A Winter Day at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Now I’ll admit that at this time of year, I have an overwhelming urge to hibernate until Spring arrives.  But one bright, sunshiney, blue sky day last week, conscious of my dwindling Vitamin D levels and general seasonal pallor, I wrapped up warm and headed to the Botanic Garden which has to be my favourite green space in the city.  Home to one of the region’s largest tree collections, it’s a magical place in every season, even – and maybe especially – in Winter.

Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Snowdrops are one of my favourite flowers and it always makes me smile when I come across their cheerful white blooms in midwinter.  You’ll find around 30 different varieties of snowdrop dotted through the Garden and there’s a map to show you the snowdrop “hot spots”.  These little white flowers look so delicate and yet they are so strong; they have anti-freeze proteins to inhibit ice crystals forming and causing damage to the plant plus they have seriously hard leaf tips which help them to break through frozen soil.  This drift of snowdrops under Isaac Newton’s apple tree is just beautiful and reminds me that Spring must surely be around the corner.

Snowdrops at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

The Winter Garden is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year and is stunning with textures of coloured stems, bark and foliage alongside winter flowers and scented blossom, all highlighted in the brilliant sunshine.  I find wandering through this space is restorative in itself but to get to grips with more detail of the planting, I’ll sign up for a free 60 minute tour of the Winter Garden, which happens at 2.30pm every Sunday in January and February.

Winter Garden at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

Crazy Cone Caper at Cambridge University Botanic GardenThe Botanic Garden runs a terrific range of events for all ages year round.  Children will love the Crazy Cone Caper, a self guided family trail where they become a secret agent and track down six trees in the Garden to solve a mystery, collecting a prize once they’ve successfully concluded their investigation.  Crazy Cone Caper has been created by the Garden’s Learning Team and runs until 1 April.

For adults, Cam Late in the Glasshouse Range on 21 February offers craft beer, mulled wine and atmospheric light displays in these amazing glasshouses, where you’ll find plants ranging from tiny alpines to spiny cacti to exotic tropicals.  Day or night, the glasshouses are spectacular whatever the time of year.  And they’re also nice and warm if you get chilly outside on a cold day!

Glasshouse at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

With my appetite sharpened by the fresh air, I popped in to the light, airy Garden Cafe for lunch.  Its menu of home made goodies includes warming soup, delicious cakes and children’s meals.  Vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options are always available.  High chairs, baby changing facilities and a selection of children’s books to borrow make this this a truly family friendly spot.

Winter Garden at Cambridge University Botanic Garden

For more information on Cambridge University Botanic Garden including their 2019 programme of courses and workshops as well as details of special events planned for the February half term break, take a look at the website.

http://www.botanic.cam.ac.uk

 

The Cambridge Oven

Baked goods alert, everybody!!  The Cambridge Oven is the city’s new artisan bakery and it opened for business just a couple of days ago.  So I and my sweet tooth hightailed it down to Hills Road to meet owner, Jolita Durrant, and find out more about her venture (nibbling on a plum frangipane tartlet whilst chatting, naturally!).

The Cambridge Oven logo

Jolita moved to Cambridge a couple of years ago and having worked as a nurse for fifteen years, felt it was time for a career change.  Growing up on a farm in Lithuania, she’d always cooked and baked with her mother and grandmother, using fresh seasonal ingredients.  Jolita continued her baking journey with studies at The School of Artisan Food in Nottinghamshire and has built her knowledge and experience whilst developing her own recipes.

The Cambridge Oven

Jolita’s dream of opening her own bakery came a step closer when, after a long search, she secured premises in Hills Road.  Since May, builders have been hard at work stripping out the property, reinforcing the floor to take a commercial oven which weighs 650 kilograms and creating a simple, light room with plenty of space for all the baked goodies and a couple of tables for those who want to eat in.

The Cambridge Oven

The Cambridge OvenOn the shelves when we visited were brioche, apple and raisin brioche buns, white and seeded sourdough breads, prosciutto and cheese croissants, mushroom and onion pastries and the sweetest little raspberry meringue kisses.  Vegans are well catered for with vegan cakes and cookies plus lunchtime dishes such as freshly made spiced tofu and avocado sandwiches and butternut squash and avocado salad.  The drinks menu offers a range of coffee, tea and soft drinks.

 

The Cambridge Oven

The Cambridge Oven is a member of the Real Bread Campaign.  Jolita bakes with organic flours from Fosters Mill and Shipton Mill, spelt and rye flours and wheat free flour.  She aims to pack goodness into everything she makes, using buckwheat and ancient grains, unrefined sugar, coconut oil, seeds, nuts, herbs and superfoods to ensure that her food is nutritious as well as delicious.

