[Regal frontage]
Following its recent refit, Wetherspoon's Regal in Regent Street Cambridge has been rebranded as a "Lloyds No. 1" bar. The main difference is the arrival of music in the evenings, currently of the recorded variety. Spoons also applied to the City Council for a live music licence. Over 1600 people lodged objections, nearly all of them patrons of the Arts Picturehouse cinema upstairs where there have already been problems with music percolating into screenings. The Council granted the licence but subject to strict conditions, including an acoustic survey and any necessary sound-proofing. Inside the pub itself, large screens have appeared in various places but, thankfully, with the sound turned down. Also the "cockpit" area downstairs is now the domain of the DJs, no doubt to the dismay of the old boys who used to congregate there during the day. Real ale still features strongly and, indeed, the selection seems to be better than ever. A recent visit found 12 beers on offer - Marston Burton Bitter and Pedigree (which are permanent) and 10 guests, all but one of which were from micro-breweries. All guest beers are £1.85 a pint.

Good news about The Wheatsheaf on the A604 near Little Eversden. We reported in the last ALE the fears that it was to become a restaurant. We're assured by the owners (the Di Simone family, who also run the City Stop restaurant at Cambridge City Football Club) that it will continue to operate as a pub, serving real ale, although food will be a very important feature. The long delay in reopening has been caused by protracted discussions with the local planning authority over the owners' wish to extend the dining area. This has now been resolved and planning permission granted so the pub should be trading again before the end of the year.

Two Cambridge pubs were closed in late February - The Osborne Arms in Hills Road and The Hat and Feathers Barton Road. Let's hope this is temporary in both cases.

[The Granta and mill pond]
Congratulations to Denis and Kylie Esler of The Granta, Newnham Road, Cambridge which has been named Greene King's Speciality Food Pub of the Year. On the real ale front, the pub offers Greene King IPA, Abbot, Old Speckled Hen and the current seasonal beer. If you want to try the food, it's available 12-3 and (except Sunday) 6-9.

A recent visit to The Railway Vue Impington found a goodly selection of well-kept real ales - Greene King IPA, Marstons Pedigree, Black Sheep Bitter and Adnams Explorer. There's a tempting-looking "two main meals for £6.50" offer between 5pm and 7pm, Monday to Friday.

You can hear "acoustic sounds" at The Mill, Mill Lane, Cambridge from 7pm on Sundays; all performers welcome.

The Plough at Coton has reopened following a major refurb. The interior has been comprehensively remodelled and represents a vast improvement on its messy, muddled predecessor. The look is stylish and contemporary with oak floors, chunky furniture, large photo-prints on otherwise plain walls, seating ranging from the formal to the comfy and open fires. The "hidden" area tucked away at the back of the pub is especially attractive. Two permanent real ales (Greene King IPA and Fullers London Pride) are supplemented with a regularly changing guest (Adnams Explorer on our visit). Food-wise you'll find a Mediterranean-style menu plus a few British classics. There's also a deli-tapas selection at the bar if you just want a light meal or interesting starters. The Plough is in the same ownership as The Vine in East Road Cambridge (which also now offers a guest real ale alongside the same two regulars).

Also refurbed and reopened is The Hole in the Wall, Little Wilbraham. New owner is Stephen Bull who previously had The Lough Pool Inn at Sellack, Herefordshire which was voted Pub of the Year 2005 by The Good Pub Guide. Our spies tell us that on the opening night the real ales on offer were Courage Best Bitter and Elgoods Golden Newt. The menu was described as "not cheap but cheaper than before". A more detailed report to follow.

The White Swan, Stow-cum-Quy has been bought by Marion Millard and Steve Smith. For Marion this really is a homecoming as her family ran the pub for more than 40 years up until 1975 when Marion's aunt, Gladys Theobald, retired. Since then the pub has changed hands no less than eight times and had recently become quite run-down. However Marion and Steve have really got things going again in the three months since they took over and have found a warm welcome from the village. On the real ale front, they offer Adnams Bitter and Broadside, Greene King IPA and Woodforde's Wherry. The food side is now beginning to take off with the restaurant frequently packed. Next priority is to get the crib and darts teams going again.

The British Queen on Histon Road Cambridge has installed a handpump (dispensing Young's Bitter on a recent visit). This means that only 6 of the 257 pubs in the Branch area do not sell real ale. The British Queen is a lively community local with a single L-shaped bar and a good selection of pub games.

As we went to press we learnt that The Plough at Duxford had been taken over by Dave Whittaker, who has moved from a widely-renowned real ale pub in Nottingham, The Lincolnshire Poacher (see Nottingham article in the last ALE). We'll be paying him a visit.