Green Man, Shepreth

This Greene King pub used to sit besides the main A10 road but the building of the Melbourn bypass saw it consigned to a cul-de-sac off the slip road into Melbourn. Given such a secluded location you’d fear for the well-being of this pub but I arrived at 12.30 on a Sunday lunchtime to find the car park full to bursting. Inside the single bar was well filled with both drinkers and diners, the latter also spilling into the separate dining room. Clearly the Sunday lunch here has quite a following. Food generally has a high profile, which is hardly surprising given the lack of nearby chimneypots. The menu is extensive but chicken dishes and steaks seem to be the speciality with the steaks extending to salmon and swordfish. Real ales are Greene King IPA and Abbot plus a guest from the Greene King list – a fine drop of Hook Norton Old Hookey on this occasion. Other attractions include a patio and large garden, a Thursday quiz night and live music (the splendidly named Fridge Magnates were playing the next week).

White Lion Sawston

Sawston has quickly gone from having six to three pubs with the Woolpack, Queens Head and Black Bull all hitting the dust last year. This leaves the White Lion as the only pub at the south end of the town (the White Horse is technically in Pampisford). The same Sunday lunchtime found a lively crowd in this drinkers’ pub, many watching the footy on the two screens. Two of the three handpumps were in use, serving Greene King IPA and Woodforde’s Wherry (a decent enough example). The large low-ceilinged main bar isn’t over-endowed with character it must be said; there’s also small area next to the front door, devoted mainly to darts plus a pool room. It’s also one of those pubs where customers prefer to stand or sit at the bar making access to service a bit of an issue even when the place isn’t full.

Brook Cambridge

Down at the country end of Mill Road, where it becomes Brookfields, this local acquired fame in CAMRA circles when a previous regime barred a former Cambridge Beer Festival organiser – but that was a good while ago. The main body of this Victorian pub has been opened out into a horseshoe shaped single bar, in turn open to a conservatory-style extension. Lots of light wood (bare-board floor, bar counter and furniture) and a cream and maroon colour scheme give the place a pleasantly light and airy feel. A pool table occupies a dominant position and there are big screens for sport (and they seem still to be celebrating England’s 1966 World Cup victory here in a big way). Greene King IPA is served from one of those fonts which enable you to choose a creamy Northern head if you want (something which does IPA no favours in my view). Abbot and Ruddles County are on conventional handpulls. When I called early on a midweek afternoon it was understandably quiet but still friendly – this is a good honest local. Outside are a covered drinking area and a smallish garden. The pub does food, but not on a Monday when I called, so I couldn’t check out a menu.

Milton Arms Cambridge

This vast suburban pile on Milton Road was built in the 1930s as a hotel. It’s since been altered even more than the nearby Golden Hind and has had a major refurb since my previous visit. Fortunately it retains a public (“sports”) bar, over-18s only and with pool table and screens for sport. Some panelling and a fireplace in here are the last vestiges of the original décor. The rest of the pub comprises a lounge with comfy settees leading into a vast dining area, though plenty of internal screens render it less barn-like than it could be. The whole thing is tastefully decorated but the customary large-managed-pub blandness is inescapable. The Milton is part of Greene King’s Hungry Horse value food chain and prices are certainly keen e.g. two main meals for £8 Monday to Friday, curry and a pint £4.99 on Wednesday. Real ales are Greene King’s bog-standard range of IPA, Speckled Hen and Abbott, the last at a reasonable £2.50 a pint. Lots of outdoor drinking in front of the pub plus a kiddies play area.

Crown Ashley

I recalled this, from my last visit over 10 years ago, as a straightforward village local serving just Green King IPA on handpull and no food. Nothing much seemed to have changed in the interim. IPA remains the only real ale though the pub is a member of the Greene King Head Brewer’s Club for ale excellence and it was certainly a good example. There is now food but only once a month at special nights e.g. Greek, Spanish, Chinese. Inside is a long public bar with pool table at one end and a smaller lounge behind. It was very welcoming on a Sunday lunchtime with a good selection of nibbles on the bar. The proximity to Newmarket means that horse-related prints and photos all over the walls are inevitable – however the star attraction for me was a gorgeous long-haired white cat.

Reindeer Inn Saxon Street

Strange one this as I had absolutely no memory of what the pub was like though I’d definitely visited, possibly in its Tolly Cobbold days. Anyway, the place has clearly been comprehensively refurbished in recent times, the main bar sporting a smart contemporary look with navy blue walls and tiled floor; behind are a pair of linked dining rooms, also quite stylish though the wicker chairs aren’t to my taste. Food is clearly important here and the other customers were all eating, not that I felt uncomfortable just sipping my Adnams Broadside (the same brewery’s Bitter was the other choice). The menu looked fairly mainstream (nothing wrong with that) and there are offers like mid-week fish and chips plus a pint for £10.

A decent place to finish this series of visits. All six pubs had something of interest though, to be honest, apart from the Green Man, I doubt if I’ll be racing back to them any time soon.