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Rainbow Vegetarian Cafe

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  • Vegetarian Vegetarian
    ( 47 reviews )
Contact 01223-321551

9a King's Parade (at opposite main gate to King's College), Cambridge, England,

Veggie cafe and restaurant specializing in vegan and gluten free food. Last order 30 minutes before closing. Open Tue-Sat 10:00am-10:00pm, Sun 10:00am-4:00pm.

Category: Vegan-friendly, Lacto, Ovo, Organic, Beer/Wine, British

Reviews (47)

First Review by niallmc

Lovely hippy-veggie spot - Edit

Lovely place! It's been a Cambridge classic for at least a couple of decades. It's the classic "hippy-veggie" style of thing, in vibe, in decor, in menu. So no it's not the latest veggie fad cuisine but there's plenty of variety on the menu and it's good stuff.

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great location - Edit

the fact it's in a basement is fantastic! it's opened my eyes to the wonders of sundried dried tomatoes with there garlic bread and the menu is broad

Pros: vegan and gluten free options

Cons: the waitor and cashier was a little rude and it wa

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For those who like basements - Edit

I liked Rainbow Cafe already just for being located in the basement. There is one smaller room where you enter (go down the stairs) with some tables, that may be pretty busy as people are entering or leaving or waiting for to be seated all the time. Next there is the kitchen and the till area next and lastly a larger room with several more tables.
It can be busy at lunch hours, there are quite a few meals on the menu. In December they offered a special Christmas menu, but I don't know if there is something like that in other months as well.
I ate there three times and got decent comfort food, always a variation of some filled puff pastry, potatoes, salad. (Probably inspired by Eastern European cuisine.) Homemade sauces, too. It can take some time until your order is ready, but that's within a reasonable time frame; also, usually you would be warned if your order is expected to take a long time.
You'll be served but you'll have to pay at the till afterwards.
Their cheesecake is truly amazing, they offered several types, I was genuinely blown away. Creamy, tasty stuff, simply: wow! double wow! (Almost five pounds a piece though.)
Great opening times, friendly staff, enjoyable experience!

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Not the greatest... - Edit

I have come here a few times now and I'm always disappointed. I never really like the menu choices and I'm not sure I've ever had a meal I enjoyed. Their only saving grace is he delicious vegan cheesecake. I would come back just for this!

Pros: Gorgeous cheesecake

Cons: Not very good menu choices, food isn't the best

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Good food, easy for vegans - Edit

Good, wholesome vegetarian food. We visited twice, and the quality is good and the staff friendly. The "sheperdess pie" was a bit disappointing, though, but then you can select so many other things, and the enchiladas, roti etc. were great. Very good vegan options.
Great vegan desserts as well.

Pros: Good selection of vegan foods, Great vegan desserts.

Cons: Busy, sometimes a bit tight seating, A bit noisy when full

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excellent food, - Edit

I loved the cafe, French vegan chef, my husband and I had the bourguignon which was amazing, so different from other vegan food, so French, full flavour without the spice so many vegan dishes have. I loved the tofu in it, which had been marinated in red wine and an oak smoked flavouring... served with brown rice.. the soup, kale and celery and dark leafed cabbage was delicious, vegan bread and butter a treat, and the cheesecakes, strawberry and white chocolate buttons, and mango and passion fruit were amazingly good. Would have like wifi to post photos, but no wifi sadly. But super location and great staff....

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Somewhere...Over The.....River Cam..... - Edit

....you will find the Rainbow Vegetarian Cafe and you will (I hope) love it. It's not posh, you don't book...you just turn up, maybe queue for a while if you go at busy times, then enjoy some scrummy vegetarian/vegan food, great drinks and always ALWAYS a delightful dessert. Always good service, the prices are reasonable. In the heart of this University town, it's hidden down a short alley (don't worry it's not a seedy alley!) opposite King's College Chapel. But you won't see it as the cafe is underground. Check their website for opening times but if you're in Cambridge for a visit or you live here, please do go & check it out. We love it and will plan a day trip around being able to go here for lunch or dinner.

