Victorian pubs may come in all shapes and sizes but they don’t usually sit mid-terrace down a residential side street. If for no other reason this makes The Retreat worth the short walk along Kennet Side from Reading town center (Google Map)…
The Retreat, located just east of the town center on St John’s Street, is in many ways Reading’s ‘in’ pub to visit (pun intended). Over the last ten years it has been widely regarded as one of the town’s premier real ale pubs but in 2012 its future became uncertain.
Owner Admiral Taverns and their longtime tenants were unable to agree new lease terms however in March 2013, after a successful campaign by local CAMRA branches, Reading Borough Council added the Retreat to its list of “assets of community value.” This effectively protects the pub from redevelopment by Admiral and is perhaps the reason they agreed terms with a new landlord.
Since all the drama died down the Retreat has gone back to being one of Reading’s leading pubs. And they are now riding the crest of a wave after being named 2013 Best Local in the UK by the Society of Independent Brewers (SIBA).
Step inside the front door and you’re immediately in a small rectangular room with the bar running along the right side. This is where the seven hand pumps dispense the Retreat’s ever changing real ale lineup.
Then step through an archway into another room, much larger than the first, where the bar continues for a short distance. This is where most of the seating is, the ladies and gents toilets, and where musicians, artists, etc. set up.
At the end of the day what’s strikes us as so remarkable is that the Retreat has survived this long. The fact that it sits in a row of owner-occupied Victorian terraced cottages has perhaps been its saving grace. And being surrounded on all sides by streets of similar houses has provided a steady supply of locals coming through the door. It’s status as Reading’s best backstreet pub certainly attracted Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer.