University Arms in Cambridge is the oldest hotel in this iconic city. A former coaching inn, built in 1834, University Arms is found alongside the city common, Parker’s Piece – with the name lending itself to the hotel’s restaurant. Team nourish went along to spend a night in this beautiful historic hotel, and discover its charm for ourselves.
Arriving at University Arms, in the middle of bustling Cambridge, you immediately step into peace, quiet, and luxury. The staff are friendly and welcoming, and approaching the welcome desk, there is almost a revered silence, the kind found in historic houses open to the public. You are immediately aware of the vast ceilings, huge chandeliers, and art – much of it quirky, all of it fascinating. There are also books – everywhere. From the library to the bedrooms, University Arms is true to its Cambridge roots and has books everywhere for people to read and enjoy.
University Arms has been immaculately restored to its former glory by John Simpson, one of the leading classical architects, and it offers 192 luxury rooms and suites, covering four floors and including terrace rooms with stunning views across the 25-acre Parker’s Piece. Part of the Autograph Collection, the interiors are courtesy of Martin Brudnizki, and they match the building perfectly; everywhere, there is something of interest to look at, even for the most jaded of travellers. As well as the library, the ground floor hosts a bar, a ballroom, a spa, and Parker’s Tavern – the restaurant named after the common the hotel overlooks. There, under Head Chef Tristan Welch, a local boy himself, British classics are reimagined as Tristan shares his love of the food found here in East Anglia.
The reason for our visit was for Tristan’s special evening called Feast Anglia. He brought together local producers and created a special menu in celebration of the wonderful produce we have on our doorstep and, suffice to say, it was a wonderful, and delicious, evening!
Back to University Arms. I stayed in the Virginia Woolf suite, somewhat apt for a writer, and to say the room offered unadulterated luxury would be an understatement. Every little detail had been thought through as to what a traveller could want: both a roll top bath and a waterfall shower; a desk that was actually useful, as though Virginia Woolf herself could step in and complete another chapter; University Arms espresso cups and saucers; soft bath robes; the softest bed linen and pillows;
and so much more. Meanwhile, Hanneke had her own luxurious superior king room, that also offered the ultimate in comfort.
Both rooms had a view over Parker’s Piece that, while parched and brown, is a true focal point, not least with its City Wheel that commands attention when you look out of the window.
Then, there was the view over Parker’s Piece that, while parched and brown, is a true focal point, not least with its City Wheel that commands attention when you look out of the window.
With its location on Regent Street, University Arms is a great place to base yourself and explore this historic city. With its winding streets and incredible architecture, Cambridge is a place to linger and explore – although do watch out for cyclists, even out of term-time!
Having enjoyed one of the best night’s sleep I have had in a long time, we made our way to Parker’s Tavern for breakfast and the selection was impressive, with the continental offering being just that – cheeses, smoked salmon, pickles, and charcuterie, as well as a range of fruit and yoghurt. Having decided against a cooked breakfast, I thought I’d ‘just have a look’ and could not resist the perfectly cooked tomato, the large flat field mushroom, the flavour-packed, and very juicy, sausage, and scrambled egg – all with a dollop of good English mustard on the side!
With a late checkout of midday as standard, we had time to walk around Parker’s Piece and marvel at the beauty of University Arms, its impressive structure enhanced by the Mediterranean blue skies behind. The period features found throughout the hotel are just as obvious outside, and it was with some reluctance that we packed up to return to Norfolk.
If you are looking for somewhere special to spend a couple of nights, or just to treat yourself to the perfect getaway, then University Arms is a must. If spending just 24 hours there felt like a holiday – imagine what a whole weekend could do!