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A red brick pub exterior with a large sign with the pub’s name and an illustration of a queen.
Outside the Queen’s Head pub.
The Queen’s Head

The 18 Essential Cambridge Restaurants

Famous Chelsea buns, gelato from a Chez Panisse alum, and more of the best things to eat in Cambridge

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Outside the Queen’s Head pub.
| The Queen’s Head

It’s easy to see why Cambridge is a relentlessly popular destination for 8 million tourists each year: stunning architecture, the picturesque River Cam, the opportunity to take a boat trip down that river while being told spurious facts about the city and its architecture by the local guides. It’s less easy to see why such a phenomenal city would fly entirely under the radar as a dining destination, despite the presence of excellent food. This is a city of chubby jiaozi, impeccable gelato, soupy xiao long bao, French bistronomy, natural wine, Nigerian stews, peerless coffee, custardy pasteis de nata, fragrant tagines, and so much culinary wealth if visitors look beyond the spires.

The influence of the colleges plays a part. In the popular imagination, Cambridge is largely defined by its student population — despite the fact that the vast majority live in the city only around 24 to 28 weeks of the year — and the university provides subsidised food, instead of self-catering accommodations that would encourage cooking and exploratory shopping. It also controls vast amounts of the city, acting as landlord as much as educator, allowing it to decide who can open a restaurant and where.

But for all the global love of its academics, Cambridge is also a place where people live year-round. While restaurant workers always knew this, one of the rare positive impacts of the otherwise horrific COVID-19 pandemic is that it has given local operators a chance to strengthen their relationships with locals and with one another. The pandemic temporarily removed many of the students from the city and shifted the usual dynamic, enabling restaurants to reconfigure who and how they served.

It’s clear now that Cambridge is a food city as serious as any other, one visitors can enjoy too if they’re willing to park some preconceived notions and, perhaps more importantly, treat Cambridge as bigger than its historic university centre.

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Midsummer House

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Starry Michelin acclaim has lost some of its sheen as food culture has evolved; places that earn stars can be staid, stuffy, stale, or all three, and frequently feel like a waste of quite a lot of money. But Midsummer House, with its white tablecloths and starched napkins, gives a hint why the stars were attractive in the first place. From an overlook of the River Cam, the garden and terrace lend a winning homeliness to the proceedings, which are steered by founding chef patron Daniel Clifford and head chef Mark Abbott. Meals are dotted with little flourishes — like a cheese on toast canape that simply no one would believe is cheese or indeed toast, or a picnic basket of pneumatic, sugar-dusted bottereaux — that all feel genuine, rather than gimmicky. Midsummer is still on top of its game 18 years after earning a second Michelin star.

The Elm Tree

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The Elm Tree doesn’t serve food. It’s a beerhead’s pub, in many respects, with a laminated book running the gamut of Belgian brewing styles and plenty of interesting ales on cask. But it’s worth a visit to enjoy those beers in a staggering interior, with armchair furniture, walls lined with beer labels, bottle caps, and posters, and come autumn time, witches’ hats stuck to the ceilings like stalactites. It may not be the sine qua non best pub in Cambridge, but it’s a standard-bearer for traditional pubs in a city heaving with them.

A two-tone white and green pub exterior with various signage.
Outside the Elm Tree.
The Elm Tree

Zhonghua Traditional Snacks

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Dumplings, soup. This is the duo at Zhonghua, where wontons bob like buoys in hot and sour soup and the jiaozi come by the dozen, boiled, steamed, or fried (when they transmute into guotie). Established in 2012, the welcomingly unadorned restaurant also serves decent noodles, char siu bao, and a refreshing cucumber salad fragrant with sesame and hoarse with chilli oil. But locals, students, and tourists all come for the dumplings, anointing their meals with their own blends of soy, black vinegar, and finely minced garlic provided at the table.

A decorative plate of a dozen dumplings topped with chili oil.
Jiaozi.
James Hansen

Eko Kitchen

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When Grace and Yemi Macaulay set up their food store All Seasons in 2008, it was largely out of frustration, filling what they saw as a vacuum when it came to culturally appropriate African Caribbean foods. The store’s success soon prompted them to establish Eko Kitchen next door, majoring in the stews, swallows, and soups that are hallmarks of Nigeria’s multifaceted cuisine — all cooked by Grace, who is a cancer researcher by trade. There’s edikaikong, from the southeastern part of the country, made with ugwu leaf and water spinach; Hausa suya; and a litany of mucilaginous soups like egusi, ogbono, and efo riro.

