Tucked away on a narrow lane in the heart of Cambridge, The Varsity Hotel and Spa has been one of Cambridge’s most luxury destinations since it opened in 2011 (previous guests include David Beckham, Daniel Craig and Courtney Cox). It’s certainly chic: you’ll enjoy panoramic views of the River Cam and the university’s famous colleges with your morning coffee as well as some of the best food in the city at its sixth floor restaurant, Six. But at heart, the Varsity is also a boutique affair: think Farrow and Ball interiors and the enduring delight of a freestanding bath in your room. When you do want to venture out, you’ll be moments away from the shops, pubs, cafes and all important punting tours in Cambridge.
We chose a king size room, which was the perfect base for a weekend away in Cambridge. The decor was statement without being overdone, featuring Colefax and Fowler floral wallpaper, dark wood floors, luxe curtains and an imposing, spacious bed. As with everywhere at the Varsity, the windows looked onto the tiny streets of the city (beware the floor length window in the bathroom - a nice, if slightly exposing, touch). The room was warm, and the Elemis body wash, shampoo and moisturisers in the bathroom was a welcome addition. The room and bathroom were both luxuriously spacious, with a wide armchair thrown in for some pre-bedtime reading.
Eating and Drinking
The standout feature of the Varsity is without doubt its top-floor restaurant, Six. It only opened last year, but was full when we went on a Saturday evening, an indication that it's fast becoming one of the best dinner spots in Cambridge. There’s low-level lighting, yellow booths reminiscent of a New York bar, a marble-topped bar and floor to ceiling windows showcasing outstanding views of the city. And that’s before you even get to the food: we enjoyed a succulent chargrilled leg of Saltmarsh lamb with pan-fried butter beans and a plate of crispy pork belly with apple sauce. But make sure you save room for dessert: the Varsity Sundae - coffee and chocolate ice cream drizzled with butterscotch sauce with a topping of whipped cream - was among the best puddings we’ve had this year (and we’re serious dessert people). The hotel has a second restaurant, The River Bar Steakhouse and Grill, serving locally sourced ingredients and premium steaks, and breakfast is an ample buffet spread as well as a la carte offerings including eggs and avocado on toast and cheesy baked eggs.
The Varsity’s commitment to a stellar view continues at the hotel’s Glassworks Spa. We sweated it out in the sauna and steam room before rinsing off in a ice cold shower. But the real highlight here is the jacuzzi, which sits just by yet another floor to ceiling window with views over the city -- surely the most luxury way to enjoy Cambridge. Later, we enjoyed 30-minute Elemis treatment (a speedy facial and a sleep-inducing back and shoulder massage) before reawakening our senses with cool cucumber water. There’s also an Aveda Hair Salon on site for all your hair needs. We didn’t get round to it this time, but guests can enjoy fitness classes (we hear the yoga sessions are particularly good) and the fitness machines in the studio. The brick wall interiors might even make you forget you’re in a gym…
Venture out for a craft beer at Pint Shop - one of the sleekest bars in Cambridge. If beer isn’t your thing, head for coffee and cake at Hot Numbers Coffee a short walk away from the Varsity or a romantic glass of wine at The Eagle, Cambridge’s most famous pub, complete with a heated beer garden out back.
When To Go
The Varsity is a year-round option. But this year, why not make it a December destination? From 6 December, the hotel will be offering a hot gin bar on its iconic rooftop (enjoy those views again!). Enjoy cocktails including gin-based mulled wine and Hot Gin Toddy with homemade mince pies.
Prices at The Varsity start at £155. Bedrooms are available for check in from 3pm and check out is by 11.00am the following morning.
Call 01223 306030 to book or visit thevarsityhotel.co.uk. For enquiries at the Glassworks Spa, call 01223 30506