Pros: Central & easy to find, Caters for vegans as well as vegetarians, Good service

Cons: Not massive...sometimes have to queue

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disappointed - Edit

I went with 3 others, and we ordered Shepard's pie, Couscous, and Burrito. Shepard's pie was .... a disappointment. It is a big portion but really no taste as you go towards the bottom. No interesting flavor by vegetable, nor any kind of seasoning... Couscous was good, although far from the traditional taste. And the burrito was fine as well. I did not quite like how it is in basement. I do appreciate the vegan and vegetarian restaurant.

1 Response

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sharonmeijland 22 Sep 2016 - We are so sorry you did not enjoy your experience. Please revisit as my personal guest.
We are very sad you did not enjoy the food, Perhaps there was a misunderstanding as our Shepherdess Pie was not what you were expecting, as so many others have been so positive,
As to your other comments, we have been open for 28 years and yes, it is a basement entered by 12 broad safety steps, in a building which was constructed in about 1840 and qualifies as a listed building so alterations are extremely limited.
We close at Christmas for two weeks 1. So that everyone can enjoy Christmas with their Family and 2. So that we can re-decorate from top to bottom. We have a professional cleaning firm who arrive every night to clean even though it is late at night, they give their time willingly, So I do not really understand your twice repeated comment, and would welcome the chance to meet you and show you our procedures which are logged as required by law.

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Good food! - Edit

Visited with some friends, none of whom are vegetarian or vegan and we all enjoyed our meal.

We went at lunch time on a Saturday so had to queue for around 30mins to get a table.

We had a range of main meals and desserts, all of which were nice and decent sized portions. Reasonably priced for central Cambridge.

Pros: Wide selection of foods on menu, Range of alcohol, Reasonably priced

Cons: Small venue - queue to get a seat, Decor could do with a spruce up

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A good old-style veggie place in the UK - Edit

I've been to the Rainbow Vegetarian Cafe a few times (basically: every time I go to Cambridge, I drop by at least once). In the evening, it's the only fully veg option in town!

Last time I had a good dinner with the Sheperdess Pie (although a friend of mine was luckier with a Mexican-flavoured dish which was both delicious and huge) and a vegan raspberry cake (+ a vegan beer)! :--)

(to be precise, I paid 18.65 GBP)

Pros: Only Veggie place in the evening, Good food, Friendly atmosphere

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Favourite veggie restaurant! - Edit

I eat here every time I'm in Cambridge! Enormous menu full of exciting food from around the world, with loads of choice for vegans. They usually have at least one vegan special every day, which is always delicious. The staff are amazing - they remember you if you go in fairly regularly and will come over for a chat. Feels very comfortable and homely. The best thing is the vegan desserts - their cheesecakes are creamy and delicious, and everything is available with vegan custard, ice cream or single cream. The prices are on a similar level to other (non-vegan) places in Cambridge, and the portions are very generous. I quite often have a soup or salad and a dessert and I leave feeling full!

Pros: Delicious vegan food and desserts, Generous portion sizes, Amazing staff and comfortable atmosphere

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Good sides/desserts - Edit

This is basically the only restaurant in Cambridge where you can get a range of vegan options (which is pretty terrible, but there you are). So I've been there many times, even though I don't find it anything at all special. My friend has described it as a '70s throwback' and I'd say that's pretty accurate. Despite all the advancement in vegetarian and vegan cooking since then, and all the interesting ingredients that have become available, the Rainbow Café menu is a hodge podge of international dishes which could be interesting but mostly feels like trying to repurpose the same very basic, cheap ingredients. No matter what menu item or special you order it is nearly always: a bowl, with a basic and not very interesting salad on the side. In the bowl is a tomato based stew/curry/goulash, containing beans and potatoes, and served on rice. It will be underseasoned, unless it is curry, in which case it will be very slightly spicy. It is the kind of basic and slightly bland food you might expect if an omni was put on the spot and asked to cook for a vegan using the stuff in their cupboard. It’s not terrible, but nothing you can’t do incredibly easily at home, and in fact most vegans I know are capable of producing far more interesting and tasty meals with ease. The few mains that deviate from this template are the vegetarian ones, which apparently rely on the tried and true method of just covering everything up with cheese. W hat’s really strange is this: Rainbow Café has a dessert menu which changes daily and is usually at least half vegan. These are generally excellent, especially the vegan cheesecakes! The vegan garlic bread is also very tasty. This is very confusing to me, considering both these things are far harder to make than just an interesting vegan main course. All I can guess is that, lacking any real competition for vegetarian/vegan food in Cambridge, Rainbow Café doesn’t see the need to change a very old and tired selection of main meals. It is also disappointing that it isn’t vegan, as they are clearly capable of producing great vegan desserts and the vegetarian items on the menu mostly seem to be vegan ones, except covered in cheese.