A restaurant exterior with large windows and a banner proclaiming its name along with “Nigerian/African Cuisine”
Outside Eko Kitchen.
James Hansen

Savino’s

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This is a true Cambridge institution. In some ways, it’s the polar opposite of Dom’s Coffee, the other espresso provider to grace this guide, but both are squarely in the business of quality and hospitality. Plastered with old Italian newspapers and film photos, and sometimes showing Serie A on the TV, the cafe offers espresso oily and rich, with a panino or a slice of torta caprese that crumbles like the resolve of the diner seated in front of it. Darker brown and served in a bigger cup, the impossibly thick Italian-style hot chocolate doesn’t coat the back of a spoon so much as smother it.

Pint Shop

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If a blackboard of 20 beers, arranged by style and provenance, does not inspire excitement, then okay, this place is not for you. But there’s much more to recommend this modern British restaurant armed with heavy-set tables in a Grade II-listed building than its beer matrix. It’s just as winning to get a pint of bitter and a classic Scotch egg as it is a hazy IPA and a bowl of nuts spiced with aleppo pepper, black sesame seeds, and agave syrup. The steaks, burgers, and chips are all top quality, the latter rustling restlessly from the fryer, and the generous Moroccan flatbreads are genuinely excellent. Great for a hearty lunch or a slap-up dinner.

Jack’s Gelato

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Jack van Praag was a chef before he became a gelato master, working at the likes of Cotto, a revered Cambridge fine dining restaurant eventually forced to close by COVID-19, and at California institution Chez Panisse. But since 2010, he’s kept things frosty, doling out the best ice cream in the city (despite some worthy competition from Sicilian specialists Aromi). The original shop, on Bene’t Street, is the place to go for flavours that range from the beautiful simplicity of dark chocolate and sea salt to boozy ice cream — say, Japanese whisky or Barbados rum — that comes with a shot of its main ingredient for some added pep.

A small cup of ice cream with a wooden spoon.
A scoop from Jack’s Gelato.
James Hansen

Fitzbillies

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In a city of institutions, history, and prestige, visit century-old Fitzbillies for a taste of culinary renown. To get even more granular, visit for the Chelsea bun, whose syrupy folds of dough, punctuated by currants, are unmissable. The bun, and the bakery that makes it, were salvaged from permanent closure by Alice Wright, Tim Hayward, and head baker Gill Abbs in 2011. Despite the owners’ desire to keep the traditional bun alive, they’re willing to do evil to the original recipe in pursuit of the common good, like turning a Chelsea bun into French toast and slapping bacon on top of it.

Fin Boys

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This fish butchery and restaurant at the very bottom of Mill Road, almost right on the edge of Parker’s Piece, is a genuinely intriguing proposition, so forgive it for its name. Just the opening gambit at dinner, some bread served with a musky, savoury bonito butter, is a persuasive nudge. What unfurls is an exhibition in consummate fish cookery: whole fish, pastas (with an octopus or cuttlefish ragu, or more excitingly Berkswell cheese and more bonito), and raw dishes are generally outstanding. There’s a 10-course tasting at the weekend, but Fin Boys works just as well in its a la carte guise on weeknights.

Noodles Plus

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Ordinarily home to the biggest queue on a road totally laden with good places to eat, Noodles Plus plays a trick on diners before they’ve even gotten in. There’s no fooling in the gorgeously greasy scarlet of the pigs’ ears in chilli oil, the generous servings of jasmine tea, or the hospitality from Dong Huang and Hui Yan Li, who opened Noodles Plus in February 2015 as a means of bringing Shanghainese specialities to Cambridge. It’s that little plus in the name, which represents the restaurant’s actual best dish. The very fine noodles be damned; the must-order here is a dumpling. Huang pleats xiao long bao to order with careful mastery, and they arrive at the table like little grenades, ready to burst with their deeply savoury, warming cargo.

