Yet another local pub appears doomed. Planning consent is being sought to turn The Queen’s Head Sawston into a house and with The White Lion and The Black Bull so close, the planners are likely to say yes (thought the latter is also currently closed and facing an uncertain future). The Queen’s Head occupies a lovely old building but was trashed internally years ago and has never offered much of real ale interest – still sad to see it go, as in the right hands…
Cambscuisine, who operate the excellent Cambridge Chop House on Kings Parade, are opening a second establishment in the city. The St Johns Chop House will occupy the premises in Northampton Street which were most recently the home of Prezzo restaurant (older readers may recall that until 1981 this was a pub, latterly the Oyster Tavern, selling the city’s widest range of real ales in mostly dire condition). The style will be similar to the other Chop House – high quality, mostly local, British food and real ale direct form the cask.
The Branch Committee found itself well looked after when we had a meeting recently at The Chestnut Tree, West Wratting. Licensee John Drage was only in his sixth week in charge but was already making his mark; although it’s his first pub, his parents are in the trade so he knows what goes into making a proper traditional local. John is very keen on his real ales and should have added a fourth pump by now to offer Greene King IPA, Abbot or Speckled Hen and two changing guests or GK seasonals. The restaurant is open for Thai food on Thursdays (5pm to 10pm) and Saturday (noon to 10pm); Sunday lunches will follow soon. Other offerings include a monthly quiz, pub games (including petanque), Sky Sports, car boot sales and open mic nights. This is a really nice two-bar pub and well worth a visit.
We called in at The Cambridge Quy Mill Hotel, Stow-cum-Quy, to find out about the changes which Gregg Thorne, Food and Beverage Manager, has made since arriving in April. Although this is an upmarket hotel, the bar and restaurant are marketed as a country inn specialising in local produce and the bar does indeed have a very pubby feel. Real ales are always East Anglian with the permanent Adnams Bitter accompanied by two or three rotating ales from the likes of Brandon, Mauldon, Nethergate, City of Cambridge, Elgoods and even Devil’s Dyke (rarely seen outside The Dyke’s End Reach). There’s also a strong selection of bottled Belgian beers plus real cider from Pickled Pig and Cassels. Beer prices, which had been among the most expensive in our area, have been reduced to below the £3 a pint mark. By the time you read this, Quy Mill will have had its first Beer Festival (31 August) with ten or so beers on gravity and five on the bar; it will raise money for the Teenage Cancer Trust. The local theme extends to the food, sourced from the vicinity wherever possible (e.g. fruit and veg from the Darwin’s Nursery down the road, fresh fish supplied by Wyken Provisions, bread from Norths, meat from Andy Northrop). More on the website at www.bw-cambridgequymill.co.uk.
In July, The Kingston Arms, Kingston Street, Cambridge ran the first of its monthly beer festivals in the pub’s large covered garden. Around thirty beers were on offer at any one time in addition to the eleven on the hard pumps inside. Upcoming festivals will run from 25 – 27 September and 30 October – 1 November. The Kingston really is a most enterprising pub, other examples being: A range of “recession ales” at £1.95 - £2.30 a pint (and a recession menu). BBQs Thursday evening and Sunday lunch. A free Kingston Arms Privilege Club to access a range of offers. An increased selection of bottled beers.
A warm welcome back to Charlie and Caroline who ran The Alma Cambridge from 2005 to 2008 and have now taken over at The Alexandra Arms in Gwydir Street, slap bang in the middle of the city’s “beer heaven” area.
LocAle update. An unforgivable omission from the list of outlets in the last edition was the Bacchanalia off-licenses in Mill Road and Victoria Road. Ed at Mill Road reminds me that he always has Cambridge Moonshine in bottles and often has Milton and Moonshine on draught. The Three Horseshoes Madingley is another regular Moonshine outlet and also held its first beer festival in early September, featuring mostly local ales. The Ranch, Histon Road, Cambridge had a couple of Milton beers last time we popped in while Potton Village Bike was a welcome sight at the Red Bull Newnham.
The Poacher at Elsworth reopened in July and is now in the same stewardship as The Conservatory, Papworth Everard. Half of the interior has been given a much more ‘pubby’ feel, complete with dartboard, while the other portion remains essentially foody. Four real ales are on hand pump featuring the likes of Adnams Bitter and Broadside, Greene King IPA and Shepherd Neame Spitfire. Its great to see this lovely old thatched pub in such good hands.
A couple of unusual ales for the area – Brewsters Hophead and Decadence were on the bar at the Fox, Bar Hill recently.
The handpump population at The Eagle, Bene’t Street, Cambridge has grown from four to seven. Six were in use when we dropped by, five featuring Greene King beers and the other a lovely drop of O’Hanlon’s Yellowhammer.
The long-closed Black Horse, Dry Drayton, will have reopened by the time you read this. It’s now run by Aaron Marshall (whose parents Danny and Anne have taken the lease). A villager who had a sneak preview tells us that the interior has been transformed and is now very much in the contemporary style with wooden floor, white walls and large leather furniture. Real ales are likely to be from Milton Brewery.
And so to our customary round-up of pubs currently looking for new guv’nors. The most interesting news comes from Christies who have a number of freeholds on offer – the Devonshire Arms, Cambridge (at a very reasonable £150k), the Blue Lion, Fen Ditton (a Greene King pub), the Plough, Shepreth and the King William IV, Heydon. GK seek new tenants for the Alma, Cambridge, the Bell, Bottisham, the Dog & Duck, Linton, the Pemberton Arms, Harston and the White Horses at Oakington and Pampisford. Also on their list is the Cricketers, Cambridge - this was to be taken under the wing of Craig at the Free Press across the road but the plan fell through. Punch invite interest in the Bun Shop and Sauce Bar, Cambridge, the Haymakers, Chesterton and the Green Man, Grantchester. The Greyhound, Sawston remains available from Enterprise as do the Prince Albert, Stow-cum-Quy and Rosemary Branch, Cherry Hinton via Fleurets.