ELY INVADED BY TONBRIDGE

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This post is a bit pointless, as Paul Bailey has already extensively chronicled our Friday night in Ely, but I enjoy pointless stuff. Paul’s blog is rich in the personal detail that gives a “sense of place” to his reports on pubs and beer, so I’ll have to add a few things that Paul couldn’t.

Mrs RM was rather astonished to find I was in the county, and jumped at the chance to reminisce about Tunbridge Wells over beer while I drank tap water (killing pubs as usual).

Paul, on a Fenland stopover en route to Norfolk (would you risk a night in Norfolk ?), chose one of our “less heralded” pubs 5 miles up the road.  He could have camped in our garden for £30 if he’d asked, we’re all heart.

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The only pub in a very old-fashioned but interesting village, the Red Lion served some poor beer on my last visit, but Mrs RM’s Pedigree went down quickly well, and my sip suggested I might have to pop back.   I can’t name anywhere else in Cambs selling Pedigree regularly, even the Marston’s dining pubs.

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Ely looked gorgeous.

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The streets weren’t necessarily heaving (you can be in Cambridge on the train in 15 minutes), but the pubs were.

I’d wanted Paul to see the Drayman’s Son, an early micro with a cosy feel and a crafty craft range.  Two ladies budged up to give us space at their table, though it was a bit like fitting a family reunion into your living room, and I’m famously claustrophobic.

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Mrs RM and Paul sank their 5.9% IPA very quickly so I wouldn’t feel left out while I watched on.

It’s a friendly, quirky place, and wouldn’t be out of place in Middlesbrough’s micro quarter.  Nice street art too.

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The second pub in the Beer Guide is the one I’d traditionally recommend to visitors.  Greene King’s Prince Albert has always been a proper wet-led back-street boozer with high quality IPA and Mild. It still looks the part, but has a really noticeable evening food trade now.

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I can vouch for the quality of the Mild.

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As Paul notes, some of the prices were a bit of a shocker.

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Not so much the IPA, £3.60 is almost a bargain, but £4.50 for Landlord is quite a high-point for a town long thought of as an escape from Cambridge’s excess.

Still, Paul and Mrs RM clearly enjoyed the beer and the pub was packed.  Or I assume Mrs RM did, as she’d sunk her Sparta before I got back from the loo.

Paul lives in Tonbridge, Mrs RM comes from Tunbridge Wells.  Within an hour it was evident which town has the faster drinkers. Sorry, Paul.

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Last stop was the Fountain, a rare middle-class town pub without food and music that has managed to remain unchanged for the c.20 years I’ve known it.  The stuffed fishis still there, as (I think) are the Landlord, the photos from King’s School, and the Adnams. Meantime keg beers are the only obvious changes in that time.

Given time I could probably think of a small handful of pubs like this, but it would be a handful. Reviews mention the feel of a private members club, though the drinkers tonight were Ely’s smart young professionals.  There were more smart young professionals in Ely than you’d believe possible.

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I was your fag at school !”  isn’t an introduction you hear very often in Stockport. Or Cambridge.

Out of the Beer Guide for many years now, though Ghost Ship and the Southwold were clearly good enough for our Kent tasting panel, and the Fountain would appeal to most proper pub fans. Ely CAMRA suffers from a tiny allocation of GBG entries to spread over it’s catchment.

With never-ending housing developments both here and just down the A10, Ely looks a bit under-pubbed right now. 

11 thoughts on “ELY INVADED BY TONBRIDGE

  1. An excellent post Martin, with some nice quirky photos. I especially like the one of the customer in the Red Lion, about to fall asleep at the bar – and possibly slide off his chair! Thanks for filling in the gaps. I wasn’t taking notes, but yesterday I tried your suggestion of writing things down on my phone, using Word. It doesn’t look at all conspicuous, but I’m a slow “tapper” compared to scribbling things down on paper, so I will have to see how it goes.

    My rate of drinking has slowed down with age, but when I’ve got a raging thirst on, I can still sink a pint pretty quickly. I had to pace myself yesterday on the London brewery visits. More about those later.

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    1. You’re plenty quick enough, Paul, compared to folk on CAMRA crawls in, say, Stockport. It’s a myth that Northerners drink quicker than Southerners. Mrs RM rather plays up to the running gag in my blog as well.

      Look forward to the London reports.

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  2. Martin, without the pointless things in life, we would all be miserable. Carry on Sir.

    Those charity collecting dogs are a menace. Even I was reeled in as a twild. The deceit required to get money out of idiot children is the sort of thing I would expect from a cat.

    I feel compelled to point out that Ely is a city and not a town.

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  3. Landlord’s expensive because – it’s expensive. It’s probably the most expensive cask you’ll see regularly in the free trade (even more so than eg most Cloudwater back in the day), typically £95 or so per firkin. That £4.50 looks like they’re just applying a straight 65% GP to everything. Which is hardly taking the mick, but a lot of pubs do end up applying a fixed cash margin rather than a %GP to more expensive pints.

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    1. Can’t say I’ve noticed the premium before, though in London e.g. Nicholson, it’s probably going up against similarly priced strong IPAs at £4.20. It was well under £4 in Barnet this year, for comparison Still, no-one forces you to drink it. Just an odd guest at that price.

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