Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street Update

The new Hot Numbers logo from the sign outside the original branch on Gwydir Street, Cambridge.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.

  • Hot Numbers, at the old Dale's Brewery on Gwydir Street, which, in 2014, looked like this...
  • ... with Hot Numbers on the right & an art gallery next door, doubling as overflow seating.
  • This is how it looks in 2016, at first sight very similar. However, there are subtle differences.
  • The logo on the sign has changed for one thing, and it's been moved to the left-hand side.
  • Back in 2014, this was the view from the front door (it was really busy that day!).
  • Here's the equivalent view now. Rather different, isn't it? For starters, the ceiling's higher...
  • ... while the counter, which was at the back of the right-hand room, is now gone.
  • In 2014, the archway in the left-hand wall led into the art gallery...
  • ... which doubled as overflow seating.
  • This is how the 'art gallery' looks now, which also explains where the counter has gone!
  • Some things haven't changed though: this table right by the door is still there...
  • ... although this large, communal table by the window has gone...
  • ... as we can see through this archway, which has been re-opened in the wall.
  • The communal table by the window's been replaced by two very comfortable-looking sofas...
  • ... which face each other across a coffee table.
  • The window display has changed too, with these two old lever espresso machines in place.
  • Not that the communal table has gone away: just moved to the back of the left-hand room.
  • The padded benches which were in the art gallery seem to have gone for good though...
  • ... while the comfy chairs, seen here in 2014, have been redistributed.
  • A pair of them are now up against the back wall where the counter used to be.
  • These comfy chairs, seen here in the right-hand room in 2014, have survived though.
  • Back in 2014, the right-hand room was dominated by these large communal tables...
  • ... and while a few of them have survived...
  • ... the seating is now much more open, consisting of mostly four-person round tables.
  • There's been more redistribution of the seating. These stools, which were by the counter...
  • ... are now by the window.
  • Meanwhile, the art gallery had an upright piano tucked away by a bricked-up arch.
  • Now both piano and bricks are gone. The opening up of the arches...
  • ... including this one by the door, has really helped connect the two spaces.
  • The piano, meanwhile, hasn't gone far, just moved into the main room.
  • Although Hot Numbers is still a music venue, the music-themed artwork has gone...
  • ... as has most of the artwork from the adjoining art gallery.
  • Back in 2014, I was very taken with this light-fitting...
  • ... which I'm pleased to say is still there, although it has been moved.
  • Back in 2014, there were plenty of bare bulbs as well, including this one in the window...
  • ... and this one over the counter.
  • These days the bare bulbs are still there, albeit in slightly more conventional shapes.
  • Talking of lights, these are new. There are two sets in the main room, which only adds to...
  • ... Hot Numbers capability as a music venue.
  • Back to 2014 and the retail shelf was tucked away around a corner...
  • ... whereas now it has pride of place next to the counter.
  • Talking of counters, the old one was a rather cramped affair...
  • ... while the new one is rather spacious.
  • Although they managed to cram everything in back in 2014, there wasn't much room left...
  • ... whereas now the counter is gloriously uncluttered, with plenty of room to work.
  • Beyond the counter, there's now a large kitchen, whereas before there was just a wall.
  • In 2014, Hot Numbers was ahead of the game when it came to its menu without names...
  • ... something whcih it continues to this day, with, I feel, even more clarity.
  • The actual coffee offering hasn't changed much. The ranks of grinders, for example...
  • ... are still there, although they've been upgraded to the latest technology.
  • In 2014, the kettle and grinders for the filter coffee were rather cramped at the back...
  • ... whereas now it' s all at the front of the counter. It's also been upgraded.
  • The copious cake display, seen here in 2014...
  • ... was slightly depleted on my recent visit, although that has more to do with time of day!
  • The good news is that the coffee's still very good. This is a 6oz with milk (aka a Flat White)...
  • ... while this is an espresso, both from my visit in 2014.
  • Meanwhile, I had this excellent espresso on my return in 2016. Some things never change!
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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!

There’s a full write-up of Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street, including a complete gallery, in its main entry. You can also see what I made of it in my original write-up from two years ago.

UNITS 5/6 • DALE’S BREWERY • GWYDIR STREET • CAMBRIDGE • CB1 2LJ +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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2 thoughts on “Hot Numbers, Gwydir Street Update

  1. Pingback: Hot Numbers, Trumpington Street | Brian's Coffee Spot

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