The brand-new restaurant offers a vast array of dishes and drinksNic Crilly-Hargrave with permission for varsity

7a Jesus Lane has history. The Grade II listed building, which originally functioned as a Victorian bathhouse, is best-known as the residence of the University Pitt Club. In 1997, the eternally cash-strapped club leased out the ground floor to Pizza Express. However, during the pandemic the well-known chain was forced to close a number of its restaurants to cope with rising losses – including its Cambridge branch. Kibou took over, officially opening its doors on Monday 7th August 2023. Varsity visited their grand opening to survey the newest chapter in the bathhouse’s history.

The atmosphere and décor of Kibou simply ooze class. Stucco pillars and wood-panelled dining rooms blend with fresh and modern Japanese fittings to bring out the very best in the venue, which works much better as Kibou than it did as a Pizza Express. Surrounding a real cherry-blossom tree, there are gold-lined herons on mirrored walls, with striking centrepiece sculptures all around. We were also wowed by the digital murals which moved subtly as though there were a slight breeze.

“The atmosphere and décor of Kibou simply ooze class”

One might expect that with these lavish surroundings, the price point may be out of reach for any but the most dedicated foodies. This was not the case, though, and whilst the menu is pricier than average, it remains in line with the quality experience the restaurant offers. We recommend the pumpkin-croquette katsu curry main for £12.90, which offers a delightful mix of flavours. Kibou offers a wide range of vegetarian and vegan alternatives, many of which we sampled and greatly enjoyed.

If you really want to go all out or if you’re celebrating a particularly special occasion, you’ll find A5 Wagyu on offer alongside other pricier large mains. We also very much enjoyed the volcano rolls which cleverly combined crisped, tempura-fried seaweed with the soft pop-in-your-mouth fish roe to achieve mouth-feel heaven. The rice here is great, and the sushi is not just delicious, but also a point of discussion. Flavours are paired for taste: sriracha mayonnaise and avocado; wasabi and edamame. We found ourselves engrossed in discussing the food on several occasions, making it the perfect location for a potentially awkward first date. The menu is augmented by a delicious choice of beverages - Max being a particular fan of the Kirin Ichiban Lager, and Fabian enjoying the red wine that was on offer.

“Kibou will fit into the Cambridge restaurant scene as a classier Japanese dining experience”

The unquestionable highlight of our evening, however, was the kagami biraki saké barrel-breaking ceremony. After a countdown of ichi, ni, san, the team smashed open the seal on the barrel with wooden mallets and we lined up for our saké. A glass of the smooth, fresh, oaky beverage (priced from £6.50) is definitely worth sampling. The curved bar between the two main dining rooms serves a range of cocktails that revitalise the palate with a zingy freshness typical of the genre. We liked the gin and tonic with Kibou house Roku Gin and citrus. One thing that we also absolutely must note was the quality of service, which was excellent – waiting staff and chefs were friendly throughout, with insightful and knowledgeable descriptions of and recommendations for the dishes.


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Ultimately, Kibou will fit into the Cambridge restaurant scene as a classier Japanese dining experience than the other offerings in the town centre, such as Wasabi, Sushimania, Itsu and Ittou. Although generally more expensive than these places, it’s better value than somewhere like Sticks’n’Sushi - and remains an excellent place for a special occasion. This blend of affordable yet high-end food means it’s perfect for a range of budgets while remaining tasteful and feeling special.