The Bar Sleuth: Ely pub welcomes Americans with open Arms
February 1, 2006
ELY — When I opened the doors into Kings Arms pub and sat down at the bar, I felt a sense of reception from the locals who were drinking pints and spirits.
While admiring the 12 beers on tap, including Guinness, Carling, Fosters and Greene King IPA, a 25-year Kings Arms customer leaned over and asked if I was American.
I replied “yes,” and the customer, Ray Bellamy, responded by buying me a drink. A responsive bartender, Graham Simpson, then carried out the nice gesture. Simpson is also the pub’s manager.
Set in a small dwelling in the shadow of the town’s famous 14th-century cathedral tower, Kings Arms pub provides a friendly and cozy atmosphere.
As you enter the pub, tables and chairs border a fireplace to the right. A stretched-out couch enclosed by more tables and chairs offers more seating to the left. If you prefer to be near the beer, a few stools line the bar, also to the left.
“It’s a traditional pub [that] gets a mixture of everybody,” Simpson said. “Anybody’s welcome as long as they behave themselves.”
Bellamy says he has welcomed many Americans into Kings Arms. If you’re lucky, he’ll even share some English history or maybe how his ancestors traveled with William the Conqueror.
“I met a lot of the guys that live off base,” Bellamy said. “I even stuck up for a few blokes.”
There is no jukebox inside the pub, but patrons are encouraged to bring in their own music CDs and play them on its stereo system.
“I’ve heard the deep blues to Eminem,” Bellamy said.
For more than 200 years, this place has been a local watering hole. Before that, the building was used as a coach house for horses and carriages.
The friendly regulars I met surpass its deep history, although this pub has not always been cordial, they say. A few years back, Kings Arms was known as “Beirut Arms” because of many skirmishes.
“It has settled down quite a lot,” said pub regular Parnell Scott.
Location: 12 St. Mary’s St., Ely
Food: No pub grub, even though an outside sign says “Enjoy Sunday Lunch Here.”
Drink: There are 12 beers on tap such as Greene King IPA, Guinness, Carling and Fosters, to name a few. There is Budweiser in bottles for those who need a taste of home. Top-shelf whiskey and a wide variety of other spirits are available as well.
Ambience: Cozy environment with plenty of locals ready to spark up a conversation.
Service: Prompt but relaxed.