Rainbow Vegetarian Cafe

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  • Vegetarian Vegetarian
    ( 48 reviews )

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 (48)

First Review by niallmc

Great food, relaxed atmosphere - Edit

The entrance is down a bright narrow inviting alleyway and once inside the front door you take the stairs down to a large basement where the restaurant is located. As to be expected, it was busy on a Saturday lunchtime and we had to queue on the stairs for around 10 minutes before it was our turn to be seated. Once we were seated, the service was courteous and efficient . The tables are pretty tightly packed but there is relaxed atmosphere. For starters, I had sweet potato and chick pea daal and my wife, garlic bread sun dried tomato ~ both of which we would highly recommend. For main course, we had the three bean chilli and tangine L'algérienne ~ both very tasty followed by herbal teas. My favourite dish was definitely the daal which was both spicy and deeply flavoured ~ other reviewers have also praised the soups. Would definitely go back next time we visit Cambridge.

Pros: excellent food, relaxed atmosphere

Cons: stairs and fairly tightly packed seating arrangeme

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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

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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