I hadn’t been to Cambridge for some years, and boy, is it busy! Growing up, we used to visit relatively often, as my mum had studied there and it was not too far for a special day out. Then, in my teens, I used to visit my sister, always enjoying these weekends away from London.
This time I was there with my husband and children, to visit my sister’s daughter (such naches) who has become the third generation of our family to study at Cambridge — and review The Hotel Felix, on the outskirts of town.
I have to say that the peace and quiet of the hotel were a welcome relief after the bustle of the centre, where students on bicycles ring their bells furiously at the hordes of tourists walking in the roads, and the colleges charge you hefty sums to go in and look around (they didn’t do that in the old days).
A trip to a sweetshop was aborted when we saw the queue, as was that to a particularly delicious looking bakery — there was nowhere to sit inside and crowds of people waiting. Plus, there are only so many times you can tell an eager hawker that no, you really don’t want to go punting (in the rain). That’s not to say that Cambridge isn’t still gorgeous, but you won’t be the only people there to discover this.
King’s College was worth the fee, as it’s utterly beautiful and the Chapel is a marvel, full of history and very atmospheric. There are so many little things to discover there, including tributes to Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon… and Anne Boleyn, and Katherine Howard. He definitely enjoyed big displays of his love (until the divorce/beheadings).
We did enjoy walking around, but also escaped thankfully to our retreat, around a 20-minute walk away from the centre. First built in 1852, Hotel Felix felt just right for a spot of relaxation, with a number of guests but not too many, and lots of space including a very pleasant garden.
Our rooms were lovely — minimalist with splashes of colour, they were large and with lots of cupboard space.
The bathrooms were also well sized and attractive and the toiletries (The White Company) definitely up to scratch. The Hypnos King size beds were comfortable, and my only complaint would be that the squishy duck down pillows weren’t.We ate in the restaurant, called Graffiti, surrounded by modern art where the food is described as modern European. I’m never convinced that it’s good to need a dictionary to read a menu, but here we weren’t always sure what some of the things on offer actually were.
I very much enjoyed my starter of potato, goats cheese and chive agnolotti with roast onion consommé though, although some of the dishes sounded better than they tasted. The tempting desserts for example — my choice was warm rum baba, roasted pineapple, chilli caramel and coconut sorbet — were simply okay.
Breakfast, however, was delicious, with a substantial buffet, and impressive menu, which included a vegetarian breakfast, boiled eggs and soldiers, smoked salmon and the ubiquitous (but delicious) smashed avocado on sourdough toast.
And with the train taking just 45 minutes from King’s Cross with Great Northern, far better than sitting in traffic, this beautiful university town is an easy weekend away — even if it’s not always the most relaxing place to visit. It’s lucky then that we had a peaceful boutique hotel to unwind in.