Cambridge Pubs – d’Arry’s

D’Arry’s is a bar in a former pub in a former brewery. in 1866 George Scales founded the Cambridge Brewery on the site. It later became the site of the Town Arms/City Arms/Cambridge Ale Stores and eventually the Cambridge Arms pub, a two-bar pub with the multi-level ‘Scales’ bar (complete with small dance floor) at the back and a public bar at the front with etched windows, still retaining much of the former brewery buildings and memorabilia. That was until the late 1990s when Greene King unforgivably stripped the heritage out and literally threw it away when they turned it into the failed ‘Rattle and Hum’ music theme pub. In 2002 they gutted the building again, and when they were satisfied there was no visible trace left of its former life as a brewery or traditional pub, they reopened it as a pub named… the Brewery. Eventually in 2005 it opened under new ownership as d’Arry’s “cookhouse and wine shop”, and in May last year, after another refit and refurb, restyled itself as a “liquor loft and restaurant”.

d'Arry's
Bits of plastic crates attached to the bar. Probably not original features.

They’re not to blame for the vandalism under previous owners Greene King, and they’ve done a great job of extending into the old brewery buildings (now the “loft”) and uncovering some of the original features and equipment, adding a nice outdoor terrace area.

Darrys
Although George Scales died in 1904, brewing actually continued until 1925

There were two beers on, Purity Lawless pilsner and Longhorn IPA, and both tasted good. There’s no real ale but there are some bottles and cans, although I didn’t take note of what they were. I’ve not eaten here, and each time I’ve visited have always come up to the loft or the outdoor terrace (a good place for cocktails in the summer, I don’t mind admitting), rather than the main ground floor bar – although as we were leaving I noticed they had a wood stove with a good fire going. If it had a few more draught beers I’d visit more often, but food, wine and spirits are more their focus I suppose.

I regularly drank here in the 90s when it was the Cambridge Arms, its courtyard packed in the evenings at weekends, but I hardly set foot in it for years after it was trashed, and even when it first became d’Arry’s (or is it dArrys or dArry’s or Darrys or Darry’s – they use each spelling on their website, and I’ve heard people prounounce it as both da-reez and dee-areez!) the “cookhouse and wine shop” strapline put me off, so I’m glad it’s become a welcoming place I can enjoy visiting again. Although I still miss the old Cambridge Arms.

D'Arry's

Cambridge Pubs – Mitre

JaipurThe Mitre on Bridge Street is the only Nicholson’s pub in Cambridge, right next door to another pub, the Baron of Beef, separated by Blackamoor’s Yard – the Blackamoor’s Head used to stand here. The large windows at the front overlook St John’s College and the busy bus vs. bicycle lane that is Bridge Street. And it was through those large windows that the blazing beacon of a Jaipur pump clip shone as we were walking past – and one shouldn’t walk past that kind of opportunity, what with this being the time of caskgate, where the world of beer is divided into those who have given up brewing it, those who have given up drinking it, those that have given up listening, and those of us who are thirsty and would like a pint please and Jaipur will do very nicely thanks.

Anyway, we took our drinks to a seat by the windows, of course, and then played the “Generation Game” of trying to recall each of the beers we’d seen on at the bar – Adnams Mosiac, Dry Hopped Lager, Southwold Bitter, Sierra Nevada Pale, Rooster’s Little Bird, fondue set, Camden Hells, Carling, Jaipur, Bombardier, dinner service, Wainwright, Nicholson’s Pale, Greene King Mighty Moose, wine decanter and glasses, cuddly toy…

Mitre

I can’t remember much about the piped music apart from Lorde’s Buzzcut Season, which speaks volumes (sorry) about this being a pub to go for a drink without distractions, and the only conversation I can recall was from a chap who kept mispronouncing Lorde as “Lordy” and insisted her cover of the Replacements “Swingin Party” was “better than anything on her album”. Wait, that was me. Anyway…

MitreThe Mitre will be closing temporarily from mid-February to early March for a refurbishment, but one that seems like it will be more of a sympathetic spruce up than a ruthless refit – a lick of paint, new signboards, drinking shelves down the side in Blackamoors yard (to compete with the Baron of Beef’s enviable outdoor smoking area no doubt), a bit of work to the bar area, refurbished floorboards and a new carpet – so for posterity I captured a square of the present one.

