The main bar counter at the Fort St George, Midsummer Common, Cambridge has been subjected to an impressive redesign. A bank of six handpumps is flanked by two sets of tall fonts selling imported European beers (Leffe, Staropramen and Hoegaarden). The real ales are drawn from the Greene King range. A recent innovation is the introduction of two real ciders (Westons 1st Quality and Old Rosie) and a true rarity, real perry (Herefordshire Country Perry). The last (made from pears) is selling extremely well. This pub really is a classy operation nowadays.
It's been a long time coming but the Monkfield Arms in Cambourne finally opened in September. As would be expected given its location, it's a large, open-plan, family oriented establishment decked out in pleasant but indeterminate style. That said it does at least have a variety of different drinking and eating areas while the plentiful use of natural materials lends it a bit more character than most "new builds". The pub is run by Pathfinder Inns, part of Wolverhampton and Dudley Brewery - their only pub in our area. On a recent visit the real ale line up was Banks Bitter (at a very reasonable £1.90 a pint), Marstons Pedigree and Draught Bass. The extensive menu has clearly been drawn up with families in mind but prices are reasonable and you can get one third off if you order before 12pm on Saturday or Sunday.
The landlord of the Anchor Burwell has moved to the Bell Bottisham which is consequently reported to be much improved.
A very interesting real ale oriented development in the vicinity of Cambridge Railway Station can be anticipated - and it also involves the licensees of a recent CAMRA award winning pub. Watch this space!
The Bakers in East Road Cambridge is closed for refurbishment and will reemerge in December under the name the Noble Art (whatever that means).
Also due for major changes and a new name is the Sino Tap, formerly Town and Gown, in Northampton Street. Punch Taverns intend spending around £300k on the place and, regrettably, this will see the loss of the current cosy two-bar layout and an opening out into single large space. It will be called the Punter (presumably as in the river not the betting shop).
The Travellers Rest, the Beefeater on Huntingdon Road Cambridge, closed for a major renovation in the autumn. The reopened version displays no major layout changes but the area round the bar now has a more traditional, drinker-friendly feel. The standard Beefeater menu obviously applies on the food side. Real ales are (yawn) Greene King IPA and Abbot.
The Elm Tree in Orchard Street Cambridge has emerged triumphantly from its revamp. The small, oddly-shaped interior has been tastefully redecorated achieving a successful balance of the traditional and the contemporary. A small stage has been built for the regular jazz-led music sessions and a charming "secret" patio created at the back. The handpumps have increased to five, offering Wells Eagle and Bombardier plus three changing guests (Fullers Discovery and ESB and Badger Tanglefoot on a recent visit). Food is now available, served from noon to 2pm and 5pm to 8pm along with a limited "early doors" menu from 11am. Everything is very keenly priced, ranging from bagels, deli-sandwiches, soup and salads to pies, cheeseplates and nachos. You can get a pie and a pint for £5.25. Further good news is that the original inn sign, which went missing during the restoration, has turned up in a nearby alleyway. It will be suitably displayed in due course.
And yet another refurb! The Castle in St Andrews Street had had its second redesign in quick succession, again very much in the cafe-bar style. The floors are part stone-flagged and part boarded, the colour scheme is nicely understated and the lighting is especially elegant. All a far cry from the sticky-carpet vomitarium of a few years back. Two changing real ales from the Greene King range are sold - a light one and a premium one (Hardy and Hanson Old Trip and Ruddles Orchard on a typical visit). How refreshing to find a Greene King pub not selling the ubiquitous IPA! The manager has been pleasantly surprised at the quantity of real ale they're getting through. On the food side, main meals come in at £7.25 upwards and look to be a cut above. There's a large "Cambridge" sign on the outside which must be helpful if you don't know which city you're in (conceivably the case with some of our foreign visitors).
Still the refurbs come. The Golden Lion Bourn has been "rebourn" as the Willow Tree. A new rear extension has allowed the interior to be completely remodelled in a T-shape. It has a pleasingly informal elegance with nicely jumbled furniture, a mix of flooring, brown and cream walls and a selection of prints, including some of old Bourn. New patio-style doors lead to a decked sitting area and garden which must have one of the best views from a Cambs pub out over rolling countryside. Real ales are Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Flowers IPA. Main meals start at £9.25 with a big selection of changing specials. There's also a snack menu at lower prices. The pub is no smoking throughout.
The Rose and Crown Teversham has a new licensee.
The Free Press Cambridge now opens all day on Saturdays.