People often ask me to recommend a restaurant for Sunday brunch. I always answer “go to Hawthornes.” Located at 11th and Fitzwater streets, this beauty serves up sumptuous authentic French omelettes, light-as-a-feather pancakes, huge salads, crab cakes Benedict and much more.
My ears immediately perked up when I learned the owners of Hawthornes recently opened a British-style pub on South Street. It’s called The Cambridge, an apt moniker since the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge are none other than William and Kate.
The restaurant consists of a bar equipped with televisions, as well as a dining area. It’s very casual with exposed brick walls, wooden booths, tables and tiny, uncomfortable stools. The bar chairs, however, have backs on them.
Sandy, Edward and I settled in as our server answered all of our questions. The menu is a fun mix of American, Mexican, French and British classics. I tip my toque to the person who wrote the menu.
The beer list can be overwhelming but Emily, our server, was very knowledgeable. I selected a 16-ounce Yards ESA ($5) while Edward sipped a PH Oyster ($7).
We began dinner with pierogies ($10), stuffed Anaheim peppers ($8) and grilled peach and pecan salad ($11).
The pierogies are always prepared with potatoes, but the filling rotates. The strands of tender short rib blended well with the creamy filling. Three came with the order.
I asked Emily if the peppers were hot. She said they have a bit of a kick of spice but are not overwhelmingly hot. Two long Anaheim peppers were stuffed with cheddar, smoked gouda and cream cheeses, coated with crumbs and roasted in the oven. They sat on a pool of spicy tomato sauce garnished with pico de gallo and small bits of queso fresco. I enjoyed the balance of spice, as well as the mix of cheeses that complemented each other in flavor and texture. The sauce was outrageously tasty.
Peaches are in season and their flavor is always pronounced when they hit a smoky grill. A mound of lightly dressed frisée was surrounded by juicy grilled peaches and a sprinkling of candied pecans and creamy goat cheese. The dressing was prepared with sherry and shallots — one fine combination.
Four burgers are on the bill of fare and Edward and I wanted to taste the porker burger ($13). We are glad we did. It included 24-hour brined hand-ground pork topped with roasted long hots, sautéed broccoli rabe and sharp provolone on an onion poppy seed roll. The meat was juicy and perfectly seasoned. Edward substituted the house-cut fries with a small mound of fresh greens that were a fine foil for the burger.
Sandy loves fish and chips. The Cambridge’s version ($17) was a real winner. The fish was probably cod and was moist and translucent inside. Malt vinegar was added to the batter which imparted a slightly sour (in a good way) flavor. A mound of piping hot French fries, Amish slaw, which was pickled shredded cabbage with a bit of vinegar, and the best homemade Tartar sauce, enhanced by Dijon mustard, on this side of any fine seafood house in America.
I ordered the steak frites ($21), which was tough, chewy and not properly seared on the outside although it was medium-rare inside. A dollop of butter mixed with blue cheese was placed on top in the French style. A small mound of steamed spinach with garlic and fries were very well done. Alas, I discovered a strand of paper in my dinner. The manager came to our table and explained parchment paper is used to make the seasoned butter.
He apologized and when we received the bill. He removed my dinner from it and he sent over a slice of black forest cheesecake, which could have been made at any pastry shop in the city even though it was done in house. It was not overly sweet, rich in chocolate flavor with a divine slightly dense texture all of us enjoyed.
The Cambridge is my kind of pub and although there was a quickly rectified glitch, we want to return for brunch or lunch.
Two-and-a-half tips of the toque to The Cambridge. SPR
1508 South St.
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