There can be few more beautiful sights than Cambridge in the sun. It’s the stuff of postcards and paintings – lazy river and soaring spires. For me, one of the real landmarks is Fitzbillies – a Cambridge institution that has been churning out the finest baked goods for generations. Their chelsea buns are the stuff of legend – rich, gooey and loved around the world – you can have them shipped almost anywhere. When, in early 2011, they were threatened with closure – food writer Tim Hayward came to the rescue. He kept the iconic buns, but transformed the back of the cafe into an occasional restaurant.
The room itself is refreshingly light and simple – lovely pale wood and pastel tiles. Compared to the distressed brickwork and filament bulbs that seem to be infecting every restaurant in the capital, it’s a refreshing change. The menu is equally reassuring – tempting produce, simply cooked.
To start I had an excellent grilled quail and aioli. Smokey, sweet and with just a hint of game it was delicious.
Next up was beef tagliata – a lovely rump steak cooked to a perfect medium-rare and served on a bed of peppery rocket and hard italian cheese. It comes with a salsa verde and a pile of roast potatoes that would make any grandmother proud – crisp fluffy perfection.
To finish I demolished an apple crumble tart with clotted cream. As you’d expect, from what is still essentially a bakery/cafe, the pastry was superb.
I had a fantastic evening – the staff are helpful and suspiciously happy, the food is marvellous and on a Friday evening there was a healthy convivial buzz. I applaud the simplicity – there’s are no fancy sauces, powders, foams or gels. No ‘influences’ butting in and distracting from the elegance of the dish. It’s the very best kind of comfort food and left me smiling all the way home.