Cambridge Bars

When I set out to visit every pub in Cambridge, I first had to define a ‘pub’, and settled on a definition which included bars – basically, anywhere that served draught beer to non-diners and non-members and was primarily there for refreshment. This seemed a reasonable definition; if Cambridge had a Brewdog bar for example, it would seem daft not to include it on the grounds it wasn’t a ‘pub’, or not to visit The Old Bicycle Shop because it was a new venue and didn’t have low beamed ceilings on which Dick Turpin carved his signature, so the definition seemed to work. This criteria also ruled out restaurants and hotel bars and WT’s (thank god). However, it did unfortunately include places like the ‘Green Room’ bar at the Light Cinema, places I never intended to have to visit, but had to include because, well, them’s the rules. If I’ve missed any other such places then I care not; it was the pubs and obvious bars I intended to visit, and I have. So here’s a round up of some of the ‘bars’ included in the list, that nevertheless didn’t seem ‘pubby’ enough to warrant a blog post each.



The one draught lager here is Estrella Damm, but this place is really a cocktail bar (although there are some craft cans) so I played along and had a dark & stormy (contains ginger beer, so it’s allowed). Apparently “named after the Street Address of the original Motown Building – Hitsville USA, which was at 2648 West Grand Boulevard”, hence the bar covered in vinyl records and the “old valve radios, vintage radiograms and old iconic gig posters on the walls”. The last time I visited this was the Vaults, and I came to watch Luna Falls play in a room now hidden behind a bookshelf and guarded by a fox. There are a number of different spaces to drink, in near darkness; trying to read the menu reminded me of being in a BrewDog bar, but without the choice of beers. Hey ho.


ADC bar

A bar that only opens during performances at the theatre, which might explain why out of the two Milton Brewery real ales, the Nike I had was a bit, shall we say, under-utilised. I left after a few sips; there’s no reason to be here other than for the theatre. Hey ho.

Alpine Bar (pop-up bar)

Alpine Bar

A pop-up bar for the ‘North Pole’ ice rink on Parker’s Piece from the end of November to mid-January. I’m including this because it has Hobgoblin straight from the cask (calm down, ale enthusiasts), as well as keg Warsteiner, Carlsberg and Fosters, and what could be more alpine than that? I visited on the 20th of December; the Hobgoblin tasted like it may well have been sat there since it opened in mid-November, and I left after one sip. Hey ho ho ho.

Arts Picturehouse Bar

Picturehouse bar

The one real ale pump clip, Milton Minerva, was turned round, so I had a Punk IPA. Not a bad bar really, with nice views over Emmanuel College, and other people seemed to be here despite, rather than because, it’s a cinema bar.



Packed with groups probably waiting for a table, judging by the number of Christmas parties dining, which is surely the primary reason people use this recently refurbished bar. The keg Adnams Mosaic was good, with Camden Hells the only other beer of interest.

Cambridge Chop House

Chop House

Sister restaurant to St John’s Chop House, with trademark skeleton behind the bar, this is where retiredmartin spends Valentines day; he must do, as he commented that this is where “some CAMRA members would delight at tipping up on Valentines Day for a half and being turned away, declaring it “not a pub”, which is, err, exactly what I did a couple of years ago! It’s only out of guilt and a wish to remedy that faux par that I returned to the Chop House. Nevertheless, we asked for a drink and were tentatively allocated a table, and offered a food menu, and disappointed the waiter by only having beer. The Tydd Steam Polar Beer straight from the cask was good, it’s a pleasant place, and King’s College isn’t a bad view, but Valentine’s Day is over and this is still “not a pub”.

Green Room Bar

Green Room

There’s a sign by the entrance to the bar that says something along the lines of “only for patrons of the cinema”. There’s really no need for that sign, because it’s unlikely anyone would find themselves there unless they were killing time waiting to see a film. Indeed, everybody else in there seemed to be doing just that. The Meantime Lager was fine. I drank it quickly and left, because there was no reason for me to be there.

Las Iguanas

Las Iguanas

Formerly one of the Henry’s Café Bar chain venues, then primarily a restaurant with cocktails and wines, now primarily a restaurant with cocktails and one draught keg beer – Brahma. Still, Las Iguanas does have a decent vegetarian/vegan menu and good views of the river.



A beer shop on Chesterton Road where you sit and drink your purchases, with food carts outside at times. This year their pop-up bar popped up on Riverside in the grounds of the Museum of Technology, providing card-only craft beer and more food carts in their take on a German-style biergarten. It really came into its own this winter when they provided fairy lit, fire pit warmed teepees (which in truth could benefit from being warmer). You never got all those extras with Threshers.

That leaves just two more pubs to write about now – the Elm Tree and the Free Press

One response to “Cambridge Bars

  1. You’re a hero. In 100 years time people will discuss this in hallowed terms, “what did he mwan by underutilised” when he talked aboy Hobgoblin ?

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