I’m not a Christian so I have to confess that churches don’t tend to be of huge interest to me, unless there’s something remarkable about them. So when Visit Cambridge organised for me to check out St Mary’s Church in Cambridge on a recent trip (click here for my post on Cambridge’s biggest bed) I wasn’t too fussed. From the outside St Mary’s seems quite ordinary, it’s only once inside you discover the Michaelhouse Café – this Cambridge church’s hidden gem.
Even I’ll admit it was quite cool to look up from my plate (s) of food to admire the stained glass windows. set inside a 14th century church, across the way from Trinity College Cambridge and King’s College Chapel, it’s not only the venue that makes Michaelhouse one of Cambridge’s best cafés.
The food is pretty good too. Michaelhouse Café isn’t grand, it operates canteen style – join the queue, grab yourself a tray, choose what you want (the tricky bit) and head to the check out. When we were there the menu consisted of lots of wholesome dishes – Sharps tucked into a chorizo type stew with red peppers, sweetcorn and onions while I sampled a thick and creamy carrot soup. My main of sweet potato and cauliflower bake was like a reinvigorated cauliflower cheese. The addition of the sweet potato means it avoided a common pitfall of cauliflower cheese being on the bland side. Sharps enjoyed homemade lemonade, freshly baked bread and a selection of salads – green, rice and carrot, with duck.
Somehow we managed to find room for dessert – me a Bakewell tart with crumbly pastry topped with a layer of thick raspberry jam – and Sharps a rich, dense chocolate Guinness cake (you could really taste the flavour of the Guinness) with a warm chocolate sauce.
All of the cakes are freshly baked, daily, on site, with a repertoire of about 50. And all of the food too is freshly prepared, using seasonal ingredients where possible. The quality shone through in all of the dishes, Michaelhouse (the name of a former Cambridge college) isn’t the average type of cafe you might find tacked on to a cathedral or tourist attraction, and it’s this that for me makes it one of Cambridge’s hidden gems. I’m still not a total convert to visiting churches but it would be sacrilege not to eat at this one.