We ranked every Cambridge market food stall
The definitive tier list for the stressed student’s stomach
*DISCLAIMER: This post and any critical comments made within it are intended to be taken light-heartedly – do go and try out all the stalls yourself if you’d like compare our conclusions with your own!*
Let me set the scene: You’ve just left the library, the midday Easter Term sun is blazing down, you’re tired of your degree and frustrated that academics refuse to write like normal people. The worst part? The day is only half-done.
But fear not, dear reader, The Tab has you covered! Be it sweet or savoury, Spanish or Thai, Hot or Cold, we can satisfy all your culinary needs. Here are all the Cambridge Market Square food stalls, rated according to their quality, so your lunchtime decisions can be informed.
All views expressed in this article are but my opinion and not the objective truth (I have been recently informed there is a difference between the two).
Dim Sum – 9/10
The apex predator of Market Square and my favourite place. Menu variety, portion size, complementary sauces: They have it all and I struggle to ask more from them. The chefs are hidden within the building, so it’s kind of like a “black box”: Chinese Grandmother goes in, delicious food comes out. While I’d like to learn their secrets, I respect that some of the best art requires solitude.
The Mac Daddy – 5/10
One of my more controversial takes, but I think the staple food Macaroni & Cheese needs to be very good for me to pick it over other choices. Points for having a vegan option though, and their BBQ/crispy onion dish is definitely their strong suit.
Jian Bing House – 6/10
Undeniably a certain appeal of this place is the novelty of having a spicy savoury crepe, and they definitely don’t disappoint. That being said, I wasn’t a fan of their dry peanut noodles, but my friend was more than happy to take them so what do I know?
Just Greek Gyros – 5/10
Can’t lie, the wrap was not particularly memorable. That said, I went with my Grannie and the guy behind the stall was exceedingly nice to her, so they get a First in elderly-customer service.
Neides – 2/10
Having lived in Portugal during my childhood, I was ecstatic to find out there was a Portuguese food stall in the market. Now imagine my all-consuming despair when I discovered they mostly sell Brazilian (yes, there’s a difference, don’t @ me) and Mexican food. I was crushed.
Azuma – 6/10
The food here is alright, nothing outstanding, but it’s how the food is made that’s impressive. One of the chefs is a licensed hairdresser (you can get his business card at the front of the stall if you like his style), and the energy of his cooking matches his eccentric hairstyle. I wouldn’t bother waiting in the queue for him to finish cooking, but he gets major points for style.
Cardoso’s Kitchen – 4/10
This stall is a bit of a heartbreaker in that the food is actually pretty good, the only problem is that I never really fancy a curry with rice for lunch. It’ll knock me out with a food coma and make me fall asleep in the UL again. There’s also no option to make it spicier, which is a great shame for us spice lovers.
The Noodle Bar – 7/10
An interesting fact about this place is that it seems to have its very own cult following, and it’s not hard to see why. People swear by it as their only source of lunchtime sustenance, waiting in long queues just for their fried noodles. While I can understand why they like it so much, and I do I go there a lot myself, the long queues are a bit of a killer.
King of Wraps – 5/10
Another passable wrap place. The components of their wraps are pretty good – I’d recommend the chicken – however they’re not mixed very well within the wrap itself. The wrap is also not very tightly wrapped, so the wrap will quickly unwrap itself if you don’t grip the wrap tightly. That being said, I was pleasantly surprised that they offered me Peri-Peri sauce for my wrap. Let me just say wrap one more time. Wrap.
Black Rice – 4/10
Not much to say about this place. If you want paella, great! If not, go elsewhere. The paella is great, don’t get me wrong, but when you only sell two items your food needs to be really good to justify your lack of menu diversity. The lack of a vegetarian option also loses them points.
Hallouman – 6/10
The vegetarian’s paradise. I’m usually pretty sceptical of gimmicky, one-trick-pony stalls, but the variety with which they use halloumi is commendable. That being said, I don’t go here often, not because it’s bad but I just think that too much cheese for lunch isn’t the best nutrition, although if you’re going to the market thinking about nutrition you’re already doing it wrong.
Shelly and Sarah’s – 1/10
They have… seats? To be honest, I oppose this stall on an ideological level – the food they offer simply can’t compete with the variety and quality of its adjacent competitors, and it feels out of place in the global spirit of the market. They get a point for accessibility, but nothing more.
Wok Hei – 8/10
Fast, varied, high quality, you can even get boba here. This place is a paragon of competence in this battleground of slow and gimmicky stalls, and I’m all here for it. They will even give you a fried egg as a topping, runny yolk and all, which makes me happy.
The Smoking Cow – 5/10
They weren’t lying when they said their burgers were gourmet: jalapenos, crispy onion, pickles and sauces complementary. Assembly was a bit off, but we’ll let it slide. However, like many of the stalls here, they’re limited by their lack of variety – no chicken burgers available, which docks them points since so many people religiously swear off beef.
Africfood – 8/10
My first time trying fried plantain, jollof rice and goat, all in the same box combined into a formative experience for me. I’m ashamed to say this was my first foray into Nigerian food but even though I’m late to the party, I’m definitely a convert. I’ll be returning here soon, hungry for more (no, I didn’t steal that from Ratatouille).
Cedric’s – 5/10
Alright, I have to admit that I have not, for the life of me, been able to tell the difference between these wrap places. They make wraps. They put meat, lettuce and some sauces in them. They encase them in some form of flat carbohydrate. This place is no different, in fact I would prefer it if they were somehow worse because at least they would be notable, but here is just so aggressively average.
Venezuelan Street Food – 4/10
I appreciate how they’re bringing the food of Venezuela to Cambridge, contributing to the international variety of the market that I find to be its biggest strength, but the flavour does slightly disappoint – black beans and rice are rather unexciting. They’re only present at the weekends, so if you happen to be in the area I would recommend trying their Arepas, but don’t expect this stall to become your new favourite.
German Sausage – 2/10
The usual process of a gimmick stall such as this: Turn up, get an ostrich burger because it’s new and exotic and you probably haven’t tried one before, taste it and realise that it’s nothing special. Go once, if at all, but if burgers are your go-to lunchtime sustenance then you won’t be hard-pressed to find a better alternative elsewhere.
Kouis Cypriot Cuisine – 6/10
I may have lied in my Cedric’s review in that all the wrap places have negligible differences. Here is, in the wrapidemic of Market Square, the winner, the victor, the superior wrap place. Not by much, might I add, however I have found myself partial to the traditional Cypriot method of wraps – yoghurt and lemon juice take the wrap as a dish from stodgy, heavy and greasy to light, refreshing and effective as a midday calorie boost that doesn’t put you into a food coma.
And that concludes our ranking. Now go enjoy the market food!
Featured Image Credits: Joshuamiranda via Pixabay. All other image credits to AFC (anonymous food critic).