Sam Aldersey-Williams with permission for Varsity

Hot Numbers has been my constant companion in Cambridge ever since I was introduced to it in the spring of my first year. For those not in the know, it serves both the best coffee and the best brunch in Cambridge, and can be found both on Trumpington Street and Mill Road. When I first discovered Hot Numbers, I was just happy I could get an American pancake that was cooked through, unlike down the road at another famous Cambridge establishment. However, I soon developed an affinity with the place that went far beyond that, going on to spur an obsession with brunch that eventually saw me cycling across the breadth of Berlin in search of the next sourdough sensation.

“The opportunity it offers to get out of the Cambridge bubble”

Even after all the excitement of my year abroad, Hot Numbers stays close to my heart. This is particularly for the opportunity it offers to get out of the Cambridge bubble.

It was a frosty and clear December morning in second year when Tom, the most adventurous (or foolish) of my friends, accepted my invitation to cycle out to the Roastery in Shepreth. This is where Hot Numbers makes their coffee to be taken into Cambridge every day. We set out; I had prudently eaten a banana to survive the hour’s cycle in the freezing temperatures, but Tom struggled as we climbed the brutal 45-metre ascent of the so-called Chapel Hill.

Sam Aldersey-Williams with permission for Varsity

Rewarded by a burst of speed and gorgeous views across to Hertfordshire on the other side, we cruised into Shepreth and sat down next to the pop-up Christmas fair in the spacious and cosy brunch café. Tom, a vegetarian, accidentally ordered the nduja shakshuka, which, though delicious on such a cold day, did rather taste like meat. Realising his mistake, I devoured the rest while he took on my pancake stack, with nduja since becoming a favourite pizza topping for me. The return journey saw us race as he opted for the train from Shepreth. I was seen outside King’s just seconds before him.

“A favourite for the university’s cyclists”

The route itself is very much part of the experience — the initial section to Barton has a bespoke bike path, while the road from Barton to Haslingfield is quiet although extremely well-tarmacked, a favourite for the university’s cyclists. From here, you can see the spooky abandoned satellite dishes which make up the Mullard Radio Astronomy Observatory. These university-run telescopes operate on what used to be the Varsity line between Cambridge and Oxford. Haslingfield itself is cute, especially in the early spring when the daffodils decorate the lawns outside its thatched cottages. Chapel Hill affords some breath-taking views, especially for a Cambridge student who normally only has access to the modest, and now rather familiar, view from Castle Mound.

The next village, Barrington, has the longest village green in England, and sees you cross the River Cam in its upper reaches, while Shepreth itself boasts more thatched houses as well as a wildlife park. A final dogleg across the A10 sees you in brunch heaven, downing that flat white that tastes ten times better for having worked an hour for it.


Mountain View

Orange Gastrono-me review

I would return to the Roastery in all seasons — firstly during the summer of 2020, this time by car on the way to the Chilterns. Then with my girlfriend as Cambridgeshire was clothed in Autumn’s orange glow. Most recently, my ice-skating friend and I peddled out there as the blossoms and fresh green leaves of May replaced the wintry landscapes of Lent term. The Roastery has even served as a great pit stop on the way to Royston to go pottery painting. Plus, if you’re in the small minority of birdwatching nerds like me, you can pop to RSPB Fowlmere less than a mile away. I’ve gone to the Roastery by bike, by car, even by train (being picked up at the other end by my mum), at a leisurely pace and for exercise — with a tailwind you can make it home in less than 40 minutes. Comfortably situated between the Cambridge-familiar, it’s the same much-beloved Hot Numbers with the same menu, and an adventure outside of the hustle and bustle of university life. I’m currently looking forward to returning to the Hot Numbers Roastery on a long June evening after choir to enjoy their pizza night in the setting sun — perhaps topped with some non-vegetarian nduja.