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bring some time - Edit

The place is right in the city centre and was packed when we arrived. We had to wait a little, so you might go there if you have some time. The rooms are small but cozy. Though it was very busy, it didn't take long for our food to arrive.

I had the Jamaican Roti cups. The combo of bananas, sweet potatoes and coconut milk made it very sweet (more than I usually like), but it was delicious. It was served with pineapple and salad. The only dressing that was offered was however quite bland.

I recommend having dessert. The vegan orange + cinnamon cheesecake was heavenly though quite small.

I would recommend a visit because the place has a variety of delicious dishes, but the value for money could be better.
Also it seems to be the only place in Cambridge that has more than just a few vegetarian/vegan dishes.

Pros: delicious desserts, variety of dishes

Cons: rather less value for money, a little crowded

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Hidden gem on King's Parade - Edit

I have enjoyed this spot for years now.
It's not the cheapest but it's good, well prepared, pleasantly presented food by well informed staff.

The mains don't change often - but why change a popular formula?
They have a great range of cakes and puddings.
It's hidden in a basement but it's snug and cosy and popular.

Pros: Delicious puddings , Great central location , Dependable quality and service

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Not my thing - Edit

Even if I wanted to explain why Rainbow Cafe is not one of my favorite places for lunch, I couldn't find a proper reason, I just don´t feel it. Not gonna lie, I've been there a few times since it was the only place in Cambridge with vegan choices that I knew. They do really really nice soups, but other than that, all the main dishes that I've tried before left me with the feeling that I could've done better at home. Not very tasty and quite pricey for the quality of the food.

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Great food - Edit

A nice cosy atmosphere and great food. The Rainbow Cafe is Cambridge's only vegetarian restaurant, and it is a great place to go and have a hearty meal.

Pros: Cosy atmosphere, Nice food

Cons: Expensive

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great :) - Edit

Very cute little veggie cafe tucked down an alley way just across from kings college. Cute decor, cosy.many vegan options to choose from
I had the glazed tofu special which came with rice and Chinese cabbage. Very tasty, maybe just lacked in tofu for my liking but the flavours were great. My boyfriend had the Jamaican banana and bean curry and loved it. Would def recommend a visit

Pros: affordable , well located , nice food, lots of choice for vegans

Cons: none

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Fantastic place with lovely food - Edit

Found this place by accident, it's in a basement of all places. But so glad I did, they have the best desserts here. I can thoroughly recommend the hot chocolates too.
Only downside is the waiting staff are a bit poor on the hospitality side, we weren't sure if someone would take our order or if we needed to go find a till.
But I'll be returning regardless, the food more than made up for any staff issues.

Pros: homecooked food, fresh food , really cool setting / decor / atmosphere

Cons: staff left a little to be desired

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Great menu and location - Edit

The menu here is extensive. Being a vegetarian who has milk allergies, its difficult to find things to eat. Their menu gave me lots of options and even had quite a few gluten free options. I had an artichoke filo packet. It was delicious and the portions are generous!

Pros: Extensive menu, Great location, Nice staff

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Well Worth The wait - Edit

We arrived and there was a big queue so 45 minutes later we got a table. It was worth the wait. It's not a gourmet place, but the food is delicious, plenty to choose from and the dessert was great. My pregnant wife forced 3 courses down because she didn't want to waste the opportunity.

Pros: Lots Of Choice Including A Number Of Specials, Large Portions, Great Value For Money

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Sadly not many other options in Cambridge - Edit

Everytime I go to Rainbow's, I find the place crowded and quite loud, the menu never seems to change and the mains are quite expensive (averaging at £10), however, I still go because the vegetarian choice is pretty limited in Cambridge. The portions are great and especially in the winter, it's a good place to have something warm and filling. I don't think it's good value for money but as I don't know of other places (do let me know!), I end up going when I'm in town. The Jamaican main was the best I've had.

