and unusual touch.

My smoked salmon came with slices of sweet beetroot, a creamy horseradish and crispy potato plaques – slices of potato toasted in the oven. The salmon / beetroot / creamy horseradish combination all worked very well, but the potato plaques felt a bit “texture by numbers” whilst the horseradish was on the generous side of potent.

We had ordered wines by the glass from a small-ish but perfectly formed and well-thought out list – with around 10 reds and 10 whites and two fizzes, of which three reds, three whites and one fizz are served by the glass.

I fear Pinot Grigio could become to this generation what German Riesling and sherry turned into for my parents’ – a once-popular classic wine that then falls out of favour due to over-popularity and too many poor-quality examples. However, my Italian Pinot Grigio from Bacaro was lovely – well-made, with good rounded acidity and mouthfeel and a restrained versatility – and matched well with the salmon.

Mrs CWB chose a Grand Bateau Rouge Bordeaux which proved to be an equally good match with her duck plate – with low tannins, aromas of bramble fruit and hints of savouriness and soy, it was clearly Merlot-dominated and had a similarly smooth and mouthfilling texture as my wine.

For mains, both child #1 and Mrs CWB had opted for a game-based steam pudding, whilst #2 child had lamb and I opted for braised guinea fowl.

The steamed pudding was perfectly cooked and delicious and came with the autumnal wonderfulness of a braised red cabbage and chestnut accompaniment.

Young Man’s lamb chump was served as several delicious medium rare strips with a pink centre, a Jansson’s temptation (similar to a potato gratin, - very nice) and lamb’s lettuce – aside from the obvious play on words, the lamb’s lettuce worked well as a lighter foil to the hearty meat and potato dish, but the addition of a sharp, wine-unfriendly vinagrette dressing was perhaps a step too far.

My guineafowl was also perfectly cooked and came with a slightly unusual celeriac mash and a sweet, slow-roasted chicory. The earlier Pinot Grigio would have matched well with this, but I was keen to try something else off the wine list, so I opted for a Mahi Sauvignon Blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand with the waiter helpfully offering me a sample to see how it would go.

Unlike so many Marlborough Sauvignons, this was was not overly tropical, lush and fruit-driven, but balanced and elegant with a rounded, mouthfilling acidity that is very food-friendly.

By this point, we had little room left for desserts (which did not include the famous Chelsea buns, pictured above), so decided to share two between the four of us – the pink grapefruit and pomegranate jelly had a pleasing, refreshing bitterness that worked very well and reminded me a little of the Italian tradition of ending a generous meal with a reviving lemon sorbet with Prosecco; it also came with dollop of clotted cream and a shortbread biscuit which proved more popular with #1 child.

#2 child and I shared a chocolate and clementine cake with creme fraiche which was just about perfect – beautifully cooked and very well-made (and also very popular with #1 child).

xxx—xxx

 A few days after the dinner, I emailed Alison with our outline feedback and thoughts:

– welcome and service; very good indeed

– food; very good and tasty, good-quality ingredients, well-cooked, portions very generous, mains a bit more pubby than fine-dining (in contrast to the cakes which are very special and elegant)

– decor / atmosphere; overall very good, but a bit chilly and spartan where we were sat at the back

– wines; good, well-made versatile food wines, wine list easy to read and not too long

Ideas / things to consider:

– introduce a set menu

– introduce a children’s menu

– include aperitifs / dessert wines

Fitzbillies is now open for restaurant bookings on Friday and Saturday evenings; the full price of a three-course meal is around £30 per head; table wines cost from £16 – £35 per bottle, or around £4 – £7 by the glass.

We paid £30 for our drinks plus a £10 tip for the excellent service.

Fitzbillies

Fitzbillies, 52 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RG; 01223 352 500

Links

Fitzbillies – http://www.fitzbillies.com/

Tim’s article – http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/11/fitzbillies-tim-hayward-cambridge

Main image credit: http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2011/nov/11/fitzbillies-tim-hayward-cambridge

Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

Moscow State Circus on Midsummer Common

The Moscow State Circus performance is an adaptation of the Russian novel, ‘Twelve Chairs’, first published in 1928 and written by IIf and Petrov. This satirical novel tells the tale of a family caught in a new soviet regime, which stripped the ruling classes of property and possessions. Like many who remained in Russia, they had to do what ever they could to protect what they owned. The main character, a desk clerk and former member of nobility, is told by his mother- in- law on her deathbed, that the family’s jewelry has been hidden in one of the twelve chairs from the dining room set. He then goes on a quest to find the chair containing the lost treasure, only to discover that the chairs have been split up and sold individually.