Calverley’s Brewery

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In a city of drinking spots, Calverley’s stands out for its hospitable vision of a modern taproom, which has the heart and heft of an old Cambridge pub. Options include a light, hoppily zesty tafel beer; a dankly savoury porter; and a clever berry sour that uses an unusually high proportion of oats to soften and complement the fruit. Scott’s All Day, around the corner, cycles over simple but clever pizzas — including a cheesesteak emulator and a redemption story for ham and pineapple — that make it easy for a pint to turn straight into dinner.

Vanderlyle

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Reservations are very much required for this one, and they go live on the first Tuesday of every month. After finding fame on Masterchef in 2010 as a runner-up, chef Alex Rushmer took over the Hole in the Wall, a country pub in Little Wilbraham, which, in a happy twist of fate, was previously owned by the family of Dom’s Coffee founder Domenico O’Neill. Having now closed the pub and established himself on Mill Road with Vanderlyle, Rushmer has become a strong, compassionate voice for evolving hospitality culture for the better, and his restaurant signals that intention. The elegantly bountiful dishes focus on fruits and vegetables, making Vanderlyle a sort of East Anglian analog to California chef Jeremy Fox’s ideas. Singular, sublime, not to be missed.

Dom’s Coffee

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With no sign — just some carefully tended plants framing the window — you could miss this remarkable spot on Mill Road, but that would be a serious mistake. No pictures are allowed, partly to keep the experience from being spoiled for others; while spoilers in the context of a cafe might sound a little absurd, after visiting, coffee nerds and caffeine fiends will understand why Domenico O’Neill’s vision of hospitality is best experienced blind. A few notes: cash only, and you should plan to stay for a drink, so don’t take away. It’s the best coffee in the city, bar none.

Bedouin

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Bedouin is an exercise in the art of generosity, strengthened over 25 years of experience. Though it premiered in 2011, it is a sibling to Al Casbah down the road, a mezze bar and grill that opened in 1997 and continues to thrill. But Bedouin has slowly become the jewel of the two, not for the Saharan furnishings and fabrics that never become even the slightest bit kitschy, but for the kitchen’s devotion to Algerian and Moroccan traditions. There are flaky bastilla; brooding, dank lambs’ liver; and towering tagines, bequeathed by servers like gifts and opened with a flourish, which might contain lamb shank, cumin-scented meatballs, or beef with prunes and apricots.

Three dips in small bowls presented with lemon wedges.
Dips at Bedouin.
Bedouin

Fancett’s

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“Classy” is the word to describe Fancett’s, a low-lit little bistro. It’s moodily romantic come nightfall, with co-owners Holly and Dan Fancett really leaning into the vibe with a menu of elegantly comforting Gallic classics with nifty arch glances toward modern French cooking. There’s a good-value set menu at lunch, with three courses for £28, but this is a place to hunker down for dinner. Start with the fine-cut steak tartare or a canny “lasagne” of Cornish lobster and scallop, followed by the pallid simplicity of brill lifted by chanterelles and trompettes, or a blushing pigeon breast.

Amphora

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Amphora is the new arrival that, in a small way, clinches Cambridge’s ascension as a food and drink city. It’s always had quality wine bars, especially the service side of the namesake Wine Merchants shop. But — perhaps, in part, due to the fact that the strongest cellars can be found not at restaurants or bars but at the university colleges — the city has been excessively allergic to widening its taste in wine. Step forward Amphora, medical science graduate Cong Cong Bo’s shop and bar named for the ceramic vessel probably most famous for its role in ageing Georgian orange wines. The bar boasts an impossibly, brilliantly broad list that spans Portugal, Georgia, Armenia, Greece, and Moldova.

Norfolk Street Bakery

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Upon stepping into this dinky space through what is unmistakably a residential front door, you might think this is a fairly standard little bakery. There are croissants, sausage rolls, cakes, and muffins. But clues start to emerge from the sandwiches on the blackboard and the glass jars filled with alfajores that something deeper is happening here. Adilia Frazao, who restored the bakery originally established in 1868, inflects the offerings with her Portuguese heritage. The gooey, flaky, sunshine-yellow pastel de nata would stand up to any in Lisbon.

