Cambridge Pubs – The Waterman (revisited)


When I first visited the Waterman in January, I appreciated the unfussy, lived-in charm of the place, and wished I hadn’t waited so long to finally go for a drink there. It was the kind of pub I hoped I’d discover as I visited every pub in Cambridge this year, a simple boozer with a good atmosphere and, especially welcome on a cold January evening, an open fire. So it was a bit of a bombshell when the barman told me it was about to close, having been taken over by City Pub Co East. I had mixed feelings about that; on the one hand, they’ve done a fine job of refurbishing/upgrading the pubs they’ve been hoovering up at an increasing rate (the Mill in 2012, the former Bun Shop/Jolly Scholar, now the Brew House, in 2013, and so far this year the former White Hart, latterly the Backstreet Bistro, now the Petersfield, along with the Waterman, and the Red Lion in Histon, not to mention opening the Old Bicycle Shop and the Punt Yard last year in premises which hadn’t previously been pubs), some of which now rank amongst the best pubs in Cambridge and have a much improved choice of beer. On the other hand, City Pub Co is acquiring these pubs to build up a portfolio which will provide an attractive return for investors; from late 2020 they will consider an exit strategy which could include a trade sale, something Clive Watson and David Bruce, part of the management team, have previous experience of, selling former venture Capital Pub Company to Greene King for £93m (“Greene King is an excellent cultural fit and will be a good home for both the business and our staff”, said Clive Watson at the time). I think it’s fair to express concern at that, without taking anything away from the pubs as they are today, and the refurbished Waterman turns out to be another good addition.


Almost six months after closing, the Waterman reopens under the new ownership tomorrow. I happened to be there last night because a friend had booked it for a birthday party, no doubt an opportunity for the business to ‘soft launch’ and stress-test the bar and kitchen. Disclosure – this being a private party, the food was free, but I will say the Padrón peppers (one of the best snacks to accompany a beer, in my humble opinion) and massive veggie burger (sweetcorn fritter style) were top nosh. The full beer range wasn’t on, but the likes of Cloudwater, Beavertown and Thornbridge for less than £6 a pint makes a mockery of nearby pub the Old Spring charging £6 for a pint of Punk IPA. The two other pubs nearby might also be bracing themselves; the Portland Arms opposite has picked an unfortunate time to give itself a refurb, closing from August 7th to the 22nd, giving the Waterman the opportunity to pull away and gain open water.


As for the refurbishment, it’s similar to the Petersfield, one of its many sister pubs, with soft furnishings, art covering all available wall space, and a high density of wood – the bar is about the size of a cross section of giant redwood, and sticks its chest out into the room such that the room feels smaller than it did prior to the refurbishment. At the rear, the outdoor paved area has been extended, and the outbuildings will eventually get used for private functions, while there’s a row of picnic benches at the front for those who prefer a view of the Mitcham’s Corner gyratory system (I’m relieved to see the logo for the defunct Star Brewery, former owners of the pub, has been preserved on the front gable). Good to see the Waterman get a new lease of life, I only hope it has the same appeal beyond 2020…


2 responses to “Cambridge Pubs – The Waterman (revisited)

  1. Pingback: AN EPIC JOURNEY TO THE NEW WATERMAN – retiredmartin

  2. Do you know any history about the Waterman? I discovered that my great-great-grandfather was the publican there 100 years ago, and I’d love to know whether any local pub history enthusiasts have any photos that go back that far…

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