Pros: in the city centre, large portions

Cons: Basement , Expensive

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Nice place & deserts but otherw unimpressive food - Edit

Living in Cambridge I have been to the Rainbow cafe several times. The portions are big but usually not particularly flavourful. We find taste varies a lot from one time to the other and stopped ordering proper meals there.

Cakes were usually good if not very good. The garlic bread was always really good.

Pros: big portions, menu changes, good deserts and garlic brean

Cons: pricy for the food quality, taste varies from one visit to the next

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Cosy place, good food - Edit

I had the artichoke filo parcel which was very tasty but bizarrely came with a side of fairly bog standard overcooked pasta in tomato sauce.

However, the portions were of a good size & my vegetarian and meat eating friends both found something tasty on the menu.

Cosy basement restaurant and I would go back.

Pros: portion size, cool place

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Rather unexceptional - Edit

Big portions with a rather dull salad - apart from slices of orange and pineapple garnish. Some of the ingredients on the menu were not in the dish; one of the day's specials said it included mangetouts and baby spinach, and they were nowhere to be seen. Disappointing. Not awful, just not as good as we would have liked.

Pros: Location in centre of Cambridge, Lots of choice, Good portions

Cons: Can be crowded, No disability access

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Very nice cafe - Edit

Rainbow cafe was my favourite place to eat out in Cambridge. It's got a very friendly staff, and great food at good prices. Vegan options are plentiful, too!

One thing to be aware of is that it's impossible to reserve seats, and it's usually quite full. Have a backup plan ready, just in case!

Pros: Food, Location, Vegan options

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A lovely and unique veggie cafe - Edit

I came here once for my birthday a couple of years ago with my non-veggie mum and we both loved it. The food was fresh, well-presented, and the portion size was great. The highlight was trying their marmite chocolate cake.. I did not know what to expect but it was absolutely amazing. Would love to steal their recipe! Highly recommended!

Pros: Creative & delicious food, Friendly staff, Good location

Cons: Quite small, Can be noisy on a busy day

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Very tasty and interesting food - Edit

As a Cambridge local I feel lucky to have Rainbow Cafe on my doorstep. The food really is full of flavour, with great ingredients and interesting world food I haven't seen elsewhere. Last time I visited I had the Jamaican Roti Cup, really delicious, and my friend had the Gado Gado, which I will definitely be having next time. It's the kind of food you wonder how they made it taste so good. Also great is the garlic bread with sun-dried tomatoes and the cheesecake. They have lots of options on the menu and although it hasn't changed since I can remember, they do daily specials which always sound great. Fully recommended.

Pros: Tasty food, Varied menu, Good portions

Cons: Can be busy on weekends, Not able to book

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Amazing! - Edit

I love this place. The only decent restaurant for vegans in Cambridge, but one of the best ones I've been to anywhere. The place is cosy, the staff is amazing, the atmosphere great and the food is the best. I especially love their deserts! The vegan cheesecake is delicious! It's really my favorite restaurant.
Updated from previous review on Tuesday May 28, 2013

Pros: Staff, Delicious food, prices

Cons: location is a little hidden

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YUM! - Edit

I have been here 3 times in the last two weeks. The food is great and the servers are friendly. I have not had to wait for a table but it is quite popular and always fills up. I can recommend the vegan artichoke parcel. There is also a board with daily specials of desserts. Their vegan cheesecake is very good. I have had chocolate; chocolate and coconut; and passionfruit and strawberry. All very good.

Pros: good food, lots of choice

Cons: can be a little noisy when busy

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Disappointing - Edit

I am a big fan of Rainbow cafe having visited many years ago when I had a lovely 3 course vegan meal. My recent visit however had lacklustre food with my main, the Shepherdess Pie, being not more than a lot of rice with about 10 lentils and some heated up beans and carrots. I would like to hope however that I was just unlucky and ordered the wrong thing, as with such a great choice for vegetarians and vegans alike, this place has great potential and I would encourage others to visit and prove this was a one-off!

Pros: Great choice for vegans, Cosy setting, Long established cafe

Cons: Shepherdess pie!

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Will keep going, but probably skip desert - Edit

A useful place to know about - but food can be a touch variable in quality and speed, although pretty good more often than not. It can get very crowded! Quite a few vegan deserts (cakes, crumbles, cheesecakes), but they can be a little plain. Most of the deserts are reheated so (for example) crumble is not crunchy (very disappointing!)

