In my post Greene King: Right Place, Right Time I talked about the transition of the Suffolk-based business from regional brewer to its present position as one of the UK’s largest national brewing and pub companies…
While some real ale aficionados might view Greene King today as the new Evil Empire – as monopolistic and acquisitive as the ‘Big Six’ who went before – I can’t help but be impressed by how shrewdly they’ve built their business and their continuing commitment to cask ale. But hey, maybe I’m biased: it is because of Greene King that Morland beers and pubs, much beloved by Mr Fueled by Beer back in the day, live on in today’s Greene King beer portfolio and their pub estate.
I mentioned in the aforementioned post how early on in their expansion Greene King recognized a shift from beer-led to food-led pubs. Today they have two distinct divisions: retail and pub partners. Retail, their managed pub group, is further divided into several heavily branded chains of which Hungry Horse is the largest. Pub Partners, Greene King’s leased and tenanted group, is generally unbranded except for Meet & Eat, a new franchise offering that can provide Pub Partner lessees and tenants with a completely turnkey branded pub package.
For a concise explanation of the UK’s different pub types I like this one from Fuller’s.
This large former Morland pub sits about 2 miles west of Reading town center alongside the busy A4 Bath Road surrounded by housing estates and not much else. This is an area largely devoid of other pub/restaurants and therefore attracts a mostly car-borne clientele to the pub’s large car park. It’s very much a destination pub for families living within a 1 mile radius.
However the pub is well served by local buses and is easily walkable for those so inclined. The pub’s origins as a Morlands house can still be seen from the decorative plaque inset into the wall at the original roadside entrance.
Entering from the car park the pub is largely open plan: to the left a section with pool tables; straight ahead booth seating to the right facing the long bar; and in back the nicest dining area with more booths and some regular tables. Flat screen TVs are everywhere, with the volume often too high for comfort.
At the bar there’s the usual array of Greene King cask ales: IPA, Abbot, Speckled Hen, plus there’s the usual draft taps pouring Euro-Fizz, Guinness, etc. There’s the standard Hungry Horse menu featuring coronary-inducing pub fare – cheap and cheerful. You find a table, pick what you want from the menu, then order at the bar. You give your table number and they bring the food out to you.
Everything is just ‘OK’ not great by any means, but it’s all ‘value priced’ so who cares. If you want a quickly served plate of fat-laden calories, an OK pint, and to not spend too much moolah, then come on in and ride the Hungry Horse. Recommended (with these caveats) 🙂
This was one of Mr Fueled by Beer’s locals in his youth and it doesn’t seem to have changed much in over 25 years apart from its Hungry Horse re-branding. It is more off the beaten track – part of its charm actually – and therefore not served directly by buses so it, too, has a large car park.
Hungry Horse is clearly a ‘cookie-cutter’ concept because once inside the Six Bells you may as well be at the George & Dragon. Everything works as described above. Recommmended (with the same caveats as before) 🙂
Another of Mr Fueled by Beer’s locals in his youth, back in the day…
The Sportsman deserves a post all of its own. Highly Recommended. 🙂
Our second visit to a Meet & Eat and it’s fair to say this franchise has the edge over Hungry Horse….
For the rest of the story: Rose & Thistle: recommended 🙂
Still to come:
- The Outlook (formerly Copa) – Greene King Local Pubs
- The Spread Eagle – Greene King Local Pubs
- The Gardeners Arms – Meet & Eat
- The White Horse – Flame Grill