If I overuse the word friendly when describing pubs, well this one is too (and don’t worry, a forthcoming post will avoid the word), and the landlord is a nice chap that smiles a lot, which of course won’t do anything for his prospects of one day featuring in the letters page of the Times – you have to be utterly barmy or outrageously rude for that. So, having drank the 5.9% ABV Jaipur as fast as if it was a session beer, as is my wont with the first beer of the evening, we left and I carelessly stood in the road photographing the pub trying to ignore the united shouts of cyclists and peeping of horns until I realised I was the cause of the queue of traffic. Hopefully someone in the pub saw it all, because that’s the kind of thing you hope to see when you choose to sit next to the window in a pub.

Mitre

Cambridge Pubs – Hopbine

The Hopbine on Fair Street has been here since at least the 1830s and was previously known as the Hopbine and Barley Ear (an early sign for the pub, painted by Richard Hopkins Leach c.1843, is on display in the Museum of Cambridge). It stands opposite Willow Walk, down which the Willow Tree pub once stood, and alongside Salmon Lane, once home of the Salmon pub – perhaps the colour of the paintwork on the Hopbine is in memory of it, seasoned with a good handful of paprika. The Hopbine closed for a few months in 2011 when it was sold by Admiral Taverns, reopening as a freehouse in the hands of the landlords of the Portland Arms, who’ve since taken on a third pub, the Alex.

Hopbine

In the five and a half years since, not much has really changed – even the paintwork is still as vivid – apart from the beer selection which seems to keep getting better. The pint of Grain Brewery Weizen on keg was superb, the Bishop Nick ‘Ridley’s Rite’ pretty good, and although the Stod Fold Equinox on cask was a bit rough round the edges, not many Cambridge pubs have 6% ABV saisons on a Monday. This is surely the only pub in Cambridge that serves Löwenbräu on draught, which as always tasted fine to me, so presumably it gets some throughput. Also on, Crafty Beers Carpenter’s Cask and Mild Mannered.

This visit was on a Monday, when the food menu has two for one on burgers – so we had 2 x veggie burger & chips for £8 – even Wetherspoon can’t match that.

The Hopbine generally has the best piped music of any Cambridge pub. There’s no longer a jukebox, but the mix tapes one of the bar staff puts together are always top notch – in his absence tonight we nevertheless enjoyed lesser-played Bob Marley (by which I mean nothing from ‘Legend’ in over an hour of listening).

Quite wonderfully, each year in a front garden a few doors down from the pub, hop bines still grow, perhaps remnants of the brewing industry that once existed in this area.

Hopbines

Hop bines going from a shrub in the foreground – the Hopbine pub in the background
(May 2015)

Cambridge Pubs – Jenny Wren

The Jenny Wren is no more. It has ceased to be. It’s expired and gone to meet its maker… this is an ex-wren. And so on.

Well, as of Sunday 15th January, anyway. This estate pub in the North of Cambridge will be the latest to close. Its days have been numbered for a while, the freehold was up for £360,000 and it was sold last year with “possible change of use STPP” – Greene King have now confirmed it will close this week. When I visited I was told it had been bought by a developer and rumour has it that it’ll be demolished to make way for flats. I have yet to see planning permission applied for, but it seems plausible, and I doubt there is much that could save it now. With its patio garden and car park it provides a large surface area for redevelopment.

Jenny Wren

It opened in 1965, so only lasted just over 50 years. Located on St Kilda Avenue in a North Arbury estate, its name is a reference to the sub-species of wren found on the Scottish Island of St Kilda – sadly the pub sign depicting this bird was replaced a few years ago with one showing the pub’s name in text only, as is the trend with Greene King. The former two-bar layout was opened out into one single L-shaped room in the late 90s. Skittles, bar billiards, darts and pool were all played here, but more recently it was turned into a “Meet and Eat” “Pub and Grill”. In 2007 the handpumps were removed, prompting the local CAMRA branch to note it was probably the first keg-only Greene King bar in the area. The pumps obviously returned, although there were no real ales on when I visited, certainly none of the XX Mild it once served, and the pumps didn’t look like they’d seen much use recently. I surveyed the various lagers before deciding on another Guinness Extra Cold. As I was waiting for the pour, I noticed with a wry smile that the piped music was playing “The Final Countdown” – I pointed this out to the girl serving me who replied “it is… it’s the end of an era for this place”.

