Quietly Reversing the Trend

Amid all the UK media chatter about pub closures, one company here in Reading is quietly reversing the trend. Despite all the naysayers our great British institution – the local pub – does have a future if it can adapt to changing times. And companies like Spirit House are showing the way to make that future a reality…

In my previous post – The Moderation – I spoke of Spirit House, whose tasteful renovation transformed The Mod from the rundown outdated town boozer I remembered from my youth into the thoroughly modern Asian-inspired gastro-pub it is today. Now, a year on, The Spirit House touch has been applied to a couple more otherwise doomed Reading pubs, giving them both a new lease on life.

The Warwick

The Warwick – Reading’s best Thai

Once upon a time Mr Fueled by Beer languished in a soul-destroying local government job with the former Berkshire County Council. A tiny consolation at the time was the existence of two nearby pubs: the Wynford Arms and Warwick Arms both provided respite in the form of a lunchtime pie and a pint.

Today that former workplace – a horrible 1960s office building – sits derelict at the corner of Kings Road and Watlington Street waiting for the wrecking ball. And the Wynford, once a typical Courage-tied town boozer, is now Reading’s longest established gay bar. The Warwick however has received the Spirit House touch and is now a beautifully restored pub serving the best Thai food we have so far found in Reading. Having come from the Seattle area, where all of the Asian cuisines are so strongly represented, we know good Thai when we find it.

The Warwick is more restaurant than pub these days and although the bar no longer serves real ale they have craft keg ale and lager on tap and a fine wine list. We’ve been back several times during the past year and have enjoyed great food and service every time. Thoroughly recommended.

Credit for the photo goes to Tripadvisor. Read their reviews

The Queen’s Head

I see LocAle – at least two Loddon pumps – CAMRA are you watching

Anyone who is familiar with the University of Reading will likely be familiar with the Queen’s Head on Christchurch Road. They may just as likely write it off as another old neighborhood Courage house whose time is long past.

Now that ‘the Nob’ – as it is fondly known by locals – has received the Spirit House touch it is worth a fresh look. The pub’s renovation is along similar lines to the Moderation and the Nob’s kitchen offers essentially the same menu as the Mod, including its southeast Asian fare. What’s not to like.

November 2014: We have now eaten here several times, including Sunday lunch. Food is excellent; freshly prepared dishes using locally sourced ingredients. Recommended.

Credit for the photo goes to GetReading. Read their review

Spirit House

The guy behind these pub turnarounds is Andy Becalick, who was recently voted Entrepreneur of the Year in the Pride of Reading awards. His unique fusion of traditional British pub and Asian cuisine and decor is like nothing we’ve seen anywhere else. It brilliantly exploits a niche that nobody else has dared to fill.

Perhaps the nearest thing we’ve seen is at San Francisco’s Thirsty Bear Brewery where their fusion of craft brewpub and Spanish tapas and paella house works so well. However, while the combination of beer and exotic cuisine at Thirsty Bear is arguably similar to the Warwick’s ale and Thai approach, where the Spirit House touch comes out way ahead is in the total Asian experience afforded by the authentic decor, furnishings and art that Andy personally imports from his travels to Thailand, Indonesia, etc.

And while Andy’s pubs are never going to challenge Reading’s real ale pubs, with their cask marque accreditation and CAMRA LocAle designation, the Mod, the Nob, and the Warwick all offer cask ales – and so much more – the pub of the future. 🙂

Read my original post on San Francisco breweries including Thirsty Bear

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