The Abbot Cook, 153 London Rd, Reading, RG1 5DE
All ‘information’ in this review is ‘accurate’ as of November 2015.
Set in Cemetery Junction, The Abbott Cook is part of the huge pub conglomerate, Mitchell and Butler’s chain of ‘Vintage Inns.’ Reading locals and graduates might fondly remember this place as The Upin Arms, selling cheap booze and eats with a rather interesting/disgusting purple and green ’90’s décor. Since it’s been revamped though, The Abbott’s has had a big turn around in both punters and reputation. But is it still really a pub, or has it defaulted to the more fashionable and slightly disappointing realm of the gastropub? Shit and Not Shit Pubs in Reading investigated. Like Columbo. But with less murders. And more getting pissed.
Drink Selection: One of the things the Abbott Cook clearly prides itself on is its comprehensive booze selection. Specifically its craft beers. You could tell this because they make a fervent point of telling us that ‘craft beer is their passion’ on the menu. And while we’re always happy to get quite annoyed with pubs getting on the craft beer hipster band wagon, they’re not wrong to be proud. They have a huge amount of wanky lagers both on tap and by the can/bottle. There’s also 5 cask ales available for your real ale twats. We pitched up in late November and they were offering a good variety of ‘winter beverages’ such as mulled wine, hot toddies, etc. Well, when we say ‘offering’ we mean ‘had it written on the chalk board, but didn’t actually have it available behind the bar.’ One of the other downsides of this pub is the rather hefty price tag of some of the booze available. But it’s only what you’d be expecting from an establishment that wants to align itself with the craft beer market. In other words, if you want to pay £2.20 a pint – order a Carlsberg in a Hungry Horse.
Location: Smack bang in the middle of Cemetery Junction, the Abbott Cook is just a short 15 minute stroll out of the town centre. It’s also very close to the student area of town, which was handy back in The Upin Arms days, but not much use now pints come in at £4.65.
Food: This is very much a ‘gastropub’ and therefore it’s got a pretty snazzy menu on the go, selling all the things you’d expect these days from your handmade scotch eggs to your gourmet beef burgers. We’re not really here to comment on the food, but our roast was delivered in the time it took us to get back to our seat which is always slightly alarming, and we did have to ask for it to be heated up. But all in all, it was good grub and it seemed pretty popular of a Sunday afternoon.
Atmosphere: We paid this place a visit on a Sunday afternoon (see above), so the pub was pretty busy with families, older couples and, well, middle class types (there was a jazz trio on, ferchrissakes…) . You can really tell that the Abbott Cook doesn’t want to attract skint students any more. That said, we didn’t go on a Friday or Saturday night, so they could be having a right old bloody tear up in there. Although we very much doubt it.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: There’s a pretty big beer garden at the side with plenty of seating. For fans of those who like the tops of their heads 9000 degrees hotter than the rest of their body, they also have outside heaters.
Toilets: Good. Loo paper. Bit Footballer’s Wives in there, but nice and clean.
Sports? Not a Sky/BT sports pub. Someone asked to put a live tennis final on when we were in and they obliged. So terrestrial events get an airing. Which is shit if you like Premiership football, but great if you like snooker, bowls or sheepdog trials.
Price: As we’ve mentioned, the booze can come in a bit pricey. As can the food. They do have a few deals on on certain nights, mind. And if you stick to some of the normal-ish beers, you can keep your round on the cheaper side. But this isn’t the pub to go to if you want to stick to normal, cheap beers. Unless you’ve been dragged there by your boss/richer friend. In which case, why are you at the bloody bar anyway?
Visible Savory Snack Selection: Poncy. A selection of nuts artfully displayed in mason jars and the kind of ‘artisan’ crisps that you need a junior hacksaw to get into. Pretty much what you’d expect from a gastropub.
Decor: We’re no Lawrence Llewellyn Bowen but, very tasteful. The’ve got lamps with tassles on and everything.
Pub Games: Back in our day you wouldn’t be seen dead playing a board game in a pub, but apparently it’s really cool these days. So of course, the Abbott Cook has a selection. No proper games like darts or pool, though.
Seating: A good mixture of comfortable and uncomfortable seating. The bar stool seats spin around though, which is a tad disconcerting after three pints of 6.5% imported Albuquerque beerbooze.
Any Other Comments: One of the sad things that seem to come along with ‘cool’ hipster-type pubs, can be the notable lack of service. Albeit it was a Sunday when we went, there was only ever one member of staff behind the bar which ballsed everything up as soon as more than two people decided to finish their pint at once. They also seemed to have terrible disdain for washing glasses, preferring to leave them all stacked up at the end of the bar. We can only imagine they just hoy them all away at the end of every night instead of using the glass wash, in case they mess up their top knots. That said, floor service was excellent.
One of the highlights of the pub is that they are one of the few ‘dog friendly’ pubs in Reading. They had a water bowl outside, and a little jar (mason, of course) of Bonios on the bar. So that’s pretty cool. Unless you have a crippling dog phobia caused by a childhood mauling, of course.
The Abbot Cook – Excellent booze selection, decent enough food. Looks great, but don’t expect much change from the till. Do expect to hear the muttered phrase, ‘London prices…’ from the bloke next to you.