The Horn

By | 18/04/2019

The Horn is a funny pub to try and describe. I’ve re-written this introduction about ten times now, because what is it? Is it a town centre pub? A sports pub? A local? Posh? A dive bar? Well, it’s somehow all of those things simultaneously. A jack of all trades. Is it master of any of them?

The Horn looks a little intimidating from the outside, and I can imagine that plenty of people walk past it looking for somewhere else. I can’t quite place my finger on why – it’s a perfectly nice looking Tudor beamed pub with hanging flowers outside. Yes, it could very seriously do with a lick of paint, but that’s not too unusual for old pubs. It’s not the huge number of blackboards outside, which screams “we want to please everyone” – which is no bad thing. Anyway, whatever it is, Grobber muttered “got your stab vest?” as we wandered up to the pub, and I kind of knew where he was coming from.

Anyway, to get it out the way straight away – stab vests weren’t required. Everyone in the pub was perfectly nice, and external impressions were wrong. But again, it was a strange mix of things on the inside too. The pub is U-shaped, with the bar next to the door (about 3 feet from the door – snug), and then two very different areas on either side. We went to the right side first, and it’s an old style bar area – standard wooden tables and chairs, fruit machines, fire place, a dartboard, a few TVs showing football. Like the outside, it needed a bit of TLC – the brown ceiling looked liked it had been painted to hide smoke, and that was banned in pubs 12 years ago now. An elderly couple had come out for a drink, and the old guy had dozed off while his wife read a magazine. Really not somewhere for trouble.

As readers will know, I don’t judge a pub on its lager selection – it’s hard to mess up lager. Instead I judge mainly on the bitter. The beer selection didn’t particularly lean in that direction though. On tap they had Fosters, Kronenbourg, Strongbow, Amstel, Heineken, John Smiths, St. Austell Tribute and Seafarers by Fullers.  The last two were the only hand pulled beers, and a pint of each came to £7.60. Not a bad price, but the beer was OK at best. I had a few pints – it wasn’t awful. But it wasn’t somewhere I’d go in search of a decent beer I’m afraid.

In fact, given the beer quality, Grob was all for leaving after one pint, but I persuaded him to give it a fairer try. We moved round to the left hand side of the pub for variety, and got ourselves another pint. And shockingly, the other side of the pub was completely different. Lots of high tables, sofas, nice decor that looked like it had been bought new in House of Fraser, not picked up at a car boot sale like on the right hand side. Yes, it still had far too may fruit machines, but I suspect that if we had sat there first, the beer would have tasted nicer to us.

It was still incredibly “Sky Sports on  multiple TVs” based on the left hand side. Everyone else in the pub was pairs of blokes who had come out to watch football.  Which in fairness, we were too (other than the football). The Horn tries to offer lots of different things – live music on a Saturday night, Karaoke on Thursdays, a quiz on Wednesdays, but it’s still basically a pub where people go to watch sport.

The Horn website also claims to be a gastropub, but without the pretension. I thought pretension was what made a gastropub a gastropub, but the Horn seemed to think it has something to do with quality. How refreshing! In the past they had I Love Paella in residence before they moved on to The Fisherman’s Cottage (which they have since moved on from too). However, advert on the table for £3.50 pies, and some rolls didn’t convince me that it would live up it its gastropub claims. I didn’t try, so won’t judge. If anyone has eaten here recently for any purpose other than to line their stomach before more Heineken, please do let me know what you thought.

Beer Quality Mediocre at best
Beer Selection Very limited – 2 beers on tap.
Drink vs Food It’s a pub that does some food
Music None – the football was on when I went
Snacks Mini chedars, crisps, nuts.
Atmosphere Lots of people watching TVs.
Price £3.80 a pint – a good price for central Reading
Space Not bad. The bar area is a squeeze, but there are plenty of other tables

Score: 5.85

The Horn is a real contradiction of a pub. It has two very different sides to the pub – the modern and the old school. It is a football (and rugby and cricket) pub, but is trying to offer a bunch of non-sport things like live music. It’s almost a town centre pub, but somehow seems just removed. Prices certainly aren’t town centre. I suspect it attracts a lot of loyalty from its regulars, but it’s not enough to convince me to become one of them.

2 Castle St, Reading RG1 2LS, UK

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