That word provokes instant thoughts doesn’t it? Teenagers. WKD. Aggressive young men with pierced ears and VD.
Or perhaps it’s other incarnation comes to mind – the day time version of Wetherspoons, full of the retired ale-drinking gentlemen of ‘advanced years’, reading The Sun and flirting with the barmaid.
I have to say I prefer the latter. Hopefully that doesn’t prematurely place me in the same social sphere as these people. Actually, to be fair, they seem happy enough. What better way to spend your day than sat in a pub drinking modestly priced bitter and studying the form for the 2.40 at Kempton Park?
Most Wetherspoons around the country are fashioned out of old theatres, or disused civic halls, or in one Northern case close to my heart, an old Turkish baths, but Reading has defied this trend and the three town centre ‘spoons are all non-descript, low ceiling’d places with nicotine stained walls and sticky wooden tables.
It was 2pm on a Tuesday and the most central of Reading’s Wetherspoons, the Monk’s Retreat in Friar Street, was absolutely rammed. We managed to find a table, right at the back, up the stairs below the swinging monk, dangling precariously above our heads like a 12th century fathers4justice campaigner, and parked ourselves at the only table available.
I was with two female companions and, other than the barmaid quietly going about her business, they were the only two girls in the whole place.
The service was swift and friendly. I had a pint of Black Adder, which is a light stout, more drinkable than I expected and thinner than a Guinness or a Murphy’s. A nice compromise when one is unable to decide between a pint of the black stuff or something more traditional. The sauvignon blanc which my friends were drinking was smooth and fruity, and more than worth it’s modest price.
Foodwise, this is where Wetherspoons can also justifiably claim value for money. My fish and chips was £2.99, cheaper than a McDonalds, and much more fulfilling. It even came with a free cup of tea (which I shunned in favour of my Black Adder), and I feel it would be remiss of me to complain about the hardness of the peas when the fish was covered in such delightfully crispy batter and the chips were so fresh that I had to wait for them to cool down before I could begin eating them.
The girls enjoyed a cheese and tomato quiche and a steak and ale pudding with deliciously salty gravy (I dipped the odd chip) and had very little complaints at all.
Yes Reading has great independent restaurants and a good selection of national chains serving pretty much anything you could imagine. And I appreciate that Wetherspoons hardly needs any publicity on a website such as this, but you know what? Them £2.99 fish and chips were the dogs.