In this final installment of my Cambridge Chronicles, we get to the really good stuff - the food! We left home at about 9:30 in the morning and returned about 9:30 at night so it was a long day and long days require plenty of food and snacks - and, since we are in the UK - plenty of tea!
We arrived in town around 11 am, and after exploring a few places we decided to get lunch before we got too hungry. Luckily, we didn't have to do much thinking about where to go, as Joan and Vince had a destination in mind. I think I've mentioned before that Vince and Joan first met online, through an online church start-up. When Joan came to the UK to meet with a whole host of people involved in the church project, Vince offered to pick her up at the train station and take her to the meetings. The very first time they met each other in person they went to Cambridge and ate at a cafe called Michaelhouse. Fittingly, this cafe is inside a former church!
So we went to Michaelhouse for the good food, the atmosphere, and the not small amount of nostalgia for Vince and Joan. As soon as we stepped in the door I was marveling at the way the cafe had come to life inside the church. The high stone archways and stained glass windows were still there, but any pews had been replaced with cafe tables and chairs. A spiral staircase leads to an upper balcony where perhaps a choir might have once performed. Food is served cafeteria-style - you go down the line getting your food, pay at the end, then go find your own seating.
The food on offer was simple yet delicious. There were a variety of salads and sandwiches to choose from, but since the day was cold and drizzly already, I went for the soup. They change what's available every day and the day we were there the soup was roasted butternut squash with coconut and lime. The soup was served with a slice of bread and of course, we got tea to go with it as well. I love the way the tea was served in a miniature teapot! It felt very fancy. The soup was incredible - a smooth, velvety texture and really rich flavors despite the simple ingredients. I'd love to make a dupe of it at home someday.
After eating we bussed our own table (like I said, it's a very casual place) and checked out the part of the building that is still reserved as a church-like space. They will often use this reserved area for musical events, prayer services, and the like. During normal business hours it is set aside as a quiet space (separated from the eating space by glass doors) where anyone can go to pray or have a few moments to themselves.
We adventured around town more after lunch, and after spending a few hours at the museum we found ourselves a bit peckish. We weren't quite ready for dinner but we needed something before heading to Evensong at King's College Chapel. Enter the adorable coffee shop (should it be called a tea shop here?) Fitzbillie's. (Clever readers will recognize that as a play on the museum titled the Fitzwilliam.) This place is famous for their Chelsea Bun - a type of sticky bun with a syrupy sauce and raisins. Paired with a tea it was the perfect afternoon pick-me-up. The tea was also served in an adorable miniature teapot but this time it was loose-leaf tea - thus you see the contraption across the cup that catches the leaves as you pour the tea. We spent over an hour here chatting, savoring our sweets, and drinking lots of tea before going to get in line for Evensong.
After Evensong, we were ready for dinner before heading home. Vince told tales of when he was in college and on the side roads you could find hole in the wall restaurants that served giant plates of food for mere pence (with the caveat that this was back in the 70's.) His favorite place had been a Greek restaurant with a steep, winding staircase that took you up to the dining room where you could eat your plate of souvlaki that only cost you £.55. We, however, settled on a quirky little Mexican place, pulled in by their promise of serving "big-ass burritos."
On the ground floor, we ordered our burritos - all of us going with the carnitas recommended by the friendly guys behind the counter. We could make it a deal with a drink and some chips and salsa and with that our dinner was ready. We asked where we could eat and they pointed us to the stairs at the back of the restaurant...as we climbed them and arrived at the top, Vince became convinced that this was indeed the very place that housed the Greek restaurant he had been reminiscing about! What a fun coincidence! My burrito was pretty good - not quite as good as Chipotle (and definitely not as good as Panchero's - I miss their fresh-pressed tortillas) - but it definitely hit the spot. I love Mexican food and it is not nearly as popular here as it is in the States so I was glad to get some at all.
After stuffing ourselves full of burrito it was time to trace our steps back to the car - this required a short walk through town, a longer ride on the bus back to the car park, and then a 45 minutes drive home. By the time we arrived back in Welwyn Garden City, I was ready to collapse into bed for a good night's sleep! It was an amazing day filled with wonderful sights, good food, moving worship, and excellent company. In short, a day I won't soon forget.