On our way to see a band at the Junction we called into a couple of pubs on Hills Road– the Emperor and the Flying Pig, two very different pubs with different atmospheres. They have one thing in common – they both serve good beer.
When we arrived at the Emperor we couldn’t really miss the fact that it was decorated for the festive season. Not with just a few fairy lights, oh no; this is, indeed, the sister pub to the Empress, and we all know how Christmassy that pub becomes at this time of year. So it was great to see that they have applied the same principle to their Hills Road establishment and gone the whole hog – Christmas paper plastered all over the ceiling, red and blue fairy lights dangling everywhere, giant soft Santa, Rudolph and penguin toys in every orifice imaginable, and tinsel surrounding every window. You can’t get more Christmassy than this. Except, of course, at the Empress.
The pub was set up for a comedy night with chairs laid out in rows and a few (occupied) tables at the back. We took a seat on the back row and enjoyed some Buntingford Crow’s Nest, 3.9%, a light amber citrusy beer with caramel malty flavours served straight from the cask behind the bar. Also on offer on draft were Buntingford Aramis – very sweet and floral – Oakham JHB, and Timothy Taylor Landlord.
The next stop was the Flying Pig at the top of Station Road. This lovely pub was dimly lit and busy with every table taken. With its dark wood, walls and ceiling covered in pictures and posters, friendly locals, and candles on tables, it’s one of the most atmospheric pubs in Cambridge. And it always serves great beer, including on this visit Crouch Vale Brewer’s Gold, Cambridge Moonshine Red Watch (a tasty blueberry flavoured ale – there are always good Moonshine beers on in this pub) and Black Sheep Bitter. All hand pumps have plastic pig heads sitting on the top of them. Very cute.
But on a more serious note, this pub is under threat of demolition– it’s in the area where this big CB1 development is taking place, and is surrounded by modern office blocks and apartments. And a lovely pub like this, in the eyes of the developers, is just in the way and not in character with their soulless new-builds. The Osborne Arms, which was next to the Pig, has just been demolished without Conservation Area Consent, and there is now a big empty space where it once stood. The Pig is a pub that simply should not be demolished just to create more space for redevelopment – the modern, bland area needs unique, individual places like the Pig to inject a bit of soul into it. The developers say they would build a new Flying Pig in one of their units, but this defeats the object – the pub is full of atmosphere and character which just cannot be recaptured in a contemporary space. That’s what makes it so special and irreplaceable.
It wasn’t possible to obtain listed building status for the Flying Pig, although English Heritage did say ‘The Flying Pig makes a significant contribution to the character of the Conservation Area and to the local streetscape’ so hopefully that counts for something. There’s a petition circulating at the moment for Cambridge City Council to refuse Conservation Area Consent to demolish the Flying Pig; to sign it, click here – the more signatures the better.
Fingers crossed that they do the right thing with regards to the Flying Pig. Once it’s gone, it’s gone, and there’s no getting it back.