The other day we were counting how many Cambridge pubs have beer gardens with real grass, and could only come up with a handful of them*. There’s one we forgot, and it’s hidden away behind the Round Church, down an alley off Bridge Street, right in the historic centre – the beer garden to Cambridge Union’s 1815 Bar. This was a private members’ bar until 2015 when it was granted permission to open to the public, so it’s no wonder we’d overlooked it.
The bar is named after the founding year of the Cambridge Union, although the Victorian Gothic building it occupies wasn’t opened until 1866, and the bar is in an additional wing added two decades later in 1886. It’s a large room with wooden floors, a high ceiling with chandeliers and fairy lights, full length windows, and furnished with leather chairs and Chesterfield sofas. The walls are lined with signed photographs of famous guests; while many pubs claim tenuous links to highwaymen and embattled kings, the Union Bar has probably served some of the most famous names of the past century, no doubt witnessing late night debauchery from the likes of Stephen Hawking, ‘top’ Buzz Aldrin, and the Dalai Lama. Well, Stephen Fry at least.
It probably also has one of the cheapest pints of real ale in Cambridge, not counting the Wetherspoon’s and various Greene King IPA and Doom Bar promotions, with Marston’s 61 Deep Pale Ale at £2.50 a pint. We also had the Pilsner Urquell at a less reasonable £8.50 for a pint and a half (£3 for the half!).
There’s a surprisingly decent range of cans and bottles too.
It has the kind of opening hours that would keep retiredmartin suitably entertained, sometimes closing “in periods of low demand and private functions/parties, specifically during exam term”, while it “may close at 2am rather than 1am Thursday-Saturday in periods of high demand”, making it one of the classier late night drinking venues. It’s the rare ‘real-grass’ beer garden that’s the main draw for us though, well worth a visit during this equally rare prolonged spell of weather good enough to enjoy it.
* Forthcoming post will round up Cambridge’s real-grass beer gardens