Great Expectations

Great Expectations, 33 London St, Reading, RG1 4PS.

Great Expectations
“What the Dickens?!”

All ‘information’ in this review is ‘accurate’ as of January 2016.

Let’s get straight to it – Great Expectations is Reading’s #1 Charles Dickens-themed pub (well, ‘hotel & bar’). Which might be a slightly funnier introduction to this review were it not for the fact that there’s actually more than one. The Mercure George Hotel on Broad Street has its own ‘Dickensian themed bar and brasserie’, called – cleverly – Dickens’ Bar. Why is RG1 so obsessed with the Martin Chuzzlewit author? Gawd knows, he never lived here or anything. Maybe it’s just because we share a name with the verb he required in order to make a living. Anyway, let’s get on with it…

Drink Selection: This place has come on leaps and bounds on the booze front recently. Not only are they now getting interesting bottles and tap efforts, they’re now even making their own drinks. The term ‘microbrewery‘ might bore anyone from a city, but for us country rubes, a pub making its own beer on site is still vaguely interesting. All the other drinks you’d expect are available, even Caffrey’s, a personal favourite of your beloved author. Bear that in mind next time you see me waiting a bar (you’ll recognise me – I’m the really handsome one).

Great Expectations
A Tale of One Bar. lol

Location: A couple of minutes from Broad Street, try not to get run over as you cross Queen’s Road over to the place. It’s on London Street, on your left. Next to that weird hippy place that serves Ethiopian dog food.

Food: Speaking of dog food, if you’re eating – go in with Low Expectations. We’ve seen and tasted a few of the things from the menu recently and, while affordable, they’re pretty uninspiring to say the least. We ordered a rather-too-fancy-sounding dish involving black pudding which arrived at the table with no black pudding. Instead it had cut-up sausages in it. ‘Chef says sausages and black pudding’s basically the same thing’, the waitress told us. We eventually accepted the logic and settled the bill with a torn-up beermat.

Beer Garden/Smoking Area: There used to be tiny little smoking area out back that, thinking about it, might have actually been a fire exit. Which would explain the alarm that always used to go off, the big green ‘Fire Exit’ sign and why we always got kicked out for ‘going out the fire exit to smoke’. Anyway, nowadays people smoke out the front on London Street.

Great Expectations
A couple of Old Curiosity Shops. lmao

Price: Reasonable. Especially if you head in of a Thursday. Selected pints (including the Caffrey’s) come in at £2.25. Half pissed on nine quid of a town centre pub? Lovely stuff. Oh, and a basic menu of weekday lunch offerings are a fiver a pop. If you want to take the chance, like.

Decor: Here’s the nice thing about the place. The hotel rooms are relatively boring and normal, but the pub itself is decked out like a little Dickensian museum. The decor here really is different. You could say – if you were writing a review of the place and couldn’t think of anything funny – that the way they’ve decorated the place is a nice Oliver Twist on the traditional pub look.

Great Expectations
These interesting little booths make comfortable little places for a drink after Hard Times at work. pmsl

Toilets: All okay. There’s even one of those amusing johnny machines that sells hooky ‘Little Blue Pills’ and the like.

Pub Games: The fruit machines ruins the ambiance somewhat, but it’s a rare joy to see a bloody pool table in a Reading pub. And one in its own little area, tucked away and with enough room to cue properly.

Great Expectations
Great Expectations landlord and occasional writer Charles Dickens, seen here on a £10 banknote.

Seating: Varied. Comfortable. A mixture of chairs, benches, leather sofas and stools.

Sports? Aye. A couple of high screens show games.

Punterwatch: Orphans, workhouse owners, street beggars, you know the type.

Great Expectations
The well-lit library room certainly doesn’t make for a Bleak House. rofl

Events: A Thursday quiz. Starting a shade later than other places (8.30pm), it doesn’t drag and only costs a quid. Or a ‘Nicholas Nicker-by’ (nicker – it’s another name for a quid, isn’t it?). Fuck off, you try coming up with a dozen bloody Charles Dickens jokes.

Looks great, the beer’s decent, there’s even a pool table. You’ll enjoy yourself. But order the grub and you won’t be asking for ‘MORE?!’



9 thoughts on “Great Expectations

  1. Lynn January 6, 2016 / 6:08 pm

    I’ve eaten in great expectations many a times and the food has been fantastic. I have recommended it to friends and family who now eat there on a regular basis. The staff are friendly and has a great atmosphere.


  2. Shit Things January 20, 2016 / 3:32 pm



  3. A Person (@rdgresident) January 25, 2016 / 5:04 pm

    Charles Dickens was invited to be MP for Reading, twice.

    He also did readings from his books in that building when it was a public reading room (newspapers not books).

    The building was a non-conformist chapel.

    They have a micro brewery now and do beers with Dickens themed names, because they can


    • Shit Things January 25, 2016 / 6:50 pm

      Yeah, but he turned us down. Twice.

      Didn’t know he actually visited the building, though. Amongst all the Dickens stuff, you’d think the place might actually mention that somewhere.


      • ab July 20, 2016 / 1:21 pm

        It does tell you that!!!


  4. Tatyana May 9, 2016 / 12:47 am

    I read the review top to bottom plus the date published and concerns me if you have been there lately? The pub has been refurbished and this pictures are far back on time! I am sorry to say this, but this review cannot take into consideration and none of this exists at the moment. You must take another visit and put a up to date review and update this one explaining the readers the date you were there. It does not not make sense I go to a hotel and leave a review 3 years later, doesn’t it?


    • Shit Things May 9, 2016 / 10:33 am

      We ‘must’, eh? Funny, we didn’t realise you set the rules of this website, Tatyana.

      This review is from January 2016. Written in January 2016 after a visit in January 2016. For the record, we’ve also been back there in the last month or two and this review is still accurate.

      As for pictures, we disn’t take a camera in with us, we used the most up-to-date photographs available online. So you can blame the people responsible for the marketing of the pub for not updating their website/social media with pictures of the refurb back in January.

      While there may have been work done since those pictures were taken, they still pretty accurately represent the interior of the place.

      Much Love,


  5. OnePorkPieToRuleThemAll February 21, 2017 / 4:36 pm

    My friend and I go there often for the football, as the place has Sky and BT and is never too full for us to get a comfortable table in full view of a screen. The food, as you rightly say, is very hit and miss. The Trio of Sausages (venison, beef & Guinness, and wild boar & apple, served with mash) is lovely, but even better are the nachos, a massive portion with beef chilli con carne, salsa, sour cream, guacamole and cheese. I did once have to take it back because the chef forgot about the salsa, sour cream and guacamole though, which I actually found more impressive than annoying.

    On one occasion the table next to us was occupied by 4 young Spanish people, 2 of whom work there. The off duty waitress had just had an argument with her chef boyfriend, who had grabbed his skateboard and stormed off in a huff, and she was now being consoled by her friends. She was loudly complaining about him and slamming the table every couple of minutes with no regard of anyone in her vicinity trying to watch a game.

    One of my favourite parts of the whole place, though, is a petrified pork pie hidden in one of the many glued-down bits of ‘antique’ tat. We discovered it by chance during a random bout of exploring around the place, and on one visit we heard it being discussed at the table next to us. God knows how long it’s been there, perhaps Dickens himself put it there and that’s why they can’t bring themselves to dispose of it.


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