Where to Go For Dinner When Your Parents Come To Town
Veggie delights, fishy feasts and meaty morsels, and prices from a fiver: HANNAH GELBART has something for everyone for when the family is in town.
You need somewhere quiet enough that you can hear every word of the ‘You’re never going to get a job’ speech, and with enough variety to satisfy the range of bizarre familial eating habits. Here’s our pick. (Click photos to enlarge)
The Parents are Paying:
At the top end of the price scale, Hotel du Vin is a hotel restaurant that does modern French food well, but not for under £30 a head. If the parents visiting requires some steeling of the nerves, their basement bar does 2 for 1 cocktails 5-7pm- try the sensual rum-classic-with-lime La Mulata. If you haven’t had enough of the books, their sofa-filled library is the place for a breather before the meal.
The bar at Hotel du Vin.
Classy but relaxed, with an authentically French sommelier to guide you through the wine list, expect rich, locally sourced dishes including wholesome woodland mushroom risotto (£12.75), tender braised oxtail (£14.95) and my favourite, a fragrant pan fried black bream. Their breakfasts are also immaculate, if a little pricey, if your parents decide to stay.
If you’re more in the mood for fruits de la mer, 100m further up the road is the Loch Fyne Oyster Bar, a former pub with cosy tables and (I am assured, extremely old) exposed beams. Their £10.25 two course set lunch menu is a seriously good deal.
If you’re going a la carte, and not going on a Monday, the oysters on ice (6 for £9.50) were top notch, but I preferred the smoked salmon achet (£7.45): three types of smoked salmon – some straight up and gutsy, a tender smoked salmon steak and a drier roasted fillet with separate dishes of soy sauce and vinaigrettes to match.
Cute little matchy-matchy pots. And lots of smoked salmon. Natch.
My main, the sweet chilli and sesame pan-fried sea bass (£11.75) was moist, light, and sweet but with a slight kick, on a bed of perfectly cooked pakchoi. There is a rib-eye steak (£15.95) or vegetarian asparagus tortellini (£9.25) for the less marine-inclined. A charming feature of the restaurant is the fresh fish counter: not only can your parents can stock up on local produce to take home but they can fill up your fridge too (Kerching!).
Head North to the other side of the river for some intimate modern British at Restaurant 22. With only 26 covers, booking is a must. (Mention this article when you book to receive a 10% discount off food throughout February and March.)
There is a five-course monthly-changing set menu for £29.95. Their red meat dishes are highly recommended, including the filling beef and button-onion suet pudding in red wine jus. Satisfy your chocolate based needs with a creamy white chocolate and carrot fondant with dark chocolate ice-cream.
Can you stretch their wallets all the way to Midsummer House? It overlooks the River Cam, has two Michelin stars and three courses a la carte for £76 per person. I haven’t been, but I’m willing to guess it’s better than your college Buttery.
It’s Dad’s Birthday, and the treat’s on you:
The Punter, a decent Gastro-pub on the corner of Pound Hill, has a daily-changing £5 lunch menu weekdays until 3pm. The food is elegant but homely, rather like the cosy oak interior.
Try the generously portioned moist game terrine with apple sauce (£5.50) or tender tiger prawns with chilli and garlic (£6) for starters, followed by a hearty confit duck leg with caramelised red cabbage, puy lentils and pancetta.
For those with snotty siblings or dirty mutts in tow, The Punter are keen to stress that dogs and children are welcome.
Tiger Prawns and Scallops at The Punter.
Less carnivorous options can be found at the Rainbow Vegetarian Café, hidden down Kings’ Parade. Don’t be fooled by its somewhat uninspiring exterior. It has a great selection of beautifully presented mains for £8.95, from which I would recommend their Isla Morada pasta dish with a flavoursome lime and black bean sauce, a richly-spiced Tagine Aubergine and a nutty Gado Gado.
The Interior of the Rainbow Café.
The special’s board features Rainbow cakes, brownies and vegan cheesecakes (try the chocolate mint flavour for a creamy dairy-free surprise). I have been telling all my friends about the spiced fruit, nut and chocolate rum torte, which had an intense chocolatey-ness that belied its vegan friendly tag, and I can also recommend the moist orange, date and walnut loaf (all £4.25).
And where to stay…
The chic, 4* Hotel du Vin has luxurious double rooms and suites from £165 per night with monsoon showers and plasma TVs.
If your parents are looking to be pampered, the Doubletree Hilton , only 3 minutes from the city centre and with picturesque views of the River Cam, boasts a deluxe LivingWell Health Club with heated indoor swimming pool, steam room and sauna. Double rooms from £120 per night.
On the cheaper end of the spectrum, The Castle , very central, has double or triple rooms from £72 per night with a shared bathroom and breakfast included. Just North of the city is the Acorn Guest House with en-suite doubles from £65.