Category Archives: Cambridge

Old Bicycle Shop, Cambridge

Old Bicycle Shop

The Old Bicycle Shop is a new freehouse “bar and kitchen” on Regent Street, Cambridge. Gearing up for the official opening on Wednesday 4th May, we visited for preview drinks and food.

Old Bicycle Shop beer

There were 7 keg and 3 cask beers – we had ‘Misty River’, brewed at the company’s nearby Cambridge Brewhouse (I’ll throw in “Vélo City” as my suggestion for a house ale), Lagunitas IPA, and a simply stunning Cloudwater Bergamot Hopfen Weisse – fresh, zesty and citra-hoppy – which proved to be a perfect accompaniment to the food, but makes a visit worthwhile for beers like this alone. Although the Old Bicycle Shop is aimed more at dining, drinkers are welcome in the small front bar area (there’s a smokers’ bench outside at the front), and it’s promising that there is beer of this quality, and friendly staff that enthused about it as much as we did. Most of the space is reserved for dining, including two upstairs function rooms and an outdoor seating area (initially this was intended to be a terrace that would allow it to keep smokers within the curtilage of the site, but I assume in practice that as the small outdoor area is enclosed by 8 foot walls, any smoke would have wafted straight inside the building). We really enjoyed the food, and were especially impressed by the number of vegetarian and vegan dishes, including all three desserts, that would give us reason to return.

Old Bicycle Shop

Purchased for £750,000 by City Pub Company East, their twelfth pub and third in the city, following the Mill and the Cambridge Brew House, over half a million was spent converting the building, never previously a pub. This represents a change in strategy by the company, following new Enterprise Investment Scheme rules last year that restrict investment to closed pubs, new pubs or pub conversions.

The building was previously occupied by Howes Cycles, a shop established further along Regent street in 1840 in a building since demolished and replaced by Downing College’s Parker’s House (now Battcock Lodge). Originally John Howes was a coach builder and wheelwright, said to have been inspired to turn his hand to making bicycles in 1869 after seeing the new invention at the Paris exhibition, creating his own ‘Granta’ model – one of the upstairs function rooms is named after it, and the walls of the bar have plenty of Howes memorabilia. The business had moved to number 104 by 1980 and finally closed in December 2013 when Michael Howe went into retirement, closing the oldest bicycle shop in England and ending it’s 173 year history on Regent Street.

Howes

Good to have another bar open in Cambridge, especially one that is another outlet for Cambridge Brewhouse’s own great range of beers (the keg Dark Wheat, Pale Ale and hoppy Pils are particularly good) as well as draught beers from the likes of Cloudwater, a fridge full of Beavertown and Moor cans, and one that has made an effort to provide good veggie/vegan food choices.

www.oldbicycleshop.com | @oldbicycleshop

Grantchester Pubs

One of the most pleasant walks in Cambridgeshire is the ramble upriver from Cambridge to the “lovely hamlet Grantchester“, a leisurely stroll of less than an hour, crossing the “lazy water meadow“, with four pubs to visit (well, three pubs and a restaurant-in-a-former-pub).

150 years ago the village had a population of about 550 supporting four pubs, and remarkably the same numbers are true today, although it’s often been in the balance. In 1924 objections to the renewal of the Blue Ball’s licence raised concerns that there were four licensed houses in the village and the population had fallen to 489, making 122 persons per pub, although the license was renewed. It was noted that pub trade in the village had decreased due to the decreased spending power of the agricultural labourer – the terrace of which the Blue Ball forms part was “probably occupied entirely by agricultural workers”. In addition to managing the house, the tennant John Wilson was a brick-layer’s labourer. The landlord of the Rose & Crown had not been so fortunate in the previous century – by 1840 Thomas Ellis, publican and carpenter, was recorded as insolvent and in the Gaol of Cambridge. In 1955 a Grantchester landlord told the bankruptcy court that some days there were no takings at all. The pubs, along with the Orchard Tea Rooms, are kept viable today by the large numbers of tourists who are drawn here to the tea rooms and meadows, mostly owing to the links with Rupert Brooke, Pink Floyd, and more recently the TV drama – parts of ‘Grantchester’ series 1 were filmed in the Green Man, and series 2 includes the Red Lion.

