Lunch by the river and some nice French nosh

Henni took the day off work yesterday so we could spend it together and lucky for us the sun came out and it was lovely and warm. After a lazy morning eating bagels with lemon curd and pottering around her flat we head off in Bertie, her gorgeous black convertible mini, to Richmond for lunch. Once Bertie is safely parked we meander along the high street having a little shufti in some shops along the way, and then turn down a lane towards the river. It’s lovely by the water – there are people out in boats and barges, cycling along the towpath or sitting eating al fresco at the pubs and restaurants that line the river.

River Thames

River Thames, Richmond

While I snap photos Henni grabs us an outside table at a pretty, old pub with hanging baskets called The White Cross. We both order a burger and chips and a glass of rosé, fast becoming the drink of the holidays. The burger is fat and juicy with good tomato relish and the rustic skin-on chips are the perfect combo of crunchy outsides and fluffy insides. The only disappointment is the shiny plastic square of processed cheese inside the bun.

Cheese burger and chips

Cheese burger and chips, The White Cross

After lunch Henni puts me on the tube to Kings Cross to catch a train to Cambridge to spend the night with my old flatmate and great friend Jules. Coming out of the station at Cambridge I’m immediately struck by the sea of parked bicycles. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many in one place at one time!

Bicycles

Bicycles, Cambridge railway station

We walk to Jules’s lovely house and then in to town to meet her cousin for dinner. Cambridge is so ridiculously picturesque with all its beautiful, old college buildings, people playing cricket in whites on the green and bicycles everywhere – proper civilized bicycles with an upright riding position and a wicker basket on the front. Needless to say we are about 15 minutes late because I can’t stop taking photos!

We eat at one of a chain of French restaurants called Côte. Jules’s cousin Debbie has a bottle of champagne on ice in celebration of Jules’s birthday last week. I’m still stuffed from lunch so I choose a salade Niçoise, but I can’t resist the chicken liver paté so I have that to start as well! (Please excuse the out-of-focus photograph.)

Chicken liver pate with toasted brioche and spiced apple chutney

Chicken liver paté with toasted brioche and spiced apple chutney, Côte

The paté is beautifully presented in its little glass jar and really delicious – makes me want to make it again soon which is surprisingly easy. The brioche is delicate and perfectly crisp-soft and the apple chutney is a lovely sweet, slightly tart accompaniment to the paté. Having asked for my tuna in the salade Niçoise to be rare I’m pleased that they’ve taken me at my word. The salad is lovely and fresh with nicely al dente green beans and a little thinly sliced red onion which I always think I don’t want but which adds an essential base-note to the flavours. The boiled egg quarters are a delight to an egg-lover like me with their yokes still soft but not enough to run away. The only thing it all needs is a good grind of salt and pepper.

Salade Nicoise

Salade Niçoise, Côte

After dinner we take a well-needed perambulation along The Backs (behind the colleges), over a bridge and back through town. Final exams over, all the colleges are having their May balls (even though it’s June) and from the bridge we can see two such events in full flight. Music blares out, search-lights fan through the night sky illuminating the majestic spires of Kings College, and gigantic white helium balloons bob from the perimeter of the enormous lawns heaving with carousing black-tied students. It takes me back more years than I care to admit to my own university days in Durham and our fabulous end-of-year balls. Mostly it makes me feel like going home for a cup of tea and a nice lie down – and that’s exactly what we do.

The White Cross
Riverside, Richmond, Surrey

Côte
21 – 24 Bridge Street, Cambridge

Both visited 20 June 2012

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