This review was originally published on The Cambridge Student
As sunshine tentatively peeked though Cambridge’s cloudy sky, cheekily promising a warm summer ahead, I found myself sat in a small café on Bridge Street watching a friend sprawled across a coffee table, mock smoking a vegetarian sausage, and having watercress chucked at her.
Hunt & Darton, a café that describes itself as ‘a social and artistic hub where engagement, spontaneity, and performance meet great food and drink’, has popped up in Cambridge for a little under a month in association with Cambridge EAT festival. Tentatively walking in on my own, I was cheerily greeted by a man dressed entirely in pineapple prints (right up to the miniature pineapple perched on top of his head), and shown to a table.
Feeling a little disoriented by the choice of attire, and a little hungover if we’re being honest, I eagerly reached forward to the grab the card on the table in hopes of finding something fatty and full of carbs to ease my grumbling stomach only to be met with a list of café do’s and don’ts … DO NOT discuss other customers (or if you must be quiet and discreet) … DO NOT flirt (unless you’ve been making eye-contact for sometime) … and a few choice suggestions as to ‘How To Play With Your Food’ (Battenburg Battlement was a highlight).
It became rapidly clear to me that this was not your ordinary café, and as soon as I located the actual menu, this started to feel like a very good thing. The chalkboard list, looming above a counter laden with scones, crumpets, bakewell tarts, piles of wagon wheels, and a glorious pineapple upside-down cake, boasted treats like a bowl of coco pops, bacon butties, and smashed avocado on toast. I decided on an innocuous cup of tea and the café’s renowned Roast Dinner Sandwich – a masterpiece of such absurdity I won’t even try to describe the homely, mothering feelings it conjured up in me. Three (THREE!!!) slices of white bread, slathered in cranberry sauce, overflowing with warm chicken, roasted parsnips, carrots, and the true star of the show: stuffing. The next time you’re missing home, craving a Sunday roast, or simply feeling down, regretting that seventh jägerbomb from the night before, do yourself a favour and try it for yourself.
Now, though the food was delicious, it was the café’s other menu that really brightened my day – a three-course performance menu with options like ‘Aeroplane’, ‘Delia Dance’, and ‘I am the Buffet’. Much like any other set menu, you select an appetizer, a main and a dessert, watch as your waiter jots down your choices, and eagerly await your meal. Which, in particularly classy establishments, is sometimes wheeled out to you on a silver trolley… however, in most establishments your ‘meal’ isn’t a singing, dancing duo that stands on tables and flings salad all over the place. It was bizarre, playful and just verging on the edge of too much second hand embarrassment to handle – enough to keep you rooted to your seat in slight horror, but laughing so hard that you might rupture a spleen.
In a term full of late night library sessions, excessive whining, and unhealthy eating habits (usually in the form of complaining in the library at 4 am, chugging a red bull and devouring the entire contents of the vending machine) Cambridge could really do with a bit of mindless silliness. Hunt & Darton provide just that; it gave me something to smile about, an hour of pointedly not thinking about looming exam dates, and at a fiver for a massive sandwich, it’s hardly breaking the bank. Go on, skip the tearoom, settle down with a cup of coffee and order yourself some ‘Thoughts’ and ‘Laughs’ off the menu – the library will still be there tomorrow, I promise.