Mill Road – a rich urban tapestry
SHOPPING | 04/10/2018
Stroll down Mill Road and it’s pretty obvious what gives this area its diverse, multicultural and quirky reputation. Chinese and Korean supermarkets, cafés and coffee houses, Indian, Adriatic and Turkish restaurants, delis, hairdressers and classic British pubs, sit alongside shops where you can buy organic food, fine wines, antiques, vinyl records, bikes, retro furniture, clothing and gifts – and all independent. So starting from 'town' end, here are just a few of our favourites.
The Garden Kitchen, 82 Mill Road CB1 2AS
This is the third location for The Garden Kitchen (find them at Kettle’s Yard and Botanic Garden) and is considered the urban sibling. Small, but perfectly formed, this café is known for great ‘on-the-go food’ and there’s nothing diminutive about the menu choice here. You can take-away any of the food that’s available to eat-in – which could be anything from their delicious and varied salad bar to go with your Dovecote Bakery sourdough toasted sandwich, through to pasta dishes and hearty soups. There’s a great vegetarian choice plus there’s always loads of gluten free and vegan options. The Garden Kitchen is also one of the few places in Cambridge that offer breakfast delivered by Deliveroo.
Taank Optometrists, 92A Mill Road CB1 2BD
Looking around the very stylish and modern interior at award-winning Taank Optometrists, it’s amazing to think that an optician’s practice has existed at 92A Mill Road for over 100 years. Today, forward-thinking owner Anjana Taank and her team, combine the most up-to-date eye health technology and fashionable eyewear, with the practice’s traditional values of good customer service and community involvement – all of which were rightly acknowledged when they recently fended off competition from across the UK to win the Association of Optometrists 'Practice of the Year Award 2017 '.
Go back 30 years and Indian restaurants offered a limited range of dishes; korma for wimps, madras for the masses and volcanic vindaloo for brave souls. But in recent years curry houses have had to diversify to survive.
Prana Indian Restaurant is one such success story, having taken the gourmet cuisine route, winning numerous awards, including Restaurant of the Year 2017 in the English Curry Awards.
Run by Kobir Ahmed, a former banker whose food heritage dates back 150 years (his family still run a restaurant in Sylhet, Bangladesh), Prana opened in 2016, boasting a contemporary feel and impeccably dressed tables.
The menu caters for all, offering dhansak, bhuna et al for takeaway traditionalists, seafood choices and vegan options (their vegan naan - made without milk and eggs – is currently garnering national attention!).
Al Amin may look from the outside like an ordinary grocers, but once inside this deceptively large shop opens up to reveal a wealth of foods from around the world.
Salsas from Mexico, jerk seasoning from Jamaica, pumpernickel breads from Germany sit next to pomegranate molasses from Iran, Harissa paste from Algeria and much more. There’s a wonderfully exotic range of fresh produce too – fruit, vegetables, herbs and spices all displaying country of origin (an education in itself).
Explore further and discover the Halal butchers and the ‘Spice and Rice Den’. If you fancy something more convenient, there’s the newly opened ‘falafel centre’ and the deli selling freshly-made Indian and Thai dishes including curries, bhaji and seriously good samosa.
Cambridge Mill Road Butchers, 114 Mill Road CB1 2BQ
In recent years, the local food scene has blossomed into an incredible network of first-class suppliers and providers. Keeping at the top of their game takes hard work and passion, but some indies can stay the distance – Cambridge Mill Road Butchers is one.
Their meat is sourced direct from high-quality, free-range farms and can be traced back to its origins. Pork from Dingley Dell Farm in Suffolk, chickens from the Sutton Hoo Chicken company in Woodbridge, and quails from Norfolk. The amazing choice of beef includes breeds such as Aberdeen Angus, Hereford and British Blue and is grass-fed, dry-aged and highly-marbled. They also prepare and sell scotch eggs and sausage rolls and come game season, treat yourself to fallow, red deer and game birds, all sourced from local private estates.
It’s true that both sides of Mill Road bridge in Cambridge are well-served for places to satisfy your coffee fix. On the Romsey side (recently described as ‘one of the hippest neighbourhoods in Britain’), there is one indie establishment that has gone that bit further and become not just a great coffee shop, but also a real destination for visitors as well as a hub for the local community. Owner Duncan Mason and his team have been running Urban Larder since 2015. During this time, they have become known as ‘the larder family’ which accurately describes the genuinely warm and friendly atmosphere created by the country-modern vibe of the interior as well as all who work there. From parents with their kids through to students and local freelance folk, meeting up ‘at the Larder’ is like a home-from-home.
While smart technology advances at lightning speed - Alexa, Hive and Echo becoming part of our vocabulary - there’s a growing number of us who yearn for the ‘Good Life’. It’s a vision championed by friendly, family-run store Cutlacks, which has premises on Mill Road, Cambridge, and Forehill, Ely.
Welcoming customers for 20 years with the promise of “all that’s best in home and garden”, the company prides itself on helping people create their own home-grown products. The Cambridge store features a dedicated home brewing room, with a vast array of beer, wine and cider DIY kits. For gardening buffs, there’s a variety of seeds and plants, and even a couple of traditional fruit presses, available for hire. Cutlacks’ bakeware selection is also a bestseller, offering essentials such as bread proving baskets, Nordic Ware bundt pans and Paul Hollywood pastry cutters.
Also in the area and worth a visit
Maurizio Dining & Co, 44 Mill Road CB1 2AS
Fantasia, 64 Mill Road CB1 2AS
Hot Numbers, Units 5-6 Dales Brewery, Gwydir Street CB1 2LJ
The Hive Antique Shop, 3 Gwydir Street CB1 2LJ
Cambridge Vinopolis, 1A Devonshire Road CB1 2BH
Calverley's Brewery, 23A Hooper Street CB1 2NZ
Hope Street Yard, Mill Road CB1 3NA
Relevant Record Cafe/Vinyl Record Store, 260 Mill Road CB1 3NF
Romsey Barbers, 2a Thoday Street CB1 3AS
And don’t forget the amazing Mill Road Winter Fair Saturday 1st December!