Demand for real ale has been so buoyant at the revamped Waterman on Mitchams Corner Cambridge that a third handpump has been installed. This dispenses Fullers London Pride with Shepherd Neame Spitfire and Adnams Broadside staying on the other two.
The Hoops Great Eversden was converted some years ago to the Golden Elephant restaurant. When that went bust the premises were marketed as a "pub/restaurant". News that it had reopened under its former name gave hope that it was back in pub-land but, sadly, it's purely a restaurant (of the Chinese persuasion).
The long-closed Swan House Inn at Fowlmere has become an Indian restaurant.
A visit to the "Pubs to Let" section of the Greene King website reveals several local pubs as being up for grabs viz Carpenters Arms Great Wilbraham, Navigator Little Shelford, Plough Great Shelford, Bird in Hand Cambridge, Old Crown Girton, White Hart Fulbourn and White Horse Oakington.
Meanwhile Punch Taverns are seeking new tenants for the Geldart Cambridge, Woolpack Sawston, White Horse Foxton, Star Melbourn, Jolly Brewers Milton and Rose and Crown Teversham.
And it goes on. Charles Wells have two opportunities on offer. First, they're looking to assign the lease of the Box Tree (former Ancient Druids) in Napier Street Cambridge. The business, they say, "would ideally suit an owner- operator with clear scope to develop both the catering and bar elements of the business". Secondly, they want a lessee for their newly-acquired Golden Ball at Boxworth, "an excellent traditional inn with superb letting accommodation". They describe it as "one of the best inns that the company has ever acquired".
A pub which has changed hands is the Red Bull Newnham, now being run by the folk who are also behind the Rupert Brooke Grantchester. The interior has been tastefully refurbished, without any significant physical changes. At one end is a very cosy area with a roaring fire and leather settee. The main bar has bare polished floorboards then there's a step down to a carpeted area partly hidden by the remains of the former dividing wall. The real ale offering when we visited was Adnams Bitter, Fullers London Pride, Potton Village Bike and, deep joy, Harveys Sussex Best Bitter. On the food front, the speciality is pizzas, cooked in an authentic Italian stone pizza oven; there's a two-for-one deal on Monday nights. Various pasta dishes, ciabattas and so on are also available. On Wednesday evenings students get 20% off food.
The Fleur-de-Lys on the corner of Humberstone Road and Elizabeth Way has re-emerged as The Fleur Bar and Bistro. It sports a stylish, somewhat minimalist, decor with stripped pine floors, elegant dark furniture, large pot plants (i.e. plants in pots!) and large mirrors on pale walls. The decked area outside has beautiful exotic planting and will be a fine place to sit when the weather improves. Just one real ale but a good one - Black Sheep Bitter - and well kept. The food, cooked by an Argentinian chef, is reportedly delicious and is served 12-3 and 6-9.30. The new owners apparently want to open four more similar pub/restaurants in the city.
Our apologies to Kathy and Scott at the Admiral Vernon, Over for inadvertently renaming their pub the Admiral Version in the last issue! They're now doing food at both lunchtime (12-2) and evenings (6.30 - 8.30) with fish and chips on Fridays and an already-popular traditional Sunday lunch.
Good news vis-a-vis the Black Horse Rampton. As reported in previous ALEs, the owners wanted to build a house on part of the car park and garden, to which CAMRA and several locals objected. The District Council has refused the planning application, partly on the grounds that the loss of land could have an adverse impact on the future viability of the pub (which was the main reason for our objections).
Following its short but catastrophic interlude as boxing-themed gastro-bar the Noble Art, the Bakers on East Road has reopened as a proper pub again. Some vestiges of the previous incarnation remain and the style is still basically contemporary but it has a really "pubby" feel thanks to the softening of the edges and importation of wood panelling. The front part has mushroom- coloured walls and lots of framed prints whilst the conservatory-style area at the back has a mixture of green and panelled walls plus more prints and tasteful ornaments. Real ale has returned in the shape of Greene King IPA, Old Speckled Hen and the new St Edmunds Ale. This last (as mentioned in the previous ALE) is designed to be served cold and with a choice of "southern" (i.e. flat) or "northern" (i.e. foamy) heads. It's pleasant enough and if it converts a few lager drinkers to the real thing then fair enough. When the Bakers reopened at Christmas it wasn't serving food but by the time you read this it should have been fully re-launched, including plenty of edibles.
Ron and Ann Beach, who have done such a terrific job in revitalising the Cross Keys, Cambridge, have very sadly been obliged to put the business on the market. We wish them very well in their future endeavours.
Following a change of tenancy, two handpumps have been installed at one of our few remaining non-real ale pubs, the Duke of Argyle, Argyle Street, Cambridge. However, at the time of writing (early January) they weren't yet in use.
Ale has yet to acknowledge the fine work being done at the Empress, Thoday Street, Cambridge by Dave Utting since he took over from the long-serving Dave Lewin. A recent visit found six real ales - Adnams Bitter, Fullers London Pride, Timothy Taylors Landlord, Woodforde's Wherry, Marstons Pedigree and Tom Woods Jolly Ploughman plus Westons Old Rosie cider. The Landlord (a notoriously difficult beer to keep well) was in superb form.
Bob Hackett and Tracy Harrison, formerly of the Dog and Duck Linton have taken over the Black Bull free house in Balsham. Real ales are Greene King IPA, Woodforde's Wherry, Fullers London Pride, Tim Taylor Landlord and a changing guest.