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Arthur Rank Hospice invites you to dine out at The Bistro

The Bistro at Arthur Rank Hospice. Sabrina Payne, junior sou chef. Picture: Keith Heppell
The Bistro at Arthur Rank Hospice. Sabrina Payne, junior sou chef. Picture: Keith Heppell

‘Where shall we go for lunch... how about the hospice?’ This may not be an invitation you’ve had before, but that could be about to change, as a restaurant at Arthur Rank Hospice’s new Shelford Bottom home is open to all.

There is a perception about hospices that they focus only on end-of-life care for people. But this is far from the truth.

“Growing up, I didn’t know anything about these places. I thought it would be a sad place, but it’s not, it’s completely the opposite,” says Sabrina Payne.

Sabrina, 20, is junior sous chef at The Bistro at Arthur Rank Hospice, a restaurant that is not only providing tasty treats in a welcoming space but is helping to bridge the gap between the hospice and the wider community.

The Bistro delivers a freshly prepared and home-cooked menu of delicious items seven days a week and is open to the public.

Sabrina told the Cambridge Independent: “We want it to be a place for the community and, in a way, it helps with the myth that the hospice is a scary place and not somewhere you go unless you’re dying, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.”

Sabrina, who grew up in Witchford, began working at The Bistro shortly after it opened at the hospice’s new £10.5million state-of-the-art facility in Shelford Bottom last November. She previously worked at Hughes Hall at the University of Cambridge while completing an apprenticeship with Cambridge Regional College.

“Now that we have The Bistro, people can be much more aware of the fact that the hospice is actually a really lovely place because you’ve encountered it. Previously, that might have only happened if you’d visited a relative or someone who was being cared for here, but they walk in the door and they’re like, ‘It’s a really nice and friendly place here’,” Sabrina said.

The hospice’s communications officer, Dawn Easby, added: “The Bistro is an extension of our services here, and that’s something that will happen increasingly as people realise that OK, we’re looking after people with life-limiting illnesses, but it’s actually a place that’s full of life. It’s something we’re really proud to say is open that people can pop in and use.”

The Bistro is run by a dedicated team of employees and volunteers and offers breakfasts, lunches and light bites as well as roast dinners on a Sunday. It is open to the public as well as patients, their families and members of staff.

“It’s a really nice mix,” said Sabrina. “I think the fact that you’ve got people that are using our services, families that are visiting patients, as well as people that are just visiting... you get that interaction. It’s a hub for the community. It’s a unique place.

“It’s nice for day therapy patients that are here for a six- to 12-week period because they don’t feel like they’re being cut off from people – and they don’t have to worry that people won’t be scared to talk to them. That’s a positive all round, whether that’s the patients themselves or the people that are visiting, because you just see the person, not the illness. As staff, it’s great for us because we get to know the people who are using the services, who might be using them for years to come.

“There’s never a day when someone is not smiling. You can’t walk down the corridor without seeing someone smile.”

Sabrina describes herself as a cake maker – as well as a cake eater – so if you visit The Bistro she suggests you try her millionaire shortbread. Her savoury pick is the pulled port ciabatta.

Sabrina and her Bistro colleagues come up with a fortnightly menu for patients, which can be changed to suit their dietary and medical needs.

“If someone fancies something, we’ll go out and get it. If someone wants a steak, then that will happen,” said Sabrina. “We like to think we can get anything to a patient in 24 hours if it’s possible.

“Our menu changes seasonally and can change for a person if we know that someone really likes something, or their relatives have mentioned that there’s something they really like. We’ll do as much as we can from a kitchen point of view to make everyone happy.”

The Bistro has begun catering for conferences and events held in the hospice’s education suite.

“A lot has changed in the few months we’ve been open,” Sabrina said. “We’ve grown to what people want from us. People chat to us and tell us what they want – and we’ve adapted to that.”

The Bistro has been used by church and coffee groups, and people who used the hospice in its previous location in Mill Road. Staff are keen to encourage more members of the community to visit. It is opposite the Babraham Park & Ride, which is free for the first hour and £1 after, and at the opposite end of the hospice to the in-patient unit.

Stephanie Wishart, 50, who lives in Cambridge, has visited The Bistro three times with her mother and her 90-year-old aunt, who says the sausage rolls and salads are delicious.

“It’s quiet, which is lovely,” she said. “And there’s the alternative of sitting inside and outside. It’s a place that works for all ages. There is Wi-Fi, so I can work, and you see something of the patients and so they’re not separated from society.

“It’s the only café I know that doesn’t have background music. Because we all have different hearing we don’t have to shout, we can just relax.”

The bright and airy café has private areas and an outdoor space.

Sabrina said: “It’s such a lovely place to work and I couldn’t be prouder. I love what I do here. I make people happy so I enjoy coming in. The best part is meeting everyone: the people that work here, the volunteers and the patients. You’ll quite often find me on the ward chatting away – I can’t help myself. It’s a big family.

“I’ve been here five months, and in that time my view on how to live my life has changed so much that I should enjoy everything I do.

“I think people my age need to grow their horizons because there are so many things they don’t know about. Sad things happen here – there’s no denying that – but seeing people come together to make it as happy as it can be is amazing.

“You can come in here and if you don’t want to interact with the hospice side, you don’t have to,” Sabrina added.

Lynn Morgan, the hospice’s chief executive officer, said: “We have been so pleased to see people starting to walk through into our hospice, from the Babraham Park and Ride, to have lunch or coffee in our Bistro. With us now being fully open at the weekend, we hope many more will drop in for our very competitively priced roast lunch or a tasty brunch.

“Funding the care for our patients is always a challenge and the profit from the Bistro is another way we can achieve this. Do visit us soon!”

The Bistro also operates a loyalty card scheme.

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