On a drab Saturday afternoon, I persuaded my friend Jim in to accompany me for my first proper review outing. When I say he agreed to come for my first review, that’s not entirely true. I actually said to him that we should go to the pub to watch the Boat Race, and when I arrived with a notebook too, he was somewhat puzzled. Even more puzzled when I wouldn’t say anything beyond hello until I had scribbled some notes. Note to self – warn fellow drinkers in advance.
The choice of our Boat Race outing was The Crown in Caversham (or The Crown on the Bridge as it has been known for ever). It’s a pub that boasts of live sport, so seemed like a likely spot to have the TV turned to the right channel. As it turns out, yes, they were indeed showing it, but the race was a disappointment. Still, sport in pubs is mainly just an excuse for being there, so was the pub any good?
First of all, the beer selection. They had 4 draft beers – the almost obligatory Pride and Doombar, and two Loddon beers, Hullabaloo and 6 Pack. A bit of a uninspired selection – no real variety in flavour or strength, and nothing I would rush back for. Pride and Doombar are good beers, but are the drink equivalents of M&S socks – they do the job nicely, but you aren’t going to brag about them to your mates. One advantage for a beer reviewer though – they are so common, they make a good benchmark beer to test the quality of the cellar. We both had a pint of London Pride, and unfortunately it was pretty flat – a general taste of beer, not off, but nothing to write home about (or indeed to write on a review site about). I moved on to the Doombar, hoping for something better. I couldn’t have actually spotted the difference between the two – flat, brown and uninspiring. Adequate, but clearly unloved. And at £4.20 a pint, only just acceptable. With lagers, they at least had Hop House 13 as well as Fosters.
OK, so the beer was not great, but what about the atmosphere. It was only 6pm, but the atmosphere was pretty similar to other later visits – never too busy, never too quiet. I asked Jim what his view was on a good atmosphere – “a buzz, but not too loud” was his opinion. The pub certainly had a buzz, with a bunch of people having fun, and one birthday party (at least I imagine it was – who else has a balloon in a pub?). It also had a couple of people who were far too drunk for 6pm. Like the guy who had a dog on an extending lead, who let the dog go off to pester a couple of young kids, and then instead of moving the dog away, spent 10 minutes slurring repeatedly to the family that it was a nice dog really.
It’s not all negative though. The pub does Piper’s crisps – the undisputed king of crisps. Somehow Pipers cram more flavour in to the crisps than anyone else. Kudos to any pub that stocks them. Also available are Nobbys Nuts which seem to be standard everywhere now. Nobbys Nuts must have an amazing pub industry marketing team to have so thoroughly overthrown other nut brands in just about every pub.
When the Crown was done up as a semi-hipster joint last summer (bare brick and exposed lightbulbs), they decided to do hot dogs and burgers for food in association with Banger Bros. It’s a bold move – basically saying that if you are in a pub, you probably want a hot dog or a burger. And they are probably right. Unfortunately the hot dogs come in a little wooden crate, which makes them annoyingly hard to pick up. Tasty though.
So, on to the scores;
|Beer Quality||Disappointing. Flat flavour.|
|Beer Selection||A stereotypical limited set of ordinary beers|
|Drink vs Food||Food available should you want it, but the assumption is you are here for the beer.|
|Music||A bit of quiet background music – perfectly unobtrusive. They also do live music some nights.|
|Snacks||Pipers Crisps, and Nobbys Nuts. Nailed it.|
|Atmosphere||A fair bit of buzz, but also a bit edgier than it should be.|
|Price||Meh. £4.20 a pint. Just low enough to not complain.|
|Space||It’s rare not to find a table, and there is a nicely refurbished beer garden out the side. It’s on the main road, but since it’s mainly for smokers, presumably their lungs are hardened against the bus fumes.|