CB2 BISTRO
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CB1 was too small to offer much in the way of hot food – toast was about as far as we got. So after a few years of relative success we decided to go large and spent all our profits renovating a much larger premises which we rented off Cambridge City Council. We called this CB2, but only because it seemed a logical next step and not because it was in the postcode CB2. Having spent all our money getting it ready, a few days after opening a water pipe burst on the top floor and the whole building flooded. Although we got everything dried and cleaned and got back up on our feet it was a huge setback and a warning that things were not going to be plain sailing. Running a 100-seat restaurant is very different from running a small coffee shop … but as you will see it took us two attempts to learn that lesson.

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When it was good it was very very good and when it was bad it was horrid. Actually when it worked it was sometimes really very good – atmospheric, dynamic and interesting. Plays in the basement or folk music, art exhibitions upstairs, internet access on the just-launched colourful first generation iMacs, beautiful books on the walls, good coffee and great burgers. But that was only about 20% of the time. Another 50% was okay, ticking over, cleaning, interviewing, training, keeping the books. The remaining 30% was, let's say …. difficult.

 

When chefs didn't turn up, or turned up drunk, or worse, waiters were late or ill, a fridge had broken down, orders written down wrongly, too many people waiting too long to be served, or no-one coming in at all. Familiar to anyone who has had a catering business and the memories still sometimes give me nightmares. It feels amazing when the 'buzz' just happens, and truly terrible when it all goes wrong. Apologies to anyone who experienced the lows and I hope they also experienced one of the highs.

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Some people liked it and were kind enough to write about it:

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 has successfully created a pleasant atmosphere, just like CB1, which remains very much the original.

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.

I only went here a few times because it was on the other side of town from where I lived and went to classes but every time I went I loved it. Such a cool place and the food is fantastic. It's in a great spot if you're wanting to go to the cinema and not partake of the usual shopping centre food outlets. There's music, books, internet, food, drink...... actually speechless with how cool this spot is.    Reviewed here.

 

Not everyone liked it and they also wrote about it:

The reviews for this place on here have been FAR too kind. I admit that we went at an awkward time (wanted to eat at 3pm), but even so - the waitress didn't seem to understand our native English or to know what was actually on the menu. Food took ages despite the fact that they weren't busy or understaffed... and wasn't anything special. 

But on the whole reviews were generous, especially compared to what was to come at The Bun Shop ...

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Painting of CB2 from an early exhibition.

I'm afraid I have forgotten the artist's name.

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From Weekend Notes by Dave Neale.