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Updated: Jan 27, 2021

After extensive travelling and working across various hotels in Hong Kong and Asia, we decided to stay in the hospitality industry when we settled in Cambridge 25 years ago. It was a freezing winter in 1997 when we first opened the door to Bridges. I still remember the first customer asking for a hot drink and it was tea, the second customer - also tea…. Yes, there really wasn’t a coffee culture at that time. It was always English Breakfast or Earl Grey and a piece of Victoria sponge or a rich "Death by Chocolate" cake. For lunch, people came for a freshly filled bread roll or a small savoury, usually sausage rolls or a Cornish pasty. There wasn’t any seating but the takeaway was always busy and there was usually a queue during breakfast and lunch time.

It was about 2 years later when I was asked how I could resist the temptation of “Death by Chocolate” and I was speechless as I didn’t really eat chocolate nor did I have a sweet tooth. It was a wake up call realising we were actually selling a few items that we were not passionate about. And we decided to revisit the whole menu and we finally introduced food that we personally cooked regularly at home - including juicing, salad and a modernised serving of stir-fry dishes that were suitable as a takeaway lunch. We reduced sugar in our sweet treats. The next drastic change was the rebranding - by changing the name of Bridges Patisserie to Bridges as we didn’t want our focus to be on cakes anymore. It was followed by getting rid of a big cake cabinet to allow space for some seating for eating in.

Once the paper cups and paper bags were replaced by proper cups and plates, Bridges had become a cafe - a small communal hub people could sit down and have a chat with us or with their friends. We loved it. We expanded our catering service to colleges and nearby offices and life had been busy in a different way since then. And we never stopped.

And then came 2020, we were given 24 hours to close the door on a warm day in March. We followed the government guidelines to stay home for 3 months. But it’s also this stepping back from the business after 23 years which helped us realise more changes needed to be made and we needed to be resilient.

During hardship and adversities, positive thinking is crucial. We told ourselves “Bridges started as a takeaway and we adapted to changes to make it a cafe. What we needed to do now was to revisit our journey twenty-three years ago and focus on takeaway orders again”. We reprinted all environmentally friendly disposables and started to diversify our delivery using local companies like “Foodstuff Cambridge” and “Click-It-Local”. Cutting expenses is a key factor to service in pandemic which means we need to be working in both the front line on top of all the planning behind. It’s not easy but this actually created a great way to move the business forward as it’s not until you are constantly seeing your customers and solving the technical problems until you can have a clearer picture of the next step.

Technology has made this possible and the social media is a great platform for us to connect and get to know one another.

We were asked recently for 3 homemade dishes we particularly recommend if you haven't tried our food yet. There are quite a few popular items in Bridges. I think this has a lot to do with what you are passionate about. We love simplicity in our own diet and we love juicing at home. We also love a quick stir-fry - of fresh vegetables and noodles (to retain good nutrients). Fresh juice, smoothies and simple stir-fry noodles with good ingredients are very popular among our wide menu choices. Vegan organic soup is also an item we are proud of making from scratch daily. We can’t take all the credits for their popularity. I think the excellent ingredients from our suppliers play a big part. Cambridge Organic Food Company provides us with beautiful organic vegetables and Mill Road Butcher helps us with our free range chicken for our stir fry dishes. We are so grateful to have such high quality supplies locally. Cambridge is a great community and Bridges has provided a small part in providing this hub like a home providing some simple affordable meal to the locals. Bridges is exactly 24 years old today. We are very happy to be able to grow and learn with this little cafe and we still love our job.

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Thank you for voting our window in the Love Cambridge Facebook page. You may wonder why this year we have a very different display.

(Photo credit: Cambridge Bid)

As you may know, for years, every December, we always decorate our window with something bright & bold. Whilst we've always struggled to find wall space to hang all the pictures we'd love to, we do have our lovely big windows that our customers adore.

It become our space to get creative, with the help of local artists some years including Karen Jinks, Mandy Knapp & local art students.

Last year, Helen of White Cottage Bakery ran a class to show us and a few of our small business friends (Romano's, AliBalticBakes & NaomiDaviesArts) how to make festive bread wreaths. They all helped us to hang them in our lovely windows.

2020 has been a difficult and special year for everyone. Due to the social distancing in place, we couldn't get our local suppliers to come in as before to have our lovely traditional evening doing what we loved to do - decorating, followed by a social supper. Instead, this year, I found myself struggling late one night trying to decorate alone. After a two hour unsuccessful struggle to untangle the recycled Christmas lights, I sent a SOS message to my friends for some help. The first one who got back to me was Naomi who had the lovely idea of keeping it simple with just our green plants (from Janet of Small & Green) , simple lights, and baubles written with wishes of hope and joy. This seemed just right for this year, so we asked our customers and followers on social media to tell us their wishes and hopes. Every wish was written on a wooden bauble and hung from lights in the window.

We are delighted to say that since hanging our first bauble on 1st December, we have received more than 100 messages (at time of writing) both from walk-in customers or social peeps messaging us from far and wide all over the world.

What started off as a simple idea has taken on a life of its own. It has brought us even closer to our customers, and there is a feeling of bonding over a communal hope for good things to come. A display of hope for 2021. This is something very special, and we are so pleased to have your support. We are still enjoying reading and putting up your wishes every single day. Thank you to everyone who has contributed. Please do keep your wishes coming, as we will continue to put them up all the way to Christmas.

One of our wishes has been to thank our lovely neighbours, especially St Clement's Church, who let us use their outdoor courtyard space to enable us to continue to trade when we could finally reopened in July after more than 3 months of lockdown. When we expressed our thanks during the difficult time they told us briefly & sum up a very sentimental point, "that's what community is for!"

We are so grateful to be shortlisted in this year's Festive Window Competition organised by Love Cambridge who will donate £150 to a charity chosen by the winner. Please head to Love Cambridge Facebook Page to vote for us if you love our window but we will be equally happy if you vote for any window as our local businesses all put in such an enormous effort. This year we have seen the strong sense of community which we haven't noticed before. No matter what happens tomorrow, there is always hope. Let light shine out of darkness.


Meggy, Chan & Team Bridges xx

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What is your Christmas wish this year?

We are collecting our customers’ and community’s festive wishes to be written on simple baubles which will hang in Bridges twinkling window as our contribution to the Cambridge Bid annual Christmas Window Competition. The winning window earns £150 to donate to charity.

But what’s equally important for us is to have a window of hope and joy and simple wishes from you. You can come into Bridges and write them yourselves, or send us by DM, or comment here. We can write them on the baubles for you. It can be a wish, a hashtag, a few words that have meaning for you. Please make them ten words or fewer. Less is more!

Everyone who helps us by contributing a message will be entered into our very own giveaway - to win a meal for four (a main, a drink and a dessert each) to be taken sometime during 2021. And if we win, our winner will also get to choose the charity for our donation.

Please get your wishes to us by the 15th of December so we can welcome our customers again with our Christmas window of hope and love and gratitude..

Share this post, drop us a few words, we need your messages on the baubles to share the community love to make 2021 a brighter year. Let light shine out of darkness. ♥️


Meggy, Chan & Team Bridges


Update: while writing this post, we are getting additional donations of prizes including

- a pack of Xmas cards from Naomi Davies Art (who gave me the lovely idea of baubles message for decorations).

- a box of award winning Reforest Tea donated by Reforest Org. (Alastair just added 2 more boxes!)

- a whole Guinness Chocolate cake baked by Romano's

If you are a local supplier, an artist or a maker who wants to donate a little gift for the raffle please dm us.

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