Circus Acrobats

When you think of the circus you may not necessarily think of a classic Russian novel, unfortunately in this case it was completely lost on the audience. The amount of confused looking young children was easy to spot in the half empty stalls, playing with aluminous swords and other distracting souvenirs.

It seemed the tale of the twelve chairs was an afterthought, an easy way to try and amuse the audience in between setting up the main acts, using clowns as the main characters from the novel. This was a little disappointing, until a few mystified members of the audience were summoned from the front row into the main ring, the look on their faces whilst trying to play ridiculous home made musical instruments had everyone laughing. This embarrassment was especially noticeable for one poor woman as she bounced her bottom up and down on a squeaking horn.

Audience Participation

Nevertheless after a confusing start, and putting the loosely followed story line aside, the main acts were truly amazing, displaying strength, agility and coordination that would have impressed the Russian Olympic gymnast team.

This two hour energetic evening included, a trio juggling clubs to pin point accuracy, whilst spinning around the ring at speed on a very cleverly built platform. The concentration the three wore on their faces was very noticeable, not only did they have to throw their clubs at a precise speed and distance, but also to an empty space where their partner will arrive a few seconds later. Also a young girl performing the splits from the heads of two male tight ropewalkers, over nine meters from the ground. An arial hula-hoop act that was also suspended high above the circus ring, and many more bewildering gymnastics.

Tightrope Performers

The show seemed to get better and better as the night went on, exploding into the final act, where eight jesters showed off their acrobatic skill, flipping and somersaulting over each other. The costumes were bright and inventive, adding to the creativity of the performance.

It wasn’t only the acts that were impressive, but also the way the show was put together. A large applause must go out to the staff behind the scenes. When the Moscow State Circus turns up on Midsummer Common its like watching a small village arrive. The hard work that goes into putting the shows together is undeniable. The last show ended at 7.00pm on Sunday 9th October, by Monday lunchtime it was as if the circus had never been there.

Fitzbillies, Punting and a Perfect Day Out In Cambridge

Cambridge is not a big city – in fact it’s more of a market town with a big university. 

Actually, it’s probably more correct to say that it’s a market town attached to a university, since the “gowns” own most of the “town” and have much of the best of the city as their college grounds either side of the Cam. This central section of river with college courtyards, dons’ gardens, open spaces and grazing cattle is collectively known as the backs and is perhaps the best part of a city that you can easily walk round in under a day.

In volume terms, there are not all that many sights in Cambridge and not a huge variety – it’s just that those we do have are absolutely world class.

It’s easy to get complacent about living in Cambridge and treat the various colleges (31 if you’re counting) as just so many museum pieces along with the odd church, chapel and a castle that is little more than a mound of earth but gives spectacular views over the city skyline.

So occasionally, when the sun shines, as it has finally done recently, it’s nice to remind oneself that we are living in a unique and very beautiful place. 

And so it was that at the weekend we packed a picnic and took the short walk into town to Scudamore’s to take a punt up and down the river along the backs – which is pretty much the only way to see them properly as all the colleges criss-cross the river and it is impossible actually to walk along this stretch of the river. 

I was first taken punting over two decades ago when visiting a friend studying for a Masters here – I had a go and made a complete hash of it and it was only years later that I learnt the golden rule of punting – use the pole to steer the boat. 

The second thing to know is that the front of the punt turns in the opposite direction to the pole and once you know this, it is a relatively easy and relaxing way to get about – albeit not a quick one as speeds of around 1 mile per hour are pretty normal, if not quite good.

It’s certainly a lot more idyllic than the challenge of racing yachts which I did for the first time recently.

Our trip up and down the backs done in just under an hour, we found a spot by the river to watch other people exerting themselves on the longer run to Grantchester and had a picnic lunch. At this point, I wish I could drop in a review of a perfect picnic wine, but the reality is that with two small children to entertain, there was no scope for a bottle of something pink and fizzy followed by a snooze. However, anyone looking for a picnic wine review can find a couple, here and here.

Instead, we took the couple of minutes’ walk to the city’s largest play park at Lammas Land where swings were pushed, roundabouts whirled and general encouragement given.

Instead of the usual ice-creams afterwards, we decided to head to the newly re-opened Fitzbillies to check it out.

I first became aware of Fitzbillies and their famous Chelsea buns many years ago when travelling on business to eastern Europe and I mentioned my home town to an expat there.