The path across the meadows from Cambridge leads eventually to the foot of the Green Man beer garden, but you can leave the main path earlier at a right angle to cut across to arrive first at the Blue Ball instead – if taking the No.18 bus from Cambridge, the bus stops right outside the Blue Ball. It’s less than 500 metres distance to visit all four pubs.

BLUE BALL
@bbgrantchester

Blue Ball Grantchester

The oldest purpose built pub in the village, listed on CAMRA’s National Inventory as an historic pub interior of regional importance, with a two-bar, open-plan layout, an open fire and the traditional pub game of Ring the Bull. In May 2014 it was bought from Punch Taverns by local resident Toby Joseph who wanted to “protect and cherish” the pub he had been using for over 30 years. It closed briefly for redecoration but reopened again in October this year. There are thankfully few visible changes apart from a lick of paint, but hot food and sandwiches are now available, and lager is served again for the first time since 2002.

Toby is only the 24th landlord since it opened in 1767 – the village church during this period has had 17 vicars (with the post for the 18th currently vacant), amongst them a Noel Brewster and a John Beer. The original pub dates from 1767, but it burnt down and was rebuilt in 1893, retaining the original cellar – a photograph in the bar shows the original pub and above the door the name of licensee Wilfred Bard, who must have overseen its transition from the old to the present building. There was a small brewery behind the inn in the 19th century, probably Samuel John Heffer’s Grantchester Brewery. Nowadays, at the rear of the pub is a small beer garden featuring one of the most comfortable smoking ‘shelters’ I’ve seen – a heated pavilion complete with cricketing memorabilia and a piano!

Under the new ownership this is the first time it has been a free house, having been owned by Hudson’s Cambridge and Pampisford Brewery for a period in the early 20th century, followed by Greene King and Punch Taverns. The pub gets its name from a hot air balloon said to have flown near here, or even landed opposite, in 1785.

On the bar:
Cask – Adnams Bitter, Woodforde’s Wherry
Keg – Adnams Dry Hopped Lager (although this was temporarily unavailable when we visited, having sold out on Boxing Day – not surprising as the pub was celebrating victory in both the men’s and women’s barrel race!)

RUPERT BROOKE
www.therupertbrooke.com | @therupertbrooke

Rupert Brooke Grantchester

Formerly the Rose and Crown, in the 1970s the name was changed to the Rupert Brooke. In the 1950s it was the landlord of the Rose & Crown who introduced the Boxing Day barrel rolling contest between teams from the four pubs, an event revived 12 years ago and which still takes place annually. The Rupert Brooke remained as a pub until it was purchased in April 2014 by Chestnut Inns who also run the Packhorse Inn in Moulton near Newmarket, reopening in October 2014 as more of a restaurant than a pub after being extensively renovated and altered. The interior is unrecognisable from the former pub, with the beams removed and the layout completely changed, the addition of a conservatory dining room, a roof terrace, and a large copper-topped bar replacing the previous bar which had been constructed from timber rescued from an old barn.

I lived almost opposite the pub one year over a decade ago when it was still primarily a pub, and its best selling regular beer was Harvey’s Sussex Best Bitter. It’s no longer really a pub (as we overheard a customer being told as they walked in hoping to get food, not realising it had become a fully booked restaurant), but there are bar stools and sofas for those just wanting a drink – I had a surprisingly good half of Woodforde’s Nog (£2); also on cask was Woodforde’s Wherry (£3.60 pint), with Pilsner Urquell, Carlsberg, Estralla Damm and Guinness on keg. I’ve not yet eaten here, mainly because for me the Green Man has a more appealing choice of vegetarian food, but if you want your meal accompanied by “caviar crème frâiche” or “fois gras yoghurt” then evidently this is the place.

I tend to agree with a pub guide from the 1970’s that even then “found it somewhat lacking in character” compared to the other pubs, while E. N. Willmer (Old Grantchester, 1976) called it a “public house of no great antiquity but one notorious for a fire in 1867”.

