The cinema closed in 1956 and was used as an electrical warehouse for many years before being occupied by two short-lived nightclubs (anyone remember The Exchange and Levels?). Come 1995 it became the Fresher and Firkin, part of a chain of brew-pubs then owned by Allied Breweries. The in-house brewery supplied five ales though they were stored under nitrogen pressure so weren't technically real ale. For whatever reason the place never took off and by 2000 it had been renamed the Graduate and become an "It's a Scream" fun pub (with no cask beer). Finally it was taken over by Barfly as a music venue before closing for a refurbishment that never came in 2008.

After much rumour and speculation, Wetherspoons stepped in and, being a huge building, this does seem like a natural for them. There are two floors. Because the ground floor is very long and short on natural light, it has some slightly gloomy interludes but the decor is very tasteful; it aims to make the most of the remaining original art-deco features supplemented by sympathetic additions like the wood and mirror panels and period-style lighting. The upstairs bar is much lighter and has a large bay window overlooking the river - a lovely spot to sit. There's also plentiful dark-wood panelling and an open-to-view kitchen.

The manager is David Paterson who has been with 'Spoons for 11 years, latterly managing the Half Moon, Mile End, London. He aims to run a "traditional" Wetherspoons pub with no music or dancing and a target audience of more mature years than that catered for by the Regal. The Cambridge News had reported a lot of concerns by local residents before the pub opened but David has met with many of them and is sure that their worries have been assuaged. There is also more emphasis on food here than at the Regal.

On the real ale front, 10 handpumps adorn the bottom bar and three the top one. This means that as well as the standard Ruddles Bitter, Abbot and Weston cider there is plenty of room for changing guests. David is keen to promote local ales and to have mini-festivals - and, indeed, a recent visit found five Nethergate ales on offer. At £1.99, a pint is 16p cheaper here than at the Regal. Incidentally, it's worth noting that the guest beer in the upstairs bar generally isn't available in the lower bar.

Elsewhere in these pages we comment on the Wetherspoons phenomenon, acknowledging that "super-pubs" like the Regal and Tivoli aren't for everyone. What can't be denied is that the real ale choice in this part of town has expanded hugely and with several other good pubs in the area, it's well worth coming north of the river for a crawl.