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Fitzbillies, Cambridge

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I've been every day since it reopened - but then I work here. :-)

Fitzbillies went bankrupt earlier this year after a long decline so my wife and I moved here from London, renovated and reopened in August. In spite of the usual ill-informed tosh on Tripadviser, the classic Chelsea Bun, for which the cakeshop is famous, remains exactly as it was - we rehired several of the old staff including the Head Baker, Gill, who's been here for 40 yrs.

Most people remember the old place as dark, grubby and with unpleasantly rude staff so we've brightened things up, increased the size of the dining area and hired a lot of bright young things FOH. Now things are settling in, I'm pretty pleased with service levels.

We are still a cakeshop, baking 50 lines of traditional British cakes, daily, from base ingredients and therefore the dining room is massively busy, particularly on weekend afternoons, serving tea and cakes - a meal we Brits have always consumed with a healthy side-portion of whinge :-)

We've also culled out some space for a really good 'one big table' coffee shop. This entirely baffles some of the more traditional tea-botherers but given that the average student here probably drank their last flattie in Shoreditch, Sydney or Berkeley, we thought they deserved better coffee too.

We've also introduced proper food at lunch (I'll try to attach yesterday's menu). We've hired Rosie Sykes as chef (Trained with Joyce Molyneux then Alistair Little, Shaun Hill and latterly at the Rochelle Canteen) along with Jack van Praag (Rose Bakery, Chez Panisse). The menu changes daily and all ingredients are from local farms and suppliers. We're also doing all our own preserves, terrines and charcuterie on site

At the moment we're still settling in to balancing superb food with a tea & cake arrangement but we're getting there. The best news is that we should have our license within days and then we'll be serving dinner on Thurs, Fri and Sat evenings. That will be a chance to let the food and service shine - which we're all looking forward to.

There's a website under construction at www.fitzbillies.com, though we're still awaiting bank clearance to get the online shopping part running

As soon as we have working dates or early versions of evening menus I'll try to post them.

I believe there's going to be a big feature on us in Observer Food Monthly the weekend after next and it should be online on the Friday. That will supply better pictures than I could - plus the story of the renovation project.

(Hopefully)... below is yesterday's menu. I'm off to the kitchen now to work on our smoked salmon and the local duck ham.

Thanks for your interest. I'm in here pretty much everyday so if you come, do, please, say hi. I'll probably drag you out to the kitchen and proudly show you the size of my lovely buns.

Monday 7th Nov.jpg

Tim Hayward

"Anyone who wants to write about food would do well to stay away from

similes and metaphors, because if you're not careful, expressions like

'light as a feather' make their way into your sentences and then where are you?"

Nora Ephron

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