It may be in Cambridge’s modern business district, but The Tamburlaine has charm, character and a grand old soul that belies its blocky exterior. In the lobby, you’ll find pops of humbug colour, large-scale modern artworks and stately wood panelling. Go further to find the bustling brasserie serving local Cambridgeshire fare and a marble bar that begs you to pull up a red studded stool and stay a while. When you’re ready to venture out, stroll to the blooming botanical gardens, the formidable Fitzwilliam Museum and the cloistered colleges. You’ll soon be trotting back to the Tamburlaine – it’s the allure of those plump mattresses and the soothing tones of Cambridge blue.
Get this when you book through us:
Two cocktails in the bar per room, and a selection of truffles on arrival
Check-in is from 3pm and check-out is before noon. Both are flexible, subject to availability. For each hour after 1pm, late check out is £12.50. After 4pm, you’ll be charged for an additional night.
Double rooms from $117.39 (£97), excluding tax at 20 per cent.
Rates generally include a continental breakfast. Cooked dishes like scrambled eggs with smoked salmon or pancakes are available for an extra £4.
Just say no to hotel gyms that feel like dungeons. The Tamburlaine’s gym is huge, thoughtfully outfitted and flooded with light thanks to floor-to-ceiling windows.
The hotel closes annually for Christmas from 20 to 30 December.
At the hotel
Gym, library, free WiFi, bicycles. In rooms: free WiFi, TV, a desk, air-conditioning, Roberts DAB radio, free bottled water, tea and Nespresso coffee, black-out curtains and Paul Costelloe bath products.
Our favourite rooms
Here’s the boon of a new building – even the entry-level Fresher rooms have floor-to-ceiling windows, super-king-size beds with duck down mattress toppers and marble-clad bathrooms, so you can’t go wrong. The retro bakelite telephone and Roberts DAB radio in every room stole our hearts.
Bring your childlike sense of wonder for exploring the mind-bogglingly rich history of the city… and maybe sunglasses for masking your “one-too-many martinis” pallor.
All public areas and a number of bedrooms are fully wheelchair accessible.
Very welcome. The public spaces are all easily accessible with a pushchair. Babysitting can be arranged for £15 an hour – just give the hotel at least 24 hours notice. Foldaway cots (£25), extra beds for children (£35) and highchairs are available, too.
The best booths are the two closest to the theatre kitchen, so you can watch the chefs at work.
You can come as you are, but the squishy banquettes and marble art-deco bar might make you want to sparkle, too.
The emphasis in the bustling brasserie is on seasonal British dishes cooked simply and using local produce teamed with delicious wines, craft beers or champagne. There’s afternoon tea in the sun-soaked Cavendish Suite, which feels like a conservatory and is filled with plants, in homage to the nearby botanical gardens. Choose your own Newby loose-leaf tea and add a glass or two of prosecco or Taittinger to complement the homemade scones, finger sandwiches and cakes with delicious jams and curds.
The horseshoe-shaped bar is encircled by studded red-leather stools and makes for a glamorous gathering point after a day of exploring, shopping and sightseeing. The menu specialises in American cocktails, so you’ll be able to sip on an Old Fashioned or a Manhattan, but they can also make a mean French Martini or Negroni. There are delicious bar snacks, too, like baked Camembert, smoked almonds and charred flatbread with hummus.
Breakfast is from 7am to 10am; the restaurant is open from noon to 9.30pm. Afternoon tea is from 2pm to 4pm, and the bar shuts down around 11pm.
The full restaurant menu is available as room service until 9.30pm. After hours, a night menu is available until 7am and includes paninis, pastas, soup, pizza and croque-monsieurs.
The Tamburlaine is right by the train station in Cambridge’s shiny new business district. It’s just a 15-minute walk (a very leafy, pleasant one) into the ancient heart of town, where you’ll find the university colleges.
London Stansted is the closest – from there, it’s a 40-minute drive or 20-minute train ride. The hotel can organise transfers from Stansted for £50 each way.
The hotel is a two – nay, one! – minute stroll from Cambridge train station, so you couldn’t find a more convenient spot. If you’re taking the speedy train from London St Pancras, you’ll be at the hotel in under an hour. The train station also serves Norwich, Birmingham and Brighton.
