The Petersfield, the not-so-new kid on the block
Since moving to the UK three and a half years ago, I’ve come to love pubs as an establishment and Cambridge has a great selection of them. However, we didn’t have many nice ones near home, ones that could be our locals. The Petersfield is a pub in the homonym neighbourhood in Cambridge, just off of Mill Road. It opened at the end of Feburary 2017 as part of the fast growing City Pub Company. While I’d usually opt for supporting local independent business, rather than chain restaurants, this franchise is an exception.
I knew this pub was in the making, Danny and I had walked past it before when it was the Backstreet Bistro, and had been following their Instagram feed. I was expecting a quaint pub with lots of character, but that’s about as far as my expectations went. I was ready to be surprised… and what a surprise it was! Our first visit was on March 10th, and there was clearly still a novelty buzz of people coming to try it out, as it was very busy. Since then though, the vibe has quietened and it’s as crowded as any local neighbourhood pub. So far, we’ve been five times, trying it out on a couple of date nights, dinner with friends and colleagues, and Sunday lunch with family. Every time we booked online on their website, so I’m not sure what happens if you just turn up and hope to find a table, but I know that at least at weekends, they don’t accept same day bookings.
Their menu takes into account seasonality and typical British ingredients, so it changes frequently. Once, I was running late to meet some friends who were already sitting at the table patiently waiting so I checked their menu online and settled on something. When I got there, huffing and puffing, as I sat down, the waitress came to take our order and as I glanced at their menu, I realised it wasn’t the same one I had seen online.. oops!
It’s not traditional pub food, but it’s British cuisine with a modern twist. Bar once, I’ve always ordered the chicken option, yet every time it was cooked differently. I’ve had chicken kiev, roast chicken and chicken “cooked in a more fancy way” (I’m really sorry, for the life of me I can’t remember the name!). The flavours are always very well balanced, and each dish combines textures carefully, using quality ingredients plated with care. They also offer tasty vegetarian options, which, since D became vegetarian, has become an essential checkbox when looking for a place to eat. Their vegetarian dishes are creative and not something you’d find somewhere else, like their quinoa salad with halloumi, watermelon, rocket and raspberry&walnut purée. The chefs also experiment with vegan option, such as the Jerusalem artichokes, chicory, toasted hazelnuts, apple & smoked tomato chutney starter or the blueberry torte – if the torte is on the menu when you go, you must try it!
The first time we went, we shared the Jerusalem artichokes starter, then D ordered a vegetarian pie and a baked sweet potato side, but couldn’t finish both. He ended up asking to take his side home to save space for pudding. He’s a cheeky one! The restaurant wasn’t equipped with takeaway containers, but they were still very helpful and wrapped the dish in some aluminum foil. I instead had ordered chicken (cooked in that fancy way I mentioned above) and it seemed a bit pink in the middle. It didn’t taste raw so I ate most of it minus a few small bits. When our plates got cleared, I asked the waitress if it was normal and she was very kind to go ask the chefs, who confirmed the chicken had been cooked using a meat thermometer and reaching the recommended temperature of 165C.
The food has always been exceptional, creative, well presented, and delicious. To top all that off, the service (although a bit slow) and presentation are those of a fine restaurant, but the vibe and prices are still those of a local friendly pub. My only slightly negative remark would be that the one time I ordered a burger, it wasn’t anything exceptional. It was perhaps slightly overcooked (my bad, I should have specified!) and ended up tasting dry. But to be honest, I don’t think it’s the kind of pub where you go to order a burger, rather for more high-quality dining.
The decor and ambiance are unique, with lots of details hidden away, like the empty bottles of wine nestled in the ceiling of the bar and the mismatched silverware. But my favourite detail has to be the , that make a glugging noise are you pour. Unfortunately, the effect disappears by the time you’ve poured the second glass. It’s one of those useless but amusing objects that I know will be going on my wedding list one day.
They seem to have a good selection of beers according to Danny, with some coming from the sister pub Cambridge Brew House and others from smaller breweries. There are also guest beers on rotation. Their wine selection is varied and perhaps on the pricey side if you are a PhD student like me, but you know you’ll get good wine. They even have a £29.5 bottle of Valpolicella Classico by Bertani, which is my favourite red wine, made in my home town Verona by a family friend. Noticing the bottle behind the bar made me feel instantly at home!
At the moment until June 30th, they have a Cider Festival going on, with a wide selection of Lilley’s Cider, a delicious Somerset cider farm. I first discovered it in London at the Cider Tap (outside Euston – don’t bother going now if you are a cider fan, unfortunately it closed down in May to open the Northern Tap, serving craft beers from northern England. They still have a few all time favourite ciders on tap, like Beesting). At the Petersfield, they have one of my favourites, Apples and Pears – medium sweet. Make sure you specify if you want your cider fizzy (in bottle) or still (on tap).
Haven’t tried their back garden yet, but the summer is just starting and I know I’ll be back again!
2 Sturton St, Cambridge CB1 2QA