The Old Bicycle Shop is a new freehouse “bar and kitchen” on Regent Street, Cambridge. Gearing up for the official opening on Wednesday 4th May, we visited for preview drinks and food.
There were 7 keg and 3 cask beers – we had ‘Misty River’, brewed at the company’s nearby Cambridge Brewhouse (I’ll throw in “Vélo City” as my suggestion for a house ale), Lagunitas IPA, and a simply stunning Cloudwater Bergamot Hopfen Weisse – fresh, zesty and citra-hoppy – which proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the food, but makes a visit worthwhile for beers like this alone. Although the Old Bicycle Shop is aimed more at dining, drinkers are welcome in the small front bar area (there’s a smokers’ bench outside at the front), and it’s promising that there is beer of this quality, and friendly staff that enthused about it as much as we did. Most of the space is reserved for dining, including two upstairs function rooms and an outdoor seating area (initially this was intended to be a terrace that would allow it to keep smokers within the curtilage of the site, but I assume in practice that as the small outdoor area is enclosed by 8 foot walls, any smoke would have wafted straight inside the building). We really enjoyed the food, and were especially impressed by the number of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including all three desserts, that would give us reason to return.
Purchased for £750,000 by City Pub Company East, their twelfth pub and third in the city, following the Mill and the Cambridge Brew House, over half a million was spent converting the building, never previously a pub. This represents a change in strategy by the company, following new Enterprise Investment Scheme rules last year that restrict investment to closed pubs, new pubs or pub conversions.
The building was previously occupied by Howes Cycles, a shop established further along Regent street in 1840 in a building since demolished and replaced by Downing College’s Parker’s House (now Battcock Lodge). Originally John Howes was a coach builder and wheelwright, said to have been inspired to turn his hand to making bicycles in 1869 after seeing the new invention at the Paris exhibition, creating his own ‘Granta’ model – one of the upstairs function rooms is named after it, and the walls of the bar have plenty of Howes memorabilia. The business had moved to number 104 by 1980 and finally closed in December 2013 when Michael Howe went into retirement, closing the oldest bicycle shop in England and ending it’s 173 year history on Regent Street.
Good to have another bar open in Cambridge, especially one that is another outlet for Cambridge Brewhouse’s own great range of beers (the keg Dark Wheat, Pale Ale and hoppy Pils are particularly good) as well as draught beers from the likes of Cloudwater, a fridge full of Beavertown and Moor cans, and one that has made an effort to provide good veggie/vegan food choices.