The Cross Keys (Saxon St.) has had a most attractive makeover. The walls sport an imaginative mixture of stained & painted panelling and stipply paint whilst fixtures & fittings are also stylish and distinctive. The large painting on the ceiling of the lower bar is an especially idiosyncratic touch. Real ales on recently were Greene King IPA, Abbot & Triumph, the latter straight from the barrel. Food is served from noon to 9pm and includes an interesting selection of filled jacket potatoes and baguettes. It's run by the same couple as The Cricketers, Melbourne Place and now does B&B too.
At the time of writing The Grad Pad (University Centre, Granta Place) has Shepherd Neame Bishop's Finger, GK IPA and Morland Speckled Hen on in its ground floor bar, backed by a good range of pub grub.
Greene King has a planning application pending for significant changes to The Granta (Newnham Rd.), including a 2-storey side extension. The Yorkshire Grey in Chesterton High St. is closed for major refurbishment. Let's hope that the improvements will include installation of handpumps at this long-standing GK top-pressure outlet.
Anyone remember Bumpers? That ill-starred conversion of The British Queen, Histon Road, into a "fun pub" only lasted a few years in the mid-80s, after which the place returned to more traditional values. It now has a new image and the best that can be said of it is that it's better than Bumpers. The interior is decked out in cafe-bar style on a vaguely American theme, with lots of bright blues and reds. No real ale is available. However in recent years the only cask offerings had been big brewery blands in indifferent condition, so there's been no loss. The interesting question is how long it will last. Local real ale lovers don't have far to go though for a decent pint...
The Grapes (Histon Road) recently has had seven real ales available - amazing for a Greene King tied house (XX Dark Mild, IPA, Triumph, Abbot, Captain Christmas, Suffolk Punch, Batemans XXXB). The pub was recently awarded the Cask Marque seal of quality and you can be guaranteed a fine pint here.
The Master Mariner (Perne Road) reopened in November following a long refurb. as a S&N Steak & Ale community pub.
The Fresher & Firkin (Mitcham's Corner) continues its decline: on two samplings in the last four months it had no real ale at all.
The Bath Ale House (Cambridge's other Hogshead) may be getting yet another refurb. of the bar area though the landlord would prefer the upstairs to be done. The Listed building status is a handicap though (however it didn't save The Baron of Beef from being ruined in 1998).
Congratulations to The Fountain for installing two hand pumps without swan necks or sparklers for guest beers and for having Batemans Winter Wonderland on one of them. The guests complement the standard S&N ale house range (Theakstons, Pedigree, etc.).
The Hogshead has done away with its bar stools and has banned smoking at the bar. This may well reflect an employer's health & safety duty towards its employees as much as a concession to non-smoking customers. There are now no-smoking areas of seating and there's an enlightened try-before-you-buy offer on cask beer. At the time of writing it had Bateman's current seasonal beer Wee Beastie (4.4%) in a cask behind the bar (slightly over-chilled).