I then take my life in my hands to cross the Mitchams Corner gyratory system and head into the Waterman on the corner with Victoria Road. This pub was attractively refurbished a few years ago but the gastro operation which first occupied it never really took off. Rui Xue and Shounian Gao took over early last year and have turned it back into a “proper” pub though food still features significantly. As well as traditional pub dishes like lasagne, chilli and fish and chips, there’s a wide range of specials, several with an oriental flavour (and Tuesday night is Chinese night). Between noon and 4pm, many dishes are on a two meals for £9.95 offer. Of the three handpumps usually only two are in use, selling Adnams Bitter or Broadside and Fullers London Pride. The U-shaped bar is smartly decorated but the real gem is the sun-trap beer garden, with wooden decking, parasols and a small fountain. Oh, and the pub sign is arguably the most attractive in Cambridge.
Not far to my next call, the Old Spring on Ferry Path, one of those pubs which went through several phases before settling down to its current excellence. At one point it became an olde worlde ale house fit by candles and with sawdust on the floor and spray-on cobwebs everywhere – that didn’t last long. For some years now it has been a stylish operation, mixing the contemporary and the traditional in a civilized TV and muzak-free atmosphere. The five real ales are from the Greene King stable – IPA, Abbot and three changing guests – and I’ve always found the beer to be in excellent nick. The interior is vaguely T-shaped but with several nooks and crannies and a conservatory-style section at one extremity. There’s also a large decked patio partly covered by a big awning. An extensive regular menu is supplemented by six daily specials, with main courses coming in mostly at between £7.95 and £9.75.
Now for a bit of a trek, over the river, missing the Fort St George (someone else delivers there), crossing Midsummer Common and into Fair Street for the Hopbine. Admiral Taverns bought the pub from Greene King five years ago and the real ale choice has benefited accordingly; the four cask beers change regularly though Tim Taylor Landlord and Shepherd Neame Spitfire are semi-permanent. I was pleased to hear on a recent visit that real ale now outsells keg. The back portion of the L-shaped interior hosts regular live music – a blues jam on Wednesdays, open mike on Thursday and various bands at the weekend. The décor retains some vestiges of the pub’s thankfully short-lived era as the Jester fun pub whilst the plentiful wood-panelling harks back more happily to the pretty basic boozer which it was up to the late 1980s. Food is served 12-9 Tuesday to Saturday, with fresh fish a speciality whilst “Cambridge’s Finest Sunday Lunch” is yours from 12-3.
Another round next time. We’re always on the lookout for people to help distribute ALE so please contact me (details on page 3) if you might be able to assist.