I’ve decided to visit every pub in Cambridge over the next year. I’ve lived here for over twenty years yet there are still a handful I’ve somehow never visited. But then why would I go all the way out to the Traveller’s Rest*, a Beefeater pub almost 2 miles from the city centre and a mile from its nearest pub, when I live a stone’s throw from the Elm Tree and the Free Press, a 10 minute walk from the Cambridge Blue and the Pint Shop. That’s another reason for this endeavour – I frequent a handful of pubs so there are some great pubs in Cambridge I visit far too infrequently – it’s been years since I set foot in the Earl of Beaconsfield, the Six Bells, the Alma, for no other reason than it requires effort over habit.
Before embarking on this, it seems necessary to define, for the purposes of this challenge, what is or isn’t a “pub”. The Arts Picturehouse for example has a nice enough bar serving real ale, but it’s not really a pub to my mind. Likewise, Las Iguanas has draught Brahma but that’s secondary to the food (secondary to the drink you might argue). So I’ll take the OED definition and visit those establishments whose primary function is “for the sale of beer and other drinks… to be consumed on the premises”. That means I won’t have to tick off the various restaurants and hotel bars, but does probably mean I have the indignity of suffering a pint in the Revolution bar.
UPDATE: What constitutes a pub/bar has provoked the most discussion. I’ve decided that to qualify draught beer must be available, not just bottles. In any case, I’ll attempt the 80 or so traditional pubs/bars before considering tackling the cafe’s/cocktail bars/hotel bars that have also been suggested.Which leads me to another point – what constitutes a “visit”. I think I’ll have to sit with at least a pint and stay long enough to have soaked up something of the atmosphere of a place. It’s no good nipping in for a quick half and considering that a “visit”. I might regret this when I have to “visit” the aforementioned Revolution. I’ve set an imaginary and arbitrary city boundary that includes Chesterton but not Cherry Hinton for example, and I’ll visit the pubs as I come to them – I was going to go through them alphabetically but this would mean having to go to Arbury on at least two separate occasions to tick off the Jenny Wren and the Ship, and nobody should have to visit Arbury twice in one year.
Update: There’s no getting away from it, Cambridge City boundary does include Cherry Hinton and Trumpington, so I’ve added those pubs (another 5) to the list, making it 92 pubs/bars prior to any of the expected openings.
Finally, I’ll blog about each visit, but I don’t want this to be the most labour-intensive part of it, so I’ll simply try and capture a snapshot of each place – what beers are on, the ambience of the place and any distinguishing features (accompanied by single photos of the exterior and interior), who else is in there and snippets of conversation, that kind of thing – a bit like the observations in A Pub and It’s People. I’ll avoid any generalisations such as “serves two changing guest beers” – WhatPub has that covered – and I’ll try and reserve judgement – Tripadvisor is there for that.
Since deciding all this, I was catching up on Boak and Bailey’s Beer Blog and noticed they’ve already done this with their local town of Penzance. I think that’s no mean feat considering some of the 20 or so pubs there clearly aren’t the most inviting of places. Cambridge has about 90 or so pubs and bars at the time of writing, although I expect some will close and other’s will certainly open over the coming year (the Petersfield, the Station Tavern and Sacré Bleu are already pencilled in for openings in 2017).
So here we go, roll on 2017… well, no point in sitting around waiting for it to arrive, so I’ve made a start a few days ahead of schedule. I’lll add the list of pubs to this post shortly…
* For a brief period in the 90s I worked opposite the Traveller’s Rest at the National Institute for Agricultural Biology on Huntingdon Road, but NIAB at that time was one of those rare workplaces that had it’s own clubhouse and bar, where the old boys would spend long lunches sinking a few rounds of Guinness. Although I was only afforded this privilege on a few occasions, still I never found a reason to nip across the road to the Traveller’s Rest.
List of Cambridge Pubs:
All Bar One
Baron of Beef
Calverley’s Brewery Tap
Cambridge Brew House
Champion of the Thames
Duke of Cambridge
Earl of Beaconsfield
Earl of Derby
Fort St George
Grain and Hop Store
Green Man (Trumpington)
Hudson’s Ale House (Trumpington)
King Street Run
Live & Let Live
Lord Byron Inn (Trumpington)
Old Bicycle Shop
Red Lion (Cherry Hinton)
Robin Hood (Cherry Hinton)
Sir Isaac Newton
Snug (Lensfield Road)
Snug (East Road)
Waterman Currently closed but due to reopen later this year
Expected openings 2017:
Petersfield (opened February 23rd)
Station Tavern (opened March 10th)
Places that serve beer but it’s borderline whether they are really pubs/bars in the traditional sense:
Arts Picturehouse – I’ve decided this should be included, after all it’s a bar that serves draught beer
196 – never visited, I’m told it’s more a cocktail bar but will give it a look
Cambridge Wine Merchants – I’ve included Thirsty but not CWM because there’s no draught beer
Hot Numbers – bottled beer only, albeit a good selection, but primarily a cafe, so reluctantly this won’t make the list
Chop House (St Johns and Kings Parade) and Millworks – apparently they welcome drinkers, although we’ve been refused drinks at Kings Parade when they were busy serving food which suggests it’s primarily a restaurant rather than a bar
Rathmore Club – private members club so not going on the list
WT’s – forget it