Where better to pass a few Happy Hours?

PUBLISHED: 12:03 30 March 2006 | UPDATED: 11:39 04 May 2010

ON THE PULL Nadine Leydekkers offers a warm welcome at The Townhouse.
Photo: HELEN SOUTH

ON THE PULL Nadine Leydekkers offers a warm welcome at The Townhouse. Photo: HELEN SOUTH

THE Townhouse was, I think, the first pub I ever visited in Ely. I don t, in truth, remember much about it beyond that fact. I had just moved and, where some people s idea of a good first step is making a cup of tea, mine is going for a pint. There s alwa

THE Townhouse was, I think, the first pub I ever visited in Ely.

I don't, in truth, remember much about it beyond that fact. I had just moved and, where some people's idea of a good first step is making a cup of tea, mine is going for a pint.

There's always a contingent huddled around the bar in The Townhouse. I've done a stint there myself - all in the name of journalism - so I should know.

It reminds you of the TV programme Cheers, in that respect. You always knew who you expected to see back in those days.

The feel of the place hasn't changed much, in all fairness. The decor has - it's smartened itself up somewhat, if I may say, and more on the new conservatory later - but the atmosphere remains.

It's that interesting mix of modern and traditional, with polished surfaces offset by the presence of three real ales daily. No horsebrasses, though.

Manager Nadine Leydekkers came to Britain for a year's travelling. That was six years ago. She went from doing a couple of shifts a week behind the bar, to kitchen work, to management. Even Sir Alan Sugar would be impressed by that, surely.

She will, no doubt, be an integral part of the pub's 10th birthday celebrations next month. On April 12 - the day itself - the pub will be rolling back the prices to a decade ago, when Carling was £1.70 and a glass of wine was a not unreasonable £1.25.

Not that the beer's steep at the best of times. If you pay a visit between 5pm and 7pm Monday to Friday or 7pm to 9pm on a Sunday, it's Happy Hour.

Someone seems to have missed the fact that owners Vince and Debbie Bartlett have added an extra hour. Perhaps they should call it Happy Two Hours, or, if I was drinking solidly for that length of time, Forgetful But At Least I Had A Kebab At The End Two Hours.

It certainly seems to go down well with the locals. "We've got a very good group of regulars," Nadine points out. "Everybody knows everybody."

Like any pub worth its salt, it has evolved over the last few years. There's going to be a soul night every second Thursday of the month starting in April, and the weekly Sunday quiz nights are often heated affairs, most notable for Vince's wit and repartee.

I can't write anymore about pub quizzes. They're my pet subject and one of my favourite pastimes. Happily, The Townhouse caters for another of my favourite institutions, the beer festival. Many a time I have ended up out in a muddy field somewhere, having drunk some brew of indescribable potency, and then seriously regretted it the next morning.

The Townhouse's festival takes place every July, with 17 real ales on the go. The pub is also one of the few in Ely to enjoy the benefits of a garden which makes it a very pleasant place to wile away your afternoons in the summer months.

With The Minster, The Hereward and The Townhouse all in the vicinity of Market Street, that part of town has become a hive of activity.

"The three pubs have helped keep things at this end of town," agreed Nadine. "But we still need to get people from outside Ely interested in what's going on in Ely itself."

Tourists still love us, however. The Townhouse sees its fair share of them, principally due to the number of local brews on offer. Cambridge, Archers and JHB are all available at one stage or another, but there's your usual range of beers which you can see in every other pub too.

The pub was in the Good Beer Guide for the first time last year, and is on the up and up. They've got a late licence until 1am on Friday and Saturday nights, when they tend to attract a more mature crowd.

Food is available from noon to 2pm from Monday to Friday and noon to 3pm on Saturday. It's good, wholesome pub grub and in the summer months, you could do a lot worse than sit in the garden with a bowl of cheesy chips.

So, raise a glass to The Townhouse on April 12. I upset Debbie last time I wrote about them by suggesting their cellar was strewn with spiders, so to suggest so again would be pure folly. I didn't even go down into the cellar this time. Happy Hour was too much fun!

n Once a month Journeyman will be visiting one of the area's pubs. He will let you know which establishment he'll be visiting next time.

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