Food: Pint Shop

Pint Shop, in the very heart of Cambridge, will soon be celebrating its 4th birthday. Feeling that it would benefit from some sprucing up, the owners not only refreshed the paintwork, but also altered the layout to create two new dining rooms. To celebrate their revamp and new seasonal menu, they held a press & bloggers tasting lunch.

Unable to attend on the day, we were invited to dine on another occasion, and having never experienced their food (but hearing wonderful things about it), we were delighted to accept.

a brief history

Founded on Peas Hill, Cambridge, in November 2013 by co-owners Richard Holmes & Benny Peverelli, the Pint Shop concept was inspired by the beerhouses of the 1830s – coincidentally, the same decade its grade II listed home was built. Beerhouses were very likely the early version of the pubs we know and love today.

In the early 1800s, beer had been a drink enjoyed only by the rich; due to high beer tax, the poor drank gin instead. Fortunately for us in the 21st century, beer sits very happily alongside gin, and both are staples of the Pint Shop bar!

You can’t imagine how many famous faces have graced 10 Peas Hill with their presence over the last 200 years. Among those known to have lived at or visited the building in its former guise are naval administrator & diarist Samuel Pepys, a graduate of Magdalene College, and novelist EM Forster, who read classics at King’s College.

what’s new?

I caught up with Izzy, Pint Shop Marketing Manager, to ask a few questions about the new Pint Shop look, and their brand new menu.

How often do you change the menu?
Usually seasonally, to make the most of the best seasonal fruit and veg.

What is different from the previous menu?
We have added our very own Pint Shop House Curry and developed our much-loved iconic kebab dish, so we now have a fish and a veggie version. We’ve also introduced seasonal dishes such as Overnight Pork Belly, served with Slow Cooked Celeriac, Thyme & Garlic, and Grilled Stone Bass with Charred Corn, Potato & Artichoke, Sauce Gribiche. Casual, and something for everyone.

Have the beer and gin menus changed significantly along with the menu?
They are ever changing. We have added some great new gins to the menu, and the beer changes so frequently it’s about finding great beer from great breweries.

Why did the revamp occur now?
Pint Shop turns four years old later this year and was starting to look a little tired, so it seemed like the perfect opportunity to expand ourselves to accommodate all those hungry Cambridge folk.

What’s new with the layout?
Downstairs we haven’t changed much in our cosy bar, other than giving it a bit of a lift. Outside we have covered the whole of the garden area with ‘Jumbrellas’ and added outdoor heating and extra lighting so we can use the outside space all year round. Upstairs we have moved the toilets up a floor, and converted the original toilets into two fancy new dining rooms that can be used for private dining or an extension of our upstairs dining room.

How many people do the private dining rooms seat?
The larger room (originally the ladies toilet) will seat 20–24 people and the smaller dining room will seat 10–12.

Were there any historical discoveries?
We were lucky enough to find some of the original beams when knocking through one of the dining room walls to create a window, so it now has a beautiful bit of history visible between the two dining rooms.

new season, new menu

As their tagline attests, they love their meat, bread and beer – as do we! Don’t be put off if you’re not a fan of any or all of these, however. Their new seasonal menu boasts a great deal more: you’ll find an increase in their selection of fish, vegetarian and vegan dishes, and their drinks menu is just as extensive – you don’t have to love only beer or gin. 🙂

They haven’t merely updated their seasonal dishes; they also now offer a greater range of smaller options. So if you’re just feeling peckish, or want to share with friends, you might opt for one of their small plates; if you’re ravenous, you can add some sides to a larger main course.

meat.bread.beer. (& fish.)

We sat in one of the upstairs dining rooms with a view over the bustle of Peas Hill and Wheeler Street. It was evening, and the dark walls and dim lighting didn’t help with my embarrassing lack of photography finesse on this occasion – my apologies. But it was perfect for an intimate setting! There was plenty of room between tables and I loved the upholstery on the chairs. So much so, I took a photo! Goodness knows what our neighbours thought…

Deep Fried Squid & Capers, Saffron Aioli
Gin Cured Sea Trout, Buttermilk Pancakes, Sweetcorn Relish

I don’t remember eating deep fried squid with so much flavour – nor with capers, which were a nice addition. Squid can often have a nasty rubbery texture, but happily, these melted in the mouth. Delicious, with one minor quibble – a lot of batter crumbled off as you picked up the pieces. It was a perfect portion size for me.

