The Victoria Cross, Unit B2, 350 Basingstoke Road, Reading, RG2 0NT.
All ‘information’ in this review is ‘accurate’ as of July 2019.
Queen, Wood, sponge, Plumbing, that Kinks song and Coren-Mitchell’s tits… This country is rather good at creating excellent Victorias.
Beckham, Derbyshire, Pendleton, coach station, that ITV drama about the old queen and Coren-Mitchell’s ‘jokes’ on Only Connect… We’re also more than capable of coming up with bloody awful Victorias as well.
Which one of those two categories will the ‘new’ Whitley GinormoPub The Victoria Cross (formerly The Pooper Trotts) fall into?
>>> You can read our review of the now not sadly dead Trooper Potts here <<<
Location: Where would you put your ultimate Reading pub? Slap bang in the middle of town for convenience, perhaps? Or maybe on the river for the views? Either works. We’ll tell you what doesn’t really work, though – having a boozer on a trading estate, sandwiched between an Aldi and a bingo hall.
We don’t begrudge the ̶g̶o̶o̶d̶ ̶ people of Whitley from having somewhere to drink and throw chairs at each other. But even that lot, who aren’t exactly known for high end taste, deserve a pub that isn’t situated where a bloody Kwik-Fit should be. The poor sods.
Drink Selection: The Vicky X is a Hungry Horse, which is basically a Greene King but with extra onion rings. So anyone who’s been to a GK in Reading (and they are enough of ’em) will have a pretty decent idea what to expect.
There was a fair selection of draughts on the go when we visited – on the second day after re-opening – ranging from your pissy (but ruddy cheap) Carlsbergs to higher end offerings like your Estrella Galicias (a nice choice).
GK/HH aren’t bad with variety these days, the fridges normally have plenty of crafty buggers in cans and bottles and there’s a fair amount of spirit choices, albeit they’re mostly things like Vimto gin and beef & onion Sourz.
Service: One of the 900-odd bad things about The Trotts was its bloody awful service. Most bar staff were an impressive combination of unenthusiastic, bored and moody. Has it improved since the painters have been in? Well, it’s a little early for us to say. Service wasn’t exactly quick and we did have to explain what Estrella was about three times, but it had only just opened. That said, there’s every chance the bar staff worked there in its previous guise, so who knows.
We’re reliably informed by The New Management that improved bar service is a new priority so hopefully it’ll get better in time. And maybe it will. MAYBE IT WILL.
Food: Previously, the food was so bad there, I wouldn’t have fed it to your child. Now? Well, it’s alright. It’s standard Greene King/Hungry Horse pub grub. The burgers coming out of the kitchen looked pretty good and our non-meat-based food (yes, that’s right, we’re better than you) was tasty enough. Albeit my order was a bit Soylent Green…
The ‘Over 18’s Bar’ has its own pared-down bar food menu that’s pretty decent value. It comes in a little plastic basket that doubles up a greasy hat to wear after you’ve eaten.
Atmosphere: We went in on a Thursday – so there was no real atmosphere to speak of. But we’re sure it gets ‘lively’ of a weekend.*
*The Management have also tipped us off that there are plans to make things significantly less ‘lively’, as they become a little more selective with the patrons. To paraphrase – the gaffer’s trying to cut down on cunts (yet he still let us in, etc., etc.).
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: The outside fag zone is the same as before (‘the kind of garden area you’d get at a rehab clinic or psychiatric hospital’), but with some newer chairs and tables.
Christ. Quoting myself. That’s a new low.
Sports? Sure, all of it. They’ve got three great big eff-off 4K screens in the Over-18s bar and a couple upstairs. Sky Sports and BT Sport.
Entertainment: At the time of writing they’ve got a Chas n’ Dave tribute act coming up. And it doesn’t get better than that, me ol’ chinas.
Prices: It depends what you buy, really. Two pints of premium liquidbooze set me back nine quid. But then I discovered that it was two bottles of Magners for a fiver. So if you’re on a budget, look at the drinks deals.
Plus they have crappy stuff cheap ALL THE TIME.
Seating: All the chairs and benches and that are new as of July 2019. And they’re all comfortable enough, like.
Decor: There’s an old saying that goes, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’ There’s another that says, ‘if the place is bollocksed, do it up’. I think it comes from the old Latin phrase, ‘Refurbio e Pluribus shitholm’. Anyway, The Trooper Potts’ interior was shit. This really rather brilliant review of the place described it as: ‘imagine DFS decided to go into the themed restaurant game, with the theme being ‘1990’s children’s play centre’.’
Yes, I’m quoting myself again. What of it?
So it was uglier and tackier than a Basingstoke hen night, but surely the place couldn’t have got so raggedy in the three years it was open? Well, we’ve no idea. We never went back after our first visit to review it (obviously).
Whatever the reason for the renovation, it’s all change in there now. And for the better.
Alright, so it’s not exactly got a ‘traditional pub’ look, but then it’s not a traditional pub. It’s a purpose-built flat roof effort on a trading estate. Axminster carpets would look weird here. Instead, unlike most old pubs that are modernised, this place actually suits its up-to-date look.
They’ve done away with the KE-RAZY wacky shit from before and – DAMMIT – it’s a good-looking place now.
Pub Games: The bases are covered. A particular highlight – literally – are these incredibly brightly-lit dartboards. They’re so dazzling it’s impossible to take a picture of them. This snap down here makes it look like you’re onboard a ferry.
There’s a pool table n’all.
You can even replicate the feeling of getting ripped off at the seaside with these shitty toy grabber machine things!
For the kiddies: I’ll admit, it feels odd taking photographs of children’s play areas at night. Odd, but strangely right.
Punterwatch: STILL WHITLEY.
You can’t really see him here because I’m a rubbish stealth paparazzo, but this fella was wearing the single worst/greatest t-shirt I’ve ever seen a pubman wear… It had a picture of a ping-pong ball splashing into a red plastic cup along with the words, ‘BEER PONG – GET YOUR BALLS WET!’
Toilets: Yeah, fine. I’ve got nothing to say here, really. So – instead – I’ll briefly tell you about one of my worst toilet memories…
I walked into the gents at Barcelona Airport once and as soon as I stepped in, I saw a blast of white come from underneath one of the cubicle doors. It was like a kind of horizontal streamer or floor firework. Coming straight for me, this thing – I realised – was toilet paper. Unravelling. Inside? A human turd. The stool skittled directly at my feet. I literally had to sidestep the thing.
I hung around for a bit to see who the bloody hell was responsible for it but then left. After all, no one really wants to engage with the sort of person that hoys his dirts about the place willy-nilly like that, do they?
I dunno. Maybe it’s a Catalan thing.
For the kiddies? They still have those mini TVs in the walls of some of the booths so you can distract your offspring with Cars 3 while you get arseholed on cheap Danish lager. Which is either genius or depressing, it’s up to you.
This place is alright now. It is. Okay, so it’s still a big grey warehouse sat where a Carpetright should be. And it’s full of kids and – y’know – ‘certain types of people’. But it does a job. And besides, it’s not like you’re so FUCKING SPECIAL, ARE YOU?
Yeah, yeah, yeah. It wasn’t the mauling you wanted. But you don’t always get what you want in this life, y’know.
WHAT? WANT YOUR MONEY BACK, DO YOU?! EH?
(Thanks for stopping by).