Pros: range, friendly staff

Cons: noisy

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really good food - Edit

Hole-in-the-wall basement location in city centre. Large menu and daily specials. Three soup choices were vegan. I had a starter-size lentil and organic fennel soup (3.25), which was delicious, lovely flavour. Menu has many vegan items and desserts. Curries, fajitas, "shepherdess pie," Jamaican patties, gado gado (Indonesian dish), Cuban, Ethiopian, Mexican/Spanish, salads, tofu, vegan cheesecake, an organic, vegan beer and cider, organic wine. Cutlery is presented on an attractive serving dish, which I appreciated. My main meal was a vegan artichoke parcel (9.95) in filo pastry. Another time I had a good lentil-cavallo nero (leafy greens) soup and house salad. All excellent. Seating at front and in rear rooms.

Pros: tasty food, good selection, vegan items

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Brilliant! - Edit

I went to Rainbow a few years ago when I was vegetarian, before turning vegan and it was great! My sister is also veggie but lactose intolerant. We were celebrating her birthday and certainly not disappointed with Rainbow!

Looking back at their menu to jog my memory...
We both had soup of the day (would be great on it's own for lunch)
Mains - I had "Ethiopian Mesir-Wat (Lentil Bowl)" and sister had a Quorn thing from the daily specials.
Deserts - I predictably had choc brownie and sis had vegan cheescake.
Total cost including drinks approx £37 (for 3 courses, and drinks, we felt it was on a par with many other places)

We both absolutely loved our meals and were truly stuffed after! We'd never normally eat this amount of food, but it was our first time in a vegetarian eatery and we wanted to make the most of the experience!

Rainbow calls itself a cafe, but is definately restaurant quality food and service, hence restaurant prices (£9 for a main meal is pretty normal).

As it was sisters birthday, and nearing the end of evening, they gave her the last small slice of cheesecake to take home!
Definately going to visit again now I'm vegan and sample more of their fare!!

Pros: Friendly, Excellent menu, happy atmosphere

Cons: Not able to pre-book

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Sublime :) - Edit

Although this is a cafe, it is without doubt restaurant quality food. Interesting and wide menu, with lots of Vegan options! I opted for a starter of homemade (Vegan!) garlic bread, followed by Vegan Pastry Parcels, which was absolutely scrummy and served with lovely salad, rice and ragu. Stunning presentation and really fresh too! Already stuffed, somehow found room for pudding of vegan Blueberry and Pecan cheesecake...again, delicious! This place is pretty busy, but the staff are helpful, the setting nice and the food a veggie paradise!

Pros: Super central, Lots of Vegan stuff, Vegan cakes!!!

Cons: Not open Monday. , Busy. , Little pricey for a cafe, but worth it!

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Yummy :-) - Edit

I go there every time I'm in Cambridge, the food is really tasty, really big portions (even too big for me), nice atmosphere. The location is great but it's quite hard to find this.

Pros: food, service

Cons: hard to find it, too crowded

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Mmmmm... :) - Edit

Yummy food! Gado gado is my absolute favorite. And they have a WIDE range of vegan desserts which are always scrumptious (particularly the chocolate and violet cheesecake and apple pie with ice cream).

Pros: Excellent food, Friendly staff, All vegetarian

Cons: Noisy, Small space with no windows

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I felt very welcome. - Edit

My son went to school in Cambridge for a year and i visited him several times. I ate at the Rainbow everyday and each time was a great experience. The food was delicious and the integrity of each dish was amazing. The staff always made me feel at home and were very accommodating.....I'll be back for sure.

Pros: delicious, fresh, creative

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Veeeery good food and veeery good service - Edit

Rainbow cafe really made me feel like I was in vegan heaven. I went there twice during my stay in Cambridge (2 days) and fell in love with the vegan artichoke parcel with filo pastry and vegan cream cheese, veggies, salad, rice (or noodles), tomato sauce and olives - not bad for 11 Pounds!
There were a lot of vegan options, also for dessert - even ice cream (which was a bit expensive, though; we found it for a bargain price in a health food shop the next day). We found the cakes a bit pricey as well but everything tasted absolutely delicious and the staff was SO friendly!
I definitely recommend the place!

