Cambridge has independent cafés in abundance, and I’ve spent a good deal of time over the last few months trying them out and establishing which ones are set to be firm favourites over the course of my time here. Whether you’re craving cake or have a fondness for flapjack, there’s sure to be a café on this list with something that will tickle your taste buds . . .
Tom’s Cakes (32 Mill Road)
Just typing Tom’s Cakes is making me salivate, their cakes are that good (and their hot chocolates aren’t half bad either). You’ll find the likes of chocolate, coffee and walnut and carrot cake here, alongside more adventurous options such as lime and blueberry and apple treacle cake (all of which come highly recommended by yours truly). If the sun has got his hat on, bag one of the tables in their quiet garden space out the back. Can’t manage a helping of cake there and then? Fear not, for there are plenty of sweet treats available to take away.
Maison Clément (28 Hills Road)
I’m still missing the flaky pains au raisin and scrumptious tartes (of all flavours) from Lyon’s bakeries, but fortunately there is a lovely little boulangerie française not so very far from my house. Cambridge being Cambridge, you won’t get any change out of £1 (or much out of £2) for your croissant here, but when those flaky pastry cravings strike, Maison Clément delivers the (oh-so-buttery) goods.
Indigo Coffee House (8 St. Edward’s Passage)
Indigo Coffee House is but a hop, skip and a jump away from the throngs of tourists which congregate on King’s Parade. You’ll find a selection of tasty toasties, homemade soups and freshly-baked traybakes on offer here, alongside a full range of hot and cold drinks. If you’re planning on grabbing lunch there, arrive early: there aren’t many tables, and it pulls in the punters (not the oar-bearing kind) with its budget-friendly menu. I love the walls plastered in banknotes, the cosy atmosphere and the sticky toffee slice.
Espresso Library (210 East Road)
Espresso Library’s airy, stripped back interior complete with colourful bikes hanging from the ceiling has a nod to Cambridge’s as-yet-uncontested title as the UK’s cycling capital. (If you’re arriving with your vélo, rest assured that there’s plenty of storage space for them inside.) Besides serving up a range of fresh, flavourful dishes, they also run regular cycling rides, host film screenings and exhibit artwork by (mostly) local artists.
Café @ Abantu (42 Hobson Street)
I’ve only visited Café @ Abantu once to date, but that one trip was enough to cement their place in this post. (I’m sure there’ll be more cake runs here over the coming months.) Their menu comprises brunch favourites, seasonal specials and a tempting range of sweet treats, including cookie dough pizza, carrot cake and lemon drizzle loaf. Expect good ol’ homemade grub, with plenty of vegan, veggie and gluten free options, at reasonable prices.
Hot Numbers (5/6, Dales Brewery, Gwydir Street; 4 Trumpington Street)
Hot Numbers can always be counted on for two things: cracking live music and speciality coffees. It’s a little on the pricey side for food, though what they do they do well (case in point: their decadent chocolate brownies). There are plenty of vegan and gluten-free options on their menu, so those with special dietary requirements won’t go hungry. Check their website for full details of upcoming gigs.
Fitzbillies (51-52 Trumpington Street; 36 Bridge Street)
Fitzbillies is something of a Cambridge institution, and their celebrated Chelsea buns are the stuff of sweet-toothed dreams. (If you hail from the North East, it’s akin to Bettys of Harrogate, but on a smaller, less cream tea-focussed scale.) Its Art Nouveau façade tastes of nostalgia; behind the glass there are trays of syrupy buns, plates of macarons and intricately iced tiered cakes. Venture inside and you’ll find a quintessentially English tea room. If you don’t have the time to wait for a table, you can buy cinnamon buns to take away from their coffee counter.
Norfolk Street Bakery (7 Station Road; 89 Norfolk Street)
If you’re looking to pick up a snack for a train journey, do yourself a favour and give the likes of Upper Crust, Caffè Nero and AMT Coffee a miss. Norfolk Street Bakery has a branch conveniently located at the end of Station Road, and you’d be silly to pass up the opportunity to try one of their sweet or savoury bakes. Opt for one of their tasty pasteís de nata, a slice of lemon drizzle or one of their artisan breads.
The Locker Café (54 King Street)
Part café, part art gallery, The Locker Café is a fairly new kid on the café block. You’ll find a range of locally sourced sweet and savoury dishes at this family-run café, alongside low-key art exhibitions, pop-up events and music sessions. I had high hopes, for it came recommended by my cousin, but it fell short of the mark on the cake-front; it was style over substance, at least as far as I was concerned. As much as I love their handmade mugs and pottery, a girl can’t satisfy her cravings for carrot cake with a slice of stoneware.
Soboro (17 Petty Cury)
If you’ve ever dashed to-and-fro across a city for back-to-back house viewings, you’ll know that keeping your sugar levels up is essential. Enter, Soboro – which at that time, had only just opened and was selling baked goodies at very tempting introductory prices. (50% off cake, and I’m there.) Soboro’s menu is a fusion of Japanese, Korean and European flavours, and their matcha-flavoured muffins, cookies and pastries are well worth trying.