The Cambridge Oven
Sarah, Jolita and Matas

The Cambridge Oven is truly a family affair with Jolita’s son, Matas, working alongside her during his gap year and her husband, Karl, helping out at weekends while fellow baker, Sarah, creates delectable things in the kitchen with Jolita.  They’re open seven days a week – check out their website for details.

The Cambridge Oven

And that plum frangipane tartlet was every bit as good as it looks … crisp, sweet pastry, the lightest almondy filling and sharp, tangy slices of plum.  I’ll be back for more!

http://www.thecambridgeoven.co.uk

44 Hills Road, Cambridge CB2 1LA

 

 

Riverside Tea Garden at Cambridge Museum of Technology

There’s a massive chimney that dominates the skyline down at Riverside.  It’s in amongst a cluster of Victorian buildings that make up the Museum of Technology and I’ve walked past it dozens of times but never really knew what it was all about.  When I heard that there’s going to be a pop up Riverside Tea Garden there this summer, I decided to find out more and met with Assistant Curator, Morgan Bell.

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Built in 1894, the 53 metre tall chimney is part of a Victorian sewage pumping station which is now the Museum.  Here they burned the city’s household rubbish to create steam to fuel engines that pumped the city’s sewage out to a treatment plant in Milton.  Prior to this, sewage had discharged into the River Cam, causing cholera outbreaks so this wonderful Victorian engineering transformed public health in Cambridge.  The pumping station was decommissioned in 1968, at which point a group of local campaigners saved it from demolition and turned the buildings into a museum.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

Owned independently and funded by admission fees and donations, the Museum houses the last Hathorn Davey pumping engines in the world that still work.  It has also built up a collection of telecoms equipment, televisions and radios from Pye and historic scientific instruments from Cambridge Instrument Company.

Hathorn Davey pumping machine Cambridge

The Museum is currently closed as there’s a major redevelopment under way, thanks to money from the Heritage Lottery Fund.  Restoration of the old buildings is complicated and painstaking as they are a Scheduled Ancient Monument and permission is needed even to paint in there!  There are plans for a new building to house exhibition and learning space plus a cafe building with views over the river.  The boiler is being repaired so it can once again supply steam to run the pumping engines and they’re hoping to be open by mid 2019.

Boiler at Cambridge Museum of Technology

This redevelopment is about preserving heritage of course but it’s also about inspiring a generation of future engineers and innovators.  Jinx St. Leger, the Education Officer, tells me about the outreach programme with primary and secondary schools, encouraging students to look at STEM subjects in a new light.  “It’s teaching engineering by stealth,” she smiles.  “We make stomp rockets, create origami, make print blocks and masks and use a morse code machine to send and decode messages.”  Jinx will be running four craft based and four engineering based events over the summer at the Museum of Cambridge (check out http://www.museumofcambridge.org.uk/events for more details).

Cambridge Museum of Technology

Now back to the tea and cake … on Sunday afternoons between 15 July and 5 August, you’ll be able to enjoy drinks and cream teas at the Riverside Tea Garden in idyllic surroundings on the Museum’s lawn overlooking the river.  There’ll be stalls selling treasures, crafts, books, clothes, baked goods and produce.  And I’ve booked my ticket for The Floating Museum, a boat trip happening on various dates through the summer, during which you’ll discover more about the city’s industrial heritage along the river.  All profits from these ventures go back to the Museum to help fund the restoration.  Full details, plus a booking facility for The Floating Museum, are on the website.

http://www.museumoftechnology.com

The Old Pumping Station, Cheddars Lane, Cambridge CB5 8LD

Three favourite places to eat in Cambridge

Cambridge News recently asked me to contribute to a piece in which I, along with a couple of other bloggers, shared a few of my favourite places to eat in the city.  It was difficult to choose as there are so many I love and I had a tight word limit but here’s what I wrote!

The Locker Cafe King Street Cambridge
Image credit: John Hodges

The Locker Café in King Street is close to my heart (and not only because of their amazing Chocolate Guinness cake, which is my current obsession!).  It opened just as I started writing my blog at the end of last summer and was the subject of my first post.  Co-owned by father and son John and Adam Hodges, the café is light and spacious with a balcony for sunny days.  Ceramics made by John are in daily use while art on the walls is curated by Adam’s mother and there’s live music on Sunday afternoons.  The Locker is a favourite spot for brunch with my husband and I often interview for the blog here, over tea and cake.

www.thelockercafe.co.uk

The Copper Kettle Kings Parade Cambridge

The Copper Kettle on King’s Parade is one of Cambridge’s oldest restaurants and it has one of the best views too, overlooking the historic buildings of King’s College and its world famous chapel.  It’s open all day, serving breakfast, brunch, lunch and cakes but in the evening the menu switches to Mediterranean cuisine with fish and vegetarian options alongside grilled meat dishes and salads.  I like to meet friends here in the early evening to catch up on news over a glass or two of chilled white wine and a selection of delicious meze that we share as we chat.