You won’t need a car to explore the walkable city of Cambridge, but, if you are driving, the car park at the train station has 200 spaces and is right on your doorstep.
Worth getting out of bed for
Start with what’s here. Slide into a booth or banquette for breakfast in the brasserie to fuel up for a day’s exploring. Be sure to save room for finger sandwiches and home-made scones with lots of clotted cream – afternoon tea is served in the colourful conservatory. If the weather isn’t cooperating (quite likely, let’s be honest), then snuggle into an over-stuffed armchair in the library with a good book. Time for something stronger? Try to stump the mixologists with esoteric cocktail orders – go nuts, these guys know their niche tipples – or ask to sample the ever-changing Tamburlaine cocktail of the month.
When you’re ready to explore, a soothing start to any day would be a wander through the outstanding (and ridiculously fragrant) botanical gardens – they’re just a five-minute walk from the hotel on the way into town. Stroll down the wide avenues lined with enormous pines, stare up at the towering California Redwoods and be sure to explore the greenhouses, where each room is dedicated to a different geographic region – we liked pretending we were in Bali in the humid blast of the subtropical room. On your way into town, you’ll also pass the Fitzwilliam Museum. Arrange a private guide to take you through the highlights, which range from mediaeval illuminated manuscripts to Ming porcelain to Titians to Monets. The museum itself is a sight to behold – the classically proportioned entrance hall dressed in Italian marble looks like a Venetian palace. Then, go punting. The Tamburlaine can pack you a picnic of pork pies, charcuterie and bubbles to take with you. We recommend booking ahead onto a guided punt – the guides at Scudamore’sare wonderful – rather than trying to do it yourself (unless you want to be snapped by hundreds of tourists while huffing and puffing and, let’s face it, probably falling in). The punt will take you under the Mathematical Bridge, the Bridge of Sighs and past the vast Gothic stonework of the university colleges – the grandest (read: richest) are King’s College and Trinity College. Don’t miss evensong at King’s College Chapel – the college is famous for its choir services, which are open to all.
Pick up some Chelsea buns to take home from Fitzbillies, beloved by students for generations. Chef Daniel Clifford reigns at two Michelin-star Midsummer House, a cosy Victorian villa on the Cam. Visit the historic RAF bar in The Eaglepub on Benet Street where, during World War II, American airmen scrawled their names on the ceiling and, in 1953, Watson and Crick announced that they had discovered the double helix, ‘the secret of life’. You can pick your favourite botanicals and create a personalised bottle of gin to take home at the Cambridge gin distillery.
Every hotel featured is visited personally by members of our team, given the Smith seal of approval, and then anonymously reviewed. As soon as our reviewers have returned from this slick and soothing boutique hotel in Cambridge and unpacked their personalised bottle of Cambridge Gin, a full account of their gothic city break will be with you. In the meantime, to whet your wanderlust, here's a quick peek inside the Tamburlaine in Cambridge…
The Tamburlaine is in the new part of Cambridge – the modern, glass-façaded business district. 'New'? you say, 'I don’t want new. I came to Cambridge to wander through 13th-century libraries and mediaeval chapels and see the soaring spires'. Good point. But let us respectfully posit that, after peering at all that ancient beauty for hours upon hours, you may start to see the upside of bedding down somewhere gloriously spacious and temperature-controlled, with an excellent wine list and plump mattress toppers. Cambridge may have been built by monks but, the motto of the Tamburlaine seems to be, why live like one? The hotel succeeds admirably at marrying culture with comfort. There are nods aplenty to its learned setting – the name 'Tamburlaine' refers to the play by Christopher Marlowe, the rooms range from Fresher to Dean and the wood-panelled bookshelves sag with leather-bound tomes. But, you’ll mostly remember the beds. Oh, the beds… Mushroom-like clouds of cotton and feathers that envelop you whole in a downy bear hug – good luck getting out. If you do emerge, you’ll find a stylish brasserie serving British dishes with fresh, local produce, an international list of cocktails in the horseshoe-shaped marble bar and a nest of comfy nooks in the library, where you could happily spend an entire day moving from coffee to wine to cocktails.
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