In his not so complimentary post “The Water Tower: a Flaming Grill Pub” Mr Fueled by Beer mentioned Spirit Pubco, the parent, who also own and operate the Chef & Brewer brand. Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer have so far visited a couple of these and our experiences were much more favorable…
Chef & Brewer is very much a ‘brand’ in the corporate sense. Every pub has exactly the same menu and drinks offerings; the only difference being their physical surroundings, typically large, and accommodating to large groups. This makes them a reliable choice for family gatherings, which was our reason for visiting. And by applying the brand to diverse physical spaces and locations there will likely be a Chef & Brewer pub that satisfies most preferences for most people. From the Chef & Brewer website:
Chef & Brewer are a collection of traditional pub restaurants that know a thing or two about great food and drink. We take pride in delivering delicious freshly cooked food, made from the best seasonal products, and offer a great range of drinks; from real ales to hand selected wines served at great prices.
This large high street style pub in Reading’s Caversham neighborhood has long been a favorite of pub-goers throughout the area. Its greatest asset is its riverside location just across Caversham Bridge (Google Map).
This makes it walkable from Reading town center, and it is well served by local buses too. Free parking is provided at the rear of the pub in an area where on-street parking is virtually impossible.
Whether a visit to the Griffin is during regular menu hours or for the Sunday roast, the food will rarely disappoint. It won’t be the best pub experience you’ll ever have but not the worst either. The cask ale selection was pretty mainstream: not a LocAle among them. Then there’s the usual mass-market draft taps, plus a full bar for wine and spirits, etc.
Given the value of the Griffin’s free parking my only criticism might seem like nit-picking. However as someone who would happily outlaw the car to enhance walkability and outdoor living, I can’t help feeling that the Griffin is not taking full advantage of its riverside location. There are no moorings for passing boaters and the car park, convenient as it is, occupies the rear of the pub where in my mind a riverside beer garden should be. The ‘beer garden’, such as it is, is a glorified patio squeezed in between the back of the pub and the parking. This holds no appeal to Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer.
The Old Bell is a classic English country pub in a great rural location (if you have a car) about six miles south of Reading town center and just minutes from M4 junction 11 (Google Map). Unfortunately no local bus routes pass close enough to make it a walk and dine destination except from the immediate area. The pub is co-located with a Premier Inn with which it shares its parking lot.
Given Chef & Brewer’s imposition of its corporate brand concept at the Old Bell, food and drink service is essentially the same as at the Griffin. In other words, the comments I made above about the Griffin apply equally to the Old Bell. You should not be disappointed but, by the same token, if you get around enough you’ll experience better elsewhere.
Chef & Brewer: recommended (with caveats) 🙂