42 Hobson Street, Cambridge, CB1 1NL
Feeling peckish? Forget the meal deal and tantalise those tastebuds with a bowl of steaming South African Bunny Chow or feta-topped flatbread, washed down with a beetroot latte or an iced gingerbeet smoothie. If your appetite has been whetted, take a stroll down Hobson Street to Café Abantu, ‘The People’s Tearoom’, where owner Wendy Slade is serving homemade food so flavoursome it requires no frills. Abantu is the Zulu word for ‘people’ and Wendy strongly believes that: ‘a person is a person through other people. Affirmation of one’s humanity through recognition of an ‘other’ in his or her uniqueness and difference‘ – which is why she called her cafe ‘Abantu’.
South-African born Wendy moved into the premises at the end of January 2018, though Abantu started life 14 years ago at Manor Farm, Bourn. Back then, concerned about the poverty of her birth country, Wendy focused on selling Fairtrade gifts while a friend ran the café. But when that friend moved on, Wendy took over the café, discovering a real passion for cooking and baking. Once Wendy’s lease expired, she moved her cafe first to Wysing Arts in Bourn, before finding her dream Cambridge base.
An intimate yet bright space, Abantu’s focal point is a large chiller, displaying the day’s bakes and salads, from rainbow vegetable kebabs and fried butterbean, sorrel, feta and sumac to beetroot slaw and Moroccan carrot salad. In homage to her South African heritage, Wendy regularly cooks dishes such as Boboti (a fruity meatloaf with an egg custard topping) or Chicken a la King.
The majority of the cakes – think luscious carrot and Victoria sponge, chocolate Oreo, lemon and courgette – are baked daily. And there’s a variety of thirst-quenchers, from fruity loose leaf teas and Fairtrade coffee to smoothies and iced drinks.
Refreshingly Abantu’s menu changes daily. Wendy simply opens the fridge, takes a look at the ingredients and gets cooking. So if there’s a glut of aubergines, there’ll be honeyed aubergines on the menu that day. See; no frills, just good, honest food.