With a tantalising selection of cafes and restaurants in town and within shouting distance, there has never been a better time for eating out in Cambridgeshire. Once you know some of the local secrets, you’ll be able to make a beeline for the best coffee, lunch spots and evening tables in town.
Cakes and coffee shops
On Chesterton Road, just north of Midsummer Common, is Stir, a cool neighbourhood cafe. It’s a lovely, bright place that serves an array of cakes and a few light snacks, with a great space in the corner for parents with children – who are positively welcomed with colouring books and small toys.
Further along the road you’ll find Stem + Glory, a vegan cafe and restaurant. A new express branch that serves lunch and take-away food can be found on King’s Street in the town centre. Café Foy is a new place in town, offering coffee, cake and brunch right by the river at Magdalene Bridge.
Heading up this eclectic area towards the east of the city is Espresso Library, a cool cycle cafe that’s open for breakfast, brunch and lunch until 3.30pm.
At the top of Mill Road, CB1 – said to be the oldest cyber cafe in the UK – is a good place to stop. Full of books and board games, it has a lovely atmosphere and the coffee is great. Tom’s Cakes is a cafe that sells its own home-made cakes and biscuits, with an emphasis on local ingredients and flavours. It also serves panini, sandwiches and soup, too. The new kid on the block is the 5 Blends Coffee House, which has been going down a storm since it opened.
The Garden Kitchen is a spin-off from the hugely successful Garden Café at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. Primarily takeaway – seating is minimal – food is fresh and there’s a tasty selection of salads, hot food and cakes. Hot Numbers is now a Cambridge favourite. It serves the perfect coffee from a no-fuss, pared down menu, and a tasty selection of cakes. It’s so good that there’s another one, right opposite The Fitzwilliam Museum on Trumpington Street.
Further up Mill Road and over the bridge is the Black Cat Café, which is a good place for breakfast – try the specials at the weekend, which include eggs benedict with treacle-cured bacon and lemon hollandaise. Café Blue Sage is also a locals’ favourite.
At the top of Mill Road, CB1 – said to be the oldest cyber cafe in the UK – is a good place to stop. Full of books and board games, it has a lovely atmosphere and the coffee is great
Relevant Records, at the far end of Mill Road, has a coffee shop on one floor and a vinyl emporium in the basement –a treasure trove for vinyl lovers. The Urban Larder is a well-loved, cosy coffee shop that serves great coffee, toasties and blondies. Right at the end of Mill Road is The Edge cafe, which – as well as serving good food and award-winning coffee – supports people who are recovering from substance abuse.
Nearby is The Locker, a family-run cafe with home-made cakes, pottery and art, while Stem + Glory King St serves fast vegan food and takeaways.
In the centre, King’s Parade and the streets nearby have a variety of places to eat and drink. At the Visitor Information Centre right by the market square, you’ll find The Green Coffee Company – it also has a few seats outside by the market. If that’s full and you don’t mind standing, try Caffé Mobile, a small van on the marketplace.
Round the corner on Bene’t Street you’ll find Aromi, a delightful Sicilian cafe where you can watch chefs make the most amazing pizzas and flatbreads through the window while you wait. Tight on space due to both its size and its popularity – so popular it has opened a second cafe just doors away – it also offers takeaways, as well as delicious home-made gelato and cakes.
Nearby is Bread and Meat, serving chunky and delicious roasted meat sandwiches, as well as vegetarian options. Founded by food writer and restaurateur, Bill Sewell, Michaelhouse Café on Trinity Street (opposite Gonville and Caius college) is known for its fresh and varied menu such as quiches, soups, salads and hot meals.
Round the corner on Bene’t Street you’ll find Aromi, a delightful Sicilian cafe where you can watch chefs make the most amazing pizzas and flatbreads through the window while you wait
Whether you’re looking for an English afternoon tea or a light lunch, Harriets Café Tearooms on Green Street offers a traditional experience. With waiting staff dressed in 1940s-style uniforms and a piano waiting to be played (anyone can have a go when the pianist isn’t there), it’s a great place to enjoy sandwiches, tea and miniature cakes.
Nearby, on St Edmund’s Passage, is Indigo Coffee House – a seemingly tiny cafe serving fresh coffee, cakes and light meals, but it does have a small seating area upstairs and little tables outside. It’s a great refuge from the hustle and bustle of town, and just a side-step from King’s College.
Just a few steps further down King’s Parade on Trumpington Street, Fitzbillies bakery is famous for its sticky Chelsea buns – they’re so popular that they’re available by mail order. The cafe, re-opened by food writer Tim Hayward and his wife Alison, serves breakfast, brunch, lunch and afternoon tea. There’s also a Fitzbillies on Bridge Street at the other end of town, so you’re covered whichever way you walk in.
