A good long pub lunch on a sunny Spring Sunday is pretty hard to beat, so it was with great anticipation that my dining partner and I joined our Cambridge-based friends on one of the rare sunny weekend days we’ve had so far this year for a meal at one of their favourite locals, The Old Spring. Situated far enough out of town to keep itself a secret from the hordes of tourists that descend the moment the weather turns fine, The Old Spring maintains a relaxed atmosphere, with comfortable furnishings and a long bar with plenty of standing room for when it gets busy.
I had looked up the menu online and had been all set to order a classic pub meal like Gloucester Old Spot ham and eggs with straw fries and salad leaves, but I was tempted away from that when I stepped in to the pub and saw tables of happy diners, all tucking in to generous plates of the special Sunday Roast. While our friends chose the roast beef, my dining partner and I both plumped for the pork. Served with plenty of traditional sage and onion stuffing, it was fantastically succulent, its meaty flavour enhanced by the herbiness of the stuffing. The accompanying roast potatoes were crispy on the outside with beautifully fluffy middles, the Yorkshire pudding was wonderfully light, slightly crisp with just a hint of delicious inner doughiness, the gravy was deliciously meaty with great depth of flavour, and the green veg were served on the al dente side, providing a great contrast in texture. Whilst all of that was fantastic, the piece de resistance just had to be the delicate twirl of pork crackling that was perfectly placed on top of the pile and provided an incredibly satisfying crunch.
While the roast was utterly delicious and really rather filling, I just couldn’t resist sampling one of the dessert specials – raspberry panna cotta with mango and pineapple pastry twists. I wasn’t disappointed: the panna cotta was delicately fruity and sumptuously creamy, while the pastry twists were light and flaky. The only thing I would have changed was to somehow bring out the mango and pineapple flavours a bit more strongly. My dining partner’s sticky toffee pudding with treacle sauce and fresh ice cream was a veritable mountain of decadence, the sweetness of the toffee tempered by the slight bitterness of the treacle sauce and the clean vanilla tones of the ice cream so that the dish as a whole was perfectly balanced.
The Old Spring’s wine list offers a better selection than you might expect from a pub, with a good range of reds and whites from both the Old and New Worlds (though weighted slightly more towards the New). This time though, I was intrigued to try a bottle of Crabbies alcoholic ginger beer. Smooth and refreshing, with a pleasant hint of gingery spice that lingered in the throat, it was a perfect accompaniment on a sunny afternoon. In typical pub fashion, diners place their orders at the bar, but the service when food was brought to the table was confident and friendly, with the waitress effortlessly remembering who had ordered what at our table. With a total spend of around £22 per head for a delicious and very filling meal, The Old Spring offers pretty good value for money too, and I’m happy to conclude this restaurant review by awarding it a first-rate score of four Forks-Up.The Old Spring 1 Ferry Path Cambridge CB4 1HB Tel: 01223 357228 www.theoldspring.co.uk