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The Three Horseshoes, Madingley

Foodie? Then make sure you don't miss a visit to this Cambridge classic; mocktails, a gorgeous garden and some serious nosh.

The Lowdown

The Three Horseshoes reputation precedes it. ‘I hear its supposed to be (insert superlative here)’, is the response you get when announcing an intended visit. Formerly run by River Café alumni, the pub is now in the hands of Cambscuisine who are aiming to make the Three Horseshoes somewhere you’d pop in for a pint, as well as the place you’d reserve for a special occasion. This is a serious Cambridge institution and the pub has recently won Best Cambridgeshire Dining Pub of the Year, 2018 from the Good Pub Guide.

The Vibe

Formal but relaxed. Sitting down promptly at midday for lunch, I was alone in the restaurant. By 12.30pm, the tables around me were filling up. Ladies who lunch, and groups of businessmen sat alongside a group of retired friends catching up and people who’ve just popped in for a lunchtime pint. The restaurant is light, airy and has the feel of your grandparents’ new conservatory (if your grandparents were cool and knew about New England chic). Everything about the Three Horseshoes is neat, tidy and focused without being soulless; like those people that run marathons but happily celebrate with one too many pints, you know, pleasure seeking but disciplined. Staff are friendly, relaxed and helpful -any dietary requirements are competently catered for and everything is done without fuss. This is a place you’d bring someone you’d want to impress (hence the number of suits), but equally, you can imagine groups of friends on a sunny day heading to sit outside with a jug of Pimms and some artisan crisps.

Scoff and Quaff

A cut above the rest. This isn’t a gastro-pub, and you won’t find a burger and chips on the menu. Instead, the menu is confidently classic with a Mediterranean feel. Scallops, crab, chicken and pancetta terrine, pan-fried pigeon, and fig and walnut salad all feature on starter menu. Mains include Lincolnshire sausages, blackened haddock, pork tenderloin and some tasty vegetarian options too – potato gnocci with goats’s cheese, a harvest bowl with quinoa, smoked aubergine and pumpkin seeds. I opted for the seared scallops; sweet, salty and offset with a tangy salsa. The fish of the day was bream and it was delicious – light, well-seasoned and citrusy. Something called chocolate nemesis arrived at my table for pudding. I can still see it now, a thick black oblong of temptation adorned with shiny, geometric shards. Whatever retribution is due after the chocolate nemesis, it’s worth it. The wine menu is extensive and clearly the product of serious consideration and experience, today however, it was mocktails and mine was a raspberry, rose and ginger half-pint of sophistication.

 

Out and About

Madingley sits west of Cambridge near Coton and Dry Drayton. It’s a very pretty village housing Madingley Hall, once the undergrad digs of King Edward VII, now the home of Cambridge University’s Institute of Continuing Education. Nearby is the American Cemetery and Memorial, the only permanent American World War II cemetery in Britain, and where Glenn Miller the jazz musician is remembered. Other than that, Cambridge is close, or continue heading west to Houghton Mill, the last working water mill on the Great Ouse.

The Muddy Verdict

Good for – Occasions. But they don’t necessarily have to be special – the lunch with an old friend you’ve been meaning to have, an anniversary or just a Sunday afternoon. But dress nicely, not because you have to, but because you’ll enjoy doing so, and put some extra notes in your purse – once you’re here, you’re going to want to stay.

Not For – Families with youngish kids who just want some decent pub grub. The children (unless they are particularly sophisticated) probably won’t be too bothered by the curated wine list and lovely plate of British cheeses.

The Damage

Reasonable – Set Lunch Menu (Mon-Fri) is £16 for two courses, £22 for three, starters from £6.50, mains from £13 (and up to £49 for a 21oz Manhattan steak for two sharing).

The Three Horseshoes, High Street, Madingley, Cambridge, CB23 8AB, 01954 210221, 3hs@cambscuisine.com

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