Opposite the Elm Tree is The First and Last. Previously known as The Cricketers, this Greene King pub is now under new management, and has been totally refurbished and given a new name – The First and Last was the original name for the pub (for a couple of years anyway). The pool table has been replaced by comfy sofas and chairs and tables, and it’s bright and airy with quirky decoration (look up at the rope light bulb design in the skylight of the lower bar and you’ll see what I mean!). There is also a TV screen if you want to catch some sport, and I hear they serve large and tasty Sunday lunches. I drank some refreshing Exmoor Gold; there were also a couple of other ales including GK IPA and Everards Tiger. It feels like there is a now another real ale pub in the Kite, so it’s a welcome addition.
The next pub on the tour is one of my favourite pubs: The Free Press. This pub stands unassumingly on a quiet corner on Prospect Terrace in the middle of the Kite, and was the first non-smoking pub in Cambridge. Its walls display old black and white local photographs and maps and it feels as if you are sitting in somebody's living room, especially when the open fire is lit in the winter. The tiny snug is cute and cosy, but if you want some fresh air there is a pretty secluded back garden or benches on the street to watch the world go by – you may even see Morris dancers performing outside. The Free Press is also a Greene King pub, and always has around three great guest ales on tap that are very well kept - on my last few visits they had the lovely Woodfordes Wherry, Everards Tiger and Wolf Battle of Britain. As well as great beer (served in oversized glasses to ensure you get the full measure), the pub serves good food and the staff are really friendly, which means the pub is very popular; it’s therefore hard to get a seat at times! The Free Press pulls the best pint in town, in my opinion.
When you leave the Free Press follow the road round to the left, you will come across the Tram Depot on Dover Street. This was where the old tram shed and stables were located when horse-drawn trams were serving Cambridge up until 1914. It is now a large Everards pub serving about 4 Everards beers such as Tiger, Beacon and Sunchaser, plus a couple of guests. The beers have improved in recent years; however, my only gripe is that the beer is served using sparklers. I know this is a personal preference, but I much prefer my beer served without them! That aside, the Tram is a lively pub and popular with students from over the road at Anglia Ruskin University. A covered outdoor seating area was recently constructed at the front of the pub which has patio heaters and an attractive wrought iron canopy.
Now retrace your steps, and when you reach the Elm Tree take the alley past its outside
seating area (Orchard Court) and then turn left to walk along Clarendon Street;
you will shortly see the Clarendon Arms on the other side of the road. This is another
Greene King pub and usually has one or two guest ales on tap – Belhaven St Andrews Ale and
Batemans All Seasons on my last visit. It was taken over last year and now feels fresher
and brighter, and the fantastic stone-flagged floor in the main bar is more exposed.
As well as quirky signposts dotted around the pub pointing to various landmarks in Cambridge,
you can find board games, books and live TV to keep you entertained.
The Clarendon is home to a wonderful pub dog (who you may also see appear in other Kite pubs).
It also has a reasonably priced menu and a small enclosed patio garden out the back.
When you leave the Clarendon Arms, turn left and walk up Clarendon Street until you reach the pedestrianized Fitzroy Street. Cross the street and enter Fair Street; halfway down on the right you will see the terracotta coloured Hopbine. This pub reopened under new management as a freehouse at the end of August and they have done a fine job refurbishing it, keeping much of the original detail and character. It’s comfortable, welcoming, has a pool table, and serves food and 4 regularly changing ales, Milton Tiki, Oakham JHB, Sharps Doom Bar and Humpty Dumpty Porter on my last visit. Another new real ale pub for the Kite!
If you are still feeling thirsty, make your way over to the Burleigh Arms. Head to the far end of Fair Street and turn right onto Maids Causeway; you will see the pub just opposite the zebra crossing (and opposite the now closed Zebra pub). Although the appearance of the Burleigh Arms is more like that of a ‘gastro pub’ (it has sofas, padded chairs, and stripped and polished wooden floors) it serves some decent real ale - Black Sheep Best Bitter and Caledonian Deuchars IPA are usually on draft here – and the food is good and not too expensive. The Burleigh also shows sport on big screens, and there is quite a large seating area outside.
So, these are some of the pubs that the Kite has to offer. Come and have a wander and get lost amongst the quiet back streets of this unassuming real ale paradise and see what you stumble across. Who knows, you might even find your new favourite pub...