I hate pubs with ambiguous names. It really distresses me to write about somewhere without knowing exactly what it is called. The Queen’s Head is one such example. Outside the pub it’s called “The Queens Head Inn” on the wall, “Queens Head Inn” on the sign, “Queens Head” over the window, and “The Queen’s Head” on the mirror behind the bar (the only version with a possessive apostrophe). To make matters worse, their Facebook page is called “The Queen’s Head PUB” (their capitalization, not mine), and What Pub calls it “Queens Head”, although notes that it’s also known as “Nob”. I’m weeping as I write this.
I didn’t know that there was such a naming ambiguity problem with the pub when I agreed to go there. Actually, “agreed” is perhaps the wrong term. It would be more fairly described as “manipulated a group of people into going there”. After dinner at Kung Fu Kitchen it was either that or The Dairy, and since I’d reviewed The Dairy already, I dropped some very strong hints that it would be easier for other people if we went to The Queen’s Head. Fortunately no-one saw through my guile, and off we went.
The beer selection was OK. Doombar, Pride, Rekorderlig cider, Birra Moretti, Heineken, Fosters, Malthus, Strongbow, Hop House 13, and Thatchers Haze. Looking back on my notes, I’m not 100% sure about “Malthus” being one, given that I scribbled Fowster instead of Fosters. So something beginning with an M at least. I started on a pint of Pride for £4.10 and it tasted pretty good.
As well as beer there is a massive gin selection, and 2 for 1 cocktails on Thursdays. If you’re with your kids they do a chocolate mocktail for them, or a Chocktail as London Dave called it (they are ahead of us in London, so I’ll take his word for it).
It’s the sort of place that also has lots of signs on the wall about how good it is to drink gin too. Rather too many signs, like they had a gift voucher from The Range to use up. It’s a narrow line between nicely Instagrammable, and the sort of Facebook feed where everyone calls each other “Hun”, and I fear that all of these signs might have tipped over to the “R U OK Hun” side of things.
As well as the twee signs, the decor was more gastropub than local pub. Fancy chairs, contrasting walls, tasteful but busy wallpaper. One half of the pub looked like it wanted to be a dining room. Luckily the other half looked like a pub. We stayed in that for one pint before heading for the more interesting part – the garden.
It was a nice evening when we went, so the garden turned out to be by far the busiest part of the pub. Inside had been quite quiet, but it was out of term time. Being next to the university, I can imagine it is heaving during term time, even at £4.10 a pint, but in the summer it was definitely quieter. Outside had lots of attractions though – a DJ playing music in the summer house. The DJ seemed to just be playing the Good Morning Vietnam soundtrack (Martha and the Vandellas etc.). Mrs. Quaff foolishly decided that the sofa in front of the speakers looked comfy. It was neither comfy on the bum or the ears, so we grabbed another table as soon as someone left.
Also outside was a TV showing sport. It just looked like a normal TV to me, and I have no idea how they weatherproof it. Perhaps if there’s any rain someone rushes out to bring it in. But if that were true and it wasn’t firmly bolted down, students would keep nicking it. At least the students would have when I was at university. Not me of course – other students. Perhaps they are better behaved now.
Discovery of the night though was the snacks. On the bar they have the sort of jars full of snacks that I’m normally not a fan of, because you don’t know how much you are getting, or who’s had their grubby paws in there. This time though, it was very clear – you can have a selection of any of them you want in a half-pint glass, for £2. You get to choose from pistachios, wasabi nuts, peanuts (salted, smoked, and dry roasted), popcorn, onion rings, spicy bar mix, and cashews. So a half pint of cashews and none of the cheap stuff for me. Who the hell would pick half a pint of popcorn? It’s all air, and should be about 20p for a half-pint.
|Tasted good to me
|Changes regularly, but not particularly broad or exciting
|Drink vs Food
|It’s a bit gastro pub inside, and does steak night like a Spoons
|60s nostalgia, pretty loud if you are sat next to the speaker
|A good selection of stuff in a jar for a bargain price if you pick the right thing
|Lively – lots of fun
|Not too cheap – £4.10 is quite a lot for so far from the centre. However, there are student specials like £15 for 5 bottles of Corona while Love Island is showing on TV. I might pass on that.
|Plenty in the summer when you can spill outside. Less in winter
The Queen’s Head may have a problem with knowing what its name is, but it’s one of the better pubs in South Reading. Decent beer, not too extortionate, and good atmosphere. Worth popping in if you are going to Kung Fu Kitchen or the Progress Theatre.