“Cambridge,” she said. “Have you tried Fitzbillies’ Chelsea buns ?”. At this point I confessed that although I knew of the shop, I had not tried their buns and vowed to go there as soon as I got back to the UK. 

Heavy, sticky and syrupy, Fitzbillies’ Chelsea buns were legendary and rather delicious in a very rich and satisfying sort of way.

Sadly, somehow or other, the company went out of business a year or so ago, but was bought and recently re-opened by Old Persean Alison Wright.

I know some of this because my daughter is in the same class at school as Alison’s and when we walked in, she said “Look Daddy, there’s her Mum”.

We made our introductions and I explained about my blog and the various other local publications I write for and suggested that perhaps we might do a story on the renaissance of a legend.

Alison agreed and explained that the focus now is much more on the lunchtime food with the cake shop as an add-odd rather than it being primarily a cake shop.

And as our daughters were in the same classes, she very kindly suggested that the children should take a cake each of their own choosing with something for at adults as well.

Number one child picked a cupcake with pink icing and an iced flower on top whilst number two child decided he would like a cream meringue and I selected some mini Florentines.

At home, we sat out in the back garden with coffees and juices and divided up the cakes between ourselves.

All proved to be wonderful – fresh and beautifully cooked from good-quality ingredients.

The cup cake was light and delicious, with the icing not too sweet, the meringue was crisp with rich, thick whipped cream whilst the Florentines were an indulgently chewy, sticky and chocolatey.

One of the things I like about central Cambridge, other than the wonderful architecture, is that we do not have rows and rows of soulless high-street chain shops.

Yes, all the usual suspects are here but the city has preserved its mediaeval street layout and small buildings so that shop sizes are generally small with a decreasing but still large number of independents.

So it is good to have Fitzbillies back as a Cambridge institution – and it’s good to be able to report that the cakes are at least as good as they ever were.

I’d also like to think that it says something about the quality of the schools in the area that it was an Old Persean who not only saw the opportunity and had the vision and tenacity to resurrect, Phoenix-like, a local independent, but also made sure that it was done properly with high standards.

I have previously noted that we are very lucky in Cambridge to have three excellent independent wine merchants. 

The same is true of Fitzbillies and the city would have been all the poorer without it, had it not been brought back to life.

Links

Fitzbillies – no new website yet.
52 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, CB2 1RG, UK
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 352500
Opening Days: Mon – Sat (12:00 – 14:30 18:00 – 21:30), Sun (12:00 – 15:00 18:00 – 21:30)

 Scudamore’s Punts – http://www.scudamores.com/

 Main image credit – http://www.varsity.co.uk/news/3698
Chelsea Bun image – http://magpiefiles.blogspot.com/2008/02/fitzbillies-chelsea-buns.html

 Copyright Tom Lewis 2011

Real Dracula at Cambridge’s ADC Theatre

“There, in one of the great boxes, of which there were fifty in all, on a pile of newly dug earth, lay the Count! He was either dead or asleep, I could not say which – for the eyes were open and stony, but without the glassiness of death – and the cheeks had the warmth of life through all their pallor, and the lips were as red as ever.”

This extract, from Jonathon Harkers journal in Bram Stoker’s novel Dracula, conjures up the most iconic image of this sinister character. Without a doubt he is one of the most famous of all the legendary horror figures.

The book was first published in 1897, and is a story told through journals and fragments of letters, that recounts the struggle of a group of men and woman (Dr Seward, Dr Van Helsing, Jonathon Harker and his wife Mina), to destroy a vampire who’s earth filled coffins are found in a ruined chapel next to a mental asylum. For today’s standards this may not sound that bad, in 1897 this would have been a pretty terrifying read, not to mention some of the underlying themes that would have appalled certain prudish Victorians, such as female sexual repression and incest.

Bram Stoker brought his character to life after reading about a Prince of Romania, the ruthless warlord better known as Vlad Dracula or Vlad the Impaler.

This barbaric leader, who reigned in the 1400’s, and favorite method of torture was impaling his enemies, completely inspired Stoker to create this monster. The life of Vlad the Impaler was far more bloodcurdling than the fictional creation. Now a days Dracula and Vampires have been turned into a brand, being used in popular culture time and time again, comic strips, cartoons, computer games, over 170 films and more recently inspiring the Twilight saga, the list is endless.

