Reviewing hotel bars isn’t really my thing. They are generally so impersonal with middle of the road beer, middle of the road food, and high-end prices. But the Crowne Plaza looked to be potentially different. It has one of the few bars in Reading where you can sit outside by the river, and it’s got an outside bar in collaboration with West Berkshire Brewery, so it was worth an investigation.
I’ve lamented before how we have unbelievably few pubs and bars on the river considering that both the Thames and the Kennet flow through our town. The Kennet has the Back of Beyond, the Fisherman’s Cottage, and the Jolly Angler, but none of them are amazing. The Thames is even worse though – The Island, and The Crowne Plaza. We really do need to make more of our waterfront.
Anyway, in an effort to see if the Crowne Plaza was any good, I headed down there on a warmish evening. In fact if you care to do some research you can find out exactly which evening, because when we got there it turns out that the local Labour party was having their second AGM there. I can’t really think of a more bourgeois place for them to have had the AGM, but who am I to judge. One of Mr. Affable’s neighbours was there. He told us he only went for the fireworks, and it certainly did seem like there was a fair bit of disagreement, which on reflection probably wasn’t helped by the range and price of the beer. But we’ll come on to that.
The inside looks like someone spent an awful lot of money to make a trendy looking bar for an expensive hotel. Fancy lamps, high tables, quality stools. Look at those shiny copper lights. It oozes style as produced by a corporate architect. The bar has a few beers on tap – Stella, Becks, Guinness, and Simonds Cider. That’s right, no bitter, and no IPA. Not even a Doombar or Punk IPA that seem to be everywhere these days. In the fridge there was Good Old Boy, Koppaberg and Sierra Nevada pale ale. That’s right – the only pale ale in the bar has travelled 5000 miles to get to us. With a wealth of great local beers, and a weekend partnership with West Berkshire brewery, they ship beer in from California instead. That’s probably why they have to charge £5.50 for a can of it.
The much advertised West Berkshire collaboration takes the form of an outside bar. Pretty good for us as it was a nice evening. Not so good was that it is only open on Friday or Saturday night. It only served West Berks lager anyway, so it’s not like we missed much. In fact we felt that we hadn’t missed anything at all – as outdoor bars go, that’s unimpressive.
We also could have got table service outside if we’d had the patience to wait for a waiter instead of going straight to the bar. That kind of makes the whole outside bar concept a bit of a moot point – if someone’s going to walk to the bar to get your drinks anyway, who cares if it is inside or outside. I’m sure it really helps sales to do that too – why more pubs and bars don’t have someone walking around with an ipad taking orders, I don’t know.
The views of the river are undeniably nice, but the lack of beer selection, the sterile atmosphere and the fairly high prices meant that we didn’t hang around for too many. Instead we headed over the road to The Crown. Interestingly, so did many of the local Labour party too, so perhaps large corporate hotels don’t fit with their style after all.
|Beer Quality||Unsurprisingly the can of beer tasted fine|
|Beer Selection||Far too limited. The lack of any bitter other than bottles of Good Old Boy is embarrassing|
|Drink vs Food||For a hotel bar there was surprisingly little pressure to have food|
|Snacks||Plenty of other people were given a free bowl of nuts by the barman, but not us. Snubbed.|
|Atmosphere||When the RLP are not in session it’s pretty quiet, and you will probably feel like you need to be on your best behaviour|
|Price||Expensive – £4.50 for a pint of Stella, and £5.50 for a can of Sierra Nevada|
|Space||Loads of room|
I was hoping for an amazing discovery of a good riverside bar in Reading. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to be. There’s potential here, but I guess if it was amazing then it would be too popular and there wouldn’t be space for the hotel residents. Perhaps the hotel inevitably has to keep it bland.