The name itself sums it up perfectly: it is a space to speak, discuss, debate, and think freely with friends, over a delicious coffee, meal, or glass of wineAudrey Lim

When I arrived at The Cambridge Union to visit their newly refurbished bar and brasserie The Orator, I suspected from the get-go that it would be a unique place to drink and dine. I was not disappointed. The name itself sums it up perfectly: it is a space to speak, discuss, debate, and think freely with friends, over a delicious coffee, meal, or glass of wine.

A classy mix of rustic and modern with a hint of vintage glamour, The Orator is a hidden gem tucked away in Cambridge on Round Church Street.

The Orator's interiorLotte Brundle

After a thoroughly attentive two-year renovation, The Orator’s new interior speaks to the love and attention to detail that has been poured into its re-birth. Although the walls, floors and furniture have been revamped, the carefulness with which the traditions from the old bar have been preserved is comforting. The Union is famous for the influential freethinkers that have spoken in its chamber, and all around the restaurant and bar lay reminders of the knowledge these speakers have imparted here; a blackboard behind the bar is titled ‘Words of Wisdom’, a feature where the most recent speaker leaves a quote or snippet of knowledge for the bar guests. Meanwhile, an impressive collection of portraits of past speakers hang proudly on the walls in eclectic frames and a photo of the Union’s current president rests behind the bar — I’m told by the bar staff that this is a time-honoured tradition.

“It is clear that a deep love for debate lies at the heart of the remodelling”

The head bartender Sam Heap is cheerful and welcoming as he pours our drinks and remarks on the new bar and brasserie: “So much work has gone into this”. Gushing proudly, he points out the bar’s logo to me, indicating how the ‘a’ and the ‘r’ of ‘Orator’ are curved to resemble quotation marks. It is clear that a deep love for debate lies at the heart of the remodelling.

Sam tells me he has been bar manager since 2015, he feels as if he’s been “waiting for a long time” for the Union’s bar to reopen again. He continues that, the extended duration of the renovation has been down to the desire for The Orator to “fit to the Union standards” while also making it “more accessible for the general public”. Considering that the Union originated as a private members club, making a slice of Cambridge University’s inimitable magic available to all seems to be an important step towards inclusivity. He also reveals to me that he can recall the drink ordered by each famous speaker, but when I ask if he will, he comments that he is saving his anecdotes for future bestseller with a wry smile.


A selection of starters Lotte Brundle

Open for brunch, lunch, and dinner, The Orator caters for every occasion. There are also plenty of vegan options and alternatives for customers with food intolerances. On visiting, we were fortunate to sample a selection of starters. Pictured are the pea and courgette arancini, crispy squid and tiger king prawns with parsley mayo, goat’s cheese with beetroot and tomato, and bruschetta. For me, the king prawns were an immediate favourite, and I was told that they’re a firm choice for the staff too!

For our main we tried the ‘1815 beef burger’, which comes with seared double beef patties, mature cheddar, tomato, lettuce, bacon jam and burger sauce, accompanied with fries. For dessert we tasted both the salted brownie with honeycomb popcorn and a lemon pot with a rosemary and thyme crumb. All three courses were delicious, but for me it was the bar’s drinks selection that really stole the show...


Cocktails at The OratorLotte Brundle

Claiming to have the biggest beer garden in central Cambridge, it is no surprise that The Orator’s drinks list boasts, amongst other beverages, an extensive gin selection. Drinks at The Orator are reasonably priced, given its elegant setting. A cocktail will set you back £9 at most, my personal favourite being ‘The Courtside’ — a fruity and refreshing raspberry cocktail (pictured). A beer will cost you somewhere around £4.

The menu as a whole

Sourced locally, Joe Burman, General Manager of The Orator explains that the choices on the menu have been painstakingly reviewed: “The Orator is more than just somewhere to eat and drink,” he says, “it is an experience where the debate is choosing between the quality options available. We have spent a considerable amount of time ensuring that every visit offers choice, variety, and a little indulgence.”

Jungmin Seo, The Vice President of The Union, animatedly discussed The Orators opening with me; with many committee members coming and going throughout the redevelopment progress it is clear that she’s delighted to be Vice President in the year that The Orator finally opens its doors to the public. She is pleased about the “nice mixture for members and the commercial side” — the restaurant being open to the general public, as well as having a ‘members only’ area for Union members.

The Orator seats 140 people at once, and with both a members’ and student discount, I’m sure that it will be a busy spot this summer. From meeting the staff, it is clear that they are all pleased to be working in such a fascinating place with such a steep history, and they can’t wait to welcome new guests and speakers to The Orator.

The team behind The OratorLotte Brundle

The Orator is open now; it is located on Round Church Street. You can find more information here:





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