ALE Spring 2003 No. 309

A Real Ale Research Trip

Arbury & West Chesterton

A wander around some of the recently-changed pubs.

Greene King have transformed the Snowcat on Arbury Road (about half way along, by Arbury Court) into The Grove. Fortunately the pastel + sofa tendency isn't so much in evidence here (possibly uniquely so amongst recent GK refurbishments).

There are two handpumps (only IPA on during this visit). Piped music, a pool table and big-screen sports are prominent yet it is spacious and welcoming. Pub grub includes a quarter-pounder for 1.95.

In short, it's still an estate pub, just modernised.

Enterprise Inns have shown great faith and transformed the severely dilapidated Carlton Arms in Carlton Way into a very pleasant place. For people used to the City centre, the location may seem remote but the pub is only a bit over half a mile from Victoria Road.

The frontage is a large car park, rather redundant these days, suggesting opportunities for future developments. (E.g. a grassy seating area?)

The building is set back, with the public bar on the right-hand side housing pub games. On the left is the no-smoking lounge bar, decorated in the trendy way: pink & green pastel shades plus comfy armchairs and sofas. To the rear are tables suitable for eating. As of March the food operation is beginning to build up.

It's roomy enough for musical events, so once entertainment licensing is in place there'll probably be events catering for a range of tastes. Each bar has a juke box but with the volume set at the unobtrusive level.

Whilst trade is building up there are a limited number real ales on at any time but already the number has increased from two to three or four. On this particular visit Adnams Bitter and Woodfordes Wherry were on.

It's a very welcoming place and the committment shown deserves to be rewarded but will enough people visit?

At the Old Spring on Chesterton Road, just east of Mitcham's Corner, Greene King have refurbished it in cream and pale green but the lighting isn't as strong as in other recent cases. There's an attractive patio plus water feature alongside the car park and the adjacent conservatory is no-smoking. The tiles in the loos are particularly eye-catching!

The beers on were IPA, Ruddles and Old Speckled Hen. The piped music was rather loud.

Verdict: a good suburban pub without being particularly noteworthy.

Greene King's transformation of the Boathouse is startling - very different from the Rob Roy days. (It's alongside The Graduate, on Chesterton Road, opposite Staples.) Smart wood finishes and pastel shades (cream & pale orange) predominate, with bright lighting and loud piped music. At the back, overlooking the patio down to the river, is a no-smoking area.

The three handpumps feature GK beers (only Abbot & IPA at time of this visit). Display cases advertise the wines available.

If you like the Bath House (Benet St.) or the Mitre (Bridge St.), you'll probably like this.

Along Chesterton Road and across Jesus Lock bridge, at the junction of Thompson's Lane with Park Parade and the towpath, is the Waterside, a revamped version of the Rat & Parrot (aka Spade & Becket/George & Dragon). Newish owners Noble House Leisure haven't changed the public parts much, other than redecoration and a new bar.

On entry from Thompson's Lane there is a distinct feel of a hotel lounge, with the hotel restaurant in the distance. It's another case of comfy chairs and pastel decor (pale cream). The piped music is thankfully quiet.

Wadworths 6X (2.00) was the only beer on (an Old Speckled Hen pump clip was turned round) and the barman was under instructions to use the special 'real ale glasses' - straight-sided glass jugs, which he delivered American-style with a napkin underneath.

The place does feel as if it's not sure if it's a bar or a restaurant.

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Cambridge & District CAMRA