Always overshadowed by the huge run of Les Mis, the laughs of Spamalot and the huge shoe of Priscilla Queen of the Desert, the Cambridge does well to sparkle beneath the famous theatre by its side.
Three words to remember: location, location, location. On the intersection of Shaftsbury Avenue and Charing Cross Road, The Cambridge is the perennial busy man of the London pub scene, packed and heaving on any given night.
Beyond its fine pickup spot of a location, the pub is basically run of the mill. The simple tables and chairs and collection of small cushioned benches are as normal as interior furnishings get, and the glass-filled partitions are all that shine. Normal or not, the interior is pleasant enough and the printed wallpaper offers a regal, conservative print that adds a touch of plush to the bare boards of the floor. Tables are hard to find any time after five and you should expect the shapes of standees in all corners as a constant. For a more relaxed environment to sample the British food on offer, the Four Seasons Dining area is provided above the bar.
The pub is host to rays of sunshine and clouds of grey, if you’re the type that likes to hear weather analogies of a pub’s clientele. Its location and welcome-all attitude mean there are definitely touches of the good, the bad and the ugly. The tourists and theatregoers make up the sunnier side of things, while there is an element that scowl from beneath their dripping clouds souring the place just slightly. It’s a good place to stop off for a drink before heading somewhere else and the numbers decimate as the evening wears on and the party is to be found in the beyond.
The food at the Cambridge is from the exact same menu as countless other London pubs that are operated by the same brewery so don’t be shocked to see the dishes like barbecue chicken and bacon and Timothy Taylor steak and ale pie in front of you. The Four Seasons Dining Room on the first floor also offers the usual burgers, sandwiches and light snacks.
You’ll find what is expected of a mid-level Central London bar and then a little more on top of that. The wine list is heftier than most and there is a good range of spirits. There is a guest ale on rotation along with the usuals like London Pride, IPA and Timothy Taylor’s. The lagers are a good bunch, including Staropramen, Amstel, Kronenbourg, Carlsberg and Stella.
The Last Word
The Cambridge is the archetypal city centre pub with ladies in posh flowery frocks enjoying pre-theatre drinks mixing with more nefarious characters after any place to get inebriated. The mixture keeps it interesting and if lively is what you’re looking for then the Cambridge will serve you well.