The Retreat, 8 St. Johns Street, Reading, RG1 4EH.
Arguably Reading’s best-loved back street boozer, The Retreat is basically someone’s house they’ve opened up to let you drink in. It’s always been a hidden favourite for fans of unusual beers and, after a few years in the wilderness, seems to be back to its best. Provided you can overlook rubbish art for sale, Victorian toilets and dodgy-looking wiring, this is a proper little pub and one well worth a visit. You daft drunk.
Drink Selection: Bloody ace. Three or four handpumps for your real ale twats, next to your normal fizzy lagers and ciders and spirits. But it’s the fridge you need to be raided. Sexy flat ciders, German wheat beers, strong Belgian Trappist and fruity efforts… There’s plenty to try out. They’ve even got Courage Light Ale for fans of lager and light (ie elderly men in the early 1980’s).
Location: Nestled on a residential street between the Royal Berks Hospital and Kings Road, it’s a short(ish) walk from the town centre. Found in ‘The Village’, it makes for a decent triangular pub crawl along with The Lyndhurst and The Eldon Arms.
Food: We’re happy to report – none. Unless you count beer as food. Which you shouldn’t. Because it’s drink.
Events: The less said about the ‘ukelele lessons’ the better, for obvious reasons. But if you’re a fan of intimate little gigs from local types and don’t mind the odd left-field choice, you’re in luck. Look at Paula Riordan down there. She looks like she can really wail.
Atmosphere: As with pubs of this type, it all depends on when you visit, but weekend evenings will have a bit of buzz about them and music nights are known to draw a decent enough crowd.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: About three people at a time can stand outside for a fag out front, but that’s about it. And you’re very aware that you’re on a street full of houses, so all conversations about how wonderful lung cancer is need to kept to a sensible volume.
Toilets: Impressively dreadful in the gents. They’re clean, but they’re just, sort of, outside. A thin sheet of corrugated plastic overhead is all that protects you from potentially getting pissed on as you piss in the fifties-style school urinals. But there’s something strangely thrilling about using them. These are what all pub bogs should be like.
Sports? No. There is a TV in there, though. So we’re presuming terrestrial events get an airing. We visited on a Friday night and the telly was on. On mute. With no one watching. A cardinal sin in our book/on our website.
Price: Average. You’ll pay more for some of the more interesting bottles elsewhere, so all the more reason to go a little off-piste with your selection.
Decor: The place is reassuringly tatty. There’s the odd bit of paint peeling off the walls here and then, but it’s clean and tidy. The front room is decked out like a real pub. The back room, for some reason, has loads of terrible artwork for sale in it. The kind of paintings that only people who wear Crocs and wear fleeces with wolves on would buy. Have a look:
Visible Savory Snack Selection: A few crisps, a few nuts. Adequate.
Pub Games: There’s a new(ish) dart board in there. And not much room for anything else, really.
Seating: Comfy, and pub-like. No slouchy sofas or any of that sort of business. Just nice, sturdy, wooden, cushioned buggers with lovely little armrests. Spot on.
Punterwatch: Locals. A few look like they might need telling when to go home, but more in a drunk old fella way, not a ‘did you spill my wife?’ type way. But otherwise friendly enough.
Pub Trivia: The Retreat was opened in 1875. That’s one Hell of a lock-in they’re having. Oh, and they have an annual pickled onion competition…
The Retreat – An odd little fish. But one worth catching. What a shit metaphor that is.