The Turks

By | 07/02/2019

I’m confused, because I’m sure The Turks used to be called The Turks Head. And I have a sneaking suspicion that they changed their name simply because they thought that people would just google “The Turks” and so it was better for the name to match what people search for. If that’s true, it sets a bad precedent for Donald Trump, who’s going to have to change his name to some pretty unprintable things.

This particular visit to The Turks happened to be with about 20 people. And at 5pm on a Saturday, we were actually able to find a table that we could all fit round. You might be thinking that that’s a sad indictment on how empty the place is, but it’s rather a reflection of the fact that The Turks has plenty of room – a bunch of different nooks and crannies – small tables, a large table in a  den, and one massive long table that we could all sit at. There’s also quite a few tables out the front if you fancy sitting on a main road breathing in traffic fumes, or a large shed at the back if you fancy breathing in cigarette fumes.

These 20 people weren’t my usual beer buddies, but instead were an interesting variety of people who had been along to an Edible Reading readers’ lunch. That allowed me to see a different side of the pub: specifically how it handles unusual drinks requests. Great lunches by the way, with a really interesting variety of people. Open to anyone if you want to go, and Edible somehow persuades the restaurant owners  to cook special off-menu dishes that are even better than the normal standard that our local independent restaurants manage. Go to the Edible Reading Twitter feed to keep an eye out for the next one, but get in fast because they are popular.

Anyway, as I was saying – unusual. The first round I got in included a couple of mojitos. These came pre-made in a jam jar in the fridge, so the barman just has to just whip off the lid, add some ice and lime, and it’s done. £5 each I think. I didn’t remember to ask if they were any good, but as no-one went back for seconds, I guess not. Also prominent was the most brightly coloured looking bottles of spirits I’ve ever seen (Corky’s Schnapps?), and you could get 6 shots for £5. If you really wanted to. I asked the barman about them and he confided that they are are 15% alcohol and 85% flavoured sugar water. The mango one is meant to look like tramp’s piss, but apparently the students absolutely love it.

The interesting collection of people also led to an interesting collection of stories, some of which I will recount very briefly, simply to expunge the horror from my mind. I’m not going to name any names, but a lady who chooses to be known simply as The Geophysisist (it has to be capitalised), admitted to highlighting fiction books as she reads them. With a marker pen! At that point she was nearly ejected from the pub. In an attempt to divert attention from that act of vandalism she tried to get us all outraged by telling us that one of her flatmates pees in the shower. Everyone pretended to be disgusted, but secretly we all knew it was no crime compared to highlighting in books. It went downhill from there, but other than complaining about Millennial Tom’s salty liquorice flumps that he inflicted on everyone, I’m going to spare you the rest.


The Turks has not a bad selection of beer  – Adnams Ghost Ship, Brains SA, John Smiths, and Oliver Riley beer (never heard of that one before myself). The beer was just under £4 a pint, and was OK. Not amazing, but not awful. They also had Heineken in one of those extra cold taps for people who really don’t like to taste their lager, Fosters, Strongbow, Kronenbourg, Amstel, Birra Moretti, and Guinness. A pretty typical selection – not too exciting. There were some better beers in bottles in the fridge, like Goose Island IPA.

The Turks also has plenty of entertainment – a pool table, a darts board, and more televisions with sport on than you can shake a stick at. There’s a blackboard showing all of the events they’ve got on too – poker on Thursdays, salsa on Sundays, and live music on Saturdays. Music’s clearly a big thing for the Turks – they had music pictures all over the pub. The other thing they had all over the pub was brick-style wallpaper. Lots of people had a prod to see if it was real or not. There were also clocks on the wall telling the time in Reading, Whitley, Woodley and, Tilehurst. The clock for Woodley and Tilehurst had stopped. There’s a metaphor in there, but I’m not going to labour it.

Beer Quality Fine. Nothing amazing.
Beer Selection Three bitters, plenty of lager
Drink vs Food They did do food – tapas, nachos, burgers. Not a restaurant though
Music A bit of Mumford and Sons on in the background. Live music on Saturday night
Snacks Bacon fries, scampi fries, pork scratchings, Tayto crisps, and nuts in a jar.
Atmosphere Lively but friendly
Price Not bad – £3.90 a pint
Space Plenty of seats, but it does fill up

Score: 6.65

The Turks is a great pub to spend an afternoon or an evening in (or both). It could do with some better beer, but has plenty of entertainment to make up for it.

31 London Rd, Reading RG1 5BJ, UK


6 thoughts on “The Turks

  1. C

    Oliver Riley is named after the owner’s son. If you’d scratched below the surface you would have known that. Who the Hell chooses to review a pub at 5pm on a Saturday with 20 other people?! You really are a moron. And not even a funny one.

  2. Lucy

    I’d assumed they renamed it because the old name is a bit of a throwback to a violent & racist or at least xenophobic past. But I might be overthinking it.

    1. Dr. Quaff Post author

      I did wonder about that. If they were thinking that “The Turk’s Head” means that a Turkish person’s head has been chopped off, they got it wrong. The Head in pub names (King’s Head, Queen’s Head, Nag’s Head) just means that the picture on the pub sign is of someone’s head. The xenophobic part is the Turk – it is a name dating from the Crusades when Christians headed off to fight the Turks. And that part of the name remains.

  3. Steve Hilmes

    Don’t forget that a Turk’s Head is also a form of knot – named (I think) after the cool of rope used to hold the head covering in place.

    1. Dr. Quaff Post author

      I didn’t know that. So potentially a double meaning in the old pub name.

  4. John Dearing

    Curious that nobody has noted that the name of the pub was changed from the Turks Head to the Fez and Firkin c. 1995 and then there was a petition to go back to its original name which was taken as the Turks because that’s what everybody called it.


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