For the second edition in our travel series we are hopping on over to the stunning city of Cambridge.
This is a city very close to my heart, I was actually born in the old hospital on Mill Road (it was demolished quite a few years ago), and then lived on East Road whilst studying for my A-Levels at Cambridge Centre for Sixth Form Studies (CCSS), that was a few more years ago than I would like to admit and Cambridge has changed entirely since then. I do still love a wander around my old haunts, and inevitably end up sitting on the grass drinking cider from a plastic cup at the Mill Pond every time, just as I did as a student!
We spoke with Katie who has lived in and around Cambridge all her life, so who better to give us the lowdown on where to go and what to do? A former Michellin Starred Restaurant Manager, Katie now runs her own business (Katie Underwood & Company) specialising in PR, Social Media and Marketing for Restaurants, Hotels, Travel and Leisure businesses.
Katie, thank you so much for speaking with us, tell us about yourself, how long have you lived in Cambridge and what do you love most about the city?
Thanks for asking me to take part! I grew up near the city (in Huntingdon), and after living and studying abroad, I came back and met the chef who would become my husband on day one of working in a Cambridge kitchen. We worked in restaurants all over the UK and then settled back here to have our family. It’s a brilliant place to bring up kids. We’re restaurant owners and I run a Social Media & PR business, so we’re very involved in the local food industry. We’ve seen it evolve incredibly over the last decade, with a thriving independent restaurant and café scene.
Describe your perfect day wandering around the city – where do you go, what do you do?
As I write this we are still under Covid-19 restrictions, and anticipating restaurants opening in some capacity in July. It’s made us all think about the places that are most special to us. On the first day of ‘normality’ we would go straight for Aperol Spritzes on the sunny terrace outside Cambridge Cookery School Café. We’d pack up a picnic (they have been preparing fabulous fresh seafood like langoustines with lemon mayonnaise for special occasions) and head to the riverside in Grantchester. Cambridge Gin Distillery make their gin with botanicals inspired by the Grantchester meadows – we’d grab a bottle of their Negroni, or our favourite, the Japanese Gin.
Where would you take visitors to show them the ‘real’ Cambridge?
Wandering the old cobbled streets, down the backs and ending at the Millpond for a trip on the river. Punting is great but hiring a kayak for a few hours gives you the chance to see the city from another angle. It’s great exercise too!
Where’s your favourite area in the city and why?
We live in South Cambridge, on the edge of Trumpington Country Park. There are wildflower meadows, and the river flows through the woods at a place called ‘Bryron’s Pool’. I love the thought that Byron used to swim here when he studied at Cambridge. My husband and I used to take walks here when we were dating, and now our kids paddle about in the stream.
What would you say is Cambridge’s best kept secret?
The unassuming Zhonghua traditional snacks on Norfolk Street. It’s a Chinese restaurant without any frills. The fried pork and kimchi dumplings and cucumber salad are the best dish you’ll find in the whole city.
When you want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city centre, where do you head to?
The Old Bridge Hotel in Huntingdon. Their leafy terrace, the riverside location and the best wine list you’ll find anywhere. It holds a lot of good childhood memories for me and it’s a very special place indeed. Choose room 33 if you’re lucky enough to spend the night! The baby monitor even stretches to the restaurant.
When in need of a little retail therapy, where do you head to?
Boudoir Femme and Elegant Atelier are both fantastic boutique shops with handpicked clothes that really stand the test of time. I’m not a big shopper, and these days tend to buy more considered, quality pieces from independent retailers.
Are there any hidden gems you can recommend?
Mill road is a more alternative area with a great array of independents. Take a stroll from the city centre, stopping at Hot Numbers Gwydir St for coffee and colourful brunch dishes, to Urban Larder for Thursday doughnut specials, and Calverley’s Brewery on Hooper St for street food popups,. In the summer months drinking is outside on long benches outside the brewery, with excellent beers and, on the best nights, Steak & Honour burgers too. For Cambridge’s best cocktails, 196 Cocktail Bar on Mill Road is without a doubt the place to go.
What are your top 3 tips for visiting the city?
Parking in the city centre on a Saturday is a disaster. It’ll cost you over £25 for the day. Cycle into the city if you can, or park far out for a scenic stroll.
For a view, have drinks on Varsity’s Rooftop Terrace – a real suntrap and busy on weekends. Wheeler Street is the foodie hotspot. Sticks n Sushi, Steak & Honour, Pint Shop and Jack’s Gelato. Try them all!
When is your favourite time of year in the city and why?
Spring and Summer on the river. You can’t beat it.
Cambridge’s Best Bits;
For Coffee – Bould Brothers
For Dinner – Mercado Central
For Brunch – Espresso Library
For Drinks – Cambridge Gin Distillery
For a little culture – The Zoology Museum is AMAZING!
Push the boat out luxury hotel - A suite facing Parker’s Piece at The University Arms Hotel.
Somewhere to stay which is a little more budget friendly – The Moller Centre have excellent rooms available at affordable prices, especially for those studying or working in the city.