In 2004 just south of Transylvania, Romanian police were called to a graveyard to investigate a violation to one of the graves. Later six people were arrested; it was believed that a family, who thought their Uncle had returned from the dead as a vampire, was visiting his niece when she was asleep and feeding on her heart. They had broken into the graveyard, dug up the corpse, cut out his heart and burnt it on the stroke of midnight. Police then discovered about twenty other similar rituals had taken place over the last few years. This is the power of literature crossed with folklore and history.

It was this true story that inspired this Pleasant Danger Productions creation ‘Real Dracula’, directed by Paul Holloway and written/produced by David Geasor. It was showing at the ADC theatre in Cambridge from 20th – 24th September, also on 30th September and 1st October.

Real Dracula is a story of love and survival set in a remote Romania village. The two main characters, an Englishman Jonathon, and Ileana (played by Andrew McKeane and Mia Keadell) are a young couple that met whilst teaching at a school in the city of Bucharest. Together they travel back to Ileana’s family home to attend her Uncle’s funeral. After the funeral, strange things start to happen and Ileana falls mysteriously ill. Both these actors give a performance to remember as their characters love develops on stage. Andrew McKeane’s small slip up of one of his lines, in a crucial point in the performance strangely made the scene more realistic and added to Jonathon’s terror. As Ileana becomes frailer and dreams more frequent, you found it hard not to be on the edge of your seat, as Jonathon is desperately trying to come to terms with the problems they are facing.

The first scene is set with Ileana’s beloved Uncle lying in an open coffin in the sitting room. Here we are introduced to her frail and emotional Auntie Magda (played by Priscilla Gray), you could not help but feel sorry for the widow, as Priscilla convincingly takes her character on a roll a coaster of melancholy and despair as she grieves her loss, and a strange family friend Dragana (played by Andrea Miller). Who’s mysterious air in which she presents the character on stage was exceptional; it was obvious she added her own personality to Dragana, and on a number of occasions she pleased the audience with a very dry sense of humor.

Alexandru is Ileana’s jealous childhood friend and want to be lover (played by Oliver Tilney, who has had nightmares of vampires since the audition) keeps reminding the audience of his macho status, he’s a very crafty character and has a huge presents on stage.

The faceless Uncle who appears in Ileana’s dreams was the star of the show, thanks to the technical director Mathew Maude, who mixes up a combination of well-timed atmospheric music and sound effects, with a drab and dark set design. This seemed to seize a perfect ambience for a chilling tale.

It is very difficult to portray horror convincingly on stage; Pleasant Danger Productions seem to do it effortlessly. Pity and terror are aroused continuously throughout the play and there is always a sense of something horrible about to happen. I await the next Pleasant Danger Production with baited breath.

Festival of Ideas

The Festival of Ideas, the UK’s only arts, humanities and social sciences festival, occurs throughout Cambridge during 19-30th October. There are more than 160 free events for all ages, which last year attracted over 9,000 visitors.

World-class speakers, celebrity writers and leading academics will be on hand to engage, explain and examine today’s burning issues – and looking at what lessons we can learn from the past.

As the population imminently approaches the seven billion mark, we ask leading academics to debate whether the Earth can sustain this many people.

Meanwhile, whistleblowers, computer security researchers and policymakers will discuss whether the Internet should be censored in light of the Wikileaks revelations;  and experts will debate the consequences of the uprisings, protests and civil wars in the Arab world.

Organiser Sophie Smith said: “The purpose of the festival is to examine the biggest questions facing us today and not shy away from contentious issues. That is why we’re holding debates on everything from the right to have reproductive freedom in light of an ever-increasing world population, to Mau Mau torture claims, to the Arab Spring.”

The main day of the festival, on Saturday, October 22, is bursting with free events for the whole family to enjoy. There will be talks by world-famous children’s authors Marcus Sedgwick and zombie-loving Charlie Higson; debates by pioneering academics and dozens of hands-on activities for adults as well as children.

Popcorn comedy for kids sees Holly Walsh and CBBC’s Ed Petrie present some of the funniest videos online mixed with stand-up comedy for all the family.

Also on October 22, Dr Michael Scott will explore Delphi and Olympia; and the fate of the English language will be questioned by Dr Andrew Dalby and Dr Stephen Pax. Leonard, just returned from a year spent recording the language of the Inughuit people of north-west Greenland, the northernmost settled population in the world.

Further details for all of the events can be found on the Cambridge Festival of Ideas website (www.cam.ac.uk/festivalofideas). You can also find us on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/cambridgefestivalofideas) and Twitter (http://twitter.com/#!/camideasfest).

