St. Edward’s Passage in Cambridge is a hidden gem. This tiny lane way starts just off the main market place, past a gorgeous old bookstore where you imagine the literaries of Cambridge’s past used to browse. Around the corner is the Cambridge theatre which is always busy (at Christmas go to see the Pantomine, an experience in itself). Right next to that with the little wooden table and two chairs out front is Indigo.
Indigo is just a dot on the map really, it is a tiny coffee shop and it always surprises me how much they have managed to fit in to this compact space. On the ground floor one large window brightens the room, and they have squeezed in a couple of tables and the ordering counter. A range of bills and coins from around the world have been glued to the wall around the front door, which keep you entertained while waiting to order. There is a rickety old staircase that brings you upstairs where somehow 20 odd chairs have been made to fit.
We sit upstairs near the window on a wooden bench under a large mirror surrounded by fairy lights and little union jack flags which they put up to celebrate the Queen’s Jubilee. Outside the window you can see the inside of what I believe is a college residence but always makes me think of a set of a Shakespeare play with its wooden walkways.
We are alone upstairs until a mother and daughter arrive. It is exam time and she is talking about her schedule and more importantly the party afterwards. May Balls, the big graduation parties, are just around the corner.
My hot chocolate comes in a purple mug. It is too sweet for my taste but nice and warm considering the cool and wet weather outside. I warm my hands and take a few sips but that is enough for me.
Verdict: If in Cambridge go look for Indigo. It is a little discovery and the best seats I think are the ones downstairs near the window or outside to watch the locals go by. If you like your hot chocolate with a bit of a sweet side you’ll enjoy this one. Indigo Coffee House, 8 St. Edward’s Passage
When I first walked by Bill’s I was in awe. I absolutely love how they have transformed the space into a colourful festival of food.
The walls are covered in shelves featuring all of Bill’s products, everything from Elderflower Cordiale, Beer, jars of thick English honey and pink champagne truffles. Large blackboards hang all around the restaurant, some with parts of menu, others with wise words and quotes about food. Large bunches of dried red chilli peppers and colourful paper hang from large hooks from the ceiling. I absolutely love the décor.
The menu looks quite good but we only have time for a hot chocolate. On each table next to the menu is a yellow sheet of paper with a list of all the products they sell in the shop with little boxes next to them to tick. You can shop while you sit there and they will bring you your bag when you leave. I am thrilled to see that on this shopping list is not one but two hot chocolates that you can buy, one is a special breakfast chocolate and the other is la tazza drinking chocolate bars. The menu for the café only said hot chocolate so I wonder which of these two we will be given.
My hot chocolate arrives and it is sweet…really sweet. I stop the waitress and ask her, out of curiosity, what the hot chocolate is. “We take the chocolate powder and mix it with hot milk until it makes a nice paste, then we froth some more hot milk and add it to the chocolate paste, it’s good isn’t it”. So I ask her what the chocolate it “it’s a powder”. Is it one of the ones in the product menu? “No” she answers, “it isn’t”. So what is this mysterious chocolate. After asking her in several different ways she finally caves. It is Cadbury Hot chocolate powder.
I’m confused. Why would they sell in store two very interesting sounding hot chocolates but then serve their customers something completely different? Do I not deserve a hot chocolate made from la tazza drinking chocolate bar? I think so. I now assume then that they don’t use any of the produce that they sell in the restaurant in the actual menu of the restaurant. That does seem a little strange to me.
Verdict: Such a gorgeous spot (and there are many because it is a growing chain in the UK). But its just a Cadbury Hot Chocolate…not that that is necessarily bad but I was expecting more. I’d go back though just to sit in a corner and take in the colours. Bill’s, 34-35 Green Street, Cambridge, UK www.bills-website.co.uk,
I’ve walked by Fitzbillies for three years. I always knew it was a Cambridge institution (90 years old!), it looks like one, but I never actually went in. It’s on the opposite side of town which is part of the reason. Then, all of a sudden a year ago, it closed. Even British comedian Stephen Fry tweeted about this sad event “No!No! Say it ain’t so – not Fitzbillies? Why I tweeted a pic of one of their peerless Chelsea buns but a six months ago.” This is what happens when locals like us don’t support so called institutions.
