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.
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|
|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|
|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|
|Trockell Ullman & Freunde||poor||good||okay||okay||okay||good snacks||espresso||MAP|
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.
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.