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Enjoy a Dua Lipa cocktail at new Cambridge Union bar




The Cambridge Union Society will soon be opening to the public a new and improved bar and brasserie – and the Cambridge Independent was given an exclusive first look inside.

The inside of the newly refurbished bar area of the Cambridge Union. From left, Joe Burman, general manager, and Sam Heap, assistant brasserie manager. Picture: Keith Heppell
The inside of the newly refurbished bar area of the Cambridge Union. From left, Joe Burman, general manager, and Sam Heap, assistant brasserie manager. Picture: Keith Heppell

Founded in 1815, the union – the oldest debating society in the world – has spent £6m on its overhaul.

Promising “high-class cuisine at an affordable price”, the new premises will be called The Orator, in honour of the building’s illustrious history.

Bursar Steve Bax said the revamp was going well. “It’s at that stage where there’s quite a lot done but there’s still quite a lot to do,” he said. “It’s very exciting – nerveracking. We have a deadline to open and everybody needs to be geared up ready for opening.”

The exterior of the Cambridge Union showing the new restaurant unit on the ground floor and student accommodation above which Trinity College have leased. Picture: Keith Heppell
The exterior of the Cambridge Union showing the new restaurant unit on the ground floor and student accommodation above which Trinity College have leased. Picture: Keith Heppell

Steve says that they are due open the doors to everyone on May 24. They will also be taking bookings. General manager Joe Burman said: “It’s all-day dining; you can come here for breakfast, lunch, dinner, or cocktails and light bites.

“You can come on a Monday morning, get your books out, do your studying... but then you can come back on a Thursday night after watching the debates, have a few cocktails and discuss what you’ve seen.”

The inside of the newly refurbished bar area of the Cambridge Union. Picture: Keith Heppell
The inside of the newly refurbished bar area of the Cambridge Union. Picture: Keith Heppell

The bar at the union was previously called the 1815 and, interestingly, the site boasts one of the largest beer gardens in Cambridge. Joe says that the revamp has been planned for quite some time, initially launching around eight years ago.

The inside of the newly refurbished bar area of the Cambridge Union. Picture: Keith Heppell
The inside of the newly refurbished bar area of the Cambridge Union. Picture: Keith Heppell

This ‘final push’ started just before Christmas 2019. “What we want people to do is to obviously come and have some drinks and enjoy some great food,” said Steve, “but also learn about the society and how important it is to Cambridge and the university.

“So all of our theming is based on debating, all of our menus reference the great people that have come here over the years. It’s a link into the Debating Society as a whole and, as a charity, we need the funds through The Orator to be able to keep us going for years to come – it’s a really important step in the society’s history.”

The exterior of the Cambridge Union showing the new restaurant unit on the ground floor and student accommodation above which Trinity College have leased. Picture: Keith Heppell
The exterior of the Cambridge Union showing the new restaurant unit on the ground floor and student accommodation above which Trinity College have leased. Picture: Keith Heppell

Steve notes that the walls will be lined with photographs of people who have spoken at the Union. He added: “We’ve also got cocktails named after some of our speakers, so for instance we have a Dua Lipa cocktail.”

The Orator is recruiting now. For more information on the Cambridge Union, visit cus.org.

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