It was busy at 3:30pm, with a wide age range including some families. Lots of people were greeting each other as they entered and saying goodbye as they left – it really is a community pub and I wonder where the focal point of this community will be when it closes. I got chatting to a nice old chap at the bar who was only too happy to talk about past and present Cambridge Pubs. He ranked the present pubs on how good the smoking areas are – apparently he frequented the Baron of Beef (nice covered smoking area at the rear), the Portland (ditto), but although he liked the Regal, the wind was liable to gather speed as it travelled along Downing Place at the rear, resulting in an unwelcome buffeting in the smoking area! “Where will you go when this closes?” I asked, “the Ship?” “No! Beer’s to expensive there”. “The Golden Hind?”, “I already go there regularly – good covered smoking area you see.”

Jenny Wren

Cambridge Pubs – Brook

The Brook is situated on Brookfield at the end of Mill Road. I’ll pessimistically suggest that the Brook as a pub is also reaching the end of the road. The couple who are currently running the place have announced they are leaving, and there is already a notice on the door advising that they’re no longer taking card payments, cash only. I’ve no idea if anybody is lined up to take over, or would consider this a viable pub, nevertheless Greene King are advertising the lease. With a large car park and beer garden, I imagine the potential for redevelopment would be more appealing to the pubco than keeping cash trickling through the Brook. As I say, just my opinion, but I’d place this pub high on the “at risk” list.

Brook

Why? I just don’t see how this pub could attract the custom necessary to make it a viable business. This is not a comment on the current, departing landlords – the pub itself is not in a bad state or anything – but this area of Cambridge, the wrong side of the tracks (that is, over the railway and heading out of town to the suburbs), has seen many of its pubs close in recent times. The Grasshopper, almost opposite the Brook, closed in 1999, the Duke of Argyle and the Jubilee in 2009, all demolished and replaced by housing, and the Romsey Labour Club in 2014.

Anyone that knows this part of Cambridge would find this description from Greene King fanciful, misleading even:

The Brook is a prime site in an area which is densely populated by a wide variety of local residents and students, with Cambridge centre nearby it represents a fabulous opportunity… there is a major opportunity to expand the food side of the business and attract a wider customer base. The Brook enjoys both regular and passing trade with the benefit of only being 1.5 miles from Cambridge city centre.

“Prime site… with Cambridge centre nearby”? It’s stuck out by the ring road in suburbia. “Regular passing trade”? Granted, a lot of traffic passes it, but how much of that is really potential trade? And most brazen of all, a “major opportunity to expand the food side” – the 40 food covers face stiff competition from the nearby Royal Standard and the Queen Edith, both recently reopened and owned by experienced operators, and even the Med just around the corner (also on my “at risk” list).

Surely even the most optimistic prospective landlord couldn’t see gold in these figures:

Brook

When we walked in the pub I noted that the 3 other drinkers in there were all drinking lager so I gave the one real ale (GK IPA) a wide berth and had a pint of Guinness Extra Cold. It happened to be the best Guinness I’ve had in a long time, but then it has been a long time since I had one. We sat on a comfy seat in a carpeted area of the pub that looked like it was probably the area for dining. I was surprised when the piped music played a track from 1985 that I bought on 7″ vinyl when it came out – “Alice, I Want You Just For Me” by Full Force (an American R&B group who somehow ended up providing vocals on a 1988 Bob Dylan song). You don’t hear it played out much anymore (I’ve still got the vinyl).

Brook

I popped out to the covered patio area and large beer garden, but it was hardly seen at it’s best on a cold, dreary day in January. We stayed for a pint and then caught a bus back to the “nearby” city centre – the bus stop is conveniently located right outside the pub. Over twenty years living here and this was the first time I’ve visited this pub. I doubt it will be here in another 20 years, but if it is I doubt I’ll have paid it another visit – unless someone comes good on that “major opportunity to expand the food side”.

