"I will miss the exquisite ordinariness of study breaks in Newnham Cafe, surrounded by my extraordinary friends."Photo courtesy of Orla Horan

Although the Iris Cafe – a snack of a cafe that itself serves snacks (meta) – has only been open for 2 years, it has already managed to establish itself as a fan favourite within Newnham and beyond. Such is its appeal that, having retaliated for months in the only way we knew how (mainly stares and quite audible bitching) to unaccompanied men sitting in booths big enough for 6 on their ones, College took the steps of putting up signs to reserve the coveted booths for Newnhamites and their guests. We love(d) to see it.

Love Letters to Cambridge

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On its face, the popularity of the Iris is not hard to understand. With a scrumptious array of food – filled focaccia, toasted english muffins, pert pastries – and service with a smile, the Iris consistently proved to be worth the wait. Once you have navigated the masses from Sidgwick Site and made it out of the sprawling queue, you can sit and enjoy your food under a very impressive light sculpture made from letters of famed Newnhamites; no coffee chain can compete with this sort of boujee display.

"It has been the venue for countless coffee mornings with my college wife..."Orla Horan

Incredible food and decor aside, my fixation with Newnham Cafe might still seem unwarranted. After nearly three years in one of the most beautiful cities, with its cobbled streets and hidden courts, you might expect my love letter to be written to somewhere grander (or to an actual person). But, as most finalists will tell you – the cynics that we are – the obvious beauty of Cambridge sometimes starts to fade in amongst the stress walks to supervisions and late night library trips. In contrast, Newnham Cafe, with its more understated girl next door (to Sidgwick Site) charm, has been a reliable source of solace for the last two years. 

It has been the venue for countless coffee mornings with my college wife, discussing dates and her fashion Instagram, and waffle weekends with rowers where we discuss, you guessed it, rowing. The Cafe is also supposedly a work space, but it has instead been the place where my friends and I have pondered big questions, namely the Labour leadership contest, social bonding between primates, and the Sugababes Paradox. Newnham Cafe has also been there for me in the lower points; I have lost count of the number of times I have ordered a double espresso to go at 10:03 ahead of my lecture at 10:05, or when the Cafe has provided me with a sugar hit when I am trying to work while a little worse for wear (a personal low point was approx 12 marshmallows for £3).

"It has become a bit like the living room in my home, a place where I am able to chat shit in comfort with my friends who have fast become family."Photo courtesy of Orla Horan

Even when Newnham Cafe closes for the day, it would remain the focal point for my friendship group into the early hours. It is where we would sit and wait for our group Deliveroo orders or attempt to work late but end up chatting the night away. It has also often been the last port of call after a formal, a (rowing) social or a night out when we are all simultaneously too tired to carry our weary bodies off to our respective rooms, but not tired enough to resist the temptation to have a debrief about the night – sometimes accompanied by (free) Dominoes – before it has even ended.


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Mountain View

To the chapel choir that anchored me

Clearly, Newnham Cafe to me is so much more than a provider of coffee and cake. It has become a bit like the living room in my home, a place where I am able to chat shit in comfort with my friends who have fast become family. Like many finalists, I am still processing the fact that I have said goodbye to Cambridge a term earlier than I had expected – and, indeed, was ready to – and there are so many places and things that I am going to miss now that Easter term is not on the cards (bon courage!). I will miss C-Sunday before work begins in earnest and the nights out after exams are over. I will miss the extravagance of May Balls and walking home at 6am in a gaggle in our glittery ball gowns. I will miss graduating this June as planned. But, more than anything, I will miss the exquisite ordinariness of study breaks in Newnham Cafe, surrounded by my extraordinary friends.

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