Meet the owners
Bridges is an independent cafe that has been located on Bridge Street since 1996, serving fresh food and drink to the good people of Cambridge. They are passionate about serving the freshest fare, whether it be croissants and pastries for breakfast, with aromatic Italian coffee, baguettes, soups and Chinese food for lunch or a cheeky low sugar afternoon treat. Their made to order juices and smoothies made with fresh fruit and vegetables are very popular, and are a great way of getting your seven a day!
What was your inspiration behind setting up Bridges?
It’s always our dream to run our business. Chan (my husband) grew-up in the catering business and I have been in the Hotel & Catering Industry for years in Hong Kong before I moved here. We love food and travel and so jumped to the idea of running our own business when the opportunity came. Looked like a smooth start-up when we took over a patisserie in Cambridge city centre 23 years ago – following the main stream of selling popular sandwiches & sweet items on the high street. But after a few years we realised how we could make changes to a healthier diet for our customers. It took some time to totally change our products from the cake-focused line to a selection of healthier and more simple, but, tasty options – including juicing which we loved. We wanted to sell something we would happily eat ourselves. We are strong believers of doing things we are passionate about and we still love what we are doing today – as much as when we first started!
What does being an independent business mean to you?
It’s what make the product we buy or experience unique. We love visiting indies ourselves when we travel or eat out. We are lucky to see so many indies in Cambridge are thriving. It’s really not easy being small and independent in an expensive city – both business rent and living expense can be as high in here as in London. So you can’t outsource everything. But that’s the beauty -small business owners need to know and to learn to do as much as they can. And that makes our job interesting.
What makes yours a green or environmentally friendly business?
We hate wastage! Whenever we want to make furniture for modification for the shop, we try to use materials that can be recycled. the last big project was the tabletops and long bench in Bridges. Our scaffolder friend kindly gave us some old boards which was no longer useful to him. It took some time, but with a little effort and patience, they were sanded down and put together. We have also cut down on plastics for the past 5 years or so. Most of our takeaway boxes or bags are made of kraft paper, buffet containers are all plant based or compostable. To minimise foot-prints, we use local suppliers like Mill Road Butcher for meat, Cambridge Organics for vegetables, Cambridge Juice Company for bottled drinks. But most importantly, we make our own vegetable & fruit juice in house. We love natural things and making things from scratch.
What measures have you put in place to ensure your business is COVID friendly?
Since reopening July 2020, we made it compulsory for staff to wear gloves and face masks during working hours, cleaning and disinfecting tables & all items regularly. We reduced the capacity of the already-limited number of seats inside the café. But we’re very grateful that, St Clement’s Church, our neighbour has offered their courtyard, which allows us to put in a couple of tables with chairs for our customers. Our neighbours along Portugal Place were also very understanding when we put out a small table with some seats for our visitors to enjoy a quick meal or drinks outdoors. I think to encourage our customers to dine alfresco is important at this stage. We also updated our picnic package so customers are encouraged to use the parks and open spaces nearby.
Why is it important for people to support independent businesses during these uncertain times?
Indie’s do not have a resources or financial support like the big chains but they are the backbone of local economy. The lockdown has proved to be particularly difficult for businesses with small margin (like ours) to survive. We are so glad our customers came back to support us almost immediately after we reopened. It’s important we support local independents as whatever we spent will go back to our own local economy to help everyone in our own surroundings.
What’s your favourite thing about Cambridge?
I love the multi-cultural side of Cambridge. There are so many different people from different background or from different countries settling in this city year after year, making what Cambridge is today. Each year there are so many proud university students & professionals from all over the world coming in to study and work. It’s never over-crowded or over-polluted here. The country-side and the town centre are all within cycling distance. It’s amazing such a small town can accommodate all these interesting people, culture, music, literacy and thriving commerce and research.
If you went to a desert island, what three things would you take?
Rice! I can’t survive without rice.
Bug spray – I’m covered with goosebumps even thinking about bugs on my legs!
Water – love water. No matter if I’m on desert island or not.
What would be your superpower and why?
Teleporting. I can teleport myself to wherever I want – probably to my own kitchen if I fancied trying a new recipe.
What is your favourite animal?
Cats! They are independent while affectionate – when they want to be. Uncanny and cool. They are the boss – period.
What advice would you give your younger self?
No rush. It’s the journey that matters.
*Headshot photos taken by @stellamarpereira on Instagram*
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