With Afternoon Tease and Urban Shed opening up last year, and a new Hot Numbers cropping up on Trumpington Street, Cambridge certainly seems to be abundant with hip venues to get your coffee and quick lunch fix. As someone who unabashedly frequents all these places, the buzz surrounding the recently opened Espresso Library got me very excited…
I visited the bustling cafe on the final day of its soft opening week, which happened to be valentines day… providing the perfect opportunity for a romantic date between my laptop and me. If I had to describe the Espresso Library by comparison it would be that it’s like Hot Numbers’ spritely, environmentally conscious younger cousin – with fresh juices, sugar and gluten free options, and a bike wall (basically a wall you can mount your bike on instead of leaving it outside… very cool. Very pointless for someone like me who has a bike basket the side of a small bear, but very cool).
It was, in fairness to the staff, almost absurdly busy when I visited, which makes the wait before I could order at the till very understandable. Slightly more disappointing was that some of the juices and smoothies on offer had already run out. Happily this is where my disappointment ended, as I was served extremely quickly and tucked into a delicious smoked trout ciabatta (£5) alongside a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice (£3.60). There were a variety of other food options on offer as well; breakfast, served from 8-10.30, boasted a menu of porridge, granola, and avocado and egg on toast, whilst lunch was a variety of cold ciabattas and salads at the counter, or hot open faced sandwiches and soup. I actually returned a couple of days later and had the jerusalem artichoke and thyme soup, which was quite frankly one of the tastiest – and most interesting – soups I’ve had in a long while!
Of course the Espresso Library wouldn’t be able to compete with likes of Hot Numbers without boasting an impressive array of coffee – and with a unique blend (alongside two ‘guest’ coffee options) they certainly measured up. Now if I’m being honest I’m not much of a coffee drinker, more of a tea or chai latte girl myself, but even my untrained palate could recognise how good my flat white was (£2.50). To tie my meal off, and to keep my spirits high in the midst of a soul crushing essay crisis, I perused the selection of sweet treats available. From pistachio and salted caramel macaroons to orange polenta cake, Espresso Library certainly didn’t disappoint my sweet tooth. I opted for an interesting looking little pot titled the ‘brain booster’, which consisted of a nutty crust, layers of chocolate and peanut butter mouse, and was topped with pomegranate seeds and pistachios. I cannot thank the brilliant mind that came up with it enough! A seriously delicious end to a very pleasant afternoon.
All in all the Espresso Library is a great addition to Cambridge’s growing artisanal coffee scene; it’s airy, well lit, and has plenty of seating that provide ideal study places (can definitely recommend sitting at the counter that runs along the enormous glass windows… people watching proves a welcome distraction from work). The music played is varied and eclectic, ranging from jazz piano to Banks during my visit, but never too loud that you can’t pop your headphones in and zone out. The rotating art exhibitions is also a wonderfully unique little touch, currently showcasing Martin Bond’s photography! To be honest, I’d say my over all experience can be pretty effectively summed up by a text I sent to a friend once I’d received my order:
“My freshly squeezed (and delicious) orange juice has just come with a sprig of unexplained watercress perched artistically on the rim of the glass #edgy”
That’s basically the Espresso Library in one – tasty and unashamedly quirky, strewn with inexplicable bits of cress*.
(bonus photo because even the loo was edgy & cool)
*cress has been proven to improve your eyesight, have anti-carcinogenic effects, and contains more vitamin C than oranges. So they may be onto something here…