Cambridge Pubs – Smokeworks

£3* for an excellent** pint of Brewsters Hophead, one of two real ales, must be just about the best value for a pint I’ve had in Cambridge this year. Two well-kept, reasonably priced real ales? It’ll never catch on. But if the most recently opened bar in Cambridge can do it…


Formerly the Great Northern Hotel, named after the railway company that started operating between Cambridge and King’s Cross in 1866. In the 1970s it was a live jazz pub and one of the only live music venues in the city for a period, until it too lost its license in 1982, owing to complaints about noise levels when rock bands started playing there. I only knew it from the early 90s when it was City Limits, one of several identities and name changes in recent years, including Chambers, Bar Moosh, and Sauce, before reverting back to the Great Northern. When that closed, I doubted I’d be drinking there again.

Great Northern

Great Northern prior to reopening as Smokeworks

Now it’s home to the most recent venture from Cambs Cuisine, the second ‘Smokeworks’, which opened in June this year. Unlike their other sites in the city, which have been known to turn away drinkers when the restaurants are full, this one has a separate bar, and the service was friendly and welcoming. The interior design is ‘steampunk’ inspired, meaning craft credentials are high; filament lightbulbs, exposed pipes, the bar covered in burnished aluminium panels held together by round head rivets, steam train wheels on the wall.


This wheel’s on fire

Depending on your point of view, Cambridge is either lucky or unlucky that BrewDog seems to be chasing its tail when it comes to hunting a suitable bar here, as the site ticked just about every box of BrewDog’s requirements; 2,000 – 4,000 square feet in size (it’s 2,371), ground floor location, prominent frontages with lots of windows, corner site. Regardless, I doubt they’d be serving £3 pints of real ale.

* During “happy hour” (3-7pm Mon-Fri, 12-7pm weekends), otherwise £3.80
** NBSS 4


Cambridge CAMRA
Mike Petty – Looking Back

3 responses to “Cambridge Pubs – Smokeworks

  1. Not much point having excellent pints of real ale for £3 near the station if they’ve only got a choice of two, is it ? I’d rather go to the pub where there’s a choice of ten at £4.50 each. They’re not great, but at least there’s a good choice.

    • Absolutely. I was selfishly and short-sightedly enjoying the beer until I realised by doing so I could be denying others a fair choice, and as cask ale is Britain’s National Drink, I would be guilty of treason!

  2. Its still a restaurant. I’m not sure many people are going to go there for a few pints when there are actual pubs just round the corner.

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