I’ve been in this pub perhaps only a couple of times ever, and not once in the past twenty years. Back then it had a nice front room separated from the rest of the pub by a wood panelled partition, and one of the longest bars in Cambridge. Yet even as I’m walking towards it I wonder if after this visit I’m likely to return at any time in the next twenty years. I mean, it’s next door to the Mitre, just around the corner from the Maypole and the Punt Yard, and along the street from the Pickerel – all pubs I’d choose over the Baron. Still, I’m hoping to be surprised by some pubs over the next year of visiting every pub in Cambridge, so maybe this will be one.
It’s a good start when entering the pub the smiling barman wishes us a “Happy New Year” and asks “what can I get you?” – for me it’s an Abbot’s Reserve. We hear him greet other customers in this friendly manner, offering tasters before being asked and so forth. Three TV screens show Spurs thumping Watford 4-1. Successive refurbishments have opened it out into one long room with a shortened bar, the walls advertising various promotions, wooden floorboards leading to a quarry tiled floor at the rear which seems to say “yes, you’ve almost reached the toilets”. There’s a yard out the back with a covered shelter that looks a pleasant enough place to sit, were it not for the drizzle and cold wind. The new Victorian style awning at the front is a nice addition.
Looking around there’s nothing wrong with this place – it’s clean (well, apart from the too-sticky-to-lean-on table), it’s inoffensive and… well, that’s about it really. I’m not sure what its USP is, if it even needs one. The promotions advertised everywhere suggest it’s geared towards getting cheaply loaded before moving on to a nightclub, which might well have been my reason for visiting back in the early 90s. Apparently £5 will get you 2 bombs, 3 shots or 5 “sourz”, whatever they are (I genuinely don’t know, but I’m guessing it’s not lambics). Only after a while do I notice the attempt at a craft wall – a small familiarly white-tiled bit behind the bar with Punk IPA (£4.80 a pint), GK East Coast IPA and Blue Moon – the only other craft credentials are a few bare filament lightbulbs. When the friendly barman leaves, a group of young staff emerge and gather at the bar, almost as many of them as there are customers – I count 7 staff and 10 customers including us at that point. Most of the customers look of similar student age to the staff, with a couple of over-sixties sitting by themselves.
A middle-aged woman enters and walks over to the bar.
“Can I help?” asks one of the young girls.
“I’d like to know if I can bring my dog in?”
“You’re only allowed to have them in the garden, but there is heaters”
“Oh, he’ll freeze out there, we’ll leave it, but thank you kindly”
She doesn’t seem at all put out, but nevertheless away walks owner and dog. Not long after, we finish our drinks and leave too. I don’t suppose any of us will be back anytime soon. For no other reason than there is no good reason.
Greene King Abbot Reserve, IPA and Baron of Beef (one of those “Landlord’s Choice” GK beers), Black Sheep Shearer, Harviestoun Bitter and Twisted.
Brewdog Punk IPA, GK East Coast IPA, Blue Moon, Carlsberg, San Miguel, Guinness Extra Cold.