I was quite looking forward to this one, a chance of some different beers, with it being the only McMullen venue in Cambridge, maybe the McMullen IPA or Country Bitter I’ve had here before. Surprisingly, as we’re walking towards the bar I see a Magic Rock Dark Arts pump clip. Oh no, silly me, it’s another beer that bears no resemblance no siree, one from Rivertown brewery called Defiant. I have a pint and it’s a decent enough bitter, much like McMullen Country Bitter (and it turns out, unsurprisingly, to be brewed at McMullen’s Hertford Brewery). Just that one real ale on then, the only other beers worth noting were Freedom Liberty Pils, Caledonian Three Hop Lager, and Camden Hells on keg.
Opened in November 2002 in what was the Arts Cinema, it’s a large venue over four open plan floors with a rooftop terrace; the main bar on the ground floor, a mezzanine area overlooking it, then a third bar leading to a function room called the ‘Intermission’ after it’s former use. When we visited, it had just proved large enough to have absorbed the extra lunchtime trade from the Half Marathon, as well as a private party setting up in the function room.
Built in 1866 as a University gymnasium, including a gallery approached from a long flight of steps and used as a fencing room, it became the Conservative Club Central Hall later that century. According to Cinema Treasures, after a fire in 1926, the interior was rebuilt as the 250 seat Cosmopolitan Cinema, “a square-shaped one-floor auditorium with mirror projection from the ceiling”, refitted as a 320 seat cinema in 1961. I remember it as the Arts Cinema, fairly run down by the 90s but the kind of venue to go if you liked your films in a foreign language with subtitles.
It stands in Market Passage, in part of the courtyard of what was one of Cambridge’s largest medieval inns, the Black Bear. Samuel Pepys and Oliver Cromwell are recorded as having stayed at the inn; the drawing below shows three bow windows looking into the inn yard, behind which was the room the Parliamentary Committee had sat during the Civil War, its furnishings described in the Cambridge Portfolio of 1840:
“At each end of the room was a hearth, with carved mantelpiece above. On the oak panelled walls were some oil paintings and a looking glass. A draw table stood in the centre of the room and against the walls were sideboards and a court cupboard. The commissioners sat at the table on turkey-work or leather chairs, with their backs to the windows, the chairman being in the middle facing the door.”
The Bear was demolished in 1848, but later Market Passage had another pub, the Criterion, popular with American GIs and “the arty-farty lot” in the sixties apparently, now the Ta Bouche café. Anyway, back to Baroosh, a nice enough bar, and an inviting roof terrace in the summer, but one not really taking advantage of the opportunity to have some different beers on.
Moody, W.R. (1900) The life of Dwight L. Moody
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