In Rob’s words, the trout and pancakes, “…were awesome.” I had a bite, and I have to say it was very tasty with just a subtle hint of gin flavour in the trout. It was a small dish, with only two pancakes, and I think if it had been double the size, the plate would still have been left clean!

Coal-baked flatbread kebab: Charred Mackerel, Confit Lemon
Coal-baked flatbread kebab: Devilled Lamb Shoulder, Crispy Red Onions
Both served with Shredded Pickled Cabbage Chilli Sauce & Mint Yoghurt

If your idea of a kebab is the thing you often see revolving in the corner of a high street chippy, you can be forgiven for thinking this is an odd choice for a sophisticated eatery. Fear not! These ‘posh’ kebabs are becoming a trendy addition to many menus.

The base is a flatbread that has been baked over coals for that warming, slightly charred taste. The mackerel flaked beautifully, and I would love to know how they made the chickpeas so crispy and crunchy. They’d make a great bar snack!

The devilled lamb shoulder kebab had survived from a previous menu, and you could see why. After the sweet pancakes in the starter, this was perfect for a savoury, meaty contrast. We chose not to have any sides, and it felt like the right choice. This was a deceptively filling dish.

Apple & Blackberry Crumble Sundae: Apple & Blackberry Compote, Cardamom Ice Cream, Crumble Topping
The Gin Float: Gooseberry Sorbet, Rough Snap, Beefeater 24 Export Gin

The classic sundae is always a winner, and it didn’t disappoint, and it’s great to hear they use ice cream from local Jack’s Gelato. A little more blackberry fruitiness to the compote would’ve taken it from near perfection to absolute perfection.

As a gin lover, the gin float was the obvious choice! Nice to have gooseberry sorbet rather than the usual flavours. The gin may have worked better as a shot on the side, as it just settled in a pool around the sorbet. Having said that, it made for a delightful end to a very special meal.

Beers

New England IPA from Twickenham Fine Ales, London, 6.0%
Umlaut from Ampersand Brew Co., Norfolk, 5.0%

If only I’d remembered to make notes about these beers! 😦 I know for a fact that we enjoyed them; we’ve never had a bad beer from here. But I can’t describe what was great about them.
So, in lieu of beer reviews, here’s some beer trivia for you instead.

Cask beers are made with just four ingredients: water, malted barley, hops and yeast. These fresh, unpasteurised beers are at their best when drunk within three days of opening the cask. Not a problem for Pint Shop, I’m sure! The perfect temperature to truly savour the flavours and aromas is a cool 11–13 degrees centigrade.

Keg beers, with their gas dispensing method, have for a long time been considered the poor relation to hand-pulled cask beer, but opinions are changing – well, maybe not those of the real ale purists, such as my Dad. 😉  Hoppy and stronger beers are often considered better suited to kegs, and if you like bubbles in your pint, a keg beer is the way to go.

Pint Shop stock an ever-evolving selection of beers, with up to 17 keg beers and six cask beers on at any one time. You’ll find something to your taste, whether you prefer one with a high ABV or a lower ABV session beer. If you know what you like – i.e. hoppy, pale, porter – the regularly updated blackboards in the bar and dining rooms offer a helpful description of each beer, along with the brewery and alcohol percentage.

enjoyment all year round

If you visit on a weekend and prefer a more informal setting to the dining rooms, you won’t need to go hungry. The bar menu features their famous scotch eggs, crackers with meat & cheese, and coal-baked kebabs & burgers, all enjoyed in a relaxed atmosphere. You’ll also be able to admire their large selection of gins! They offer a ‘gin of the day’ if you’re struggling to make a choice. 🙂

Pint Shop also has a beerhouse in The Other Place, ahem, I mean Oxford. It has just celebrated its 1st birthday. So if you’re in the city, I’d wager it’s also well worth a visit, too. You’ll find it at 27–29 George Street.

Rob and I will make a return visit to Pint Shop before too long – I’m dying to try one of their scotch eggs, and the meat & cheese dishes look very tempting indeed. Next time, I’ll try some new gins – god knows, I love my gin! – and, we’ll find a spot in their all-weather, all-year-round courtyard garden. 🙂

Grateful thanks to Izzy Hammond for the professional photos above.

Bye for now!

Emma heart pink slender

We were invited to sample the new Pint Shop seasonal menu. Our food and drinks were complimentary, and all views expressed are those of Rob and me. We were not paid for this review.

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