Friday 11th September 2015
This is a relatively new addition to the Reading cask ale scene. New, in the sense that it has a new name, new interior and a new grey paint job outside.
However the building has served as a pub since at least 1868, which was the date its landlord was first recorded in a census.
Although I have visited every pub in Reading’s town centre during the 1970s, I have no specific memories of this one, although I believe it was a Whitbread house, so could have once been a Wethered’s (of Marlow) pub.
It is located on the corner of Greyfriars Road and Tudor Road and maybe in recognition of the latter was named the Tudor Arms, or was it the other way round, with the road being named after the pub? It would appear to have lead an uneventful life until more recently. I understand that it was an entry in the CAMRA Good Beer Guide for 1982. I will have to find my copy to see what beer they sold.
By 2006 it had been renamed to the Malthouse and had one hand pump that often sold beers from Adnam’s of Southwold.
It is not known if it closed for a period before reopening under its new name.
By 2007 it was known as a gay pub and opened to 06.00 at weekends. However by 2011 it was closed and boarded up.
It remained shut until Thursday 13th February 2014 when it reopened as the Greyfriar. It is officially known as “The Greyfriar at Reading” but as the outside of the pub displays the simple version I have used that. I wish it well as its location will count during the weekday lunchtimes and early evenings. However I hope it can generate enough footfall to deflect drinkers away from the town centre at weekends.
I entered through the side door in Greyfriars Street. Although it is now one big room it is easy to see where it once was two. The wooden bar was on my immediate left. After ordering a beer I settled at one of the tall tables that line the large clear windows along the Greyfriars Street side. The other side of this section has normal pub tables and seats.
Over in the other section there was more conventional furniture and in the corner I observed a three-piece stuffed red leather suite. Above this is a flat screen television that is surrounded by pump clips of all the beers you’ve missed. I’ll have to stop saying that, yet it is true! Opposite the TV was something I hadn’t expected, a dart board. Good for them! Too many pubs take them out, so it’s pleasing to see one installed.
The white walls and the blue one behind the bar give the pub a contemporary appearance, yet it does not have a café-bar feel. I thought the wooden crates on the back wall were a novel solution for the storing of soft drink bottles, crisps, etc. I think that the retention of the original waist height wooden panelling helps with the general ambience, I’m glad they kept it. I guess the décor is “modern pub”.
On the bar there are six hand pumps and four of them dispensed beers from the Windsor & Eton (Windsor) Brewery. This was a result of an earlier “tap take-over” two days earlier, see below. I didn’t mind because I don’t often have the chance to sample beers from this prolific brewery. There beers were: Maracaná (4.0%) a Brazilian blonde beer originally produced for the World Cup, but since repeated; Guardsman (4.2%), a best bitter; Eton Boatman (4.3%), a golden ale and Conqueror (5.0%), a Black IPA.
The two other cask beers were Hogs Back (Tongham, Surrey) Bitter (HBB) (3.7%) and Dark Star (Partridge Green, West Sussex) Expresso (4.2%). As far as cider is concerned I don’t think they have any of the real stuff. They advertise a Hog’s Back cider that is only available in keg. Amongst the keg founts on the bar is a hand pump clip for a Farmer Jim’s cider. However there was no sign of a box behind the bar.
Notwithstanding that, this pub is very well worth visiting, unless you are a cider fan, of course. A quiz is presented on the first Monday of each month.
There are also “tap take-overs” one a month. This is when a single brewery has their beers on all six hand pumps. Its location, less than 300 metres from the front of Reading railway station, makes it an easy pub to visit, even if just for a stop-over between trains.
The Greyfriar of Reading, 53 Greyfriars Road, Reading RG1 1PA. Tel: 0118 958 0560
Open: Monday-Thursday 12.00-23.00; Friday-Saturday 12.00-24.00. Sunday: Closed
Food: Monday-Friday 12.00-15.00
From the railway station come out on the town side at the bottom of the four escalators. Turn left and walk in that direction down steps and slope.
By now you will see the pub on the other (left) side of the road.
The station is reached in 25 minutes from London Paddington and is a major hub for Cross-Country and the Great Western Railway Companies. The town centre has buses to all areas of Reading provided by the excellent Reading Buses Company.