I first visited Hot Numbers in the summer of 2014. Back then it was the one place that pretty much everyone had recommended to me in Cambridge. Café, single-origin roaster, music venue and, by association, art gallery, it had something for everyone and was pretty much the only speciality coffee place in town. How things have changed!
Now Cambridge boasts the The Espresso Library, Urban Larder and Novi in the centre of town, with Stir on the outskirts. There’s also a second Hot Numbers, a coffee shop which doubles as the roastery on Trumpington Street, which the staff were talking excitedly about during my visit in 2014 and which opened towards the end of that year.
With all that change going on, it was too much to ask that the original Hot Numbers on Gwydir Street would be unaffected. However, I was unprepared on my return earlier this year for just how much had changed! The good news, though, is that the most important thing hasn’t changed: the coffee. Still all roasted in-house, Hot Numbers still only serves single-origins, each carefully matched to how you’re drinking it. This includes options on espresso and pour-over via syphon, Aeropress and Clever Dripper.
You can see what I found after the gallery.
When it first opened, a mere five years ago, Hot Numbers occupied a single room in the old Dale’s Brewery on Gwydir Street. When I visited, in 2014, it had expanded into the space next door, the two connected by an open archway in the left-hand wall. This was still officially an art gallery, but it was used by Hot Numbers for overspill seating.
However, as time went on, and Hot Numbers became ever busier, it was inevitable that it would completely absorb the adjoining space and so it was that, on my return in September 2016, Hot Numbers was occupying both spaces. Most people would be happy with that: some extra space and a bit more control. Not, though, Hot Numbers. In the course of one evening, so I’m told, the old counter, which was at the back in the right-hand part of Hot Numbers, was ripped out and a new counter was installed in the old art gallery space on the left. In this manner, Hot Numbers was completely reversed.
The effect is quite stunning and doesn’t end there. Although you can still enter either space using its own front door on Gwydir Street, the left-hand room is very much the main part of Hot Numbers. The counter is here, towards the back against the left-hand wall. Right at the back, the wall has been knocked down, and an open kitchen installed. Two more archways in the party wall have been unbricked, making the two spaces more connected, although you can still only walk through the one in the middle.
The biggest change is in what was the old Hot Numbers on the right-hand side. Now the counter is gone, there’s much more space. What’s more, the false ceiling has been taken down and it’s surprising how much more spacious it feels with a metre of additional headroom. The furniture has been rearranged too, with the dominant, large, communal tables that occupied the centre of the room relegated to the sides and the space filled with smaller, round, three/four-person tables. This has had a big impact on Gwydir Street as a music venue, since the tables can be cleared away to form a large performance area at the back.
When it comes to the most important part of Hot Numbers, the coffee, fortunately, nothing has changed too much. Everything is still roasted in-house (at Trumpington Street), with Hot Numbers continuing to only serving single-origins. Each is carefully matched to how it’s served. For example, there are two single-origins for espresso, one if you’re drinking it without milk (espresso, Americano, etc) and one if you’re drinking it with (piccolo, flat white, etc). That said, Hot Numbers don’t actually do “Americanos” or “flat whites”. Instead, I’m pleased to see that you still order by volume: 3oz, 6oz, 9oz or 12oz with either steamed milk or hot water. There’s another single-origin on filter, plus decaf.
The specific choices are the same as at Trumpington Street, where I’d tried the filter. Instead, I went for the espresso, a Guatemalan, which started off quite bright, but then calmed down after the second mouthful. By the third, it was a fruity, rounded espresso which coated the inside of my mouth in a particularly delightful way. It’s good to see that some things haven’t changed!
|UNITS 5/6 • DALE’S BREWERY • GWYDIR STREET • CAMBRIDGE • CB1 2LJ|
|http://hotnumberscoffee.co.uk||+44 (0) 1223 359966|
|Monday||07:00 – 18:00||Roaster||Hot Numbers (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||07:00 – 18:00||Seating||Tables, Bar, Comfy Chairs|
|Wednesday||07:00 – 18:00||Food||Breakfast, Lunch, Sandwiches, Cake|
|Thursday||07:00 – 22:30||Service||Order at Counter|
|Friday||07:00 – 22:30||Cards||Mastercard, Visa|
|Saturday||07:00 – 18:00||Wifi||Free (1 hour)|
|Sunday||08:00 – 18:00||Power||Limited|
|Chain||No||Visits||Original: 20th September 2014|
|Update: 5th September 2016|
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