The picturesque Granta at nightAurelia Li

Cambridge is a place of learning, of academic excellence, of research. Or so my supervisor says. I spend my days trawling through libraries and obscure websites in search of that crucial point, that essential quote that gets my essay the honourable 2:1 we all crave. Good stuff. But why stop there I thought? Why waste these skills on academia? So I, aided by the experience of two most learned colleagues, embarked on a first-year journey to sample as many pubs as we could in search of a few gems to get us through the next two years here. The results were indeed startling. So read on – I present to you my dissertation.

The Mill

The first stop on our research tourAurelia Li

A pub I came across on my very first day here, the Mill tucks itself away behind the Anchor and is by far the superior watering hole. Initially appearing a tad pricey, it soon becomes evident that the Mill more than makes up for the four pound plus pints in character and charm. 19th century with wood panelled walls and myriad beer mats adorning the bar, it is an ideal pub for a cold, winter’s day. With classic vinyl records playing most evenings (Abbey Road, Parallel Lines and Surfer Rosa have all featured in the past), you can quite easily pass a Friday evening there, well away from the crowds and sweat of the Life queue. Add to that a wide selection of in-house board games and you soon realise that the Mill is the gift that keeps on giving. And that’s before even mentioning the beer – winner of three CAMRA awards, roughly eight good ales are always on tap at any one time. Their stout is so good that my learned Irish colleague even prefers it to Guinness! With bar snacks extending from chilli peanuts and crisps all the way to pork pie and scotch egg, the Mill is an absolute must, particularly if somebody else is paying!

The Granta

The Granta by daylight, still beautifulAurelia Li

The next pub on this list continues on the theme of riverside refreshment, finding itself just round the corner from Darwin and bordering Coe Fen. The Granta, although not having quite the same range of ales as the Mill, makes up for it in price – their wine is cheaper too. Add to that a by no means shameful selection of bar snacks (anywhere that does chilli peanuts is good in my books) and you have yourself a solid and reliable drinking establishment. However, where the Granta really calls the shots, as my approving college wife points out to me, is in its location. The riverside view and interior décor make it seem almost as if you’re on a Mississippi paddle steamer at times and with a large, open terrace overlooking the fen, it’s the perfect pub for a warm summer’s evening. A definitive “date pub”, its appeal and aesthetics are what boosts it up to a spot as one of the best pubs in Cambridge

The Elm Tree

The Elm Tree is worth trekking across Parker's Piece forAurelia Li

Perhaps the real wildcard choice on this list, the Elm Tree – part of a “Bermuda Triangle” of three different pubs within about five doors of each other on the other side of Parker’s Piece – is a great way to escape the bubble and venture into the more down-to-earth “townie” side of Cambridge. An extremely homely pub, classic art deco ads adorns the walls and the landlords make a great effort to make the decoration seasonal too (it was getting decidedly spooky upon our last visit!) The range of drinks is frankly astounding – ten on-tap ales are just the tip of the iceberg, with over fifty Belgian beers, multiple ciders and even mead (ASNACs take note) all making their way onto the menu. Add to that home-made pork scratchings at only a pound a bag and the jaw begins to drop. Candlelit during the evenings and with a great selection of books and board games, this is a great pub to remember for when the nights draw in.

The St Radegund

Great things come in small packagesAurelia Li

If the Radegund were a student, it’d be earning straight firsts every year. Located at the end of King Street, it is Cambridge’s smallest pub and also undoubtedly its best. Six ales are on tap at any one time of which four guest ales are sold at the incredible price of only two pound a pint, knocking even spoons for six in terms of value for money! Add to that a great range of bar snacks (pork scratchings are a must when visiting) and half priced G&Ts on Fridays and you realise just quite why this establishment tops the Tavern Tripos. Not only that, they run weekly Facebook competitions for twenty quid bar tabs (one of my fellow researchers was recently lucky enough to win) and with such low prices, this goes a long way! Naturally such a small pub is rather snug and, with the walls lined with Jesus college oars and memorabilia, it certainly feels very Cambridge. The locals are great fun too, giving it a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, although one of them did once spend half an hour tipsily explaining the Spanish subjunctive tense to me (as an MMLer this was actually a great help!). With character in spades, a great range of drinks and unbeatable prices, the Radegund is the pinnacle of Cambridge pint shops and I wholeheartedly recommend paying it a visit.

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