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.
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:
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).
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”.
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…