A crisp, shining February morning makes a little jolly to Cambridge all the more enticing so off we popped. Heading back to a University city always makes me nostalgic and with this being a reading week and half term, there were plenty of mums-and-daughters lunching around us and wandering the gorgeous streets of Cambridge. A trot down to the original Trumpington branch of my place of the month gave us a great start to our afternoon.
We headed straight to one of my favourite spots; Fitzbillies although Mum will kill me if I don't mention her favourite, the Michaelhouse Cafe - situated in a stunning church in the heart of the city centre. However for me, Fitzbillies, so called (presumably) due to its proximity to the Fitzwilliam Museum is one of the lovelier places to sit down for a lunch or one of their great coffees and a Chelsea bun.
Sadly by 1pm they'd already sold out of their goats cheese and red onion tart, which comes with some of the Chef's seasonal salad for a reasonable £9 and so we opted for a large portion of the salad, the 'Buck' rarebit and the obligatory Baker's potatoes to share between us. The salad itself was a perfectly seasonal affair - bitter radicchio and other leaves, blood orange and pickled walnuts tossed through with an excellently seasoned dressing. The Buck rarebit (the Welsh kind with an added poached egg) had only one little niggle, you used to just add the egg but now it comes with as standard, which is fine if the egg itself is poached to perfection. Ours however was a hard boiled one - rock solid throughout and while it may have just been poached in a little 'poachlet' contraption, the shape and texture was certainly not of the usual kind. Do not let this detract however! With a fluffy doorstop wedge of white bread, nutty stout and spiced cheese atop and a healthy green salad on the side lightly dressed in a mustard dressing this is a treat and a half! Splitting it between two, with some of the Chef's salad added too made for a delicious lunch.
The Baker's potatoes (although now called something else?!) - crispy thinly sliced potatoes and onions cooked slowly in ham stock and baked to perfection in duck fat - were as yummy as always and a meal at FB isn't complete without them! Believe me, you can always squeeze them in.
The English Breakfast tea is from Kandula, which is a particularly fragrant type but I would recommend the loose leaf Earl Grey to go with your Chelsea bun for afters. Prepare for your teeth to ache too! I always grab a tap water alongside to help it all along as the gorgeously spiced syrup can get a little much after a while. The currants they use in the buns have a wonderfully long time to soak up all of the flavour from the bun and syrup mix making them particularly juicy yet still retaining the slightly bitter taste that makes currants so good in all baking - I'm a big fan of bringing it back in a big way; 'currants are for life, not just for Christmas cake...' etc etc.
Do make sure you wander through the 'shop' side of the cafe and grab a look at all of the delicious bakes available - the buns are at the bottom of the cabinet in huge silver trays, shining with syrup. You can order cakes for special occasions or with a bun only £2 to take away, it's a no brainer for a quick snack on the go, whether you're a hungry student or a ravished shopper.
There's always plenty of room with 60 or so seats in the large cafe out back and if you're lucky enough to sit under the skylights, the blue tiles around you along with old school decorations create the most relaxing vibe. The staff are always lovely and are always more than happy to give you a little extra hot water for your tea or bring you an extra portion of Baker's potatoes if you're not up to sharing... We left full and happy for under £30 including service and it's not only this great value but the bright feeling you get every time when you leave having had a wonderful experience. Not even a little poached egg can put me off this place...