Around the corner, tucked away down Botolph Street, you’ll find Espresso Lane, a tiny yet hugely popular coffee stop, while Trockel, Ulmann & Freunde on Pembroke Street is another hidden gem. Just by the Round Church is Bould Brothers, a small cafe serving the best coffee they can source. Further on down Bridge Street is Bridges, a small cafe serving sandwiches and salads. The Arts Picturehouse on Regent Street is technically a cinema, though it has a good cafe that sells coffee and snacks, as well as a licence in case you want to take a drink into the cinema. You don’t have to come to watch a film, either – it’s open to anyone.
Whether you’re looking for an English afternoon tea or a light lunch, Harriets Café Tearooms on Green Street offers a traditional experience
Tea and cake
Savino’s, just up the road and opposite the bus station on Emmanuel Street, reputedly serves some of Cambridge’s best coffee. It’s a Sicilian venture that evokes the sights and sounds of a Sicilian cafe, with its Italian newspapers and gregarious staff. Meanwhile, the impressive Soboro Bakery on Petty Cury serves up a selection of Japanese and Korean bakery products and has a great lunch choice.
Around the Grafton Centre Charlie’s Coffee Company on Burleigh Street, near the Grafton Centre, not only serves great coffee but a huge range of pizzas, hand-thrown and cooked in their own pizza oven. It also does events such as movie nights. Nearby is another Aromi, which again serves amazing pizzas and gelato, and further down Burleigh Street is Signorelli’s Deli, a gem of an Italian cafe/deli that’s well worth a visit. It also hosts events such as wine tasting and live music.
Ely In Ely, the award-winning Peacocks Tearoom by the river is a favourite spot for locals and tourists alike. With beautiful views as well as a good menu and fantastic selection of tea and cakes, it’s well worth making a pit-stop here. And if you’re vising the cathedral, stop by at the Refectory Café inside for a great selection of cakes and light meals.
You’ll be rather spoiled for choice when it comes to eating out in Cambridge in the evening. Alongside plenty of regular restaurants, which offer a good selection of cheap eats and more adventurous dining, there are lots of auspicious independent restaurants offering fine fayre.
Savino’s, reputedly serves some of Cambridge’s best coffee. It’s a Sicilian venture that evokes the sights and sounds of a Sicilian cafe, with its Italian newspapers and gregarious staff
With its classic British dishes and real ales, the meat-heavy St John’s Chophouse on Northampton Street – owned by the CambsCuisine group, a trio of Cambridge foodies – is a Cambridge favourite. Sausages are made onsite, while some menu items – such as the ox cheek cottage pie – sound truly eccentric. Its sister restaurant, the Cambridge Chop House – with its fine views of King’s College – has a similar menu. Smokeworks is also run by the same trio – you can find this on Free School Lane, a stone’s throw from the famous Eagle pub – while a new one has popped up by near Cambridge station. Emulating everything BBQ and Tennessee, this place both looks and tastes the part.
Nearby, Wheeler Street and Bene’t Street by the Corn Exchange is fast becoming the food quarter of the city (or Meat Street, as it has become known locally). As well as a number of good chain eateries including Honest Burgers, Sticks ‘n’ Sushi, Jamie’s, Zizzi and Vietnamese street food Pho, there’s some great independents, too. Steak and Honour started out as a mobile gourmet burger van, but now has premises next to the Corn Exchange.
The Senate, opposite Great St Mary’s Church and right near King’s College, not only offers fantastic views, but also a Mediterranean menu from morning through to evening. Meanwhile, Trinity – just a few steps away down Trinity Street, and sister restaurant to the Varsity – serves elegant food in great surroundings. And just next door is The Ivy Brasserie, Cambridge’s own version of the London classic.
Situated in the thriving riverside area of town, by Magdalene Bridge, The River Bar offers a fine selection of steaks and burgers, along with some fish dishes. Nearby is The Punt Yard, a funky retro eatery serving craft beer and artisan pizzas. Thaikhun is a Thai restaurant authentically decorated inside, which serves great street food. Thanh Binh is a family-run Vietnamese place opposite Magdalene College, which operates a bring-your-own-alcohol policy. Food is spicy, fragrant and there’s plenty of variety, too.
If you love all things Spanish, then try Tabanco on Green Street. This recently opened Andalucian tapas and wine bar offers delights such as churros and chocolate, alongside tapas and Spanish brunch. dArry’s on King Street is both a restaurant and wine bar with a good range of wines – and it has a great cocktail bar roof terrace called the Liquor Loft. It also offers a private dining room for up to 20 people. Meanwhile, Sushimania on Christ’s Lane is a new restaurant that makes sushi to order.
The Senate, opposite Great St Mary’s Church and right near King’s College, not only offers fantastic views, but also a Mediterranean menu from morning through to evening