Brook

Just as I was finishing this post, news came in of another pub closure in Cambridge. The Jenny Wren, another Greene King pub, and the one that’s been at the top of my at-risk list ever since it was put up for sale with “possible Change of Use STPP”, will close permanently on Sunday 15th January. So that’s where I’ll be drinking this evening then…

Cambridge Pubs – Portland Arms

For years I only really thought of the Portland Arms as a music venue. I’d grab a pint and head straight to the music room at the back without really paying attention to the bar areas on the way. Then on one occasion I arrived at the pub early with some time to kill before the band came on, and only then sat long enough to soak up the atmosphere and have a good look round. There are wooden seating bays along the front from where you can admire the original 1930s wood panelled walls and bar counter, and the stone fireplace. The saloon bar and seperate public bar are worthy enough to be regarded as an historic pub interior of some regional importance (some?).

Portland Arms

The building itself dates from the 1930s, replacing the Scales Hotel, and was designed by the architect Basil Oliver, whose other works in Cambridgeshire include the former Rose and Crown on the corner of Newmarket Road and East Road (still standing but no longer a pub), and the Red Lion in Grantchester. It’s only a few years ago that Greene King were set to allow developers to knock the Portland Arms down to accommodate the redevelopment of the area into flats, generously offering a replacement pub which would fit nicely into the new block of flats and provide “a much higher level of modern facilities“. Ungrateful campaigners influenced the rejection the plans, denying the rest of us the pleasure of drinking in a block of flats with all those “modern facilities” we could have been enjoying, whatever they are (no doubt the same campaigning killjoys who have so far succeeded in preventing developers from bulldozing the Flying Pig and giving us the office block we’d prefer to be not drinking in – luckily the developers caught them off guard by demolishing the neighbouring Osborne Arms before cleverly claiming they were ‘unaware of the need for conservation area consent’).

Anyway, back to the Portland… as well as the music venue at the rear, there’s a nice courtyard with some covered seating, or as the pub’s website describes it, a “courtyard garden with a Tiki theme, it features an African hut” – now geography isn’t my strong point, but Tiki… African..?

Portland Arms

OTB:
Worth mentioning that Greene King XX Mild wasn’t on and is no longer permanent here (apparently it still appears regularly on rotation) – the Free Press is the only Cambridge pub that always has it, so far as I know. There were a few GK beers including Uncle Sam and Belhaven Smoke Stack Stout, but I ended up having Leffe Blond.

Cambridge Pubs – All Bar One

I should have saved this as the penultimate (all bar one? No? Okay) bar in my attempt to visit every pub/bar in Cambridge this year, but having walked into a nearby bar and walked straight back out owing to the overwhelming stink of toilets, and being a bit peckish, thought this would do for a quick drink and a snack. Coincidentally, this happens to be a bar I’ve only ever walked in and straight back out of before, never previously staying for a drink, just curious to see what the beer selection was and if it had changed. It’s not exactly an exciting selection, but so far as I know it’s the only place in Cambridge that has Sierra Nevada Pale Ale permanently on.

All Bar One

This is not, nor does it attempt to be, a craft beer bar, despite some exposed brickwork and the obligatory bare filament light bulbs. It’s a regular bar, ambient volume of music and chatter easily tolerable, notably comfy leather seats including a few padded stools at the bar, mirrors and full length windows giving a light and airy feel, keg only beers tasting okay, well apart from the Mosaic which tasted overly-floral, as if it had been filtered through a Randall of lilies, and a standard bar menu of burgers and snacks – the Patatas Bravas a good accompaniment to the Camden Hells especially. All in all, a respectable and intentionally “female-friendly” place (one of All Bar One’s remits – and when I mentioned to a friend that I’d been here, he remarked “Oh I used to go there when I was internet dating – ideal place, well you don’t invite your first date to a dingy pub”), pretty much the “stylish city bar” they intend it to be, and pleasant enough, though probably not one whose beer selection alone would tempt me back unless it changed often – I’m more likely to stop at the ‘Spoons next door or walk another 500 metres to the Pint Shop for example – or with a menu that could compete with my affection for the Wagamama above.

All Bar One

OTB:
Adnams Mosaic, Camden Hells, Sierra Nevada Pale, Amstel, Birra Moretti, Peroni, Guinness