The Bird In Hand

By | 26/12/2019

On a cold winter’s day, what better to do than take a trip to a nice old country pub to have a few pints and some food by the fire.  I get that if you stumble on this review in July that’s not helpful, so substitute “on a warm summer’s day, what better thing to do than a trip to a nice old country pub to have a few pints in the garden” if that’s the case. Either would be equally true of this pub – The Bird In Hand, in Sonning Common.

The Bird In Hand is an old 16th century coaching inn, and it’s just recently been done up and re-done by new management. Thankfully they have preserved the heritage of the place that makes it such a charm to visit. The recent refurbishment has added a bunch of Edison bulbs in cages, and a lick of paint, but the low roof, exposed beams and amazing fireplace all still remain.

The place advertises itself as dog friendly, so we decided to put that to the test, and took our 5 month old puppy along. True to their word, they fussed over him, and didn’t complain when he eventually settled down in the very place they needed to walk all the time. Definitely a good place to go for a walk with the dog and then stop for a nice pint or two at the sofa by the fire.

The pints in question when we visited were Amstel, Guinness, Symonds special reserve cider, Good Old Boy, Hullabaloo and Young’s London Original. I started with a pint of the London Original. I can’t say anything much for or against it – it was fine, but no better. I’d probably rather have had the Good Old Boy on reflection. There’s also a good gin collection in the side bar (they have an L shaped bar).

Like many country pubs, it’s as much a restaurant as a pub. The whole back room of the pub is a dining area – and that’s a significant proportion of the pub. There are about 6 tables in the bar, and perhaps twice that space in the restaurant. It’s worth a visit for the food though – definitely more restaurant quality than pub quality. They occasionally seem to have 25% off at the moment too – keep an eye on their Twitter feed for that.  And they just announced unlimited Yorkshire puddings with Sunday roasts. Not sure what the record will be, but I reckon I can eat 6. Especially if I forgo veg. If you aren’t in the mood for a meal, the bar snacks also looked good – sausage rolls, cocktail sausages, whitebait.
One thing I did learn while I was there was the place is apparently a devil to find on satnav going by the postcode. I had no problem finding it –  it’s at the end of Bird In Hand Lane for heaven’s sake. But there was a funeral party in, all meeting from other parts of the country, and every one of them walked in saying “Oh, it’s not where the satnav sent us”.  I’d say perhaps they were all overcome with grief, but they were the jolliest party in the pub.
Despite the huge group of jolly mourners, the fools with the puppy, and all the other customers, the staff did a great job of keeping everyone happy – chatting to everyone, and generally behaving like the hosts that so many landlords don’t bother being. Atmosphere was like a friendly front room, and made it well worth a visit.
Beer Quality The beer was fine, but not the highlight
Beer Selection Three pumps, three lagers, Guinness and a cider
Drink vs Food There’s a separate bar and restaurant, but it’s quite food focused.
Music None
Snacks Small snacks like sausage rolls, or nuts in a jar and pipers crisps
Atmosphere Relaxed
Price Not 100% sure as it all came on one bill with the food. Didn’t seem expensive though
Space Quite snug.

Score: 6.45

If you’re looking for a nice country pub to spend the afternoon in, this ticks a lot of boxes – lots of parking, nice atmosphere, nice old building, good food, and reasonable beer.

Peppard Rd, Sonning Common, Reading RG4 9NP, UK

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