With Christmas over and the snow melting, there's only one good thing about this time of year and that's sitting in a village pub in front of a log fire and drinking real ale as the afternoon mysteriously disappears. The Queen's Head is a quintessential village pub: ancient and friendly, warm and unpretentious, it has bar skittles, real lemonade and a stuffed goose who used to live in the car park and hiss. It gives January a reason for existing.
Get here early on a winter weekend, because from all over Cambridgeshire folk are trooping towards it like ants towards jam. It's the famous brown soup that does it. It bubbles perpetually in a cauldron on the bar; legend has it that it's topped up with leftovers every day and has been steadily evolving for generations. "That's what I tell the tourists", winks the publican. "But I'm afraid it couldn't be true – we sell out every day." Last Saturday it was a "reddish-brown" flavour, with a round of rare beef sandwiches so horseradishy they made me sneeze. The Adnam's is pulled properly from barrels behind the bar and real scrumpy comes from a hidden room out back. "Don't worry," says the barman, "I've put it through a sieve."
The Queen's Head has existed since 1729, and has had remarkably few landlords in that time. The current owner is descended from the previous two, and if I were him I wouldn't be in a hurry to leave. Nor are the punters on the ancient curved settle or tucked into the inglenook fireplace. Not until the clocks go forward, anyway.
Fowlmere Road, Newton, Cambridgeshire (01223 870436)Reuse content