Café Review: Trockel, Ulmann & Freunde

Robyn Bennett 24 April 2014

As a German student and a food lover, it is somewhat shameful that I hadn’t visited Trockel, Ulmann and Freunde (TUF) before. Despite the countless good things I’d heard about the café, memories of unfortunate encounters with Sauerkraut and Schnitzel tend to keep me out of German restaurants unless there is promise of Glühwein. Yet, I set off to Pembroke Street with a spring in my step, happy in the knowledge that I could at the very least pass this trip off as ‘cultural research’.

I’d passed TUF many times, but had never been tempted inside. The exterior decor is somewhat clumsy – a simple combination of slightly flaking, white walls, blue display boards highlighting the day’s specials in a handwritten scrawl, and windowsills lined by flowers and adorned with bunting. On that basis, I wasn’t expecting wonders on crossing the threshold.

The interior décor was, however, a pleasant surprise. The café has two-tone yellow walls, bright plastic tablecloths, mismatched stools, blue fairy lights, and an eclectic array of colourful artwork. Contrary to my usual taste, I found the café’s playful aesthetic wonderfully refreshing. It felt as though I’d just stepped onto the set of an Almodóvarian film, a million miles outside the Cambridge bubble.

Matching the décor for charm, the landlady cheerfully presented the range of homemade bakes. Although sadly lacking my personal German favourites (Rhababer Streußelkuchen and Apfelstrudel), the ample selection included spiced cakes and muffins. The best surprise came later when we were served our drinks: in TUF a complimentary chocolate chip biscuit accompanies every hot beverage!

Beyond the sweet treats, the café is especially popular at lunchtime. For the great price of just £2.90, you can get your hands on hot soup AND a filled baguette, and there’s even variation as the soups change each day. Creamy carrot, Moroccan lentil and a vegetarian tagine headlined Saturday’s menu.

It’s hardly luxurious, particularly by Cambridge standards, but TUF is a real delight. And actually, what I liked most about it was precisely its tacky, anti- Cambridge and distinctly European feel. Whether it’s for a quick, cheap takeaway lunch or a more leisurely retreat, I really recommend you give Trockel, Ullmann & Freunde a try. I promise, there’s no Sauerkraut in sight!