The Butler, 85-91 Chatham St, Reading, RG1 7DS
Not quite town, not quite The Occy Road, The Butler’s a bit of a hidden gem. And always has been, really. Good booze, food, sports and – above all – live music. In fact, this might well be the best live venue in town you’ve not yet been to. Unless you’ve been here before. In which case you can forget that last bit.
Drink Selection: Decent. A wide selection of six old man beers and all the various other drinks you’d expect.
Location: Opposite The Irish Club. You know where that is, right? Sure you do. A couple of minutes from town, just behind the Oxford Road. Next to Face Bar. Near the Amateur Boxing Club. Not far from Iceland. C’mon, you know where we’re talking. Stop being coy.
Food: The Butler’s never really been known for its grub, but with the new owners in place, the Sunday roasts are getting a bit of a reputation.
Atmosphere: When a lively gig’s on, pretty bloody good for a tucked-away pub. You could be in a busy city centre boozer somewhere jazzy. A rare thing in Reading.
Punterwatch: Ordinarily, nothing too interesting to report. But one of the best things about the live music which we keep banging on about is that it brings a revolving clientele. So, depending on who’s playing you might get a pub full of mods, old punks, prog rock crusty types, teddy boys, you name it. The bookings bring ’em out of the woodwork. You never knew RG1 had such a thriving bluegrass or Scandinavian death metal community.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: There’s a generous big benched seating area out front, which is a unique place to discuss obscure music with half-pissed blokes in leather waistcoats/drainpipes/stetsons/blood-stained leather masks.
Sports? Aye, the lot. It’s another London Irish pub, so rugby’s a big thing. The new owners used to run The Three Guineas, so you’ll recognise all the rugby shirts on the wall, no doubt. Ties to the rugger are pretty strong, in fact. They even had a few Irish players serving pints as part of their Rugby World Cup launch.
Price: Nothing to moan about, you whinging old sod.
Decor: Your reaction to the back bit will depend on how you view old rugby shirts being used as wallpaper, really.
Pub Games: The pool table’s been replaced with two large weird velvety patchwork sofa things. But with space at a bit of a premium in there, you can see the logic.
Seating: Gigs get a good attendance and seating can be at a bit of a premium, but there are two large weird velvety patchwork sofa things. Which is a plus.
Toilets: Some might turn their noses up at The Butler’s bogs, but not us. They’re outside. We’re all for separate outhouse-type affairs that are -15°C. Plus, you can have a snide fag in between the lavvies and the back door if you can’t be arsed to go out front.
We didn’t want to like this place. Almost entirely just so we could sign this off with, “I ‘ate you, Butler!” in honour of the late Stephen Lewis off of On The Buses. But we rather bloody like it. Sorry, Blakey.