You know when you REALLY want somewhere to be good. Because it looks like it should, the menu reads well, the style is on point, and you just really want it to live up to expectation. That’s exactly how I felt about Pint Shop. When I read the menu yesterday, ahead of an evening reservation, I was worried. There weren’t a huge number of menu items that were jumping out at me from the latest menu, and I was worrying that the ones that did – the steak, the confit duck, the terrine – might fall short. When you’ve been really looking forward to something, there’s a risk of building it up too high for reality to match up with. I’d also nagged Becca that I thought Pint Shop was going to be brilliant and that I was VERY excited it was opening.
Ten minutes into the meal, though, my worries were already at ease. The waiting staff tending to our table were warm and courteous, none of the overly matey intrusion that some restaurants favour. The house blend Pea Gin (formulated to tie in with their Pint Shop Cambridge site’s abode on Peas Hill and one of a huge list of gins spanning four full pages), served simply with tonic for £9.70, was fresh as a daisy with beautiful sweet, crisp tones.
When it came to menu choices, I really fancied the Onglet Seak with French Onion Butter and Toast for main (£14), but the husband wanted the same, so I fell on my sword and chose Devilled Lamb Shoulder Kebab, with Flat Bread and Chilli Sauce (£12.50), so we could sample various flavours. Sides of House Chips (£3.30) and Green Leaves with Mint Dressing (£3.50) were added. For starter, ever the terrine fan, I plumped for Pork and Venison Terrine with Pickled Prunes and Toast (£8) and Andrew for Southern Fried Chicken with Aioli (£6.50). We also ordered a sample of Chilli Biltong (£3.50) to share while we waited.
The biltong was on par with some of the nicest I’ve tried, meaty enough and not too dry, with a spike of heat from the chilli and no overly chewy bits of gristle. The gin was going down nicely, as was the west coast pale ale the other half was supping away on happily.
The decor is particularly inoffensive too, with nice muted tones, faux wooden panelling, simple wall art and low lighting, it feels like the kind of place you could just hang out at. With a vast spirits list and an equally impressive list of regularly changing beers, there are plenty of reasons to return. There are private dining areas too, so this would make a great venue for group meals, work nights out or friendly gatherings.
The starters were good, most notably the fried chicken, which was beautifully tender inside and perfectly crisp on the out, with nicely seasoned batter. The terrine was very tasty, as was the chunky toast accompanying it, though the two together made for a slightly dry mouthful, which the pickled prunes couldn’t quite penetrate. The toast felt like it would work perfectly with a big slather of smashed chilli avocado, but was possibly a little too thick and crispy for a meaty terrine, becoming quite the jaw workout. I stole a little of Andrew’s aioli to add a bit of extra moisture, but the individual flavours were great.
The mains almost risked marital bliss, as the onglet steak which I’d passed up, turned out to be absolutely fricking amazing. Cue death stares from me across the table. I won’t share the pictures I took, as my camera phone is well and truly on its way out, and made it look like a dogs dinner. But imagine the flavours of French onion soup combined with a perfectly cooked steak, complete with the soup-soaked crouton. It was sublime, and the first steak dish I’ve found to genuinely rival the steak platter from The Chester.
My Lamb Kebab was very good too, with punchy chilli sauce, fresh herbs, soft flatbread and big shreds of lamb that tasted like an upmarket doner kebab. Against the mighty onglet though it didn’t have much chance. The chips too, I almost forgot the chips. They were amazing. Crispy, medium-cut, homemade, salty beauties. By this point, I’d moved on to the Adnams First Rate gin, with Coriander, Cardamom and Cucumber, for £6.70 with tonic, and Andrew had moved onto a lager that was so clean it tasted like something brewed from triple-filtered Icelandic water.
We didn’t have room for pudding, but with food this good, we really wanted to sample something. Within minutes we were happily delving into a little bowlful of malt ice cream, blondie crumbs and hot fudge chocolate sauce, AKA The Malt Teaser (£6). Decadent, and oozy, and sinful, and perfectly proportioned.
A brilliant place, with brilliant food, brilliant drinks, a brilliant vibe and brilliant people. I bloody well told you so Becca!
I dined as a guest of Pint Shop