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The Maypole – family-run and family-owned pub

EATING & DRINKING  |  04/10/2018

 

A unique family-owned, family-run pub in the heart of the city. Our intrepid pub explorer Steve Linford, visits The Maypole.

 

 

The recent history of this pub spans my time in Cambridge, give or take a year, so it’s interesting for me to see what has been achieved in that time. Run by the Castiglione family since 1982 it must be unique among city-centre pubs in the fact that they own the freehold. The opportunity to purchase a freehold in publand is vanishingly rare and, although it was not an easy process, the resulting enterprise is a shining example of what can be achieved by independents with ambition and talent.

 

I think my earliest impression of the pub’s reputation was for its cocktails. Chatting to Vince and his father Mario (over coffee!) they explain that Mario and his wife Christine took over the pub in 1982 after his career as a champion mover and shaker. In fact in 1985, when he was chairman of the local UK Bartenders Guild, he was the star of a 20 hour sponsored cocktail shake at the University Arms Hotel in aid of charity, attracting national media attention. At the same time Mario and Christine were raising a family, in fact for a time they lived ‘over the shop’ in the pub’s first floor accommodation. Vince remembers that pub life was not exactly conducive to studying. However, something about it must have rubbed off because he joined dad in the pub and helped move the business on.

 

 

When they initially took it on, The Maypole was a quiet local, owned by  Tolly Cobbold, the former Ipswich-based brewer and they were tied to buying the notoriously dodgy Tolly product line, so I guess it was handy to have some expertly-produced cocktails on offer. They slowly built the business through changes in corporate ownership until 2009 when the great opportunity came to buy the freehold from Punch Taverns. Ownership of the building set the business free. No longer tied to product lines and shareholders they’ve been able to develop their own version of how a pub should be, blending friendliness with a sharp eye for new trends amongst their customers.

 

 

The lively mix of students, graduates and locals who seek this pub out, clearly appreciate what Vince and family have put together. The crowd on this Saturday evening in November is bubbly and happy, spilling out into the cheerfully-lit covered outside area. No doubt starting life as a result of the smoking ban, it is now a vital part of the feel of the place, even on a freezing cold night like this. There’s even a well-served hatch to order from which doubles as an off-sales kiosk. Now that is clever.

 

 

Up to sixteen cask ales are available from the decorous central bar in the main room including ones from local breweries such as Moonshine. Spiritual offerings include over thirty single malts and forty trendy gins. Still can’t decide? Have a look at the blackboard – more that seventy bottled beers and cans. And then there are the ciders.

 

 

The Sicilian and English heritage of the family is reflected in the menu: homemade Italian specialities including Boscaiola, Rusticana and stone-baked Pizza rub shoulders with Fish & Chips, Darcy’s Beef & Ale Pie and Roasted Ham, Eggs and Chips. All top-quality, locally-sourced food, put together by the ex-Midsummer House chef.

 

 

The future of this lovely Cambridge asset is looking good, the next generation of Castigliones is showing a strong interest in the form of sons Benito and Leonardo who both work in the bar.  So next time you’re in town take a little detour and treat yourself to a taste of how great a pub can be when given its independence.

 

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