Cambridge Pubs – Duke of Cambridge

Located on East Road and named after Prince William who was granted the title in 2011 after it had been extinct for over a hundred years following the death of Prince George in 1904. The pub dates back to at least 1850 when it was the Bakers Arms, one of more than ten pubs on East Road – the only other survivor is the Snug (originally the Waggon and Horses).

Bakers East Road CambridgeOnce a two bar pub, with a public bar and a small saloon bar with a bar-billiards table, successive refurbs have opened it out to one large extended room on two levels, leading to an outdoor courtyard at the rear. The exterior has suffered unnecessary vandalism to accommodate full length windows, alter the entrance, and ‘contemporise’ its appearance.

Noble Art
Noble Art © Prisoner 5413, under Creative Commons Licence

It lost its arms when it changed to the Bakers Yard in 1998 and then closed for a complete refit and rebranding in 2006, reopening in mid-2007 as the Noble Art, a boxing-themed “bar and kitchen” with a stark exterior and a “large covered, heated & carpeted smoking area, with speakers throughout”. Yes, a carpeted outdoor smoking area. There was no real ale but you could find keg Old Speckled Hen amongst the lagers. The interior had boxing pictures and memorabilia, and opposite corners of the pub were painted as the red and blue corners of a boxing ring. This bizarre venture was perhaps the most short-lived Cambridge pub, counted out just months later, reopening in December the same year as the yard-less ‘Bakers’. After yet another refurb in 2014, one of Greene King’s “sparkle” refurbs, it assumed its present name (it was going to be named the Prince George “with an association to the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge”). There’s nothing left of the traditional interior – even the bar has been moved from one side of the pub to the other. Despite living in the immediate area for much of the past twenty years, this is easily the pub I’ve visited least in the ‘Kite’ during that time, and I wasn’t exactly enthusiastic about visiting again. Still, needs must.

Duke of Cambridge

Last year the windows displayed a large sign shouting “we’ve gone craft crazy!”. This wild enthusiasm obviously diminished quickly because the signs have gone and the line up now is three cask ales from Greene King (a few days from February and Rudolph is still rocking) and the usual suspects on keg – Stella, Carlsberg, Fosters, Budweiser, Guinness Extra Cold – the only trace of the abandoned craft craze is keg GK East Coast IPA and some bottles of Punk IPA and Sierra Nevada Pale in the fridge. Once again I played it safe with a Guinness – this is becoming a default choice in pubs like this. It’s flagged as ‘family friendly’ in Whatpub, but then so is the Ship in Arbury. I’m not suggesting it isn’t, but I have no idea what makes this any more family friendly than any other pub (perhaps the bouncers who stand outside on matchdays know). I also have no idea why I’d ever come here again. The beer range is too dull, the piped R&B too loud, the lighting too bright – I can’t find anything characterful about the place at all, and as for the exterior, only the former Fountain has been more disfigured.

But, Duke – it’s not you, it’s me. You’ve lasted over a century and a half without my custom and I hope you last another century and more without it. I hope over that time you get more makeovers as ridiculous as the Noble Art, try to jump on the next beery bandwagon, miss it, then pretend you meant to. You may not be my ‘Moon Under Water‘, but you might be someone’s.

Duke of Cambridge

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17 responses to “Cambridge Pubs – Duke of Cambridge

  1. Brilliant stuff, I feel your pain (from the comfort of a Sam Smiths pub near Wetherby, but still). Craft craze really dying fast in GK pubs, isn’t it ?

    And I can’t believe they’re still producing Rudolph ! (or is the barrel a month old). In fairness I had a 13 Guns on cask a year ago and it was OK. And that’s as far as I go.

    • A Sam Smiths in Wetherby sounds infinitely more enjoyable.

      The GK pub with consistently the best and most frequently changing beer line up seems to be Hudson’s Ale House – I really must visit again soon

      • Hudson’s had a wide range when I went in first week, but cask quality not great (Three Blind Mice wouldn’t have been happy at the impression their beer made anyway). Uncomfortable seating as well. Apart from that….

  2. I remember it being pretty ghastly when the Bakers Arms in the late 70s.
    Perhaps this one would be best put out of its misery?

    • I know where you’re coming from, but I read through the Tripadvisor reviews and some people seems to love the place. “One man’s muck…” and all that!

  3. The world needs pubs like the Bakers, solidly aimed at the working class families looking for a cheap lunch and the occasional group of students looking for cheap shots. Long may they thrive.

    Not really my type of place, but if you tire of dragging round the Grafton centre on a Saturday lunchtime, the food is more than passable and you can always get a seat.

    The death of the craft “craze” in GK pubs just shows that if you don’t understand something, you’ll get it horribly wrong, embarrass yourself and probably get your fingers burnt. GK don’t understand craft.

    • “GK don’t understand craft”

      Odd isn’t it? I’ve spoken a few times to brewers at GK who have genuine passion for brewing and a desire to innovate. It’s disappointing how the company seems to have failed to harness that and now looks like its turning it’s back on it.

    • That’s spot on py. I guess the Isaac Newton and the Grapes serve similar purpose; goodness knows what the equivalent in Romsey and Kings Hedges are now.

      • Arguably the Brook attempts to do this, but fails.

        Kings Hedges is well served with the Milton Arms and the Golden Hind both a short walk away, and serving cheap food. Cherry Hinton has the Robin Hood and the other one.

      • But the Brook is too far away from the shops to really work in this role and the Romsey pub in the actual shopping area, the Beaky, isn’t aiming at that market at all.

      • Fair comment. I was thinking more of the northern half of KH (above Campkin Road) who probably wouldn’t see Milton Road as local, buy you’re right they do the job. Prices in Golden Hind seemed much higher after the refurb last year though.

  4. I thought they did a decent enough job with the grain and hop store originally and it is still a good place for a few beers, but its offer has slipped a bit recently.

    Many places do a good craft cask range, very few places do good craft keg – I think its just too bloody expensive. If they priced it a bit more keenly and advertised that fact, I think they might be pleasantly surprised at how well it sold.

    GK attempts at craft beer always confuse me – has anyone actually tasted this, actually tasted a genuine US style pale ale? Was there a mix-up at the bottling line and this is really just old speckled hen?

  5. I was in the Royal Oak, Ellerdine Heath yesterday, a rural pub in North Shropshire. One of the five cask options was GK Mighty Moose, a 5.5% IPA. Not sure who is supplying it as no other GK products on, but how come it’s in a free house near Market Drayton but not in GK’s own estate?

    • Perhaps we won’t get any around here until the oversupply of Rocking Rudolph has all gone.

      I see they describe Mighty Moose as “Dry hopped twice for a bold and hoppy golden ale with grapefruit citrus, a hint of tropical fruits and herbal, pine resin”, which is GK speak for “tastes like Tolly English Ale”

      • I’m sure I’ve had Mighty Moose in the Prince Regent recently (it’s a convenient post cinema haunt) and was very favourably impressed.

    • Well that’s encouraging – I’ve heard mixed reviews about the Regent recently but haven’t been there myself for a while

  6. The Tiddly is nowhere near Market Drayton, its about halfway between Wellington and Wem.

    Did you try the Rowton Bitter?

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