The Red Lion, Southampton St, Reading, West Berkshire, RG1 2QL.
The Rose & Crown. The Nag’s Head. The Red Lion. The three most common names for boozers. But what is it about that flower, that royal hat, that animal’s bonce or that brightly-coloured big cat that make them so desired a moniker for pubs, eh? Don’t ask us – we’re not prepared to do any research on any of this stuff. We’re very busy people, y’know.
The Red Lion that we’re concerning ourselves with here is the one on Southampton Street. What makes the lion so red? Is it embarrassment? Because this pub is what is affectionately known as “spit n’ sawdust”? Or is it just because it was painted red with red paint? Let’s find out, shall we…?
Drink Selection: You could call the drink options at The Red Lion many things. ‘Select’. ‘Limited’. ‘Basic’. ‘Woeful’. But whatever word you choose to use, the simple truth is – there ain’t much to choose from. For reasons best known to themselves, one of our party ordered a John Smith’s shandy made with soda water. The old fella behind the bar (the owner, we presume – nice enough chap) nearly spat on the floor in disgust. It was clear that it was the closest he’d got to being asked to make a cocktail in his ninety-odd years of barman-ing.
Location: The bottom (or top?) of Southampton Street, opposite the back (or front?) of The Oracle car park. A local pub crawl would also take you to the nearby Hook & Tackle and The Red Cow (though you’d have to break in and drink cans. RIP).
Food: None. Thankfully. We don’t much fancy the idea of a spit sandwich or a sawdust pie.
Atmosphere: It’s a pub. A boozer. You go there, you drink six pints of a beer you don’t really like and you appreciate it. You wince when you first step in and celebrate it on your way out. Because it’s A BLOODY PUB. Sod what Ford say, it isn’t their poxy Transit vans that are the backbone of this country. It’s places like this. Winston Churchill would’ve drunk here. *sniff*
Sports? Aye. A couple of small screens with Sky and BT.
Price: Average. They could probably get away with adding 50p onto the price of each drink to try and save up to fix the leaky roof.
Toilets: Not too sure. We found it rather hard to concentrate after seeing this…
Decor: How your nan’s house looked in the 70’s. If your nan lived in a run-down pub with a leaky roof and an arachnid infestation.
Pub Games: Of course. Pool and darts. Both with plenty of room. The dart board even has its own room, sort of. A room which, for some reason, has a load of framed pictures of American sports on the wall.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: A surprisingly nice little decked area out back. See? Beaudiful.
Punterwatch: This isn’t a place for your after-work type or real ale twat. There’s the usual smattering of freelance drinkers and the odd man who might refer to prison as ‘bird’, but this is no Queen’s Arms or Pheasant. It’s just a normal, proper pub. We might’ve mentioned that already.
It’s a basic joint built for a basic drink. Just remember to dodge the drip from the ceiling, the spiders in the bogs and the barman’s spit if you attempt to order a John Smith’s and soda water shandy. But don’t you dare criticise it in front of us.