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…

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4 responses to “Cambridge Pubs – Brook

  1. I’m inclined to disagree. This area of Romsey and Coleridge is an increasingly popular area for students and yuppies, with house prices on the up and up, and this end of Mill Road is under served with pubs. The Empress and the Earl continue to thrive and the Royal Standard has taken off.

    The problem with the brook is simply that it is a fucking shite pub. Its a bit rough, the beer is crap, and it has very few other redeeming features, its not even a good place to watch sport. Many pub goers walk right past it as they pub crawl into town down Mill Road, but skip it entirely.

    A well- thought out revamp could see it turned around in no time. It doesn’t need to even be a “real ale paradise”, Mill Road has enough of them. Just a half decent Green King estate pub like the Rock or the White Swan (two different models) with some decent beers on would have a good chance of success.

    Calling the Queen Edith “nearby” is a bit of a stretch. Its over a mile away. The Rock is closer. In fact there isn’t a pub within a mile of the Brook to the North, South or East, however there are thousands of houses for which this is their local pub.

    • “It’s a bit rough”? It’s a proper old fashioned boozer you prat, what do you expect! ffs, you’ll find that providing new people that venture in and know pub etiquette and not behave like complete knobs, will soon be involved in a world of banter and bonhomie, a friendlier pub you couldn’t find in this city.

      • If its so friendly, how come no-one drinks there?

        I’ve been in 3, maybe 4 times. Every time its been completely dead except for a few old blokes at the bar eyeballing us. A few sips of beer and you understand why its so dead.

        Its not really a rough pub – I’ve been in plenty of those over the years – its just a bit shit. Why would anyone go to the Brook when there are 20 better pubs just down the road?

        I’m a big fan of “proper old-fashioned boozers”. This is no such thing.

  2. Yes, I suppose the Queen Edith is only “nearby” in the way the Brook is “nearby” the centre of Cambridge. The Rock, beloved of Greene King Chief Exec Rooney Anand, is another I haven’t visited in years. I’m obviously less optimistic about the future of the Brook, even if revamped, but I hope you’re right – it’s a nice building from the outside, and it would leave a large catchment are short of pubs.

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