The d’Arry’s Cambridge Case

Cambridge cook house and wine shop d’Arry’s is set to launch a “d’Arry’s Cambridge case” of d’Arenberg wines. The gastropub which first set up in Cambridge in 2006 is to start selling a mixed case of some of its most popular d’Arenberg wines via its website, priced at £60 – a discount of 50% on the restaurant price.

Manager of d’Arry’s Cambridge, James Storey said “The idea behind the d’Arry’s Cambridge case is two-fold – to introduce those who have not yet tried d’Arenberg to the wines and also to enable our existing d’Arry’s customers to buy our range of d’Arenberg wines to drink at home.”
 
The mixed case features six of the most popular d’Arenberg wines, but is also available in all-red or all-white versions. The wines are:

White Wines
The Hermit Crab Viognier Marsanne
The Stump Jump White Blend
The Stump Jump Lightly Wooded Chardonnay

Red Wines
The High Trellis Cabernet Sauvignon
The Stump Jump Red Blend
d’Arry’s Original Shiraz Grenache

D’Arenberg, established in Australia’s McLaren Vale in 1912, has become famous for being strikingly individual, turning individuality into an art form; their wines are made with minimal irrigation, gentle basket presses and foot pressing for the reds.
 
The d’Arenberg philosophy is to be deadly serious about their wines right up to the moment they go into the bottle – but that everything afterwards should be about enjoyment.

Wine critic Robert Parker says of d’Arenberg: “This admirable portfolio, made by the multi-talented Chester Osborn includes brilliant quality at the top, very fine wines in the mid-range, and terrific values at the bottom.” Robert Parker Junior. The Wine Advocate, Oct 2004

To promote the launch of the d’Arry’s Cambridge case, d’Arry’s will be holding a series of informal tasting events in the restaurant’s private dining area on Monday nights during October and November. Tickets for the tastings are priced at £12:50 each with the cost refunded for anyone who buys a case on the evening and are available from d’Arry’s.
 
“The idea of the tastings is to stay true to the spirit of d’Arenberg”, says James. “We want people to come along for a fun evening, trying out some great wines which are all about enjoyment.”
 
Cambridge Wine Blogger and member of the Circle of Wine Writers, Tom Lewis, who will be presenting the tasting evenings, said “These d’Arenberg wines are just what the New World should be about at this level – lots of up-front fruit and delicious flavours that go really well with the kind of sophisticated but unpretentious food that d’Arry’s offers.”
 
The tasting events start on Monday October 10th; visit the d’Arry’s website or call 01223 505015 to book.

20th September – New Members Night – London

City Connect supports London events from numerous organisations. We are proud to promote these London events to our City Connect readers making them accessible to all. If you are interested in this London event, either leave a comment below or go to the CitySocialising website. If you have any suggestions for other London events for us to promote, contact us directly.

City Connect highlights the following CitySocialising London event:-

Event Name: New Members Drinks & Soialising

Date: Tuesday 20th September

For more information and to RSVP online visit CitySocialising and sign up for free.

All new members are entitled to attend one free Social when signing up to the CitySocialising site.

Event Description:

It’s all about taking the plunge this week at our New Members Social. You’ve got to start somewhere on CitySocialising, and the best place is right here!

And this week our New Member’s night is at Pause on Leadenhall Street. Just across the road from the iconic Lloyd’s building and perfectly located for some CitySocialising whether you’re looking for good wine, classic cocktails or simply good quality draft beer.

Two of our CitySocialising Hosts will be on hand during the evening to welcome you when you arrive, settle you in to the night and answer any questions you might have about the site and service but really it’s just a great opportunity to go for it and start getting social with us.

The evening will most certainly help to assure you that the people we attract are as laid-back, chatty, friendly and sociable as we say they are.

The perfect opportunity to kick-start your social life and meet a whole new social circle, we look forward to seeing you there.

If you like this CitySocialising event as promoted by City Connect Events, you are only a few clicks away from being able to attend the event and meet new people. Please click the image below.

Create an acccount

Free to sign up & try the service. Attend your first social, join groups, search for people, send and receive some messages and more.

Find friends with shared interests

Use the site to find people who live or work near you or who share the same interests, send messages and create a friends list.

Attend socials and have fun

Meet people offline too at fun socials organised by others and organise your own!

Image reproduced from City Socialising
Press release: LC

The Willow Tree Bourn Revisited

Earlier this year, I wrote about The Willow Tree, Bourn - a gorgeous gastropub in the picturesque village of Bourn with great food and drink served by friendly staff and led by an awesome couple – head chef Craig and general manager Shaina. A few days ago, on a warm summer’s day, some friends and I decided to head to The Willow Tree, Bourn for a lovely lunch enjoyed while we soaked up the sun on the terrace of this destination gastropub.