GREEN MAN
www.thegreenmangrantchester.co.uk | @GMGrantchester7

Green Man Grantchester

Of the four pubs in Grantchester, the Green Man is the oldest building, originally a 17th century house. Willmer (1976) suggests the building may be 16th century, and the Green Man was first recorded as a public house in 1847, the stables and outhouses at the back pointing to its function as a coaching inn. A wonderful old timber-framed place, with a low oak beamed ceiling and an open fire. A long beer garden at the rear stretches down to the meadows, and there is also seating at the front on the verandah next to an Elm tree believed to be over 500 years old, which features on the pub sign – in 1974 gail force winds split the tree in two, although it still survives with its hollow trunk.

The Green Man closed for over a year from December 2008, before being rescued by Josh Vargo, the current landlord. Josh has improved the beer selection with 5 handpumps for cask ales on the bar, usually including one from the excellent Buntingford Brewery, and several beer festivals which have seen over 50 beers at a time, with the likes of Redemption, Summer Wine and Thornbridge alongside Cambridgeshire breweries such as Moonshine, Blackbar and Bexar County.

Gingerbread Green Man

Photo by kind permission of the Green Man

During this most recent visit we enjoyed excellent pints of Backyard Brewhouse ‘Winter’ and Buntingford ‘Chinook’ while snacking on chunky chips and admiring the gingerbread replica of the pub, made by one of the talented regulars apparently.

Again I couldn’t agree more with the 1970s pub guide which says the Green Man is “we frankly admit, our favourite pub in Grantchester… there is something indefinable in the friendly atmosphere of this tavern which appeals to our tastes, and which we suggest that you go and sample for yourself”.

On the bar:
Cask – Backyard Brewhouse Winter, Buntingford Chinook, Oakham Citra, Tydd Steam Barn Ale, Adnams Bitter
Keg – Adnams Mosaic, Leffe Blonde, Budvar, Amstel, Guinness

RED LION
www.metropolitanpubcompany.com

Red Lion Grantchester

The Red Lion’s foundations date back to 1777 when it was the Axe and Saw (Willmer, 1976), although the present Red Lion dates from 1936 and was designed for Greene King by the architect Basil Oliver, who also designed the Portland Arms in Cambridge. It replaced a smaller Victorian pub owned by Banks & Taylor which had a tea garden and bowling green.

It’s a pleasant enough pub, nicely decorated for Christmas when visited, and surprisingly for a pub owned by Greene King under the ‘Metropolitan’ brand, it has a decent choice of beer, with 5 cask ales and changing Redwell beers on keg.

On the bar:
Cask – Trumans Gunboat Smith Black IPA, Black Eagle (presumably brewed at Trumans) Project X Stout, Jo C’s Norfolk Kiwi, Nene Vally Bitter, Greene King IPA
Keg- Redwell Steam Lager, Amstel, Estrella Damm, Guinness

There is an hourly bus service to Grantchester from Cambridge Mon-Sat, but that misses the walk across the meadows, after which the beer always seems more rewarding.

The Royal Standard, Mill Road

The Royal Standard on Mill Road finally reopened on October 22nd, almost a decade since it last operated as a pub. Landlord Jethro, who also runs the Cambridge Blue and the Blue Moon with his wife Terri, has revived the pub and brought good beer to an area where it was in short supply.

Royal Standard

A fine Victorian two bar pub built in 1881, when Mill Road was suddenly expanding over the railway bridge and across the open fields to the east, it stands on the corner of Malta Road, a side street which like many off that end of Mill Road had not yet been completed when the pub was built.

Royal StandardIt has now been opened out into a one bar pub, with a grand, brown tiled bar as the centrepiece, with 6 real ales and 10 keg lines serving the likes of Nene Valley Bible Black, Adnams Blackshore Stout and Hardknott Lux Borealis, all of which we enjoyed when we visited. There is also a fridge full of Belgian beer, food is available, including Sunday roasts, and there is plenty of seating.

Royal Standard Indian Restaurant

Menu from the Royal Standard’s time as an Indian Restaurant

It’s good to see another Cambridge pub reopen, especially one that was neglected and looked lost for good when it was converted to an Indian Restaurant in 2007, and when that closed in 2011, served as a charity shop while awaiting its likely fate of redevelopment for housing.

