By Kingfisher Visitor Guides
If you’re up for a casual brunch, a cool cup of coffee or some upscale fast food, there are lots of laid-back cafés to try. Cambridge’s large student population ensures that they’re fun and great value, too.
On Chesterton Road, just north of Midsummer Common, is Stir, a cool neighbourhood café. It’s a lovely, bright place that serves cakes and light snacks, and children are positively welcomed, as they are at their sister café in neighbouring Histon. There’s more fabulous food at Café Foy, which offers coffee, cake and brunch right by the river, at Magdalene Bridge.
Heading up the eclectic area towards the east of the city is Espresso Library, a cool cycle café that’s open for breakfast, brunch and lunch until 4pm. There’s a second branch next to the Grand Arcade, on St Andrew’s Street.
On nearby Mill Road, Scott’s All Day has been given a big thumbs up by locals. This neighbourhood café serves brunch in the mornings and pizza from lunchtime onwards. If you’d like your artisan coffee with a slice of incredible focaccia, then head to Modigliani, just down the road.
For more coffee action, 5 Blends Coffee House has been going down a storm since it opened in 2018. The Garden Kitchen, meanwhile, is a spin-off from the hugely successful Garden Café at the Cambridge University Botanic Garden. It’s primarily a takeaway and serves tasty salads, lunch specials and cakes alongside tea and coffee.
Hot Numbers Coffee Roasters on Gwydir Street is 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 on Trumpington Street, right opposite The Fitzwilliam Museum, plus a roastery, kitchen and bakery near Shepreth, a few miles outside the city.
Further up Mill Road and over the bridge is the Black Cat Café, which is the place to go for a hearty but healthy breakfast – try the specials at the weekend, which include avocado eggs benedict with homemade lemon hollandaise.
On Chesterton Road, just north of Midsummer Common, is Stir, a cool neighbourhood café. It’s a lovely, bright place that serves cakes and light snacks
For the offbeat combo that you never knew you needed, try Liutaio, a café, dim sum restaurant and stringed-instrument shop that also puts on live performances.
Relevant Record Café at the far end of Mill Road has a coffee shop on one floor and a record 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, while right at the end of Mill Road is The Edge Café, which – as well as serving good food and award-winning coffee – supports people who are recovering from substance abuse.
Gourmet Burger and Fries (GBF) on Mill Road is takeaway only but serves a huge range of homemade burgers with appealing names such as Jamaican jerk and flaming chilli. If you have a sweet tooth, you’ll be glad to know that Belgian waffles and shakes are also on the menu!
Excellent foodie options
In the centre of Cambridge, King’s Parade and the surrounding streets are full of excellent foodie options. On Bene’t Street, you’ll find Aromi, a Sicilian café where you can watch chefs make the most amazing pizzas and flatbreads through the window while you wait.
Nearby is Bread & 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 including quiches, soups, salads and hot meals.
If you’re looking for some good old English tradition, Harriets Cafe Tearooms, on Green Street, has staff dressed in 1940s-style uniforms and a piano waiting to be played (anyone can have a go when the pianist isn’t there).
You can stop by for a simple sandwich or a full-on afternoon tea. Nearby, almost opposite King’s College and with a brilliant view, is The Copper Kettle, a great choice for brunch, tea and cake or an evening meal with Mediterranean flavours.
Fresh coffee & light meals
Just off King’s Parade, on St Edmund’s Passage, is Indigo Coffee House. This tiny café serves fresh coffee, cakes and light meals, and has 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 is Fitzbillies, which celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2020. It’s famous for its sticky Chelsea buns – they’re so popular that they’re available by mail order. There’s also a Fitzbillies on Bridge Street, at the other end of town, so you’re covered whichever direction you walk in.
Savino’s, opposite the bus station on Emmanuel Street, reputedly serves some of the best coffee in Cambridge. It’s a Sicilian venture that evokes the sights and sounds of a Sicilian café, with its Italian newspapers and gregarious staff.
If you’re looking for some serious meat-free indulgence, head to Doppleganger Burger on Regent Street. You’ll find delicious plant-based burgers bursting with flavours, alongside cocktails and outstanding shakes – the salted caramel chocolate brownie shake is highly recommended! For more plant-based eats, don’t miss Stem & Glory, a vegan café and restaurant near the station.
Another must-visit is Charlie’s Coffee Company & Pizzeria on Burleigh Street, which not only serves great coffee, but also a huge range of pizzas, hand thrown and cooked in their own pizza oven. It even has train tables where you can eat while messing about with model trains!
Want several cuisines to choose from? Then try foodPark, a collective of Cambridge street food vendors who sell their wares on Tuesday to Saturday lunchtime, and on Wednesday evenings, at a different site each day. Venues include Cambridge Science Park, Cambridge University Library and the CB1 Development at Cambridge Railway Station. What’s on the menu? You’ll find everything from pizza to buffalo wings to bao buns.
Great eateries outside the city
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 fantastic selection of tea and cakes, it’s well worth making a pitstop here. And, if you’re visiting the cathedral, stop by at the Almonry Restaurant within the medieval precinct for sweet treats and light meals.
Tom’s Cakes on High Street in Ely and Market Hill in St Ives is a café that sells its own homemade cakes and biscuits, with an emphasis on local ingredients and flavours. It also serves paninis, sandwiches and soup.
Julia’s Tea Rooms on Ely’s High Street is consistently good – try the delicious fresh scones. If you fancy an ice cream, then go for Hadi’s Gelato, an Italian ice-cream parlour that also serves crepes and waffles.
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