On arrival, we were warmly greeted by Shaina and shown to our table outside – a beautiful organic creation shaped from a single piece of wood taken lengthways from a tree. It even still had a nobbly knot coming out of the wood that begged to be touched. I love quirky and vintage furniture and The Willow Tree is an eclectic mix of shabby chic, rococco inspired gilt mirrors, vintage leather sofas, a variety of dining chairs and my favourite piece – a designer wooden white stag’s head displayed proudly inside a gilt frame.

Out on the terrace, the chic touches continue with silver butterflies placed in the topiary, crystals threaded on twigs that dangle from a traditional willow screen and antique clock faces hung randomly along one side of the beautiful willow screen.

The summer menu tastes as good as it looks and the specials on offer are inspired – I particularly liked the Ravioli with Beetroot Pannacotta – an inspired fushia creation that tasted creamy yet still managed to be light and fluffy. Hats off to Craig for coming up with a perfect summer alternative to a cream sauce. Another favourite of mine was the Lime & Vodka Cured Salmon served with Samphire – the combination of sharp citrus, salty salmon and velvety vodka worked brilliantly.

My friends tucked into a generous serving of whitebait as their starter which they followed with The Willow Tree’s famous Bourn Burger which were served with hand cut chips which looked like mini railway sleepers! If you love your chips then these thick tasty chips will definitely satisfy your carb cravings.

As it was a hot summer’s day, the choice for dessert had to be ice cream and sorbet. The Willow Tree have an excellent selection of Mövenpick ice creams and have recently introduced the delectable flavours of Beckleberry’s ice creams and sorbets. These confections are hand made in the North East of England and are truly exceptional. I went for a combination of Raspberry ice cream and Blackcurrant & Kirsch sorbet – all I can say is WOW! The flavours of the Beckleberry offerings stand up admirably to the Mövenpick flavours we have grown to love so much that Craig and Shaina have served to us in the past.

Our waitress, Catherine, was the epitome of customer service excellence. She was attentive without being over-conspicuous and served us in the warm friendly manner we have come to expect from this gem of a gastropub nestled in the Cambridgeshire countryside. I always judge a pub or restaurant not only on the food but also on the attitude of the staff. The Willow Tree gets 10 out of 10 on both counts. Craig is doing an excellent job overseeing what comes out of the kitchen and Shaina has obviously trained her waiting staff very well indeed.

If you would like to experience the incredible hospitality of The Willow Tree, Bourn for yourself then Sunday 14th August is a perfect time to stop by for some tropical chillaxing. Shaina & Craig will be hosting a Caribbean BBQ & Garden Party on 14th August from 2-8pm. On the menu includes the traditional tropical flavours of jerk chicken, curried goat, fiery prawn skewers, rice & peas, corn on the cob, baked plantain, hot & spicy sweet potato and avocado salad.

These will all be washed down with tropical cocktails like Rum Punch and Pina Coladas together with the usual excellent drinks menu served at The Willow Tree, Bourn. In addition, a live steel band will be playing for part of the afternoon and a fantastic local DJ will be spinning some reggae tunes throughout the day to get us all in an island mood.

Places are filling up fast so I highly recommend you book your table by calling 01954 719 775. Alternatively there may be room for you to bring a pinic blanket or rug to lazy away on the grass under the namesake Willow Tree opposite the outdoor terrace. Don’t bring a picnic too though as that’s a bit cheeky and anyway there will be plenty of delicious Caribbean food to savour thanks to Craig’s BBQ.

So, what are you waiting for? Pick up that phone and dial 01954 719 775 and ask to speak to Shaina or one of her team to book your place at the Caribbean Summer Garden Party that anyone who is anyone will be attending!

The Willow Tree
29 High Street, Bourn, Cambridge, CB23 2SQ
Tel: 01954 719775
Like The Willow Tree on Facebook

Images reproduced from thewillowtreebourn.com, reutersmedia.net, tiana-coconut.com and caribbean-pot.com

Cambridge Concert – Music From Renaissance Italy

City Connect supports Cambridge events from numerous organisations. We are proud to promote these Cambridge events to our City Connect readers making them accessible to all. If you are interested in this Cambridge event, either leave a comment below or go to the Cambridge Early Music Concerts website. If you have any suggestions for other Cambridge events for us to promote, contact us directly.

