The Clowns Cafe in Cambridge has, as you might guess from its name, a certain theme. Inspired by owner Raffaele Columbo's favourite Ruggero Leoncavallo opera, 'Clowns', the surreal cafe is jammed full of puppets, paintings, dolls and ornaments of, yes, you've guessed it - clowns!
I had the bizarre experience of having a business meeting in this unlikely venue. I was visiting a friend in Cambridge for the weekend but also had to squeeze in a quick Saturday morning meeting. I asked my friend to recommend a place to meet my contact for coffee and he suggested Clowns. It was only when I arrived that I realised quite how clownish Clowns is!
Luckily, my business contact had a sense of humour about it, although his parting comment was "I don't think I will be able to sleep tonight". I guess that's the one thing about clowns - some people do find them a bit spooky. I later joked with my friend that I should have perhaps arrived by unicycle or miniature car!
Although I wouldn't necessarily recommend is as a business meeting place, I would certainly say that it is worth going to this unique little cafe for the fun of it. And not just that, the price and the friendly service make it well worthwhile. It is a small, family run joint and Raffaele 's daughter, Genni, prepares the specials - ragu, pomodoro and vesuvio with pasta bought from continental stores. The cafe has been owned and operated by the family for 24 years.
There are themed evenings such as 'Spaghetti night' on Tuesdays and Thursdays and one of the Cambridge University philosophical societies gathers at Clowns on Sundays to talk about life, the universe and everything over tasty Italian food.
After my meeting was over, my friend suggested that he would come and meet me for lunch in the cafe so I got to sample the food. We dined on the second floor which is less clown-heavy (except for a few evil looking paintings on the wall), in a light, airy room. He had a portion of hearty home made vegetable soup with a delicious cheese topping and crusty bread, whilst I went for a bowl of Genni's pomodoro pasta. At £3 per bowl, I thought it was very good value for such a huge portion.
On my way out I spoke to a few regulars who had glowing reports about the place. One of them was drinking a hot chocolate - half of which consisted of thick and delicious cream - perhaps not the healthiest option, but very indulgent. As was also Raffaele's tiramisu, which is apparently the house special. Another regular also told me that she had forgotten her purse that day and the staff had served her anyway, telling her she could come back and pay another time.