Ice House, University of Reading, Reading, RG6 6BQ.
All ‘information’ in this review is ‘accurate’ as of April 2016.
In the olden days, before freezers, Mojito-loving Romans and Slush Puppy-drinking Normans would store ice they’d collected from frozen lakes and rivers in cold little underground chambers. That way they’d have access to ice all year round. One of these ‘ice houses’ can be found at Reading Uni and forms the inspiration for the name of the UK’s only on-campus cocktail bar (it’s called ‘Ice House‘…). We went along for a ‘cool’ time and ‘chilled’ out! HA HA HA!
Location: It’s on the Uni campus (Wessex Hall), but you’re still allowed in, don’t worry. It’s not students only. You don’t have to dig out your old Crowded House t-shirt and DMs and shuffle in suspiciously, clutching folders and a pencil case. You can get to the place by jumping on the 17 bus, it’s just off the Wokingham Road. That said, entry is ‘discretional’, so just don’t be a dick.
Drink Selection: A couple of draughts and bottles and things, but you’re in a cocktail bar, you’ll want cocktails. Especially as they’re so well made. This may technically be a campus bar, but it’s also arguably Reading’s best cocktail bar. There’s no pre-mixed All Bar One rubbish or showy and slow Be At One-type ‘mixology’ daftness. Just attentive, friendly and well-trained bar staff making you sexy, unique drinks.
Food: Nope. Unless you count complimentary bar nuts.
Atmosphere: There’s not that pretentious feel like you might get in other cocktail places. Nor is it a student dive full of rugby players singing Kasabian (fuck off, it’s been nearly a decade since we were at uni, we’ve no idea). We went late Saturday afternoon and it was lively, but relaxed.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: Nowt to speak of, just smoke outside.
Toilets: Unisex. Either for space saving and practicality reasons or because it’s a university campus and it’s like, totally progressive to, like, take a slash with people of all genders, man. Probably the former.
Sports? Nope. There are no screens in there, other than the massive one we’ll come to later…
Price: Bloody reasonable. It must’ve been Happy Hour when we pitched up, only it was £6 per cocktail. And it was buy one get one free. Which is just silly.
Decor: Classy. Modern and ‘cool’, but not over-the-top wanky.
Pub Games: There’s an excellent pool table which, at the time of writing, was seemingly almost brand new.
Punterwatch: A mixture of students and non-students. But mostly students during the week (especially in the day time). But don’t worry, students now aren’t like the students of old. Tanked-up divs paying for things with cheques and vomiting on the bar. It’s nine grand a year tuition nowadays. They’re all drinking protein shakes and working at their laptops twelve hours a day. So, if anything, you’ll be the one pissed-up being a nuisance.
Any Other Comments: Now, here’s something you’ll either think pretty snazzy or it’ll make you grind your teeth – the place has a 25 seater cinema in it. Obviously, it’s for film nights, not just for leaving Can’t Pay? We’ll Take It Away on for, so it’s not on all the time. It can be a little noisy for the rest of the bar when a DVD’s on, but there are proper little cinema chairs in there and that. We thought it was cool and we don’t care what you think.
Any More Comments? Yeah, thanks for asking. Perhaps the ‘Ice’ing on the cake though (PSML!), is the Cocktail Masterclass thing they run down there. £13 per head – up to eight people at a time. The affable bar staff talk you through how to make a whole load of cocktails and you get a go at making – and drinking – three each. All completely unrushed. Plus you split into two teams and design your own at the end for a little competition. It takes a couple of hours, it’s fun and you get pissed. Recommended.
A bit of a hidden gem, this. It’s definitely our (ice)pick of the cocktail bars in Reading (ROLF)!
Sorry this review wasn’t funny. It’s tricky to make decent jokes when you’re being nice about somewhere. We’ll make up for it next week. Promise.