Here is the next in the “Duke House five favourites” series and we all like a good pub don’t we? Difficult this because there are so many good pubs around including independents such as The Elm Tree. But, in no particular order here is our personal top five and if guests want to add their own just add a comment…!
The Champion of the Thames
In our view, a great example of a good, old fashioned British ale house, and just across Christ’s Pieces. So many old pubs have either closed their doors or been homogenised by the breweries (someone should have been severely punished for what they did to the Baron of Beef) but under Lawrence Dixon’s excellent management the “Champ” is a safe place to enjoy excellent beers and eclectic conversation. There’s no food but a passing nod to modernity means there is a TV for major events. Judicious volume control means it never dominates. You might well turn up and find a small team in the corner tackling the University Challenge questions. Workmen, dons, students, advertising types, fashionistas jostle for space or a stool. In short, we love it and long may it continue in these changing times.
The Free Press
Another longstanding Cambridge tradition, the Free Press is a snug little pub just around the corner. In fact, it actually does have a “snug”, a tiny, closed room adjacent to the small bar. The ales are excellent and wine choices are pretty good by Cambridge pub standards. Years ago The Press used to be renowned for its food. Opinions on its current form vary but we say it’s solid, home-cooked fare. The pies are especially good! If you are after a good value meal in pleasant surroundings, we don’t think you will be disappointed.
The Clarendon
It’s great to have such a good pub as the closest to Duke House. This is a neighbourhood gem. The Clarendon has been serving the locals for over a hundred years and offers well kept beers, good wine, a warm welcome and good pub grub (Sunday roasts are especially good) all at very good prices. Many guests have popped down to the Clarendon with it being so close and always bring good reports. In the summer time there is a little courtyard out the back. The quiz nights are actually very good - yes really - with the locals and students competing on their general knowledge. And there’s always a warm welcome behind the bar. What lucky people we are!
The Punter
A little bit more of a walk from Duke House but well worth it. Actually, we almost put this one in the restaurant “five faves” as we usually go there to eat. With old world “distressed” charm, friendly staff, Adnams ale, good lagers and a great wine list it certainly delivers as a pub. But the food is what draws us back again and again. “Gastropub” is a bit of a passé term now but this is exactly the type of place for which the word was invented. Great British food from a kitchen that knows how to balance old favourites with new twists. Dishes such as mackerel with salsa verde, parchment baked sea bass, grilled bream and roast guinea fowl vie for space with steaks, burgers and fish and chips. And once you are settled you do get table service. And now it even has its own “Punter Ale”… Why can’t more pubs be like this?!
The Green Dragon at Chesterton
If you fancy a cycle ride or good walk out of Cambridge to Chesterton, then the Green Dragon is a great spot. Another example of the difference a good landlord can make, Ronan McLister formally of the Fort St George, has brought reliable service, a well-drilled kitchen, great ales and a well-maintained garden to one of Cambridge’s oldest pubs. Crooked beams, low ceilings, log fires in the winter create a lovely atmosphere and from the front garden you can watch the river roll by (and rowers too).