A closeup on a pastel de nata on top of a white paper bag.
Pastel de nata.
James Hansen

The Queen’s Head

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Normally, when a restaurant is famous for what a menu looks like, rather than what’s on it, it’s at best a cheap gimmick and at worst something that turns from funny to kind of icky upon reflection. Not so at this brilliant village pub south of the city, very much worth a drive. The menu in question is the soup of the day, which is listed not by flavour or by ingredient but simply by colour, on a scale that goes from green to brown and is mostly, honestly, shades of brown (the restaurant’s Twitter handle is @brownsouppub). There’s a board of pies come evening, and a rotating food van on Wednesday nights, which might include local burger legend Steak and Honour (there is a restaurant location, but the real experience is from the van). But really this is a place for cask ale, toast, and whatever colour of soup is on that day. Don’t sleep on the “round of sandwiches,” either, which offers absolutely absurd value for the quality; you’ll find shades of pink, not brown, on the rosy roast beef and smoky, salty ham.

A red-painted dining room with wooden furniture, a brick fireplace, vintage lanterns, trophy mounts, and a large window.
Inside the Queens Head pub.
The Queen’s Head

Midsummer House

Starry Michelin acclaim has lost some of its sheen as food culture has evolved; places that earn stars can be staid, stuffy, stale, or all three, and frequently feel like a waste of quite a lot of money. But Midsummer House, with its white tablecloths and starched napkins, gives a hint why the stars were attractive in the first place. From an overlook of the River Cam, the garden and terrace lend a winning homeliness to the proceedings, which are steered by founding chef patron Daniel Clifford and head chef Mark Abbott. Meals are dotted with little flourishes — like a cheese on toast canape that simply no one would believe is cheese or indeed toast, or a picnic basket of pneumatic, sugar-dusted bottereaux — that all feel genuine, rather than gimmicky. Midsummer is still on top of its game 18 years after earning a second Michelin star.

The Elm Tree

The Elm Tree doesn’t serve food. It’s a beerhead’s pub, in many respects, with a laminated book running the gamut of Belgian brewing styles and plenty of interesting ales on cask. But it’s worth a visit to enjoy those beers in a staggering interior, with armchair furniture, walls lined with beer labels, bottle caps, and posters, and come autumn time, witches’ hats stuck to the ceilings like stalactites. It may not be the sine qua non best pub in Cambridge, but it’s a standard-bearer for traditional pubs in a city heaving with them.

A two-tone white and green pub exterior with various signage.
Outside the Elm Tree.
The Elm Tree

Zhonghua Traditional Snacks

Dumplings, soup. This is the duo at Zhonghua, where wontons bob like buoys in hot and sour soup and the jiaozi come by the dozen, boiled, steamed, or fried (when they transmute into guotie). Established in 2012, the welcomingly unadorned restaurant also serves decent noodles, char siu bao, and a refreshing cucumber salad fragrant with sesame and hoarse with chilli oil. But locals, students, and tourists all come for the dumplings, anointing their meals with their own blends of soy, black vinegar, and finely minced garlic provided at the table.

A decorative plate of a dozen dumplings topped with chili oil.
Jiaozi.
James Hansen

Eko Kitchen

When Grace and Yemi Macaulay set up their food store All Seasons in 2008, it was largely out of frustration, filling what they saw as a vacuum when it came to culturally appropriate African Caribbean foods. The store’s success soon prompted them to establish Eko Kitchen next door, majoring in the stews, swallows, and soups that are hallmarks of Nigeria’s multifaceted cuisine — all cooked by Grace, who is a cancer researcher by trade. There’s edikaikong, from the southeastern part of the country, made with ugwu leaf and water spinach; Hausa suya; and a litany of mucilaginous soups like egusi, ogbono, and efo riro.

A restaurant exterior with large windows and a banner proclaiming its name along with “Nigerian/African Cuisine”
Outside Eko Kitchen.
James Hansen

Savino’s

This is a true Cambridge institution. In some ways, it’s the polar opposite of Dom’s Coffee, the other espresso provider to grace this guide, but both are squarely in the business of quality and hospitality. Plastered with old Italian newspapers and film photos, and sometimes showing Serie A on the TV, the cafe offers espresso oily and rich, with a panino or a slice of torta caprese that crumbles like the resolve of the diner seated in front of it. Darker brown and served in a bigger cup, the impossibly thick Italian-style hot chocolate doesn’t coat the back of a spoon so much as smother it.