www.thecopperkettle.weebly.com

Restaurant Twenty-Two Cambridge

Restaurant Twenty-Two on Chesterton Road has recently reopened with chef Sam Carter and partner Alexandra Olivier offering creative modern British food with a twist, using seasonal ingredients from local suppliers.  Their 7 Course Tasting Menu quite simply blew us away.  Sam creates delectable flavours and presents every dish so beautifully but it’s also the textures in each plate of his food which constantly surprise and excite.  Returning last weekend with family, we enjoyed the set lunch menu which is exceptional value at £20 for three courses.  Once again, Sam had our taste buds dancing until the very last bite.

www.restaurant22.co.uk

For the full version of this article, published in Cambridge News on 28 April 2018, and to see where my fellow bloggers like to eat, just click on the link below.

https://www.cambridge-news.co.uk/whats-on/food-drink-news/cambridge-food-bloggers-restaurant-reviews-14573223

Kettle’s Yard

Kettle’s Yard House and Gallery on Castle Street has recently reopened after a lengthy refurbishment which has enabled Director, Andrew Nairne, and his team to create new gallery space to display modern and contemporary art from around the world.

KY frontage
Image credit:  Hufton + Crow

 

The opening exhibition, “Actions.  The image of the world can be different”, showcases the work of thirty eight artists.  “Actions Part 2” will open on 11 April with a two screen film installation, “Auto Da Fe”, from John Akomfrah and paintings by Caroline Walker who, in collaboration with the charity Women for Refugee Women, has painted refugee women housed in temporary accommodation in London.

KY WindowAt the heart of Kettle’s Yard is the house, once home to Jim and Helen Ede who created it from four derelict eighteenth century cottages in the late 1950’s.  With a lifelong passion for art and having worked as a Curator at The Tate during the 1920’s, Jim became close friends with many artists including Ben and Winifred Nicholson, Christopher Wood and David Jones.  Over the years, Jim acquired a significant collection of art and sculpture which he brought to Kettle’s Yard along with furniture, glass and ceramics.  But the Edes equally valued natural found objects and artwork by their grandchildren.  More than anything, they wanted their art to be enjoyed in an informal domestic setting, holding open house every afternoon of the university term and welcoming undergraduates to their home.

Kettle's Yard paintings in house
Image credit: Kettle’s Yard

Kettle's Yard tableNatural light was crucial to the Edes.  The day I visited, the streets were carpeted in snow and the light had a very special ethereal quality to it.  I was struck by the tranquillity of the house and by its colour palette with exposed brick, varying tones of wood, natural linens, pebbles, feathers and shells, all harmonising with the Ede’s art collection to create a wonderful serenity.   Jim and Helen handed over the building and their collection to the University of Cambridge in 1966 so they knew it was in safe hands but it must have been a wrench for them to leave this peaceful haven when they moved to Edinburgh in 1973.

Kettle's Yard greenery in house
Image credit:  Kettle’s Yard

The Ede’s musical tradition continues today with a varied programme of contemporary music and chamber concerts in the house.  New archive and research areas have given enhanced research opportunities in collaboration with the University’s History of Art Department.  A breathtaking double height space is now home to Kettle’s Yard’s education and community programme, hosting a year round schedule of events and activities, many of them free, for all age groups.  It includes workshops, talks, panel discussions and artist led drop in workshops for families every Sunday.

Kettle's Yard education space
Image credit:  Hufton + Crow

At The Garden Kitchen Cafe, you’ll find tea, Fairtrade coffee, cake and light lunches with vegan, vegetarian and gluten free options.   The Shop offers a carefully curated selection of cards, prints, books and jewellery with ceramics from The Leach Pottery and from local ceramicists Rachel Dormor and Maree Allitt alongside beautiful bespoke wrapping paper from Cambridge Imprint, its design inspired by a Barbara Hepworth fabric.

Kettles Yard carved stone

Kettle’s Yard is a very special place that I know I will return to again and again.  There’s such a lot going on there, far more than I can write about in this post, so do check out the website for full details of all that’s happening over the coming months.  Then go and experience the magic of Kettle’s Yard for yourself.

http://www.kettlesyard.co.uk

Kettle’s Yard, Castle Street, Cambridge CB3 0AQ

 

Cafe Abantu

A pot of really good Darjeeling tea and a slice of the most delicious rose and pistachio cake in this recently opened Hobson Street cafe perked me up on a gloomy February afternoon.  So I popped back (yes … more tea and cake!) to meet owner, Wendy Slade, and to chat about her new venture.

