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.