Pint Shop

If a blackboard of 20 beers, arranged by style and provenance, does not inspire excitement, then okay, this place is not for you. But there’s much more to recommend this modern British restaurant armed with heavy-set tables in a Grade II-listed building than its beer matrix. It’s just as winning to get a pint of bitter and a classic Scotch egg as it is a hazy IPA and a bowl of nuts spiced with aleppo pepper, black sesame seeds, and agave syrup. The steaks, burgers, and chips are all top quality, the latter rustling restlessly from the fryer, and the generous Moroccan flatbreads are genuinely excellent. Great for a hearty lunch or a slap-up dinner.

Jack’s Gelato

Jack van Praag was a chef before he became a gelato master, working at the likes of Cotto, a revered Cambridge fine dining restaurant eventually forced to close by COVID-19, and at California institution Chez Panisse. But since 2010, he’s kept things frosty, doling out the best ice cream in the city (despite some worthy competition from Sicilian specialists Aromi). The original shop, on Bene’t Street, is the place to go for flavours that range from the beautiful simplicity of dark chocolate and sea salt to boozy ice cream — say, Japanese whisky or Barbados rum — that comes with a shot of its main ingredient for some added pep.

A small cup of ice cream with a wooden spoon.
A scoop from Jack’s Gelato.
James Hansen

Fitzbillies

In a city of institutions, history, and prestige, visit century-old Fitzbillies for a taste of culinary renown. To get even more granular, visit for the Chelsea bun, whose syrupy folds of dough, punctuated by currants, are unmissable. The bun, and the bakery that makes it, were salvaged from permanent closure by Alice Wright, Tim Hayward, and head baker Gill Abbs in 2011. Despite the owners’ desire to keep the traditional bun alive, they’re willing to do evil to the original recipe in pursuit of the common good, like turning a Chelsea bun into French toast and slapping bacon on top of it.

Fin Boys

This fish butchery and restaurant at the very bottom of Mill Road, almost right on the edge of Parker’s Piece, is a genuinely intriguing proposition, so forgive it for its name. Just the opening gambit at dinner, some bread served with a musky, savoury bonito butter, is a persuasive nudge. What unfurls is an exhibition in consummate fish cookery: whole fish, pastas (with an octopus or cuttlefish ragu, or more excitingly Berkswell cheese and more bonito), and raw dishes are generally outstanding. There’s a 10-course tasting at the weekend, but Fin Boys works just as well in its a la carte guise on weeknights.

Noodles Plus

Ordinarily home to the biggest queue on a road totally laden with good places to eat, Noodles Plus plays a trick on diners before they’ve even gotten in. There’s no fooling in the gorgeously greasy scarlet of the pigs’ ears in chilli oil, the generous servings of jasmine tea, or the hospitality from Dong Huang and Hui Yan Li, who opened Noodles Plus in February 2015 as a means of bringing Shanghainese specialities to Cambridge. It’s that little plus in the name, which represents the restaurant’s actual best dish. The very fine noodles be damned; the must-order here is a dumpling. Huang pleats xiao long bao to order with careful mastery, and they arrive at the table like little grenades, ready to burst with their deeply savoury, warming cargo.

Calverley’s Brewery

In a city of drinking spots, Calverley’s stands out for its hospitable vision of a modern taproom, which has the heart and heft of an old Cambridge pub. Options include a light, hoppily zesty tafel beer; a dankly savoury porter; and a clever berry sour that uses an unusually high proportion of oats to soften and complement the fruit. Scott’s All Day, around the corner, cycles over simple but clever pizzas — including a cheesesteak emulator and a redemption story for ham and pineapple — that make it easy for a pint to turn straight into dinner.

Vanderlyle

Reservations are very much required for this one, and they go live on the first Tuesday of every month. After finding fame on Masterchef in 2010 as a runner-up, chef Alex Rushmer took over the Hole in the Wall, a country pub in Little Wilbraham, which, in a happy twist of fate, was previously owned by the family of Dom’s Coffee founder Domenico O’Neill. Having now closed the pub and established himself on Mill Road with Vanderlyle, Rushmer has become a strong, compassionate voice for evolving hospitality culture for the better, and his restaurant signals that intention. The elegantly bountiful dishes focus on fruits and vegetables, making Vanderlyle a sort of East Anglian analog to California chef Jeremy Fox’s ideas. Singular, sublime, not to be missed.

