Writing by Peter Hilton

Cambridge Cafe Reviews - Coffee & Cake Guide

Definitive rankings for cafes in Cambridge, UK

see also: European café watch, Cambridge café and restaurant reviews

Cambridge: Indigo Coffee House Cambridge has an extremely high cafe-factor. Some of the cafes are missing things that they ought to have, such as coffee or cake, and some have some welcome extras, such as things to read and sofas to lounge about on. Strangely, pavement terraces hardly feature at all, despite Cambridge's tiny annual rainfall. This page tells you which cafes make the grade.

Researching this page was a great hardship: instead of doing productive things in the evenings and at weekends I had to sit about in Cambridge's cafes with my friends drinking coffee and even eating the odd bit of cake.

Summary: the best cafes

Indigo Coffee House is a much more friendly experience than the other nearby cafes. Indigo Coffee House is cheerful and relaxed - a healthy antidote to the latest crop of production-line coffee 'outlets'. Sitting around downstairs or in the colourful room upstairs feels like being at your mate's place, except that the coffee and hot snacks are good. Claire Hawkins, proprietor, has done well to capture and keep this studenty feel.

Cambridge: Daniel Sturdy in CB2 CB2 has variety, with dashes of bookshop, restaurant, Internet cafe and a very cosmopolitan crowd, with mellow music and a random collection of furniture. Proprietor Daniel Sturdy (photo) has successfully created a pleasant atmosphere, just like CB1, which remains very much the original.

The Picturehouse cafe has the best ambiance, with its big open studio-like space, whose big windows make it particularly light during the afternoon, and its selection of classic music. Best of all, of course, is the surprisingly large collection of surprisingly comfortable sofas

The best cake is Café Rouge's offering - chocolate of course.

The best music is jazz at 7a Jesus Lane, where it is live.

Field research results

Cafe Coffee Cake Ambiance Welcome Music Has... ... but no Map
7a Jesus Lane okay okay good poor good sofas, live jazz, papers  MAP 
Browns good - good poor okay some live jazz cafe
The Bun Shop poor poor okay okay poor CI espresso  MAP 
Indigo Coffee House good good good good good sofa, foreign papers, good snacks  MAP 
Café Rouge good good okay good good  MAP 
Cazimir good good okay okay good foreign newspapers, local art toilet  MAP 
CB1 okay good good good good sofa, newspapers, books, Internet  MAP 
CB2 good good good good good books, bar, Internet  MAP 
Clowns good okay good okay poor  MAP 
The Copper Kettle okay okay good okay - espresso  MAP 
Grads poor ? good good - pancakes, cricket ground espresso, public access
Hobbs Pavilion okay good good good good low prices, cricket green  MAP 
No 1 Kings Parade okay good good good good high prices  MAP 
Picturehouse cafe poor good good good good sofas, three-screen cinema, bar  MAP 
Pierre Victoire okay okay okay poor poor candles espresso  MAP 
Savinos good poor okay okay okay irritating television
Trockell Ullman & Freunde poor good okay okay okay good snacks espresso  MAP 

The verdict

[Illustration: eat lots of chocolate cake!] All things considered my order of preference for these cafes, from best to worst, is CB2, CB1, Picturehouse cafe, Indigo Coffee House, 7a Jesus Lane, Hobbs Pavilion, Grads, No 1 Kings Parade, Clowns, The Copper Kettle, Cazimir, Browns, Trockel Ullmann & Freunde, The Bun Shop: Tapas Bar, Pierre Victoire, cafe Rouge, Savinos.

The criteria

Each cafe or restaurant was given ratings of 'good', 'okay' or 'poor' for each of five criteria, according to what I think about cafes.

The first criteria two are straightforward: how good the coffee was and how good the cake was. Next, the ambiance should be relaxing and hopefully have a bit of style. Along similar lines, I rated how welcoming a place felt: this is usually down to how friendly the staff are, although the decor can make a difference too. Finally there's the music or, hopefully, the lack of it. I think that music in a cafe needlessly restricts who frequents the place; although personally, I don't mind it too much if I like it...

Note: Marion rated the coffee because, being Dutch, she's better qualified than I am. In case you have to ask, the Dutch drink a lot of coffee.