Hotel review: University Arms, Cambridge

Reception at University Arms in Cambridge

Reception at University Arms in Cambridge - Credit: Holly Louise Eells

Located in the centre of Cambridge on Regent Street, University Arms began its life in 1834 as a coaching inn and is now the city’s oldest hotel, embodying a spirit of literature and academia. 

From the moment the valet driver greeted me and my guest in the hotel basement (a train is an option) to saying goodbye to the accommodating front desk, the whole experience made me  feel incredibly well looked after. Service was flawless and, from observation, every guest was treated just as well.  

This quintessentially English hotel is part of the Autograph Collection and is full of character, with its marble-floored reception area welcoming guests beneath elegant arches. The cosy library oozes educational vibes and holds works by famous alumni such as poet John Milton, playwright Christopher Marlowe and naturalist Charles Darwin.  

In 2013, the luxury hotel was damaged by a fire. Its owners invested £80 million into the four-year renovation and hired classical architect John Simpson and in-demand interior designer Martin Brudnizki to implement the restoration.

Now, there are 192 playfully-designed rooms and suites to choose from. Each suite is named after famous Cambridge alumni and comes complete with a bespoke individual library curated by Heywood Hill, one of the leading bookshops of London. It certainly excited the bibliophile in me. 

Morning sunlight streams through

Morning sunlight streams through - Credit: Holly Louise Eells

I was privileged to stay in the Charles Darwin suite, which simply took my breath away. I loved the innovative but relevant touches reflecting the refinement of old academia – touches of genius.  

My bathroom was pure indulgence. A huge mirror plus a freestanding, brass-footed bathtub, a rain shower, snuggly bathrobes, fluffy white towels and custom toiletries by DR Harris. After a quick session in the gym, I took advantage of a restful hour in the roll-top bath with a glass of Champagne in hand.  

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One of the biggest highlights of the trip was dining at Parker’s Tavern, which is headed up by Tristan Welch, former head chef at Gordon Ramsay’s Pétrus. Before dinner I enjoyed a delicious signature botanical-based cocktail or two in the art-deco bar, which I highly recommend. 

I’m a great believer in keeping everything local, and this is something the Parker’s Tavern kitchen celebrates too. Its seasonal menu is built with locally sourced ingredients creating modern British dishes that are simply delicious. Every dish pleased my palette, but if I had to choose, the monkfish and hand-dived scallops were the winners of the night.

But of course, Parker’s Tavern isn’t just about excellent dinner service, it welcomes guests for yummy breakfasts, tasty Sunday lunch and scrumptious afternoon tea too. A new renovation at Parker’s Tavern is following the academic theme, inspired by communal college dining halls without the hard brown benches. 

Find out more 

The Discover Cambridge staycation offer at University Arms is available from May 17 and starts from £288 based on two guests sharing. It includes an overnight stay on a B&B basis, a locally-inspired welcome drink, a Parker's Tavern restaurant food credit of £25 per person, plus a historical tour of University Arms and Parker's Piece taking in over 175 years of history and a walking guidebook of the city. 

See universityarms.com


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