A group if us undertook, in the interests of local history you understand, to negotiate the streets and lanes of the eastern end of Huntingdon High Street and Hartford to study some of our town’s hostelries. We were inspired in this endeavour by an old article from My Friend magazine of 2011, which can still be read on the website of the King of the Belgians pub at www.kingofthebelgians.com
Sadly, since the previous pub crawl, The Sun on Hartford Road has closed, so we started our mission in The Samuel Pepys on the High Street. It was late afternoon, so there were only a few drinkers in. Some local lads were watching rugby on the TV. Its an open plan pub, with a shabby chic look, all very attractive and comfortable and there is a nice patio area in the garden at the back for the summer months too. On the bar are 7 hand pumps, 5 regular ales and 2 visiting ales. Also available is Punk IPA (Brewdog - a huge British brewing success story) and Coors Light and Cobra lagers. This isn’t all of them - there is a lot of choice! The pub offers four menus; lunch, dinner and the ‘Little Lunch Menu’ which is incredibly good value, offering 1 course for only £6.95, 3 courses £11.95. Plus there is a Kids Menu where all the meals are £4.95. This pub has a very nice feel to it, and barman Ronnie was cheerful company!
Turning right out of the door towards the town centre, we dodged down St Clements Passage and Ouse Walk to reach the Victoria Inn, a matter of minutes on foot.The Victoria is one of only two independent pubs in Huntingdon. It is at the heart of the community in the Victorian terraced streets between Hartford Road and Riverside Road. Set in a perfect ‘village green’ location in Victoria Square. We got a greeting from everyone present as we went in the door - this is a friendly locals pub. No food is served in the Victoria, but they like their sport here. Tony, the publican, subscribes to Sky Sports so that he can show all sports on the many screens in the pub. For the ale drinkers, there are two hand pumps, and, as the pub is a free house, Tony can chose any beers and change them regularly. Today he has Old Speckled Hen, a particular favourite!
When we leave it is fully dark, but if you were here for a drink in the summer, after sitting outside looking over the green, you might want to take a walk alongside the river, which is a couple of minutes away. Opposite Euston Street on Temple Close is a tiny little alleyway that takes you to Hartford Road. Cross the road carefully, its so busy here, and you can walk along the river path all the way up to The Hollow in Hartford before you have to rejoin the main road. At the junction of Main Street and The Hollow stands The Barley Mow. It’s a 15 minutes plus walk to get here, and as this is December, we have a designated driver and have come by car!
The Barley Mow is spacious and comfortable.There is a good sized car park and the inside space is open plan. This is great for when the pub has bands playing, which they regularly do, and with room for around 70 in the restaurant, the pub can serve large groups. Given that we were pub crawling in December and that one or two of the groups were sporting reindeer headgear - we figured they were works Christmas parties! But the pub hasn’t become just a restaurant - there is a really well thought out lounge area and the lovely publican, Jenny, told us that on Thursdays at 8pm there is a well attended quiz (all proceeds for charity) and much community feeling amongst the clientele and staff. The Barley Mow is a Charles Wells pub and has 3 hand pumps, one of which is Bombadier and the other two are visiting ales. We sampled Youngs Winter Warmer (delicious) and St Austell Jolly Holly, both very well kept. There’s a good menu with a lot of choice, which includes a children’s menu. The numbers of diners in suggest that the food must be good! We liked this pub very much, spacious with a warm atmosphere.
Moving on we took just a very short walk back towards town, and stepped in to the King of the Belgians. Its a beautiful 16th century building and inside it has real olde worlde charm. Lots of beams, (mind your head if you’re tall) and a lovely welcome from landlord Matt and his team. We decided to get a bite to eat and chose pizzas because the KOB makes the pizzas fresh and cook them in their stone oven. I ordered the Hot Dracula, and it was fabulous! Pepperoni, onion, chorizo, Jalapenos and black olives, and lots of cheese, wonderful, £10.60 for a 12” one and £6.20 for a 7”. These can be ordered to take away too. At the KOB they have the light bites, pizzas and burgers menu, plus a full menu with many great sounding choices and desserts, wine list and a children’s menu. Whilst eating our meal we saw that the pub has at least one CAMRA award for each year from 2013 to 2016, hanging on the wall. They have 4 hand pumps and today they had Adnams Ghost Ship, Lone Star Winter Red Ale, The Star Brewery Velocity, and another that I don’t remember oh-ho! I ordered the Adnams Blackshore stout which was a great pint, and also had a sip of the Winter Red, which was very good. On the first Monday of each month there is an acoustic singaround from 7.30 pm and special food themed nights are once a month. There’s plenty of information on the KOB’s website.
What great pubs we have right here in Huntingdon, so different in character,
so welcoming and with so much to offer our community.
Thanks everyone for your hospitality!