UPDATE: Chez Amélie have now taken residency of the café.
I’ve been following the progress over the past year of Cambridge Cookery School’s move to new premises and I’m delighted that the café is up and running. It’s a bright and airy space and it’s hard to believe that almost a year ago, it was just the bare bones of the old Rattee & Kett building. It’s located on Harrison Drive, off Hills Road via Homerton College.
When the refurbishment was complete, the café’s adjoining cookery school was up and running right away and I had the pleasure of attending a few classes (I wrote about them here and here). I had a sneak peek of the café back then and I couldn’t wait for it to open. The full potential of the café is still in its infancy as there are two large construction projects going on. Once all of the builds are finished (residences, student accommodations, offices, etc) the café will be in a better position to cater to the people living, studying and working in the area. This includes a mobile coffee van.
The café’s décor, inspired by Scandinavian design, is stunning yet functional (there are power points for laptops and mobiles built into the seating). Bright, bold colours lend a cheerful air to the space.
There are beautiful decorative touches everywhere, which really add to the relaxing ambience. The minimalist, clean décor emits good energy. That’s quite a testament to the hard work put into the refurbishment, as the construction nearby is quickly forgotten once the doors are closed. It also helps that all of the windows are double glazed so there is very little outside noise.
The gorgeous space isn’t a matter of style over substance though. After all, Cambridge Cookery School is a prestigious, award-winning establishment and the food certainly matches its reputation. The café uses fresh ingredients, sourced locally as much as possible. Everything is expertly prepared in their impeccable kitchens, including all of the bakes… cakes, croissants, breads, buns, loaves, the list goes on.
The menu has breakfast and lunch options. It isn’t extensive but it has enough variety to keep it interesting for return visits. There are always specials and some items are easy to take away, such as bacon butties and sausage rolls made with local organic pork. The sweet treats were neatly laid out so we could choose where our eyes and taste buds would take us.
I resisted the temptation of indulging my sweet tooth first. I ordered smoked salmon with dill cream cheese on toasted sourdough. It was beautifully presented, complete with lemon on the side and a flourish of olive oil. The smoked salmon was very fresh and the whole dish really hit the spot.
Paulo ordered the Builder’s Special (a nod to the construction work outside), featuring scrambled eggs, crispy bacon and free range pork sausage on sourdough. All of the ingredients were high quality. It’s worth mentioning that even though we ordered from the breakfast menu, it was no problem to have our choices at lunchtime.
I enjoyed some nice organic Earl Grey tea by Solaris. Paulo’s hand-roasted coffee was by Union. He had his cappuccino with chocolate sprinkles, scattered in a lovely pattern. It was a nice touch and demonstrated the care and attention put into their offerings. We enjoyed our tea and coffee so much, we each ordered another cuppa.
The sweet treats, all baked on the premises, looked too good to pass up. I had my eye on the raspberry roulade, drizzled with icing and topped with raspberries and fresh thyme leaves.
The roulade was springy and moist and the tart raspberries beautifully balanced the sweetness of the cake and icing. The accompanying raspberries and thyme provided an explosion of fresh flavours. I am still dreaming about this roulade!
Paulo opted for a slice of comforting loaf cake. It was filled with fresh plum pieces and topped with almonds.
It is definitely worth the trip to the Cambridge Cookery School Café. Granted, it’s not easy to access. There is no parking anywhere on site and spaces on the side streets are limited. The best bet is to leave your car at the Leisure Centre car park and walk over. That’s what we did and it was fine. For those who need to drive into Cambridge, it’s not any different than parking in the car parks in the city centre and walking to your desired location.
I do need to point out that the road leading to the Cambridge Cookery School is part of the building site and caution must be exercised. Pedestrians and cyclists turning from Harrison Drive into that road (look for café’s A-board) need to ensure they stay to the right, making their way along the narrow path between the wall and the temporary fencing (there should be just enough space for a pram). That is the safest way to approach but it’s not obvious. We saw many people (and we did this ourselves) walk up the road only to be met by large vehicles and having to turn back. A big health and safety no-no. A very simple solution is to display safety signage clearly indicating the pedestrian access route at the onset. This isn’t Cambridge Cookery School’s responsibility as they are only tenants, it’s the building site owner’s legal duty (sort it out, Homerton College). There are spaces to leave bicycles but the safest way is to dismount and walk your bike along the path adjacent to the fencing.
The encouraging news is that once all of the works are completed, it is going to be an amazing space, one in which Cambridge Cookery School will thrive. They soon hope to be open on Saturdays (estimated for the end of April) and eventually on Sundays. For now, it’s worth the slight inconvenience of accessing the site. Once you step inside the café, it really is a slice of foodie heaven.
The owners, managers or staff did not invite me to visit this establishment and were unaware that my experience would be the basis of a written review. It is based on my experience at my own cost and I did not receive compensation for my review.
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