Well today we noticed it has not only reopened but got a much needed face lift. A couple (one of which is a food writer) bought it and fixed it up. They were also given the recipe for what makes Fitzbillies so famous, its super sticky sticky buns.
The place is now no longer just a bakery. The building it is in is a grade 2 listed art deco frontage which has remained untouched. Inside half of the walls are covered in a beautiful light blue tile with coffee cups the exact same colour. One side has been turned into a restaurant which serves good simple food on weekends only. The other side is a coffee shop which also sells icecream.
We sat down around 8.30 am and it was busy. Hot chocolate, a sticky bun to share and we sat on two empty wooden stools around a large communal light wooden table. The sticky bun is good – dangerously so. The syrup is dripped down the sides and if I hadn’t just had breakfast I could have eaten a full one, or maybe even two. The Hot chocolate was taken from a little pot and mixed with hot milk. I enjoyed it, it was simple, a little bit sweet but gave me the little kick I needed to start the day.
Verdict: I like the new version of Fitzbillies better than the last. It is beautiful and fresh and the hot chocolate was a perfect start to the day. Fitzbillies, 52 Trumpington Street, Cambridge, UK.http://www.fitzbillies.com
It is tough to review Benets because it is one of my locals. A week was never complete without at least one hot chocolate at Benets. Saturday and Sunday never started before spending at least 30 minutes sitting on the terrace outside, sipping my hot chocolate while watching Cambridge walk by (often my evenings also didn’t end without a few scoops of their incredible homemade icecream either, one of the best I’ve had!)
From their terrace you have Kings College in front, the senate to the side and the lovely and vibrant Cambridge market behind. If you get there early enough they have a few pain au chocolate which taste like they were brought over directly from Paris (which probably explains why they never last).
Benets hot chocolate is like a good friend. Some days I love it, other days I can’t stand it. Everyday it tastes different. Benets has a constant stream of new Baristas and they all seem to prepare the hot chocolate in slightly different ways. Sometimes it has too much chocolate, other times not enough. You never know exactly what you are going to get. It also comes in a very big mug which is generous but more than one need and they are also generous with their marshmallows and whipping cream if you so desire.
The flavour, when they get it right is great. It is easy to drink, not overly sweet and made from real chocolate. This combined with a seat outside early in the morning on the terrace is one of my favourite ways to start a day.
Verdict: Go to Benets and say that the girl who always drinks hot chocolates sent you. It’s one of my favourites. Benets, Kings Parade, Cambridge, UK
The Fort is the oldest pub on the river Cam with parts of building dating back to the 16th Century. Its name comes from its resemblance to the fort St.. George in Madras India which was the first British fort in the colony.
The fort has changed a lot over the years. Every time there is a new manager things change quite a bit, including the hot chocolates. I have had 4 different types of hot chocolate at Fort Saint George and they have always been good.
The Fort itself could be a much better pub but it’s location is incredible. From one side you have a view of Midsummer Commons where in the summer months you can watch the cows munching on grass. From the other side of the Fort you can sit along the river cam and watch the house boats and ducks. Inside grab a seat next to the fireplace to warm up on a cold wet day.
Verdict: Grab a seat outside right along the river cam to enjoy your hot chocolate while watching the swans. Fort Saint George, Midsummer Common, Cambridge, UK.
I have passed this little chocolate store thousands of times in the past few years but never stopped. The reason? I’m not a big fan of chocolate. Surprised? My brother hated onions when he was young but loved onion bagels so this kind of behaviour runs in the family. Something happens to chocolate though when you add hot milk and a nice view. It becomes magical.
I have known for years that this little chocolate shop also sells hot chocolate. Right near the front they have a little machine that mixes it and keeps it hot. I never tried it because I feared it would just be too sweet. The whole stores smells sweet, gorgeous but sweet.
I finally tried their little shot today. The paper cup it comes in is really quite small and since there is no where to sit there, I walk outside trying not to spill it. I take my first sip. This little shot is pure sweet chocolate, it is by far the sweetest hot chocolate I have and am ever likely to taste in my life. I took a few more sips to see if I might get used to it and enjoy it more. I didn’t and couldn’t finish it.
Verdict: If you have a serious sweet tooth you will love this shot. If not skip the hot chocolate and try the homemade ice cream. The store is so cute anyways that it is worth a look around regardless. Chocolate Chocolate, 21 St. Andrews Street, Cambridge, UK £1.50