Cambridge’s University Arms is the place to go this summer for a safe staycation
PUBLISHED: 11:55 06 August 2020 | UPDATED: 13:04 06 August 2020
Some may still be wary about going away for a weekend - and that’s understandable in light of the current Covid-19 pandemic. But, with UK staycations on the rise this summer, Cambridge’s University Arms - which is listed among Time Magazine top 100 places to visit in the world - has everything in place to ensure guests feel safe and welcome.
Greeted by concierge and reception staff wearing face visors, it’s immediately clear that the entire team - who are extremely friendly and helpful - is fully equipped and therefore visitors are well protected.
As well as regular cleaning throughout the entire hotel (including 1,000 litres of a spray that kills the virus within four minutes), sanitiser stations outside lifts and at doorways, my partner and I were impressed to find ‘sanitising welcome packs’ on the bed with face masks, gloves and wipes inside them.
Another nice touch were the friendly signs (based around The Wind in the Willows book series) that encouraged “only one person per lift if you are from the same household” and “please consider using the stairs, a little thought for others makes all the difference”. It’s precautions like these that will really help to reassure guests.
It was good to hear from Mr Andrew, too, that 100 rooms had been booked for only the second night of opening. On a personal note - having only been food shopping and just recently started going out for meals again - it was good to finally get back to some sort of normality.
My fiancé, who was apprehensive about visiting a city and hotel away from our small village of Doddington, said her concerns were put at ease right away.
“It’s good to see that they’ve tried to keep the experience as ‘normal’ as possible,” she said.
“The only real difference is the frequent hand sanitiser machines, reassuring signs to delicately remind guests of distancing and a ‘one household per lift’ rule.
Aside from these many new measures that have been implemented, guests will find that the hotel has had a modern makeover too, thought its countless traditional features - such as the fireplaces, one having been moved and restored into a different room - are still in place.
In keeping with its name, the interior incorporates touches of Cambridge university life - for example the panels are similar to what you would see around the city’s famous colleges, while inside the hotel rooms are stacks of books; then there’s the hundreds of paintings and pictures on the walls throughout the hotel, each with their own historic story to tell.
There are also lots of clever hidden quirks dotted throughout the building: the candelabra in the ballroom symbolises Medusa’s hair, lights in the lobby shaped in a similar way to a gyroscope, all of the front of house staff wearing a two-piece uniform that is inspired by Winston Churchill.
As if that wasn’t enough to tempt you into visiting, there’s also the hotel’s famous restaurant, Parker’s Tavern (no stay is truly complete without a meal there) where half the tables have been removed to allow for correct social distancing while the restaurant team and waiters - all attentive and welcoming - are given the option of wearing full PPE.
Considering it was only their second night of the reopening weekend - having fully shut down just before Mother’s Day - the service was speedy, while just the right amount of time was given between courses.
For those guests who may not feel safe with dining in the restaurant or drinking in the bar (where it’s so easy to sink into the comfy velvet chairs and just watch the world go by outside) the team are more than happy to deliver rooom service wearing PPE visors masks and gloves if required.
There’s also the option of eating or drinking outside at the hotel’s ‘al fresco dining terrace’ thanks to a raft of deckchairs situated directly in front of the bar on Parker’s Peace. Something that has proved extremely helpful in getting the business going again is that they are now able to sell take-away pizzas and ‘light bites’ to members of the public.
The starters fill you up just enough and are just the right size; we opted for the flavourful and herb-dusted chicken and pork pie with tomato chutney, while the fishcake was deliciously soft and works well with the sauce that accompanies it.
Presentation, too, is faultless - the way in which each course is served increases the temptation.
In terms of main courses, the duck (which falls off the bone effortlessly), creamy mash potatoes and bitter greens are a must while the chicken salad is not what you would expect; rather it’s roasted chicken breast and leg - all are cooked to perfection.
For desert, the Cambridge tart - with its revamped recipe; “we’ve made it tasty again” head chef Tristan Welch tells us” - will please those with a sweet tooth while the pavlova offers a classic take on a traditional favourite.
Considering how busy - but safely seated - the hotel’s bar and restaurant remained during our one-night stay - including in the morning where guests are given plenty of options for their ‘build your own’ four-course breakfast - it’s good to see that things are immediately picking up for the dedicated team behind the scenes.
As Tristan admits, “it’s like reopening again because of all the time away from things, but that’s over with now and we’re excited to get back to some sort of normal.”
To book visit www.universityarms.com
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