Abantu frontage

Firstly, I’m curious about the cafe’s name.  Wendy explained that the word “abantu” (or derivations of it) means “people” in many African dialects.  Wendy was born and raised in South Africa, where she trained as an accountant.  She came to England with her family twenty years ago.  “But I still miss the drumming heartbeat of Africa,” Wendy tells me.

Abantu pistachio and roseIt wasn’t long before she set up a gift shop, selling Fairtrade goods, at Manor Farm in Bourn, while a friend ran the coffee shop next door.  When the friend left, Wendy took over the coffee shop and taught herself to bake.  Gradually, that side of the business took over and ten years later, Wendy moved the cafe to Wysing Arts Centre, where it won a “Best Cafe in East Anglia” award.

“Then Stickybeaks came up for sale,” explained Wendy, “and our lease at Wysing was coming to an end so I decided to go for it and move into the city centre.”  Wendy and her team of twelve people, including the ex Stickybeaks staff who all joined her, took over the building on 19th January and were open for business at the end of the month.  They had hungry customers queuing down the street on Day 1!

Abantu team

Abantu saladThe Abantu team enjoys working in the open kitchen which Wendy says is run more as a “home” kitchen than an industrial cooking space.  They make all their own cakes and like to keep up with the latest baking trends.  Abantu’s menu changes every day, with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients used in a variety of dishes for breakfast and lunch.  There are always three or four salads on offer and Boboti, a South African meatloaf, is a menu staple.

Abantu signVegetarians, vegans and those who eat gluten free are well catered for here and there’s a Bambino menu for kids too, so this really is a destination for the whole family.  Staff are welcoming and the cafe has an airy yet cosy vibe with art from Naomi Davies, a Cambridge artist who works in pen and watercolour, on the walls and a couple of outside tables, ideal for watching the world go by on sunnier days.

 

http://www.cafe-abantu.co.uk

http://www.naomidaviesart.co.uk

42 Hobson Street, Cambridge CB1 1NL

 

Stem + Glory

Louise Palmer-Masterton is a powerhouse!  She has founded and is running two highly successful businesses in the city and she’s fizzing with energy and ideas.  I met Louise in Stem + Glory, her new vegan cafe in King Street.

Stem and Glory logo pic
Image credit: Stem + Glory

Louise tells me that she enjoys food and cooking and has herself been vegan for many years.  Camyoga, the yoga business that she started in 2003, took off straight away and over fourteen years has grown into a multi studio enterprise offering not only yoga classes but workshops and teacher training courses too.  Having opened a small cafe, really just for the yoga clients, Louise began to develop ideas for a larger vegan cafe and when a site became available at Mitchams Corner in 2016, she successfully crowdfunded the project to open a cafe and yoga studio there.  The cafe was open to the public from the start, offering fast, fresh and healthy plant-based food to eat in or take out through the day and vegan fine dining in the evenings.

When the opportunity came to open a city centre vegan cafe at the old Afternoon Tease premises in King Street earlier this year, Louise didn’t waste any time.  She again crowdfunded successfully to refurbish and refit both sites.  Mitchams Corner is now a table service restaurant at lunch and dinner.  The new King Street cafe, staffed by the existing Afternoon Tease team, is the place for fast healthy eating and it’s been buzzing since it opened its doors in November.

Stem and Glory counter
Image credit: Stem + Glory

If you’re eating in, you can pile your plate from a selection of hot dishes and salads for £9.  If you’re on the go, you can do the same but put it in a box (small, medium or large) to take away.  Wraps are always available along with cakes, coffee, tea, soft drinks and shakes.  There’s a small breakfast menu at the moment but that will be expanding soon and a brunch menu is on the way.

Stem and Glory cauli and rocket salad
Image credit: Stem + Glory

My daughter and I grabbed a table on a busy Saturday and we were eating the colourful food with our eyes before it got anywhere near our mouths!  Pumpkin tagine was aromatic while the earthy warmth of a beetroot and horseradish pie with mushroom was perfectly complemented by a fluffy mashed potato topping.  Spicy bulghur wheat salad came speckled with herbs and mixed seeds, carrot and fennel salad was fresh and crunchy while the cauliflower and rocket salad was drizzled with a silky tahini dressing.  There’ll be a different style of menu each week so there’s always something new and delicious on offer.

Louise’s success with Camyoga and Stem + Glory has been recognised with two awards this year – the Cambridge Business Excellence Awards Small Business of the Year and Best Newcomer at the Cambridge Food and Drink Awards.  And I can’t wait to see what Louise does next ….. she has big plans for Stem + Glory in 2018 so watch this space!

http://www.stemandglory.uk

13 King Street, Cambridge CB1 1LH