UNIVER­SITY ARMS, CAM­BRIDGE.

Gay Times Magazine - - TRAVEL - Words Si­mon Gage & Stephen Un­win uni­ver­sit­yarms.com

On a patch of green half­way be­tween the sta­tion and the col­leges of Cam­bridge sits a build­ing no one has looked at for fifty years. Cam­bridge’s old­est coach house, it’s one of those build­ings that has grown in all di­rec­tions over the years with the orig­i­nal bit – the nice bit – even­tu­ally re­placed with a bit of 60s zig-zag stuff known in ar­chi­tec­tural terms as ‘shit’. It was fash­ion­able for five min­utes, dur­ing an ad break in an episode of Mind Your Lan­guage, in 1971. And was then ig­nored.

Now, with­out any­one hav­ing shed a sin­gle tear, that bit is gone and in its place is the re­born Univer­sity Arms with a drive-in bit com­plete with slightly amus­ing bulging col­umns all done in a very lo­cal-look­ing golden sand­stone. Walk in­side and it’s the per­fect Grindr pro­file of a build­ing: hand­some, colour­ful and game for a laugh. Done out in an Ed­war­dian meets play­ful 1940s style in all colours of the Far­row & Ball pal­ette (there’s a Far­row & Ball right op­po­site the ho­tel if you want to take those colours home with you), it’s the per­fect spot for mon­eyed par­ents drop­ping off their chil­dren at univer­sity to have a cheeky week­end. Or gays want­ing a bit of old-school so­phis­ti­ca­tion.

The re­cep­tion is grand and spare while the bar is called The Bar (we love lit­eral) and, along with the li­brary next door (re­plete with snooky per­fect fire­place), is cov­ered in pic­tures and pep­pered with clever tomes (there’s a real books theme here: our room is crammed with them, good ones too. We ac­tu­ally read – with the TV on in the back­ground, ob­vi­ously). It’s very much The Ivy, which is no sur­prise bear­ing in mind that the de­signer re­spon­si­ble for that, Martin Brud­nizki is the man be­hind this.

The restau­rant (Parker’s Tav­ern), we’re told, picks up on the at­mos­phere of a col­lege re­frac­tory, but you’d be pay­ing quite a lot for your ed­u­ca­tion if it was any­where as lovely as this with views over Parker’s Piece, the big stretch of green just out­side most of the win­dows, all those pic­tures (in­clud­ing a fruity one of a man sit­ting on an­other man’s lap) and pow­der-coloured leather through­out. The food – over­seen by Tris­tan Welch, who’s clever and hand­some and used to work along­side Gor­don Ram­say at Pétrus and hangs around the lobby just be­ing gen­er­ally nice – is good ol’ Bri­tish com­fort food like your momma def­i­nitely didn’t make (un­less she’s a culi­nary ge­nius). Over at the bar the staff, whose ex­per­tise you usu­ally wouldn’t ex­pect out­side of a cap­i­tal city, are charm­ing and chatty and will rus­tle up a cloud of some­thing fruity and po­tent or serve you their spe­cial­ist gin, which costs £55 a glass be­cause it’s made out of ants. And when you pop to the loo you’ll hear Alan Ben­nett read­ing Wind In The Wil­lows as you tin­kle. (He’s not ac­tu­ally in there, be­cause that would be weird.)

The col­lege theme is con­tin­ued in the rooms, again in those Far­row & Ball colours with books and mid-cen­tury-look­ing fur­ni­ture and bath­rooms with old-school soaps and two TVs in the suites so you can watch Homes Un­der The Ham­mer from, well, any­where, which is the sort of telly deca­dence we ap­prove of. And room 907, right up there on the roof, might just have the loveli­est bath­room in the world.

They spent 80 mil­lion of Her Maj’s pounds do­ing this place up, and they spent it beau­ti­fully. Be­cause Univer­sity Arms is now, by the long­est of shots, the most exquisite ho­tel in Cam­bridge.

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