There was opposition to the loss of another pub in Romsey*, an area of Cambridge covering the far end of Mill Road and the back streets between Mill Road and Coldham’s Lane, following the closure of the Grasshopper in 1999, the Duke of Argyle and the Jubilee in 2009, all demolished and replaced by housing, and the Romsey Labour Club in 2014. *The Greyhound on Coldham’s Lane, which closed in 2008, was also in the Romsey Ward, but not in close proximity to the other pubs. This left only two pubs – the Brook and the Earl of Beaconsfield – bookending the stretch of Mill Road east of the bridge, and the Empress as the only remaining backstreet pub. Eventually plans which retained the Royal Standard alongside the residential development were approved, an agreement similar to that which enabled the recent reopening of the Queen Edith, although in this case the original building has thankfully been retained.

The Royal Standard is open every day from 11-11 at 292 Mill Road, Cambridge CB1 3NL

Thirsty Cambridge

Thirsty Cambridge, a new independent drinks shop, opened this week at 46 Chesterton Road, near the Bermuda Triangle of Mitcham’s Corner, in what was formerly the Threshers off licence that closed at the end of 2009.

Thirsty Cambridge

When I visited, Matthew and Sam were pouring the first bottle fills from their newly installed CrafTap beer dispenser. A fill of Summer Wine Pils was passed around with anticipation, beaming smiles all round upon tasting it, the kit doing the beers justice.

The CrafTap counter pressure device fills the growler first with CO2 and then, as that is discharged, the beer from the keg, maintaining the carbonation. Apparently the beer can then keep for weeks in the growler, although with beer this good it’s likely to be gone before you leave the store – there are some Bavarian bierfest benches and tables to sit at. 1 and 2 litre growlers are available for take out, or you can bring your own, and there’s a good selection of bottled beer including Moor, Weird Beard, Hammerton and Siren.

It’s a nice new place to get good beer and hang around for a chat, and as the nearby area of Mitcham’s Corner is about to be redeveloped, it feels like the right place at the right time. There are also four pubs less than a minute away – the Old Spring, the Waterman, the Boathouse and the Portland Arms (a fifth, the Tivoli, is currently closed, pending a rebuild following the fire earlier this year), with a beer festival across them all from September 4th – 7th, including a food market on the Saturday.

Thirsty Cambridge is open 7 days a week.

The Plough, Shepreth

The Plough is a pub in the South Cambridgeshire village of Shepreth, less than ten miles from Cambridge.

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Queen Edith, Cambridge

The Queen Edith, the first new build pub in Cambridge in over 30 years, opened on Wulfstan Way on 24th April.

Queen Edith

This is the third pub in the city run by Milton Brewery, following their reopening of the Devonshire Arms in 2010, and the Haymakers in 2013. We visited on the opening weekend and there were five Milton beers on handpump, alongside three or four guests including B&T Edwin Taylor’s Extra Stout and Star Brewing Meteor. As with the other Milton pubs in the city, the excellent Moravka lager, brewed in the Peak District, is on keg. Likewise, the interior furnishings will be familiar to anybody who has set foot in their other pubs, especially in the snug bar with its dark wood, high-backed seats. The lounge is a larger, lighter room and features the main bar. We enjoyed a couple of pints of Milton’s Justinian in the snug and a good vegetarian nut loaf Sunday roast.

Queen Edith

The Queen Edith is built on what was the car park of the previous pub of that name that opened in December 1961, around the time the nearby Addenbrookes Hospital began admitting patients on its new site. Originally a Lacon house, the first licensees were Mr & Mrs Coop.

It closed 50 years later in December 2011; the last to run the pub was Paul St John-Campbell, who was there for over two years before he was made redundant. In any case, the previous year owners Punch Taverns had applied to have the pub demolished and replaced by 8 houses, arguing the pub was unviable. These plans were rejected but the pub was sold, and in the hands of developers Danescroft new plans were approved that allowed the pub to be demolished last year and the new pub built, alongside a block of 12 flats. It’s a nice building, the first new build pub in the city since the Ancient Druids in 1984 (closed in 1996 and now a Chinese restaurant) with a large catchment area and few other pubs nearby. Tantalisingly, Milton brewery said they see this as a potential template for the development of other redundant pub sites.

