A corporate guide to Cambridge: where to eat, stay and play

We headed to the City of Perspiring Dreams and the University Arms, Cambridge to figure out how to best do a MICE stay in the city

Updated on 29 March 2019 • Written By Tonje Odegard

A corporate guide to Cambridge: where to eat, stay and play

Cambridge is more than brain box students, beautiful architecture and crowds of tourists. It’s a wonderful destination for an incentive trip with your colleagues, an impressive place to schmoose clients and a regal spot for indulgent dining.

Stay

at the University Arms, Cambridge

Cambridge has several hotels that might have a more immediate corporate look and feel. But why opt for an environment your surround yourself with on a daily basis? Rather, indulge in a luxury hotel that will make guests feel more looked-after. For that, we would opt for the newly renovated University Arms, Cambridge.

Last August, the hotel reopened after a £80m refurbishment that saw the hotel redesigned by none other than Martin Brudnizki (the interior mastermind behind London hit-destinations such as The Ivy and Holborn Dining Room). With the help from renowned classical architect John Simpson, he has helped reinstate Cambridge’s most historic hotel into the treasure it once was.

The University Arms, Cambridge is designed by Martin Brudnizki and John Simpson

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On a budget or wanting to rather splash the cash on F&B? Opt for the ‘cosy’ rooms, which is ideal for a short business stay. They’re all inward-facing (ensuring quiet nights for guests) with rates starting at £143 per night.

To ramp it up a bit, the superiors are very generous and almost as handsomely decorated as the suites. Because if you really want to impress, we would go for one of the 12 suites priced from £419 per night. We recently stayed in one of them and can, with profound assurance, tell you they are worth it.

Each of them are named after celebrated Cambridge alumni (or a Tab as they are affectionately nicknamed), and is decked out with literature curated around their subject – curtesy of Heywood Hill, the famous Mayfair bookstore. Located on the top floor, they all also benefit from incredible views of Parker’s Piece (enjoy them from the private balconies), which the hotel borders to. 

The free-standing bath tubs are giving us all the feels

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We especially enjoyed the free-standing bath tub that you can soak in while overlooking the hustle and bustle of the green, and how, when we returned to our room before bed, bespoke bookmarks were left on our pillow, encouraging some night-time reading.     

And we’ll tell you what – the hotel has some fantastic meeting and events opportunities as well. The ballroom (which also has a pre-function room) can host up to 180 for dinner, 200 for a reception or 70 for a conference or board meeting. Handily, the ballroom can be split into two smaller rooms, providing added flexibility. There is also an underground valet car park, which is great for out-of-towners.

Finally, the location is excellent. Dead in the centre, it’s only a short taxi ride away from the station and in walking distance to the colleges, museums and the riverside.

The ballroom forms a sophisticated setting for dinner, receptions or conferences

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Eat

at Parker’s Tavern

Parker’s Tavern is one of the best restaurants in Cambridge and also happens to be the in-house restaurant of University Arms, Cambridge. The Guardian’s Jay Rayner gave it an astounding review, and we can only concur.

The 110-cover space feels like a cross between a French bistro and a university dining hall – Martin Brudnizki was actually inspired by the large communal dining halls synonymous with the Cambridge colleges. The various college crests are referenced on the original stained-glass windows, a feature that is also apparent in the ballroom.   

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Chef Tristan Welch serves up whimsical re-imaginings of classic British dishes. The crab, brown shrimp and smoked mackerel cocktail is an exciting interpretation on the traditional prawn cocktail, while a macaroni cheese is given a posh upgrade with lobster. We especially loved the latter, so make sure to give it a try. Also, we anticipate that the menu’s ‘classic British beef spaghetti bolognese’ is nothing like your average spag bowl.  

To the left from the lobby you also find the Library, where the Historical Cambridge Afternoon Tea is served, showcasing produce and signature dishes from Cambridge. We are still dreaming about the sausage rolls, made with sausage meats sourced from the nearby market.  

Parker's Tavern has that communal Cambridge colleges feel to it

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For cocktails, the bar (which sits in-between the Library and the restaurant), is a remarkable spot for pre- or post-dinner drinks. For Instagram-lovers, we recommend the Bloomsbury Boozer, which not only tastes great (gin, elderflower, lemon, raspberries), but comes topped with a raspberry foam that forms a giant floating cloud, so it really looks the part. Feeling more traditional? Its take on the classic negroni, The Secret of Life, is a well-turned alternative.    

It’s worth noting that all spaces are available for private and exclusive hire alongside the ballroom.

 

Play

at Kettle’s Yard

There are so many ways to entertain in Cambridge that won’t even come close to breaking the bank. One of these is visiting Kettle’s Yard, the University of Cambridge’s modern and contemporary art gallery that reopened in February 2018 to widespread acclaim. It’s built around the home of British artist Jim Ede, who studied as an artist in Cambridge, and his house is a large part of the gallery and exhibition space. Head here for some of the country’s best modern art displays. Entry to the galleries and exhibitions is free.

Kettle's Yar is the former home of artist Jim Ede

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Punting is an inherent part of the Cambridge lifestyle and is a must when visiting. Take your chances and head out yourself, or hit up one of the many local punting companies, which will be able to kit you out with a professional punter, who’ll know the best and most scenic routes, too. The staff at University Arms, Cambridge will be able to help you find the best company to use.

Having a leisurely walk around town to look at the many collages or visiting the Fitzwilliam museum is easy as pie and a great way to explore the city. Cambridge also has the highest level of cycling in the country, so why not rent bikes to dart between sites?

Follow the Cambridge trend of cycling

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Speaking of cycling, Parker’s Piece (right by University Arms Cambridge), is the ideal place for a bike ride. This is also fantastic for a picnic, lawn games or yoga. Interestingly, the green is actually where the defining rules of football were invented, so perhaps a spot of football would be in order?

It’s obvious that University Arms, Cambridge forms the perfect place to centre your corporate Cambridge experience around. Fascinatingly, the hotel was originally built as a coaching inn to provide a resting point for travellers before the development of the railway network in Britain. If it served the same purpose today, we’re convinced the thoroughfares would never want to leave.   

 

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