The most recent bar to open in Cambridge, at the enviable location of the Quayside, an area packed with punters (“customers” and people who “propel or travel in a punt”) during the summer, and which hasn’t had a bar since Henry’s closed over five years ago. So it’s probably not at its best on a drizzly grey day in January, or has been since it opened in November last year.
We’re asked as we enter if we’re eating or there just for drinks, as often happens at the Brew House on King Street – unsurprisingly both are owned by City Pub Co, along with the Old Bicycle Shop and the Mill, the most traditional pub of the lot. I expect their next venture, the soon-to-open Petersfield, will be more food oriented, but so long as drinkers are welcome, it fits the bill. At the Punt Yard the main bar has the best views anyway, looking towards the river and Magdalane College on the far bank, while the dining area is at the rear. The outdoor seating looks optimistic now but will be at a premium at the first sign of sun. The Punt Yard is waiting for its ship to come in.
Notably for a modern bar there are no bare filament light bulbs, no exposed brickwork, and only a bit of distressed wood making up the bar. The whole place looks smart without being swanky – how I imagine some craft beer bars might come to look when they’ve plastered over the brickwork, concealed the pipes and added light shades as the fad fades. It also has more canned beer packed into its fridges than I think I’ve seen in any other Cambridge bar – about twenty varieties, mostly between £4.75 – £5.50 each, but up to £7 for a Northern Monk Patrons Coffee Porter. I’m a bit surprised there aren’t more keg beers – only Brew House Pale and Fourpure Oatmeal Stout alongside Amstel and Heineken – but then it’s yet to hit its busy season. Anyway, the oatmeal stout is very good.
There’s only one other table of drinkers in the bar, made up of two couples, and one of them goes over to the board games, returning to the table with Monopoly. There was an expectant moment when I thought they might be going for Twister.
Cambridge Brewhouse Pale, Fourpure Oatmeal Stout, Amstel, Heineken.