Last week I received the list of pubs nominated for the next Good Beer Guide (2017), and voted online for the ones I’d been to in the last six months (about a third). All but one would, I think, be worthy a place in the Beer Guide on quality grounds, but of course our branch allocation is limited.
One new name in the longlist was the Porterhouse in Willingham, a village 5 miles away that was a real ale backwater until the county’s first micro-pub (the Bank) came along. Now all three remaining village pubs have been nominated, which is some achievement in itself.
On a sunny Wednesday afternoon I walked the bounds, about 10 miles, and struggled to provide a compelling case to visit, unless you like so-called “big skies”, a thatched house, or the exceptional wall paintings in All Saints Church, one of Cambridgeshire’s best.
Two miles out into the Fens, you get the usual board telling you the empty land was an Iron Age Hill Fort that the Normans passed through, and clearly left some rubbish.
The three pubs offer a variety of styles. Near the church, the Duke of Wellington is a traditional Greene King house, more foody of late, that offers gravity dispense on request and serves the Mild (a bit watery I always find but I think you’re not supposed to say that).
The afore-mentioned Porterhouse had been another run-of-the -mill GK pub, but since freeing itself has had a really impressive makeover and may even attract a few folk from neighbouring Cottenham and Swavesey (folk don’t travel much round here though) for a menu that looked pricy by Spoons standards but hopefully more home-made.
It was well-done without being over-done, with plenty of proper seating. The glass in the picture separated a larger area for diners in a way that didn’t make me feel cut off.
Their web-site suggested Thwaites and Doom Bar. Instead an enterprising range of three on unusual gravity dispense included Newark and Pheantry, the latter well at home in a smartish pub. The Newark (£1.70/half) was tasty enough, albeit with a bit of bottom-of-the-barrel detritus. A solid NBSS 3, though I’d want to give it a re-try before voting for it in the GBG poll
Following micro-pub conventions, the Bank doesn’t open until 5. It was very good when I visited, with the usual beer standard and chatty owner.
Willingham itself is someway behind Whittlesey in the Fenland must-see stakes, but with two Beer Guide pubs and a possible third, and reasonable access by the guided bus, I suspect it will get a few beer travellers. The Chinese takeaway will not disappoint them.