City Connect highlights the following Cambridge event:-

Event Name: Music From Renaissance Italy

Date: Friday 12 August

Time: 7.30pm

Location: Emmanuel United Reformed Church

Tickets: £10 / £8

Event Description:

Performed by students of the Renaissance Music Summer School accompanied by Philip Thorby and friends, this is a fascinating glimpse into the world of Renaissance Italy, with the repertoire stretching from frottole to madrigals, motets to mass settings, and dance music to ricercari and canzonas.

This concert presents some of the music studied by the international participants during the summer school week, performed with viols, lutes, recorders and other Renaissance instruments.

For more information and to purchase tickets, please click here.

About Cambridge Early Music

Cambridge Early Music was established by Selene Mills and William Clocksin in 1992, in response to the need for tuition in early music for amateur players and singers. Since then the summer schools have gone from strength to strength, maintaining a perfect balance of newcomers and ‘old hands’ who try to attend every year. The courses are small, so that everyone can get to know everyone else. The social aspect of the courses is important: tutors and students learn from each other as much in the dining hall as in the music rooms, and it’s definitely a two-way process. Selene and her assistants play a full part in the music as well as in the administration, and there is a high level of attention to the needs of each individual. The summer schools are financially self-supporting, with no outside funding. Cambridge Early Music survives because it is well supported by people who value its courses. Courses are open to everyone aged 18 and above.

Goodbye Pain… Hello Pain Pod!

The Pain Pod is providing a new wave of relief for sufferers across the UK. Just arrived here direct from the USA via Australia, the Hidow Pain Pod is the very latest super technological advance in effective electronic massaging.

This super powerful pod is hand sized – about the size of a small MP3 player – for easy, everyday use.

The Pain Pod uses Transcutaneous Electronic Nerve Stimulation or ‘TENS’ technology to replicate the effects and sensations of massage or acupuncture.  Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation is the electro stimulation of nerves by a device for a variety of therapeutic purposes.

Pain Pod sends up to 120 bio-electrical pulses per second through the skin, stimulating muscle and nerve tissue to create the sensation and effect of massage which can relieve pain and tension while also providing deep relaxation.

As the Pain Pod can be used just as effectively for massage in addition to pain relief, its compact size means that the office, the plane, the car or even a sofa at home can be transformed into your very own massage parlour with no interruption to your day.

There are numerous benefits to users of the Pain Pod, whether you need massage therapy or pain relief. Here are just a few of the ways the Pain Pod can improve your health and wellbeing:-

– Relieves deep tension in muscles providing drug-free relaxation

– Can provide release of endorphin – the “happy hormone”

– Promotes ‘micro-circulation’ in the area of use helping reduce inflammation and accelerating the healing process

– Blocks the pain signal from nerves in areas of pain providing drug-free non-invasive relief

– Provides genuine massage sensations of ‘cupping’, ‘tapping’, ‘scraping’ and ‘pushing’ which saves you time and money instead of paying for expensive treatments from a professional.

– The device is pocket sized so can be used anywhere and any time at your convenience – it’s like having your own massage therapist on hand whenever you need some relaxation

– Gives drug free and side effect free pain and stress relief

– Has 6 modes of therapeutic benefits unlike only a single mode found with many other machines

– Uses a Therapeutic acupuncture feature and acupuncture chart for relief from numerous ailments

– Treats with a unique 6th Random mode that ensures the continued effectiveness of the TENS machine. Older style TENS machines usually have a limited number of modes. After a period of time, when the brain registers a stimulus it can get used to it, therefore becoming less and less effective. The patented 6th mode changes too often for the brain to register the stimulus

– Uses a rechargeable lithium ion battery which lasts for up to 16 hours and should never need to be replaced

– Comes with a two year warranty

– Is FDA approved, CE certified, TGA approved,  also a registered medical device in the UK

Hi-dow Pain Pod costs £129 and is now available online at www.hidow.co.uk and www.amazon.co.uk. However City Connect viewers are lucky enough to get a special discounted price of only £100 when ordering direct from Pain Pod UK Representative George Sugden. To qualify for your discount, please quote “City Connect” when contacting George on 0780 901 6482 or at george@hidow.co.uk

For those of you based in Cambridge, you can also purchase Pain Pod for £129 exclusively from Holistic Harmony at 14 Fair Street, Cambridge, CB1 1HA. If £129 is beyond your budget, then why not make an appointment to see Claire Davis IIHHT Dip – who owns and runs Holistic Harmony – who offers a range of reasonably priced treatments from massage to reflexology and much more. Check out all available treatments with prices on the Holistic Harmony website.

