Sidgwick buttery on its first day open since the third national lockdownBethan Moss

Sidgwick Buttery reopened on Monday (16/01), after two years of being shut — it originally closed because of Covid-19 and hasn’t reopened since due to staff shortages.

The Buttery first closed in March 2020, not long after finishing refurbishments. In Michaelmas 2020, the café briefly reopened for take-away service only, but closed again when students did not return to Cambridge in Lent 2021, during the third national lockdown.

In the meantime, Allison Richards Café (ARC), in the POLIS department building of the same name, has been overwhelmed by increased demand, with large queues stretching around the building every day. In the two years that the buttery was closed, the ARC was the only university-run food provider on Sidgwick site, which is home to twelve faculties that hundreds of students attend each day.

One source at the catering service told Varsity that they’re excited to reopen, but that staff are still “stretched tight”. On the effects of the re-opening, they said: “The ARC was never meant to serve such a high volume of students, so it’ll be good to relieve pressure on them.”

Prices have risen in the buttery as a result of inflationBethan Moss

Although there’s been no official announcement of troubles at the catering service, sources within it confirmed to Varsity that lack of personnel delayed post-pandemic re-opening of the buttery. The café was originally scheduled to begin serving students again in October, but failed to do so.

Staff worked at university cafés elsewhere in Cambridge whilst the buttery was closed. The UL tea room, ARC and West Café also suffered closures during Covid but have all since reopened, unlike the buttery.

Another catering service source said: “It’ll especially be good once people start coming through again, once term begins and lectures start up”. They were hopeful that full opening hours could be restored soon.

The buttery was quiet when Varsity visited on Monday morning, and although it opened at 9am instead of the scheduled 8:30am, things seemed to be running smoothly — with the exception of one faulty till. Frappés were also unavailable, but unlikely to be in high demand at this time of year.

It’s probable that many Sidgwick-based students aren’t even aware of the buttery’s existence, since only those in third year or above will remember it being open.

One first-year History student expressed their excitement: “I can’t wait to eat there between lectures, the ARC cafe queue is always really long and the food sells out really quickly”.

A fourth year MMLer also expressed their happiness to Varsity about the return of the buttery, saying: “I can’t believe how many younger students have never got to eat there.”

She continued: “The prices are so high though, I can only really afford to buy coffee and have to bring a packed lunch. I’m at a hill college, so I can’t just nip back in the day. I really wish there were more options for affordable hot food at Sidgwick.”


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Although the University Library tea room, Newnham’s Iris Café and Harvey’s Coffee House are in close proximity to Sidgwick, there are no supermarkets nearby for students in search of more affordable lunch options. Sources told Varsity that Brexit had not caused supply-chain issues for the catering service, given that most of their food is from the UK. Prices have risen, however, due to the inflationary pressures felt across the country — a sandwich now costs £3, wraps are £3.20 and a salad is £3.75. These prices, similar to those in the ARC, are mitigated by a small student discount, but still leave Sidgwick students without low-cost meal options on site.

In light of the cost-of-living crisis, the University has been running a pilot scheme at the West Hub Café in which students can claim £2 off main meals in lunch hours if they show their Cam card. However, as West Hub is located out of central Cambridge, it is only visited by some science students and those on select other courses, such as the new foundation year. The meal subsidy is therefore inaccessible to the vast majority of Cambridge students.

A University spokesperson said: “As with many organisations, University Catering Services has faced challenges recruiting catering staff due to a number of factors. After an ongoing recruitment process we now have sufficient staff to re-open the Buttery and we look forward to welcoming back students and staff to the site.”

The Buttery is now open Monday – Friday, 8.30am – 3pm during term time.