Dom’s Coffee

With no sign — just some carefully tended plants framing the window — you could miss this remarkable spot on Mill Road, but that would be a serious mistake. No pictures are allowed, partly to keep the experience from being spoiled for others; while spoilers in the context of a cafe might sound a little absurd, after visiting, coffee nerds and caffeine fiends will understand why Domenico O’Neill’s vision of hospitality is best experienced blind. A few notes: cash only, and you should plan to stay for a drink, so don’t take away. It’s the best coffee in the city, bar none.

Bedouin

Bedouin is an exercise in the art of generosity, strengthened over 25 years of experience. Though it premiered in 2011, it is a sibling to Al Casbah down the road, a mezze bar and grill that opened in 1997 and continues to thrill. But Bedouin has slowly become the jewel of the two, not for the Saharan furnishings and fabrics that never become even the slightest bit kitschy, but for the kitchen’s devotion to Algerian and Moroccan traditions. There are flaky bastilla; brooding, dank lambs’ liver; and towering tagines, bequeathed by servers like gifts and opened with a flourish, which might contain lamb shank, cumin-scented meatballs, or beef with prunes and apricots.

Three dips in small bowls presented with lemon wedges.
Dips at Bedouin.
Bedouin

Fancett’s

“Classy” is the word to describe Fancett’s, a low-lit little bistro. It’s moodily romantic come nightfall, with co-owners Holly and Dan Fancett really leaning into the vibe with a menu of elegantly comforting Gallic classics with nifty arch glances toward modern French cooking. There’s a good-value set menu at lunch, with three courses for £28, but this is a place to hunker down for dinner. Start with the fine-cut steak tartare or a canny “lasagne” of Cornish lobster and scallop, followed by the pallid simplicity of brill lifted by chanterelles and trompettes, or a blushing pigeon breast.

Related Maps

Amphora

Amphora is the new arrival that, in a small way, clinches Cambridge’s ascension as a food and drink city. It’s always had quality wine bars, especially the service side of the namesake Wine Merchants shop. But — perhaps, in part, due to the fact that the strongest cellars can be found not at restaurants or bars but at the university colleges — the city has been excessively allergic to widening its taste in wine. Step forward Amphora, medical science graduate Cong Cong Bo’s shop and bar named for the ceramic vessel probably most famous for its role in ageing Georgian orange wines. The bar boasts an impossibly, brilliantly broad list that spans Portugal, Georgia, Armenia, Greece, and Moldova.

Norfolk Street Bakery

Upon stepping into this dinky space through what is unmistakably a residential front door, you might think this is a fairly standard little bakery. There are croissants, sausage rolls, cakes, and muffins. But clues start to emerge from the sandwiches on the blackboard and the glass jars filled with alfajores that something deeper is happening here. Adilia Frazao, who restored the bakery originally established in 1868, inflects the offerings with her Portuguese heritage. The gooey, flaky, sunshine-yellow pastel de nata would stand up to any in Lisbon.

A closeup on a pastel de nata on top of a white paper bag.
Pastel de nata.
James Hansen

The Queen’s Head

Normally, when a restaurant is famous for what a menu looks like, rather than what’s on it, it’s at best a cheap gimmick and at worst something that turns from funny to kind of icky upon reflection. Not so at this brilliant village pub south of the city, very much worth a drive. The menu in question is the soup of the day, which is listed not by flavour or by ingredient but simply by colour, on a scale that goes from green to brown and is mostly, honestly, shades of brown (the restaurant’s Twitter handle is @brownsouppub). There’s a board of pies come evening, and a rotating food van on Wednesday nights, which might include local burger legend Steak and Honour (there is a restaurant location, but the real experience is from the van). But really this is a place for cask ale, toast, and whatever colour of soup is on that day. Don’t sleep on the “round of sandwiches,” either, which offers absolutely absurd value for the quality; you’ll find shades of pink, not brown, on the rosy roast beef and smoky, salty ham.

A red-painted dining room with wooden furniture, a brick fireplace, vintage lanterns, trophy mounts, and a large window.
Inside the Queens Head pub.
The Queen’s Head

Related Maps