The Corn Stores was, surprisingly enough, originally a storage building. For corn. You might think that is obvious, but it wasn’t to someone I met there, so I thought I’d mention it. Some time after being a warehouse (for corn) it became a Fullers pub, then an Italian restaurant, then it sadly closed in 2015. Having frequented it a lot in my youth though, I was delighted to see it open again last year.
I admit that there may be some gaps in the history of the pub between it opening as store for corn in 1890 and becoming a pub, but what I can say for sure is that in 2018 it opened again as a bar and restaurant. In fact, it’s a bar on the ground floor, with a restaurant above that, and private members club on the top floor. The restaurant looks amazing, but I’m not sure how well a private members club will do in Reading. Paying £250 a year to eat and drink in a private area seems too cheap to be exclusive, but too expensive to be a casual purchase. If you are a member though, let me know what you think.
Anyway, I visited the Corn Stores on Saturday night with Matt from Greenwich. Which turned out to be especially appropriate, as the only beer they had on draft was Meantime Brewery Fresh Lager – £5.70 a pint. Meantime is Matt’s local brewery (Greenwich Meantime – see what they did there?), and he’s friends with some people who work there, so no pressure. Fortunately the beer is their Brewery Fresh Lager, which is in special tanks in the bar rather than in barrels. The beer is fed from the maturation tanks at the brewery in to tankers and then in to the tanks in the bar, without ever touching the air, so it should be super fresh. It’s unpasteurised and unfiltered, and is apparently as good as it is in the brewery. It’s certainly better than Fosters, that’s for sure.
Matt and I go a long way back. We started drinking together at the age of 16 – cans of special brew at a youth camp (that didn’t end well). As we got older, we moved on to pre-loading on bottles of cheap port before hitting a cheesy nightclub (Tiffany’s or Boxes) for pints of Fosters or Strongbow. Fortunately both of our tastes have improved since then, so we were keen to see what quality ale they had in the Corn Stores. However, other than the Meantime lager, the only beer available was in bottles and cans. Normally that’s a big disappointment, but in fact the Corn Stores have sought out some interesting local beers. There’s a variety of Siren Craft beers, Curious Brew (a lager brewed with Champagne yeast, and Curious Apple, a cider fermented with wine yeast). I won’t go through the full list, but it’s worth a visit to try something local and a bit different.
While I’m reminiscing about the distant past though, you should see the glass that they give you for the beer. It’s a cut glass highball that looks like it comes from Esso with 20 Tiger Tokens. I’m sure it’s posher than that, but it really reminds me of the glasses cupboard in every house in the 80s.
The reason I’m sure it’s posher than an Esso glass though is that the whole place is a bit posh. In fact compared to how it was as a Fullers pub it’s very posh. The bar snacks include Filet Steak Tartare in a jar, homemade hoummus and salmon mousse. There’s a cocktail menu on each table, and the toilets are unisex, clean, and had soap in a bottle. It’s posh. The clientele seemed a little older and a little wealthier than average too – so obviously we fitted in perfectly. Music was unidentifiable pop, with a lively vibe to the place. Bar staff were friendly enough, but perhaps not as knowledgeable about the beer as some other pubs in Reading.
The Corn Stores had a lot to live up to – a formerly good pub, a companion who lives next to the brewery their beer comes from, and a general expectation of being more Hawksmoor than Harvester. It’s not a pub any more – it’s a fancy bar. That’s no bad thing. Don’t go expecting a pint of Strongbow Dark Fruits – it’s good wine, cocktails, and quality beer. And while you can get food in the bar, the three levels means that it’s not trying to edge drinkers out in favour of diners (like so many gastro pubs are doing). I wasn’t expecting to like it, but I think it works.
|Beer Quality||The one beer on draft was very good.|
|Beer Selection||Normally I don’t rate bars that just stock bottles very highly, but these guys have got some decent local bottles in that generally you won’t find outside the Grumpy Goat. A good selection|
|Drink vs Food||Having the restaurant upstairs allows downstairs to function as a bar without encroaching on it.|
|Music||Something that sounded trendy, but which no-one could identify|
|Snacks||Bar snacks like Cod & Smoked Salmon Fishcake more qualify as “starter” than “snack” really|
|Atmosphere||Exclusive but friendly enough.|
|Price||About £5 for a 330ml bottle. Ouch. But I guess the higher prices give it the atmosphere it is aiming for.|
|Space||Half a dozen tables, stools at the bar and round the edge of the room. Wasn’t too busy though|