[exterior of The Punter]
<- The Punter
On Pound Hill, Cambridge, the Sino Tap, formerly the Town and Gown, formerly the Rose and Crown, is now the Punter. CAMRA objected without success to the plans for opening out the former two bar layout but that's now history - and we must concede that, in its own right, the new interior is most attractive. It's certainly not the yawning barn which some feared; there's at least four distinct drinking/eating areas, the diversification being helped by split floor levels. The new (and very smart) bar counter is in what was the left hand room. Furniture is pleasantly haphazard and sleek wooden flooring provides a unifying factor. Across the paved yard (a nice space in itself) the old barn has been kitted out as an extension, with lots of lozicky settees and a panelled room for private dining. Owner Tom Rainey (who also runs the Sauce Bar on Station Road) is insistent that this is a pub, albeit a gastro-pub, rather than a cafe-bar and we wouldn't demur. Food is clearly going to be very important here and the chef was previously at the renowned Tickell Arms, Whittlesford - but drinkers are also very welcome. Real ales are Adnams Bitter and Broadside. Tom had hoped to get Regatta for the summer but it's not on the beer list of Punch Taverns, the ultimate owners.

At the end of September, the Three Tuns Great Abington ran its first beer festival, set up in conjunction with Waverley TBS (see article in last ALE). 12 real ales were on offer ranging from Grainstone Rutland Panther Mild to Wychwood Hobgoblin with beers from Fullers, Orkney, Wickwar and Batemans amongst those also available. Nethergate Pub Boar made its debut here and the first ale to sell out was (predictably) Exmoor Gold. Licensees Chris and Karen saw the festival as both a way of getting the pub more onto the map and providing a fun event for the village. That same weekend the Radegund in Cambridge also held a festival and for us real ale drinkers events like these are a great way to access a choice of unusual beers.

In the last issue, we reported that the Duke of Wellington Bourn was currently closed. A planning application has now gone in to convert it into a house. The Duke has operated essentially as a restaurant for many years but it's still a sad loss. Fortunately the village has another pub - the Willow Tree (formerly the Golden Lion).

Welcome to Kathy Harrow, new licensee of the Admiral Vernon, Over, and her husband Scott. This is their first pub; Kathy's previous job was as a front of house manager in a restaurant whilst Scott was in investment banking. They had been offered several pubs but the Admiral "felt right", especially being in a village as they are both from village backgrounds in Scotland. Currently they're playing things by ear and not making any major changes. Food will return once the kitchen is sorted though this will remain essentially a drinkers' pub. Wells Eagle and Bombardier are the regular real ales and there is a constantly changing guest beer; this might expand to two if turnover increases. Live music will feature once a month and lots of special events are planned such as a Thai evening with both food and dancing.

[exterior of The Salisbury]
<- The Salisbury
We mentioned the refurbishment of the Salisbury Arms Cambridge briefly in the last issue. Although a lot of money has been spent here, most of it has been on behind-the-scenes facilities like the kitchen and toilets. An outdoor heated smoking area has been provided. Landlord Dave Green was determined that the unique atmosphere of the Salisbury (which many still remember from the days when CAMRA owned it) wouldn't be damaged and this has been the case. Even the early Cambridge Beer festival posters survive. On the real ale front, Charles Wells are allowing Dave to sell one beer from a local brewer; Oakham JHB is proving especially popular. The other seven pumps are occupied by a mixture of ales from Wells and Youngs and various regional breweries e.g. Adnams, Jenings, Fullers and St Austell. Crones Cider is also sold.

Derek Wright supplies some pub news gleaned from his ALE delivery round. He found Tom Wood Bomber County (4.8%) as a guest beer in both the Red Lion and the Unicorn Cherry Hinton. At another Greene King pub, the Blue Lion Hardwick, the guest was GK's own seasonal special, the fruity and very pleasant Ruddles Hedgerow (4.2%). The Three Horseshoes Comberton offered its usual excellent choice of well-kept ales; Fullers London Pride, Tim Taylor Landlord and Shepherd Neame Spitfire on this occasion. The Three Horseshoes Madingley, which regularly has City of Cambridge beers on draught, also has their bottled beers, although the take-away price for Sunset Square (4.2%) was a bit steep at £3.75.

Win one, lose one. The lone handpull at the Osborne Arms, Hills Road, Cambridge has been back in action recently, with Adnams Bitter issuing forth from it. However, at the Jenny Wren in North Arbury, the handpumps have been torn out altogether. So far as we know this is the first time ever that a Greene King pub in our area has sold only keg beer. In the bad old days when CAMRA was starting out most Greene King pubs used the now-extinct top pressure system to fizz up the beers but the ale in the cellar was at least cask. Let's hope this isn't the start of a trend.

The Noble Art, the horror which supplanted the Bakers Arms on East Road Cambridge earlier in the year, has closed already and the premises are vacant - convert them back into a pub, we say.

Further to the reference in the Checking the Checkers article elsewhere, real ale has returned to the Blue Lion Fen Ditton though on our visit it was confined to Greene King IPA; the pub was in the throes of redecoration.

The Unicorn Trumpington is one of those attractive old pubs which for many years was firmly in the "wasted opportunity" category. However the team which took over in May is really making the most of the natural assets here and further improvements are on their way. New sets of handpumps are to be installed to enable an expanded range of real ales to be served, hopefully including some unusual stuff. The current selection is pretty good anyway with the likes of Spitfire, Deuchars, Hobgoblin, Wherry and Old Rosie cider to choose from. The food side is also taking off, the emphasis being on chargrills. Steaks start out at 7oz rising to a monstrous 28oz rump offering for the super-peckish. There's a wide range of other dishes such as Cajun Salmon Fillet and Gourmet Burgers. Most of the eating is done at the back (including a separate restaurant) so the front area has a proper pubby feel. Acoustic music is being tried out on Sunday evenings. For when the sun starts shining again the pub has a huge, sheltered garden.

[The Mill from Silver Street Bridge]
<- The Mill
A warm welcome to James and Louise who took over at the Mill, Mill Lane, Cambridge in September. They previously (for five years) had a pub in High Wycombe but have now fallen in love with both the Mill and Cambridge. It's certainly a wonderfully situated pub, down by the millpond, both central and off the main circuit. The cosy, traditionally-furnished interior also gives it a locals feel rare in a city centre pub. James intends enhancing this by removing the games machines and other intrusive features. At the time of writing the handpumps dispensed Fullers London Pride, Calidonian Deuchars IPA, Wychwood Hobgoblin, Hopback Summer Lightning and Westons Old Rosie Cider. James intends however to install an ever-changing selection of real ales in the near future. James and Louise are proud of their food which is all completely fresh and locally served - no boil in the bag rubbish here. Most main courses are priced between £6.95 and £7.95 and there are also big open sandwiches, served with chips, for £5.25. The amount of repeat food business they're getting speaks for itself. It's great to see this cracking little pub in such good hands.