The Trooper Potts, Unit B2, 350 Basingstoke Road, Reading, RG2 0NT.
21st August 1915. Trooper Fred William Owen Potts was coming under heavy artillery fire in the blisteringly hot and airless heat of a Turkish trench. Potts and his good friend Arthur Andrews, both from Reading, found themselves caught up in the devastating carnage that was The Great War’s Battle of Gallipoli. It was a campaign that was to claim the lives of more than half a million men.
Both wounded, they were about to have their names added to that very long list of casualties… Until Trooper Potts did something so heroic he was to be awarded the Victoria Cross – the highest military decoration for valour available. He tied his friend to a shovel and, with bullets and shells raining down upon them, dragged him six hundred yards to safety, over a gruelling 48 hour period. Despite being badly wounded himself. ‘Trooper Potts’ was, without doubt, a selfless and truly remarkable war hero.
21st March 2016. The Hungry Horse discount pub and restaurant chain open an aircraft hangar-sized MegaPub and crèche flogging cut price Carlsberg and six quid dog shit burgers in Whitley. They name it The Trooper Potts.
It’s what he would’ve wanted.
Location: On an industrial estate off the Basingstoke Road. Near Morrisons and the football stadium. Blimey. Have you ever heard a more depressing description of a pub’s location? It’s opposite an Aldi and next to a ‘trampolining centre’, for fuck’s sake. And the address starts ‘Unit B2’ too. Just take that in for a moment. Not ‘High Street’ or ‘Christchurch Lane’ or anything… ‘Unit B2’. It’s a bit Auschwitz-y, isn’t it…?
Speaking of which. Here’s your first snap of inside:
Drink Selection: If these places were about decent boozing as opposed to cut-price family swill load-ups, they’d be called Thirsty Horses. But they’re not. So don’t expect any exciting drinks. That said, there are four ales, a similar number of lager choices and the other basics covered.
Food: As AA Gill or Giles Coren would no doubt put it, ‘the food at The Trooper Potts is fucking shit.’ We ordered four different things and they were all laughably terrible. Overcooked and tasteless, you wouldn’t feed it to a cow. Even a cow you didn’t like very much. Admittedly, we ate there four days after opening, so we’ll be generous and say that it might improve in the future. But it won’t and you know it. Stop lying to yourself.
Atmosphere: The Pooper Trotts (LOL, etc.) splits into two as you walk in. There’s the ‘dining’ (ROFL, etc.) area to the left and upstairs and the bar area to the right. The Grubhole, as it should be called, feels like a Harvester if it were designed by a colour blind prostitute. The bar, or boozy griefpit, has an airport pub feel, but the kind of airport pub that’s only patronised by people awaiting an imminent court appearance.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: If you can bear the sound of a thousand screaming children and kick through the hundreds of discarded and sodden copies of the Daily Star, you can chain smoke a packet of ten Mayfair fags in this thing (that looks like the kind of garden area you’d get at a rehab clinic or psychiatric hospital):
Sports? He-hey! We’ve something positive to say. The bar has an enormous HD screen which seems to be permanently tuned into SPORTSSPORTSSPORTS.
Price: He-he-he-hey! We’ve another positive thing to say. The drinks are bloody cheap. A pint of premium lager came in at £3.25, ale £3.30. A bottle of wine was a tenner. There are weekly drinks deals too, like Wine Wednesdays, where a bottle of plonk comes in at a fiver. Food is cheap(ish) too. Well, it’d have to be, wouldn’t it?
Seating: Plentiful and varied. No complaints generally. Booths have screens showing compulsory CBeebies in them of a daytime, though. So you know the target audience there. Kids eating here aren’t learning how to be social and behave in pubs/public, though. The message here is: “You don’t need to pay attention in social situations. Just watch Peppa Pig and be quiet while Mummy and Daddy sit silently staring at each other, drinking Fosters tops and trying not to cry.”
Decor: It’s like DFS decided to go into the themed restaurant game, with the theme being ‘1990’s children’s play centre’.
Pub Games: Nope. Other than a few crappy machines.
Toilets: Small. And not very well maintained already. There was no soap in the gents the whole time we were there. And EVERY urinal was full of pubic hair.
Pub Trivia: The Trooper Potts was designed after consultation with psychologists and the architects behind many Chinese Apple factories. They hold the honour of being the only new pub in the UK to open this year with built-in suicide nets.
Any Other Comments: You certainly can’t say that the theme is a token gesture. There are frequent mention of Trooper Potts and displays and things. But in the surroundings? They really aren’t suited. The contrast between ‘World War I Hero’ and ‘Giant Prole Boozehole’ really is stark and it’s just kind of depressing, really.
If you’ve got a family of sixteen and none of you object to shit food, The Trooper Potts is fine. Similarly, if you’re a food masochist, you enjoy ‘real’ people and you think the nearby World Turned Upside Down is a good place to drink – knock yourself out (or let someone else do it for you). Otherwise, you’ve probably picked up on our thoughts by now… Leave well alone.
To get us back there you have to tie us to a shovel and drag us there.