The Secret Pubs of Cambridge: The Red Bull

Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery 31 October 2014

This week, on a tip-off from a Cambridge local, we ventured beyond the realm of ‘The Granta’, making it half-way to Grantchester, all the way to the ‘Red Bull’. While it is unlikely that your average student pub-goer would stumble across this place unwittingly, it is nonetheless surprisingly accessible, located directly opposite the Caius sports fields.

On first impressions, the décor of the ‘Red Bull’ was somewhat unremarkable, though perfectly welcoming, lacking as it was the charm of the ‘Champion of the Thames’ or the sporting history of the ‘St Radegund’. With comfy leather armchairs and an outdoor football table- always a welcome feature- the ‘Red Bull’ slightly redeemed its underwhelming start.

'the décor was somewhat unremarkable'. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery 

The pub takes pride in serving quality Italian food, including handmade authentic stonebaked pizzas, which we looked on at, salivating. No mere gastropub, there was also an abundance of casual drinkers intermingled with those eating.  Rather than segregating the two sections, the atmosphere combined one of the friendly local with an unpretentious restaurant. For Julia (a self-confessed glutton) this seemed ideal, as it was possible to combine the best parts of pub and restaurant into one glorious fusion of food and beer. At one point resting a plate of ‘fettuccine con salmone’ on our table, the waitress unwittingly risked the danger of Julia’s dinner-deprived desperation. Julia’s attempt to engage in humorous exchange was met only with confusion as she warned against leaving it at their own risk, leaving the waitress to hasten away, pasta in hand, with a nervous laugh and sidelong quizzical glance.

Sian lives close to the 'Black Sheep' brewery. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery 

Julia’s awkward banter aside, we turn to the beer on offer. As two born and bred Yorkshire lasses, we felt right at home to find ‘Black Sheep’ on tap, the brewery of which is dangerously close to Sian’s house.  With essay deadlines looming (and the duty of reviewing pints in mind), we restrained ourselves from sampling any of their extensive whiskey selection, opting instead for the ‘Directors’ and ‘Eagle’. For once agreeing on taste, the ‘Eagle IPA’ won this first battle of the pints with its sharply crisp citrus notes, nicely balanced with a bitterness to appease Sian. Julia was elated to find ‘Erdinger’ also on the menus- an old-time favourite- as Weissbier is too rarely found in Cambridge in her personal opinion. The McEwans on tap failed to inspire such enthusiasm, though it was fairly unobjectionable.

Julia engrossed in her pint. Image Credit: Julia Stanyard and Sian Avery 

Though the food looked undeniably delicious, the ‘Red Bull’ left your humble reviewers in a state of disagreement. While Julia was in her element- one only food can induce- Sian couldn’t help but feel the integration of restaurant and pub, though successful in its own way, was at the cost of any sense of cosy intimacy. Our recommendation of the Red Bull is therefore a conditional one. If you happen to be a pub purist, this is probably not the place for you. Yet if you enjoy/ can afford a good stone-baked pizza to accompany your beer (even if you are not quite as eternally hungry as Julia) this could be the perfect place to combine the two. Unless you are thus inclined, venturing to the ‘Red Bull’ hardly seems worth refraining from entering any of the more popular pubs you are likely to encounter en route.