Location: Midsummer Common, Cambridge, CB1 1HA, UK

Part of the Cambridgeshire-owning Greene King brewery and pub company, Fort St. George maintains its own identity on the banks of the Cam. Placed near Town Centre yet bordering the expansive Midsummer Common (complete with cows and everyfing! - well, until the onset of BSE in 2000 anyway) on one side and the Cam on the other, the Fort has managed to withstand the modern pace of commercial/touristy Cambridge, only 10 minutes away (I'm looking at you, Lion Yard).

The name

From the official page, paraphrased:
In 1639 a small fort was erected on the present site of Madras by the East India Company, and it was named Fort St. George after England's patron saint. Many years later, someone decided that a hostelry on an island in the river Cam bore a resemblance to the fort, and the pub became known by its present name, which stuck.
The Fort is no longer on an island, as the Cam's been rerouted, but it is still right next to one of the main bike- and foot-bridges and sees brisk traffic daily. There's a good deal more of the history in news clippings, but as they are plastered all over the inside walls I which I haven't seen in over a year, I am not too sure of the facts. I do recall that it was once located right next to the Cam ferry - which either burned or sank, I believe in the early 1900's. The ferry was replaced with a bridge...which also burned! Then the Cam was rerouted, the island became a bank, and a second bridge was built which still stands and is, as mentioned, one of the main ways to get from the Chesterton Road and Arbury residential areas to Town Centre, if you're on foot or bike.

Some features:

4 main congregation areas (5 if you count the large outside area, complete with its own bar, open on warm days), 3 of which are gambling machine free (!) - in fact there are only two quite forlorn-looking machines in the main area. Each area (the Main, the Lounge, the Restaurant and the Snug) has its own character, created by clever architectural tricks like raised/lowered floors, extraneous interstitial walls and narrow passageways. There are indeed darts.

The perfectly good Greene King Abbot Ale and not so exciting IPA are always on real tap, as are your standard Stella, Guiness, Carlsberg and Strongbow. There's always at least one guest ale, but they're fairly predictable: you will usually find Bombardier or Hen's Tooth, with the occasional Summer Suffolk thrown in - they don't get all that adventurous, but perhaps it is that Cambridgeshire is not known for an overwhelming presence of breweries.

The St. George boasts a thorough and splendid menu, although being spoiled by Austin's cheap eateries I found myself goggling in horror at the prices, which start at 8 squids a dish and only go up. I must admit I've only ever had the English specialties of fish and chips. The chips are particularly good, being actually well...chip-like, and not the thin, tasteless, greasy sticks that show up all too often. Instead they're robust, thick and potatoey, wonder of wonders. While I cannot say I am a Cambridge pub cognoscenti, I have visited quite a few - and the St. George truly has the best chips. If you're requiring hearty fare, give the sausages & mash a try. Fuel for the whole day, easily. There are quite a few other dishes, from vegetarian chili to brie and grape baguette, to "linguini with spinach, mushrooms, shallots, crushed garlic & pine nuts in olive oil". There's also the surprising Thai salad.

For the visitor unused to non-24hr food providers, lunch is served from noon to 2:30pm Monday through Friday (12-6pm on Saturday), and 6pm to 9pm Monday through Saturday. Then there's the mystical Sunday Roast, from noon to six.

The Fort has three primary moods; the quiet, the festive, and the familial. It's quiet through most of the week, with few visitors and little staff - being a bit farther away from Centre will do that. On Friday nights it explodes to capacity and beyond with celebrants of all drinking ages; the following weekend it's more of a family place, since the Midsummer Common draws such and it is right there. Finally, a rare fourth mood is on it as assorted festivals occur on the Common itself - once again, it is its proximity that draws in the passersby. At any time there will be an interesting cross section of pub-going folk there, either enjoying a bitter or engaged in intent conversation. There's nothing really special about it, but perhaps it is that quality that is special in itself. Stop by for a pint.
Near-daily visits over most of the year 2000

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