The Hop Leaf, 163 Southampton St, Reading, RG1 2QZ.
A cosy pub with a welcoming village feel, The Hop Leaf’s run by the Hop Back Brewery out of Wiltshire. It’s a lively little place with a decent atmosphere, chummy locals and a nice selection of liquids to buy. Not only that, but it has a bloody bar billiards table. Which instantly makes it better than every other pub in Reading that doesn’t have a bar billiards table.
Drink Selection: Well, this will all depend on what you make of Hop Back, really. If you don’t dig their range, you might do well giving this place a swerve (this is a proper ‘brewery pub’). Though their Summer Lightning, Citra, Entire Stout, Taiphoon and the rest of them are all very drinkable. There are a few other ‘regular’ lagers and ciders on the go too.
Location: Enough of a walk out of town that you’d never stroll past it if you only drink centrally. It’s on Southampton Street, just before
dodgy challenging boozer The Pheasant and on the way to Whitley. It’s basically the last decent drinking hole out that way for some miles.
Food: Nah. Our advice? Put a beermat over your pint and order something from Pizza2Night next door. £2.99 for a little pizza, two slices of garlic bread and a can of what northerners annoyingly call ‘pop’. £2.99!
Atmosphere: We visited on a Saturday evening and the place was pleasingly full without being a pain in the arse. We took it in turns to use the billiards table with locals in a remarkably polite way. An easy atmosphere makes for a ideal spot to have a few casual evening boozedrinks. A top winter pub all round, we’d say (and just have).
Sports? Nope. Terrestrial only, by the looks of it. The cardinal sin was being committed on the TV too; when we first walked in, the whole bar of five or six blokes was sat silently gawping at ITV. Admittedly at a classic Penn & Teller magic trick, but the telly shouldn’t be on in a pub. Basic rule, that.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: Smokers – who, it should be noted, are both sexy and hard – get yourselves out front. You’re on the pavement with some wooden benches. “Ah, That Sweet Carolina Smoke!”
Decor: Nicer than the pictures we’ve scavenged from the internet suggest. Pubby. You know – pub stuff. We don’t know, do we? We’re not Laurence Llewelyn Bowen, are we?
Price: You won’t be upset.
Pub Games: Darts and bar billiards. Which is all you need. Even if you got rid of the darts.
Recommended. The kind of place you might find in a charming Norfolk coastal town or on top of a snowy Cumbrian hill or some such load of twee bollocks. Nice booze, friendly people, BAR BILLIARDS.