A pot of really good Darjeeling tea and a slice of the most delicious rose and pistachio cake in this recently opened Hobson Street cafe perked me up on a gloomy February afternoon. So I popped back (yes … more tea and cake!) to meet owner, Wendy Slade, and to chat about her new venture.
Firstly, I’m curious about the cafe’s name. Wendy explained that the word “abantu” (or derivations of it) means “people” in many African dialects. Wendy was born and raised in South Africa, where she trained as an accountant. She came to England with her family twenty years ago. “But I still miss the drumming heartbeat of Africa,” Wendy tells me.
It wasn’t long before she set up a gift shop, selling Fairtrade goods, at Manor Farm in Bourn, while a friend ran the coffee shop next door. When the friend left, Wendy took over the coffee shop and taught herself to bake. Gradually, that side of the business took over and ten years later, Wendy moved the cafe to Wysing Arts Centre, where it won a “Best Cafe in East Anglia” award.
“Then Stickybeaks came up for sale,” explained Wendy, “and our lease at Wysing was coming to an end so I decided to go for it and move into the city centre.” Wendy and her team of twelve people, including the ex Stickybeaks staff who all joined her, took over the building on 19th January and were open for business at the end of the month. They had hungry customers queuing down the street on Day 1!
The Abantu team enjoys working in the open kitchen which Wendy says is run more as a “home” kitchen than an industrial cooking space. They make all their own cakes and like to keep up with the latest baking trends. Abantu’s menu changes every day, with an emphasis on seasonal ingredients used in a variety of dishes for breakfast and lunch. There are always three or four salads on offer and Boboti, a South African meatloaf, is a menu staple.
Vegetarians, vegans and those who eat gluten free are well catered for here and there’s a Bambino menu for kids too, so this really is a destination for the whole family. Staff are welcoming and the cafe has an airy yet cosy vibe with art from Naomi Davies, a Cambridge artist who works in pen and watercolour, on the walls and a couple of outside tables, ideal for watching the world go by on sunnier days.
42 Hobson Street, Cambridge CB1 1NL