This wasn’t always the case. In the 1965 guide, East Anglian Pubs, Vincent Jones described the then Bath Hotel as …”justly one of the city’s noted landmarks for the toper and the epicure..”. He described the building as “partly 16th century” and the ambience as “ an essential part of the Cambridge Scene”, noting also that the “specials” at this time were Greene King IPA and (incredibly) Worthington E.
Since then the pub has passed through many hands and seen many guises, including those of a pizza serving café bar, and of an ill conceived cider house.
In 2000, then owners Whitbread gutted the inside, shifted the bar and moved the kitchen upstairs. The empty area was then filled with leather sofas and the once historic pub became a “Hogshead”.
Internet reviews I have collected from 2000 recorded the dismay that the refurb caused amongst local drinkers and historians. Unfortunately the rebranding didn’t work, sales were not enough, and the Hogshead title was removed a few years later along with all but a few of the sofas. By then the pub was in the hands of the Laurel pub company who, in 2005, sold it to Greene King. The interior has hardly changed since, seemingly left to dwindle whilst the brewery concentrated on promoting the more tourist-friendly Eagle.
So, if you’ll excuse the pun, I thought it was time that we gave the Bath House a plug. It is, there is no doubt, a basic pub. The menu could never be described as gourmet but it is reasonably priced for a city centre pub and the portions are large.
Until recently the real ale was not only limited in choice but also nigh on undrinkable, suffering from what became known to regulars as “The Bath House Tang”, a musty, mouldy aftertaste which clung to your tongue. This develops, some believe, when beer distribution pipes are very old or if untreated water has been left to stand in them for a prolonged length of time. I’m pleased to say that this has changed. Greene King were persuaded to invest a few hundred pounds to improve the distribution system and the beer is now of high enough quality to have been awarded a Cask Marque. The variety and choice of beer has improved too. As well as the ubiquitous IPA, Greene King XX Mild is offered as a regular guest and may well become permanent if enough is sold, and at least one other guest beer from the Greene King range is available.
But for the local and the regular drinker the main attraction of the Bath House is that it is a city centre pub not just for tourists. A stone’s throw from the Market Square, it is a meeting place for staff from the surrounding banks and businesses, University Staff and students, whose numbers are supplemented rather than overwhelmed by the occasional day shopper or party of tourists.
The staff like a chat and give the impression of being capable, busy and affable all at the same time.
In all, it’s a good place to be, and would be better still should Greene King decide to invest a little more. What do you say Mr Lawson?