Your favourite High Street

The Telegraph newspaper are running a campaign called Reinventing the High Street, aiming to put the heart back into the country’s traditional high streets. People are asked to nominate their favourite simply by emailing highstreet@telegraph.co.uk.

Mill Road BridgeI don’t know about you, but I think there’s something pretty special about Mill Road and I think it deserves a place among the best that the UK has to offer. Not only is the Mill Road area home to Cambridge’s best independent pub, coffee house, home & garden shop, specialist food shop and record shop (all awarded this year in the Discovering Cambridge awards) and home to the Independent Drinks Retailer of The Year (as voted at the UK Drinks Retailing Awards 2013) but it’s also the location of CAMRA‘s Cambridge City Locale Pub Of The Year 2013. There’s a range of events on throughout the year – including the Romsey Art Festival, several street parties, various beer festivals and of course the forthcoming Mill Road Winter Fair – as well as regular music nights at lots of different venues; and next week sees the first ever Romsey Calling music festival on Mill Road.

Mill Road has even been used as a location for music videos (like Mikill Pane’s ‘Good Feeling‘), films (Neil Morrissey was here last month filming a new movie, Caffiend), TV programmes (including Antiques Road Trip) and has had residents such as Douglas AdamsDave Gilmour, Syd Barrett, Angela Hartnett and Amy Williams over the years. It even has its own blog and its own radio show – ‘Our Mill Road‘! There’s lots more I could say about Mill Road, but too much for one blog post (hence the whole blog!) but suffice to say it’s full of community-spirited individuals and groups and has lots of people living, working and socialising in the area and keeping Mill Road the coolest street in Cambridge.

All you need to do to nominate Mill Road is to email highstreet@telegraph.co.uk and let them know! You know what they say – there’s something about Mill Road… .

Mill Road and Gwydir Street on BBC Radio 4

Yesterday I went along to Clare College for the recording of Radio 4‘s The Kitchen Cabinet. The show is hosted by well known food critic Jay Rayner and the panel promised to be an interesting mix of well known food experts with local connections – Masterchef 2011 winner Tim Anderson, Michelin starred celebrity chef Angela Hartnett, food historian Dr Annie Gray and Fitzbillies‘ very own Tim Hayward.

Angela HartnettAnnie Gray is based in Ely and specialises in food and its influences, especially eighteenth and nineteenth century. Her PhD title was ‘Man is a dining animal‘ and her current research topics include the history of tea and self discipline and control at the dining table. She’s clearly passionate about her subject and I’d recommend catching one of her talks if you ever get chance. Angela Hartnett is no stranger to Cambridge, or indeed Mill Road – she lived on Gwydir Street whilst studying at Cambridge Polytechnic (now Anglia Ruskin University) and fondly recalled the hearty sausage and bean stew she had made on a few occasions (which sounded a lot tastier than some of the concoctions other panellists had come up with during their student days!). Some of you may also remember when she took on Regent Street’s Nanna Mexico in a TV cooking challenge a few years ago.

SushiIf you watched the 2011 series of Masterchef (I am a huge fan!) you’ll know that winner Tim Anderson has a particular penchant for Japanese food. He certainly knows his negi and entertainingly educated us with his vast knowledge of ingredients and techniques. Some of the specialist Japanese ingredients he mentioned were thought to be rather difficult to track down by others on the panel, but Tim Hayward reliably informed the audience that they were actually available at any one of a number of oriental supermarkets on Mill Road! I love the huge range of oriental supermarkets we have here and my current favourite is Li Ming – who have provided copious amounts of tofu for my homemade vegan raspberry cheesecakes over the last year or so, but more on those another time.

I was pleased to hear from Tim Hayward that his chef doesn’t allow Fitzbillies to have a microwave in the kitchen – I don’t really like cooking with a microwave and although I do have one myself, it only seems to get used occasionally to reheat a cold cuppa rather than to ever cook food! Tim didn’t get chance to elaborate much during the show on the background to his taking over of Fitzbillies eighteen months ago, but if you want to read more then here’s an interesting article he wrote for The Guardian.

Jay RaynerThe panellists all kindly stayed behind afterwards to chat to the audience. I suggested to Jay Rayner that he pencil Cambridge in for another visit in the future (not only was the auditorium full to capacity, but there were quite a number of ticket-clutching hopefuls who didn’t get in) and he duly made note, though conceded that it would be up to the production team. I spoke to Angela Hartnett briefly too and had hoped to chat to the other panellists, but they were all very much in demand so I didn’t get chance. The recording took an hour but the show itself is only 30 minutes, so I’ll have to wait until Tuesday to find out if the Mill Road and Gwydir Street mentions make the final cut!

FlavourAfter the show, myself and Mr Mill Road met up with a small group of other local food lovers, including Gerla from the Cambridge Food Tour and Ruth who is one of the presenters on the ‘Flavour’ show on Cambridge 105. On the way home we spotted some most excellent buskers on the corner of Rose Crescent and Market square (I had never heard a saxophone/violin/acoustic guitar version of Gangnam style before!) and although we’d hoped the days activities would inspire us enough to cook ouselves a delicious meal, we were too hungry to wait and instead opted for a delicious take away from the Rice House.

The Cambridge episode (which is the last in the current series) of The Kitchen Cabinet will be on Radio 4 on Tuesday (8th January) at 3pm. After broadcast the podcast will be available to download permanently on the BBC website.