Salisbury Arms and St. Radegund Reopen

I don’t know, you wait ages for a refurbished pub and then three reopen at once. Following the Grain Store opening at the beginning of March, the St. Radegund and Salisbury Arms also reopened in Cambridge this month.

Salisbury Arms

76 Tenison Road | www.salisburyarmscambridge.co.uk

Salisbury Arms

A Charles Wells pub that appears to have recovered from its recent identity crisis. Once full of memorabilia, including 1970s Cambridge Beer Festival posters, dummies sat at a table on the balcony overlooking the main bar, and sacks of grain and a cyclist suspended from the ceiling, less than a year ago it had a makeover which removed all items of interest, repainted the interior bright white and left it characterless.

Salisbury Arms

However, this succesive refurbishment has redressed some of that, bringing back the Beer Fest posters, more bicycles, even the pub game Ring the Bull, rescued and returned to its rightful place on the wall (don’t try and compete with anybody who works there – they’re well practiced).

Salisbury Arms

The interior layout has been altered, most notably a distressed wood, metal-topped bar on the extended ground floor level, and the addition of a pizza oven on the lower level (ensuring a few more choices for vegetarians, to add to the Ciambotta and Mac & Cheese).

Salisbury Arms

There were 4 real ales and 8 keg lines on the new bar, including Young’s London Stout and the first appearance in the city of Charlie Wells Dry Hopped Lager – although I’d say more hops have been used in decorating the interior of the pub than in brewing that particular beer.

Salisbury Arms

The Salisbury is perhaps best known as having been one of the CAMRA Investments pubs in the 1970s, at the time boasting “possibly the largest selection in the country of bottle-conditioned English and Belgian beers”.

Salisbury advert 1970s

I lived just along the street in the early 90s when it was a bustling pub, packed with students in the evening, with loud music from the jukebox (since removed) and at least eight hand pumps, with beers including the since discontinued Mansfield Riding Mild.

Salisbury Arms Salisbury Arms

Although the interior is much altered from the one I fondly remember, the latest refurb has nevertheless made it a welcoming place again, the main bar large and airy, the small back room still almost like a snug (who knew books didn’t only appear on wallpaper), and it’s back on the map for a Cambridge pub crawl.

St. Radegund

129 King Street

Radegund Free House

Even with a new layout, this is probably still the smallest pub in Cambridge if not the county. The renovation has certainly let in more light, with the raised ceiling uncovering the tops of the windows, although this has involved the removal of the names burned into the ceiling by some of the regulars. Much of the memorabilia has been retained, including pictures of Dame Vera Lynn (the Vera Lynn Appreciation Society was formerly held on Friday evenings), framed articles about the King Street Run, and a photo of the Garrick pub which once stood here on the corner at Four Lamps. A TV screen above the bar was showing the rugby, which everyone else in the bar was watching.

St Radegund

I’m not sure if the relocation of the bar has really gained much floor space or any extra seating, but it has uncovered a fireplace, although it’s not clear if this will actually be used (it was cold enough on the day that a fire would have been welcome).

Radegund

There are 8 pumps installed on the bar, although on the opening day only two were on – Saffron Brewery Royal Blue and Yakima Gold from the ever dependable Crouch Vale, with keg Brooklyn Lager, Budvar and Kozel – although no sign of the Milton Sackcloth which used to be a regular ale brewed exclusively for the Radegund. It’s still a work in progress though.

Tivoli in ruins

Sadly, on the day two Cambridge pubs reopened, another was burning down – the Tivoli, a Wetherspoon on Chesterton Road. It caught fire in the early hours of the morning and burnt for hours despite its riverside location, with water being pumped from the Cam to fight the fire. As I was nearby I had a look, and was told by a fireman that the roof had collapsed and that the fire and water had caused structural damage that has left the building in a perilous state. It will be a shame if Cambridge loses not just another pub, but a fine old building, formerly the Tivoli Cinema (Tivoli blog post).

The Tivoli