Pros: delicious food, excellent service

Cons: good food has its price I suppose : )

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Great for lunches and puddings!! - Edit

Great location (opposite Kings College) and great service. We had lunch here twice on a visit to Cambridge in July 09. Get there before 1pm or there are no tables left as it gets really full. Good range of specials each day and really good cakes - many vegan options and gluten free options. Always a vegan cheesecake on the menu. Good choice of drinks, teas, juices and some alcohol (wines beers). Good atmosphere. Only downside is the Gillian McKeith recommendation as you walk in!! Did also think it's a shame that a dish of Swedish Glaze costs £4.95 though (and you can only have one flavour - why?)
Check out their website for the full menu. There are other restaurants with vegan options in Cambridge not yet added to Happy cow - we ate in Asia, Mai Tai and Nanna Mexico and all were brilliant. Asia particularly good for high-end dining and a few tofu choices. Check out their websites for menus

Pros: lots of vegan options, great cakes, friendly staff

Cons: difficult to get a table, fairly expensive

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Hole-in-the-wall place with fine-dining food... - Edit

...and fine-dining prices. But if you're looking for a splurge rather than a quick bite, this is a great place to go. The Lybian couscous was decent enough - the couscous itself was a bit bland, but the vegetable mix that topped it was pretty good, although it would have been improved by the addition of tomato. The Guadeloupe aubergine curry was rich and coconutty and delicious, and came topped with an enormous slice of super-sweet pineapple. At 9 pounds each, the meals didn't come cheap, but at least they are large enough to fill you up, so you don't need to order starters. We didn't really need to order pudding, either, but we were intrigued by the spiced plum vegan cheesecake and wanted to try it. We were not disappointed, although if it had had more plums and less spice, that would have been even better.

We went for a late lunch on a day when they were not open for dinner, and they were starting to run out of things (indeed, we got the last piece of spiced plum cheesecake), so be aware of that.

Pros: aubergine coconut curry, pineapple, cheesecake

Cons: not cheap, (but worth it)

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Quite Good - Edit

We went there on a Saturday in January at around 2pm. We had to wait for half an hour for a seat. After 2.30pm, the place got less crowded. At least people don't have to wait for a table. We had garlic bread with sun-dried tomato and cheese as starter. The tomatoes were very very very salty.
We took champignon en croute (wild mushroom wrapped in puff) and vegan artichoke parcel. Both courses came with basic brown rice or pasta and vegetable salad. Nothing inspiring. The pastry parcel was good, but the mushroom puff was so so. These two are "super special" which takes 20 minutes to cook.
(My partner suggested not to take anything from the super special, instead just choose from the main courses.)
The portion of every dish is just right. But after the starter and maincourse, we thought a dessert would be making us too full. (We shared the starter.)
The elderflower juice with spring water (bottle) tastes very good.
The starters are around 3-4 pounds, maincourses around 9 pounds and juices are around 2 pound.
The cafe closes on Sunday and Monday.

Pros: Vegetarian/ Vegan Food

Cons: Ambient

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Wonderful Food! - Edit

I visited this restaurant recently on a trip to Cambridge, it's only small but very pleasant inside and the staff are very helpful and friendly. The food was fantastic, really tasty with a very varied choice, not cheap but not overpriced either, and worth every penny. The Beetroot Chocolate Cake was to die for!! (and I don't particularly like beetroot) If I didn't live 5 hours' drive away I'd certainly go again just for that. Well worthy of a recommendation.

Pros: Friendly staff, Excellent food, Cosy place

Cons: none

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a veggie oasis - Edit

excelle nt veggie restaurant. 3 soups, all vegan tons of salads and main courses, many vegan and quite literally the bst vegan ch**se cak i've tasted. Beautiful food. It's a small cosy setting in a basement. The staff were vey friendly and the food was prepared fresh. I'd be tempted to visit cambridge just to dine here.

Pros: vegan desert, great atmosphere, decent porion

Cons: dairy

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  Contributions +87

Nice place - Edit

A nice veggie/vegan place with plenty of choice. The service was good and the food of good fresh quality. A must place to visit for all vegans and veggies in the area to support a worth while eating establishment.

Pros: Friendly, Clean, Vegan options

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