The Caversham Rose

The Caversham Rose (formerly The Grosvenor) is the only pub in Caversham Heights. Does that make it the most under-beveraged part of Reading? If you know anywhere more unfortunate areas in terms of numbers of pubs, let me know. Anyway, it’s Caversham Heights, so it must be a good pub, mustn’t it?

It’s certainly decorated nicely. It’s full of fancy light shades and funky sofas. It reminds me more of the lobby of a posh hotel than it does a bar. Or perhaps a fancy airport lounge. But a bar? Not really. In fact, the toilets in the bar are nicer than just about any bar, restaurant or fancy hotel. There’s certainly no wee on the floor, graffiti about who is “4” who, and you don’t have to hold your breath as you go in. Ladies – a not widely shared secret. The average pub mens toilet has plenty of toilet paper, but has absolutely nothing else going for it. It’s be nicer peeing in the pub garden than in there. But not so the Caversham Rose.

In order to keep these high standards, it also has a dress policy of “smart casual” after 7pm. Like it’s some sort of fancy club. I don’t know how rigorously they enforce it, but Mark who did my garden was sat outside in his work clothes. Was he scared to go in, or just enjoying the warm evening? I didn’t ask, but I’m going to say the former – it makes a better narrative.

The beer selection wasn’t too bad. They had 6 types of expensive larger, as well as Cornish Orchards’ Gold and Waddle Goose Three Berry Cyder.  They did have Siren Craft Undercurrent though, which was delicious. Also Doombar, Adnams Fat Sprat and Moonstone IPA by Hadley Brewing Co. Only the Fat Sprat was disappointing – not much flavour. I got the impression that the bitter was looked after reasonably, but not brilliantly. Price of the beer is another story though. £5.20 a pint. Those fancy lampshades don’t pay for themselves, but still – that’s not out in the suburbs prices. In fact, the pub is so expensive that when my friend Clare bought a glass of wine, a pint of beer and some crisps on the opening weekend, she went back to the bar to complain, thinking that she had been overcharged when she noticed that the card receipt was over £20. She lives less than a quarter of a mile from the pub, and used to go to it quite regularly when it was the Grosvenor. She hasn’t been back since that re-opening weekend.

Atmosphere wise the pub is a monastery. Everyone is talking in hushed tones, and from what I could overhear, the conversations are about Business Units, and Unbundles Exchanges – whatever those are. The other favoured topics seem to be house prices, and how hard it is to get in to a decent primary school. Everyone seems to be worried about their conversations being overheard – either for fear of giving away corporate secrets, or for sounding like a living breathing First World Problem. A bit of background music wouldn’t go amiss, because we all have our First World Problem moments from time to time.

Snack selection was fine – Nobbys nuts and Tyrrells crisps. But the other problem with the Caversham Rose is the food. They clearly want to be selling food to go with that expensive beer. Over half the pub is laid out for eating, and drinking is relegated to one corner of the pub. The food shares the same problem as the beer – it’s expensive, and the quality doesn’t justify it.

Beer Quality Not too bad. In general they have stuck with beer that you can’t go too far wrong with.
Beer Selection At least they had Siren CraftUndercurrent. Other than that, it wasn’t a distinguished selection.
Drink vs Food They clearly want you to be eating food. Beer drinkers are relegated to the garden, or the small side of the pub.
Music None, or none loud enough to make a difference.
Snacks A good selection – Nobby’s Nuts, Tyrrells. I discovered cheese and picked onion Tyrrells here.
Atmosphere None. Everyone trying to avoid being overheard.
Price Far too expensive for a pub in the suburbs
Space Despite being relegated to the small side of the pub, you can always find a table. Perhaps because of the high prices.

Score: 5.25

Has Caversham Heights got the pub it deserves – soulless, over priced, and over decorated? I think that is uncharitable. It’s time for this to be reinvented as a local for everyone, and not as a pub that wants to be exclusive.

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