I have fond memories of this place when it was the Spread Eagle. I’d not long formed an appreciation of real ale over Stella when I entered the pub for the first time, soaring across the floorboards to the long wooden bar, hovering over the line of glowing pump handles adorned with clips promising such wonders as Summer Lightning, Castle Eden and 6X. It was a sight to behold, and I can still recall how wonderful that first pint of Summer Lightning was.
Well after 160 years as the Spread Eagle, it molted and reopened in 2005 as the Snug lounge bar (their first in what’s now a chain of ten, with a second Cambridge site on East Road), though the old eagle is still perched proudly above the entrance. I’ve been here several times since, so I knew roughly what to expect. That said, I was pleasantly surprised. Although its focus is cocktails and food, the one real ale, Lacons Encore (£3.60 a pint) served in ye olde dimpled mugge, was as good a pint of it as I’ve had, while one of the lagers was Sagres, I think the first time I’ve come across it in Cambridge, so at least it’s something different (but a lager that invariably tastes better in the Portuguese sun than in English drizzle). I noted there were more women, including the female bar staff, than men in the bar, and that the age range included students, a couple of middle aged women, and a couple of older men. I think that says something about the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The outdoor seating here is also worth a mention – there’s a choice of picnic tables, some down the alley (that I think was once called Downing Archway – the arch providing some shelter from the weather) and some streetside – most Cambridge pubs have more secluded outdoor seating, few offer such good people-watching opportunities – or more accurately, car-watching, the street being part of the busy inner ring road.
The Snug bar is active on social media, but never seems to mention the beer. Perhaps they want to keep the image firmly focussed on cocktails and comfort food, but if this is a changing beer, and they just tweeted an update when there was a new one on, I’d come here much more frequently. I’d be disappointed if one day they stopped serving real ale, as they have at their East Road venue, simply because nobody knew about it. I’m not suggesting they’re aren’t getting throughput – it was in good nick – but if bars have good ale, I wish they’d shout about it!