The Tasting Room Cambridge

Now I’ll be honest, I don’t have many vices and I’m not a big drinker but a long cold gin and tonic is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures in life.  And thanks to the recent rise of the craft gin movement, there’s a gin for every palate and every mood, whether it’s pink (from local firm Pinkster, accessorised with raspberry and mint), light and floral (my G&T at a restaurant last weekend was adorned with flower petals), herby (with a charred rosemary twig, that’s The Botanist G&T at the Cambridge Union Bar) or lavishly garlanded with enough fruit to give Carmen Miranda a run for her money (that was just absurd, from a hotel bar on the Suffolk coast).

The Tasting Room Cambridge

So when a friend told me there’s a new gin in town, I scurried down to Hope Street Yard, off Mill Road, to meet John Saul, General Manager at English Spirit Distillery, who have just opened their first tiny but beautiful bricks and mortar shop in this pretty, eclectic enclave.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

While we sipped a gin and tonic, John told me the story of how the business came into being nine years ago.  Founder, Dr John Walters, is a biochemist from Oxford.  Listening to a Radio 4 programme, he heard an “expert” say that it’s impossible to make eau de vie in this country.  Spurred on by the challenge, John built a still and made an eau de vie that was really good.  Better, in fact, than the expensive eau de vie sitting in his drinks cabinet.

The Tasting Room CambridgeToday, English Spirit Distillery’s range includes gins, for which they make their own vodka base from sugar beet, to be assured of quality and provenance.  There’s a Cucumber Spirit which contains no juniper and a digestif Sambuca, which is distilled three times.  John tells me it’s too fine to do the coffee bean/flame thing!  Rum is distilled from sugar cane molasses while 1.2 tonnes of apples from the Sandringham Estate make just 90 bottles of apple brandy.  A single malt spirit is flavoured in the still and distilled five times, making it super smooth with layers of flavour.  Gin based fruit liqueurs are distilled and also macerated with fruit while their top seller, Toffee Vodka liqueur, is best enjoyed over ice or ice cream.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

John has lived around Mill Road with his wife, Eloise, and their family for many years.  They love the area with its sense of community and will be holding informal, laid back acoustic mic nights in Hope Street Yard with future plans for gigs, craft markets and food trucks.  The Tasting Room is open on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  At the moment you can have a free tasting and buy bottles while they wait for a bar licence to come through.

The Tasting Room Cambridge

But back to the gin … we sat in the sunshine outside the shop, chatting to John and Eloise and sipping the limited edition Hope Gin, which is distilled especially for this new Cambridge venture.  It’s an aromatic London Dry gin, flavoured with bergamot oil, orange zest, rose petals, coriander, bay leaf and juniper and it’s just delicious.  I reckon Earl Grey himself would have approved!

Unit 1, Hope Street Yard, Cambridge CB1 3NA


Tu Casa Tapas Cambridge

A little piece of Spain just landed in Mill Road with the recent opening of Tu Casa Tapas, a new independent tapas bar at the Parker’s Piece end of the street.

Tu Casa Tapas Cambridge

It’s owned by Roi Vaquero and Elia Polo who met here in Cambridge five years ago when Roi, who hails from Galicia, took a sabbatical from his job as a corporate lawyer and arrived in the city to improve his English.  He and Elia, who is Italian, noticed that there was no independent Spanish restaurant here and decided to set one up themselves.  It’s been a long journey as they gained experience in some of the city’s top restaurants and negotiated the vagaries of the Cambridge commercial property market but they put a team together along the way and ended up completely refurbishing an old charity shop.  They’ve created a welcoming space with a pared back aesthetic … whitewashed walls, dark wooden furniture, white crockery and plain terracotta dishes that really let the food be the star of the show.

Tu Casa Tapas meatballs

We went for lunch last weekend and ordered from the tapas menu.  Albondigas (beef and pork meatballs marinated in garlic, parsley and white wine tomato sauce) were aromatic in the piquant sauce.

We loved the generous plate of wafer thin hand carved Jamon Iberico de Bellota while the plump Croquetas de Boletus were a texture sensation with a crunchy outside and a soft, creamy mushroomy bechamel sauce inside.

Tu Casa Tapas roast peppersEscalivada con Pimiento (roasted red and green pepper with onion and aubergine, seasoned with cumin and olive oil) was sweet and smokey at the same time.

We managed to squeeze in one final dish, Ensalada de queso de Cabra, a roasted goats cheese on crisp lettuce, studded with walnuts, sultanas and cherry tomatoes and drizzled with a sweet, sticky honey and pomegranate dressing.

Next time we go, we’ll try the main courses which include paella, slow cooked meats and the favourite Huevos rotos (hand cut chips with fried eggs and chorizo).

From the small dessert menu, we ordered Arroz con leche (Valencian rice, cinnamon and skinned lemon served with dried apricot in rosewater) for Johnny and a slice of Tarta de Santiago, the wonderful almond cake which took me right back to a lovely family holiday we had in Galicia some years ago.

Tu Casa Tapas rice pudding

There’s a small wine menu from which I ordered a glass of Rueda which was a perfect light white wine for lunchtime.  Johnny enjoyed his glass of red wine, Ribera del Duero, and we couldn’t resist sharing a glass of sweet, raisiny Pedro Ximenez with our puddings.

Tu Casa Tapas fits really well into Mill Road with its cosmopolitan food scene.  If you’re looking for authentic, delicious Spanish cooking, you’ll find it here.

Facebook:  Tu Casa Tapas Restaurant

8 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2AD

The Amnesty Bookshop

Browsing in the second hand bookshops here in Cambridge is one of my not-so-guilty pleasures and the Amnesty Bookshop, which has just relocated to the Parker’s Piece end of Mill Road, is a real gem that I keep coming back to.

Amnesty Bookshop


One of eight Amnesty bookshops, located in cities across the UK, the shop has been part of the vibrant Mill Road community since 1998.  Funds raised here go to support the work of Amnesty International as it stands up for humanity and human rights and works to protect women, men and children wherever justice, freedom, truth and dignity are denied.

Run by Manager, David Float, and staffed by a team of around forty enthusiastic, spirited and committed volunteers, the shop is thriving.  New volunteers are always welcome so David would be happy to hear from you either in person or by email to if you would like to make yourself known and find out more.

David believes that the city is very in tune with the work of Amnesty International and the shop enjoys huge support, both in terms of sales and book donations of all sizes (their largest single donation in the past year comprised six thousand books!).  Further sales are made online through Amazon.

The shelves in this bright shop are neatly ordered with a wealth of sections ranging from the occult to gardening.  While novels are always in demand, art, philosophy and religion are bestselling categories with the anthropology and cosmology sections also proving popular.  A selection of vinyl is for sale alongside sheet music and greetings cards.  In the run up to the festive season, Amnesty International T shirts, tote bags, calendars and Christmas cards will be stocked.

4 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 2AD