Below is a promotional video on the Hi-Dow Pain Pod device followed by a Channel 7 news report about the use of the Pain Pod device in Australia:-

Images and video courtesy of Hi-Dow UK

Treasures at the Fitzwilliam Museum

The Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge has a fascinating exhibition on at the moment called “Treasure Under Your Feet” which runs until 4th September 2011 in the Octagon Gallery. The exhibition consists of displays of various discovered treasure from the East Anglia region which have helped archeologists understand the life and times of our ancestors. These precious objects not only look beautiful but they are a physical and emotional link back to the people who used them hundreds of years ago.

Exhibits in the “Treasure Under Your Feet” exhibition are from local public and private collections – such as the above jewel from Colchester Castle Musuem – in addition to pieces from the Fitzwilliam Museum itself. Notable items from the exhibition include a Bronze-Age torc which was a piece of jewellery worn around the neck, a Tudor jewel, hack-silver used by the Vikings as currency and gold coins from the English Civil War which date back to the 17th century.

The Fitzwilliam Museum was described as “one of the greatest art collection of the nation” by the Standing Commission on Museums & Galleries in 1968. It houses an extensive world-class collection of art and antiquities covering hundreds of years of history from ancient civilisations to the present day.

Highlights of the Fitzwilliam Museum include an extensive collection of British and European paintings from the 14th century to 20th century, sculpture, furniture, armour, European and Japanese porcelain, illuminated manuscripts, and antiquities from Egypt, Greece, Rome and other ancient civilisations from the Mediterranean and Near East.

After working up an appetite wandering around the museum, you can stop off for a drink and bite to eat at the Courtyard Café which serves sandwiches and light lunches together with morning and afternoon refreshments. The North Lawn Café is now open until October and serves al fresco refreshments for visitors who want to enjoy the open air when the days are warm and sunny.

Admission to the Fitzwilliam Museum is free but we recommend that you make a small donation which will pay for the maintenance of the galleries. The museum is closed on Mondays but is open between 10am and 5pm Tuesday to Saturday. On Sundays and Bank Holiday Mondays it is open between 12pm and 5pm.

Image reproduced from Colchester Castle Museum

Brasserie G̩rard РCambridge

It is one of a chain of nineteen countrywide and it is situated on Bridge Street, not far from Jesus Green. The brasserie offers a variety of menus chosen from a rustic part of the French cuisine.

The atmosphere in the establishment is very quaint and classy and the service is very good and professional.  It has a light and airy feel and is a perfect place to experience the world-famous French kitchen. The menu is diverse, including a breakfast menu, a menu à la carte, a dessert menu and they also offer weekend specials on Saturday and Sunday with a main course for only £9.95.  All the food is very affordable, keeping an average bill for a two-course dinner at around £25 – £35 (depending on drink). The restaurant is busy at weekends and I recommend to book a table, but there is usually no problem to find a place for breakfast or lunch.

The location in Cambridge makes it an ideal place to go for a brunch on a Saturday or a lunch for those who like to participate in outdoor sports activities on a weekend, such as rowing, as the Brasserie is situated very close to the river.

I personally used to dine there many times on a weekend and always experienced very professional service and enjoyed the great continental atmosphere. The staff have always been very friendly and I was amazed by the French charm of the restaurant.

My personal recommendations are:

From the breakfast menu:

Oeufs Brouillés: Scrambled free range eggs on toasted brioche – £4.50

Oeufs Bénédictines Royales: Two poached free range eggs on toasted brioche with smoked salmon and Hollandaise sauce – £6.95

From the à la carte menu:

Demi Poulet: Half a chargrilled chicken sprinkled with herbs and your choice of sauce: honey and mustard, garlic butter or mushroom and red wine – £12.95

Filet de Loup: Pan-fried sea bass with Provençal potatoes, braised fennel and a roasted tomato oil – £13.95

Confit de Canard: ‘Maison Lafitte’ duck leg confit served on sautéed potatoes with slices of onions, bacon lardons and wilted spinach in a red wine jus – £13.95

Contact details:

Telephone
01223 448620
Address:
27-28 Bridge Street,
Cambridge,
CB2 1UJ
Opening times:
Monday – Saturday : 9am to 11pm
Sunday : 9am to 10.30pm

For table booking click here.

Image courtesy of: www.hi.nelso.in and www.srimg.eu