Another local pub which Greene King have sold to Admiral Taverns is the Chequers at Pampisford, the sale going through a couple of weeks after Maureen Hudson and Ivan Boyd took it over last autumn. Maureen and Ivan, who were previously at the Three Kings, Haddenham, have completely refurbished the interior of the 15th Century building. The walls now sport a bold colour scheme of reds, greens and blues, lit by attractive Tiffany-style lamps, the floor is freshly tiled and the kitchen is all new. A former storage area has been brought into use to supplement the original low-ceilinged bar, giving an L- shaped layout. On the real ale front, you can choose from Greene King IPA, Black Sheep Bitter, Fullers London Pride and a guest beer (Adnams Broadside on our visit). The food is "a la carte at pub prices" and definitely looks a cut above; ingredients are sourced locally where possible.
Even before the recent budget increase a local price of £3 plus for a pint of normal strength beer was creeping up on us. £3.10 for London Pride at the Quy Mill, Stow-Cum-Quy is the steepest we've yet come across.
CAMRA has submitted an objection to a planning application to build a house on the smaller car park and half the garden at the Black Horse, Rampton. We believe that this would seriously affect the viability of the pub. We understand that the freehold belongs to a property developer from Bedford: the current tenants would like to buy the pub and give it the investment it needs but obviously don't want the new building to go ahead. (Stop Press - the application has been withdrawn).
Apologies to Dave (and Angela) Green, the newish (July 2006) tenants of the Salisbury Arms, Tenison Road, Cambridge. ALE welcomed Dave's arrival in last time's Pub News but proceeded to mix him up with Dave Thompson (currently part of the team at the nearby Live and Let Live). Dave and Angela had five Greene King tenancies over 24 years before joining Charles Wells at The Salisbury Arms; these included The Unicorn, Cherry Hinton, and The Earl of Derby, Cambridge. The Salisbury is re-establishing its old reputation as a centre of real ale excellence, with eight beers on offer, including changing guests. It recently won the Community Pub of the Year award organized jointly by Cambridge Evening News and CAMRA.
At the Dyke's End, Reach, work was progressing well on the new brewery when we visited in March and the beers should be available by the time you read this. Brewer Martin Feeman purchased his 2.5 barrel plant from the Red Rose Brewery in Lancashire (who were upgrading to 8 barrels) and has installed it in an outbuilding. Two of the beers are being sold at the pub alongside a changing guest beer. Martin also hopes to get the beer into the local free trade.
The Maypole, Park Street, Cambridge, has increased its changing guest beers to two alongside the permanents - Caledonian Deuchers IPA and Shepherd Neame Spitfire.
When the Hoops, Great Eversden, was converted to a Thai restaurant a few years back, it looked like another pub had been lost. However, the restaurant closed, the building has been sold and the new owners apparently intend to run it as a "Pub / Restaurant". Let's hope it is as much the former as the latter.
Congratulations to the ever-excellent Champion of the Thames, King Street, Cambridge, chosen as Best City Pub in the recent Local Secrets awards. The Plough, Coton, got the vote as Best Country Pub and Sauce, Station Road, Cambridge, won Best Bar (and it sells real ale too!).
The Boathouse on Chesterton Road, Cambridge, looks very smart after a refurb / redecoration. No physical changes have been made to the layout which, though essentially open plan, offers a choice of drinking areas. The snug (known as The Chuck Norris Reading Room for some reason) is especially delightful. The terrace must be one of the best outdoor drinking areas in the city and really makes good use of its riverside location. New decor has been joined by a new menu - the various Sharing Platters look particularly good value. Real ales are Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and a guest from the Greene King list.
Another Greene King pub to benefit from the attentions of the decorators is The Hopbine, Fair Street, Cambridge. The only significant physical change is that the Gents and Ladies have swapped places (and been much upgraded too) but everything else looks clean and fresh. The main colour scheme is a restrained milk chocolate and beige. The pub remains a rare local outlet for the delicious Wychwood Hobgoblin with Greene King IPA and a changing guest on the other pump.
The Branch area has suffered its first pub closure of the year with the demise of The Volunteer in Trumpington, now an Indian restaurant. The pub had struggled for some years, not helped by its "no man's land" position between Cambridge and Trumpington village centre. However, it's obviously a sadness to see it go.
Some would no doubt argue that the morphing of the legendary Cambridge Arms in King Street, Cambridge, into D'Arry's Wine Shop represents another pub loss. You can still call in, though, just for a drink and it does still sell real ale (Greene King Morlands Old Speckled Hen and Ruddles County). Indeed the new owner has been quoted "It's food-led and wine-led but in essence I believe it's a pub because it forms the same social needs that a pub does" - so there. I just can't imagine going in there without being asked "and are you dining with us today, sir?", nor can I envisage any non-diners making it their local.
A big CAMRA welcome back to Neil Grundy who has taken over as licensee of The Carpenters Arms, Victoria Road, Cambridge. Long ago (the late seventies) Neil was in charge of The Blue Ball in Grantchester when it was our first ever Pub of the Year. He then moved to The Red Lion in Stevenage (winning Herts Pub of the Year) before returning to our area to run The Waggon and Horses in Milton for eight years, when it was one of our few genuine free houses. Neil left the trade in 1990 but has been tempted back by the potential at The Carpenters. When we called in he was serving a superb drop of Timothy Taylor's Landlord plus Adnams Broadside and Jennings Cumberland Ale ( the last is likely to have been replaced with a session beer by now). The kitchen is being revamped but will soon be offering good value pub grub (Neil is very clear that the beer comes first). He also plans to upgrade the beer garden including, hopefully, accommodation for smokers.