Pint Shop, restaurant review: A great drinks menu, outstanding food - and no queues!

 

Cambridge on a sunny Sunday. So there's a queue to get into the city centre; a queue to get into the multi-storey car park; a queue to get into somewhere for lunch.

Hold on: there's somewhere in the centre of this chi-chi city where you can get terrific food without a queue and without resorting to a lacklustre chain? (Local landmark Fitzbillies doesn't count: it's always packed.)

Tipped off by industry powerhouse Scott Collins, I navigate the crowds in search of Pint Shop, which opened last November. In between Jamie's Italian and Zizzi, round the corner from Carluccio's – you get the idea – stands an anonymous office building. Peering in the window, where you'd expect to see a poster about ISAs is a tiny chalkboard advertising Scotch eggs. Up high is a small sign. Meat. Bread. Beer.

This murmured announcement is followed by a similarly quiet interior. There are three rooms – bar up front, dining-room at the back and a further dining-room upstairs. All are clad in pale grey/green-painted wood, with parquet floor and utilitarian lighting; simple wood furniture and – here and there – elegant, muted pieces by local artists.

What might feel a bit frosty is soothed by careful consideration – the chairs and benches are comfy, the space between tables expansive and, in the pub, a counter groaning with pies, filled cobs, sausage rolls, and those Scotch eggs. And if that weren't enough, a blackboard chart features 16 beers from off the beaten track and there are, wow, 44 gins on the menu.

We settle in to the dining-room – Mr M with a pint of Moor Dark Alliance stout; I have home-made lemonade. Near us is a family whose three nippers are tucking into roast chicken, a woman dining happily alone with a pie and a book, and there's a constant ebb and flow of groups and couples. Pint Shop has clearly established a toehold in the local trade. A look at the food menu explains why: a three-course Sunday lunch for £20; half a beer-brined chicken with house chips and curry butter for £13.20? Yes please.

But plenty of places do roasts and pies. What makes this special? That glance at the children's food is the first clue: it doesn't look like "kids' menu" fodder. Plump, crisp-skinned chicken, a heap of proper chips, lashings of gravy (and some veg, hurrah!).

The grown-ups' food goes up several notches from there. From the set lunch, a pear-and-hazelnut salad is silky and crunchy, the perfect light touch before a hefty roast beef with everything. The meat, I can confirm from a stolen forkful, is top-quality and definitely not production-line assembly.

Prawn cocktail comes in a glass, a heap of small fellas muddled with marie-rose sauce and shredded romaine. Atop it, two great big prawns in an embrace that it seems a shame to break up. Whoops, too late.

Sausage and lentils is a weeknight staple for me. Will it be elevated here? Yes, of course. The sausages are packed with garlic and fennel seasoning and without the tan lines slapdash grilling gives. The only teeniest grumble might be that the beef short ribs, which do the whole falling-away-from-the-bone thing, could take a jot more seasoning. All the meat is cooked over charcoal, which explains the exemplary texture. Chef Dan Peirce (formerly at Fitzbillies) is clearly a talent.

The veg is uniformly ace: onion rings are huge and tangy, and I could have eaten a vast plate of the purple sprouting broccoli with anchovy dressing.

Of the puddings, poached rhubarb with griddled scones and clotted cream is vast, and delicious Britishness on a plate. A mini chocolate pot with salted caramel and home-made shortbread is inhaled.

The inspiration for Pint Shop is the beer houses that sprung up in the 1830s as a result of the Beer Act. It certainly feels as convivial as someone's home… right down to the loos with enamel dishes of Pears soap. Owners Richard and Benny, who spent three years finding and converting the listed building, are to be congratulated on such a confident vision.

Lucky, lucky Cambridge we mutter, as the car-park meter ticks round another hour. Get there before the queues arrive.

8/10

Pint Shop, 10 Peas Hill, Cambridge, Tel: 01223 352 293. £60 for two, with drinks

Four more things I've been eating this week

Polpetto

Burrata, game faggot and white broccoli; a sensational supper at the latest outpost of Russell Norman's Italian empire. Chef Florence Knight is a powerhouse.

Pasta con sarde

Obsessed with this Sicilian classic. After helping a new neighbour, she offered to make it for me as she's Catania-born and bred. Could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

Hot cross buns

Every year I try my grandfather's method: slice, slab of unsalted, searing-hot oven. Eat toasty result with butter running down chin. But it's not the same without him.

Wagamama

Stuck in an office on Saturdays, a take-out phad thai is better than a sandwich for lunch. But either my tastebuds are shot, or they've toned down the seasoning. A lot.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookA delicious collection of 50 meaty main courses
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Recruitment Genius: Transportation Contracting Manager

    £33000 - £38000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A global player and world leade...

    Recruitment Genius: Hotel and Spa Duty Manager

    £18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are friendly, sociable, ...

    Recruitment Genius: Payroll and Benefits Co-ordinator

    £22300 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This museum group is looking for a Payro...

    ICE ICT: Lead Business Consultant

    £39,000: ICE ICT: Specific and detailed knowledge and experience of travel sys...

    Day In a Page

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map