Monday, 27 March 2017

Cambridge City Centre pubs

I recently had the pleasure of visiting Cambridge with The Lovely Jemma and friends. We had a great day despite the throngs of tourists and the annoyingly long walk from the train station to the town centre. Sadly the wet weather meant we weren't able to enjoy a punt down the River Cam, but we did meet our tourist obligations by paying a visit to the impressive Kings College before succumbing to the lure of the many excellent pubs. I've written about the pubs on the outskirts of the city centre before, but on this visit we managed to visit a few boozers in the middle of all the action.

We started with The Mill, a small two room pub in a busy location right by the majority of the punt launches. The place was packed when we popped in at lunchtime. I started things local with a pint of the Cambridge Brewing Co King's Parade, which is brewed at their sister pub. After the first few sups The Lovely Jemma noticed there was something unusual at the bottom of my glass. On closer inspection it turned out to be a nail! I've found strange things in a beer glass before but never one of those. It was a good job Jemma noticed it or I probably would have drunk and choked on it without a second thought. I went through the typically British reaction of not wanting to cause a fuss and thinking maybe the nail should be there - perhaps it was a bizarre Cambridge initiation or maybe the brewer specifies a nail must be served with the beer which wouldn't surprise me these days. When getting the beer changed the staff could offer no explanation on how the nail ended up in the glass, so it will forever remain a unsavoury mystery. The nail might have added something to the beer though, as the replacement pint didn't taste as good as the first one. The experience was a bit off putting and eventually the crammed and noisy pub got a bit much for us so we moved on.

We next popped in to Pint Shop with the intention of getting lunch in the restaurant at the back. After being told there was a ninety minute wait for a table we decided to try our luck in the smart, modern "pub" area, which serves a selection of bar food rather than the full restaurant menu. There was a long list of beers displayed on a huge blackboard, with around 10 keg and 5 cask. To the shame of my CAMRA membership I stuck with keg as the selection on offer was so strong. I started with the Kiwi IPA from Summer Wine which was excellent, a super hoppy and fruity treat. After enjoying a tasty sausage roll and chips with curry sauce I had a very pleasant half of the Sleeping Lemons Export Gose from the Wild Beer Co which had an excellent balance of fruity flavours and didn't make my eyes water too much with the sourness. The food and beer were excellent, but the prices were a little too high even for this jaded Londoner. A small portion of chips and curry sauce for £4 is right on the edge of "rip off" territory. But I guess as long as mugs like me keep buying it, they'll keep selling it for those prices. Overall though this was an excellent pub, with a cosy and friendly atmosphere, good food and an excellent beer list chosen with care.

We finished off the day at The Maypole, a modern and bright pub with an appealing terrace about a ten minute walk from Kings College. I went back to cask here and enjoyed a Nene Valley Australian IPA, an easy drinking fruity brew. A good selection of American beers, and an excellent selection of Belgium beers were available in can and bottle. After a half of Grain Brewery Slate, an excellent smoked dark beer, it was time to call it a day. Feeling a bit tired and lazy we decided to get an Uber back to the station. I know they're a evil company but it's just so easy to use their app. I look forward to returning to Cambridge soon - and will hopefully get a punt ride in next time!

Wednesday, 22 March 2017

Ramblers Rest, Chislehurst

Chislehurst is a pretty, well to do suburb right on the border of South East London and Kent. It's a deceptively large place, with the train station a good 20 minute walk from the main high street and shops. There is plenty of money in the area and there are always rumours around that Chislehurst is home to many a villain who made good. With many of the mansions blocked off behind large gates I do wonder if there is shifty business going on that the owners would like everybody to keep away from. Of course the more likely reason for the gates is that they just don't want plebs like me oohing and aahing at their impressive properties.

I've written about several pubs in Chislehurst before, and to be honest not much has changed since that write up. The Ramblers Rest, a quaint weather-boarded pub about halfway between the station and the high street, had eluded me and I managed to pay a visit a few weeks ago. The pub should be an easy 25 minute walk from my house, but unfortunately a detour is required as the direct route is blocked off by the scourge of the countryside - the golf course. I imagine before golf courses and private gated roads made themselves known in Chislehurst it was possible to have a nice ramble to the pub, but now the most direct route involves walking through a wooded area right next to a major road.

The pub is split into two rooms consisting of a large dining and drinking area on the lower level, and a smaller area geared towards drinkers on the upper level. The bar spreads over the two rooms. A couple of TV's show the sport (rugby when I visited.) A older, male regular was propping up the bar chatting to the young, female bar staff. The beer selection was fairly average, with four handpumps alongside the usual collection of lagers and fizzy ciders. The ale choice was mainly boring brown bitters, and I tried a pint of the "house ale," actually a mass produced brew by the Caledonian Brewery. It was fine, a little bit more malty than yer Doom Bars and London Pride. Service was friendly.

Overall the pub is a decent local, and with no shops or tourist attractions nearby I imagine it has to offer a consistent and reliable experience to keep the local residents dropping in. Despite being right in the middle of a wealthy area it was surprisingly down to earth, perhaps even a little shabby in some parts of the pub. This is not a place with lots to distract from conversation, and it looked like the other customers were happy with this. Although I wouldn't make a special effort to go back, this boozer is worth popping in if you happen to be walking (or rambling) in the area.