The pretty riverside village of Sonning-on-Thames, with its famous lock and even more famous resident Hollywood star, provides an excellent walk & dine destination from Reading. Located 3½ miles downstream, it is an easy and very pleasant hike along the Thames Path…
In the centre of the village is St Andrews, a parish church with a fascinating history. Next to the church—and owned by it—is the Bull Inn. During Anglo-Saxon times Sonning was a Bishopric in the ancient Ramsbury See and as such needed holy relics to attract the guilt-ridden faithful on pilgrimage. Sonning’s relics were those of a mysterious “St Sarik” to whom a chapel was dedicated in St Andrews Church, and the Bull served as the B&B for visiting pilgrims. Although Henry VIII saw fit to do away with St Sarik, thankfully he left the place of sustenance alone. Today the church leases the former Hospitium to Fuller’s who operates it as a full service hotel, restaurant and pub. The Bull is the main subject of this walk & dine.
First and foremost, as a Fuller’s property, a selection of well kept ales can be expected in the well stocked bar. During our recent visit the usual London Pride and HSB was supplemented by Oliver’s Island, Fuller’s not too shabby summer ale. But an unexpected treat was the guest ale: Butcombe’s Rare Breed pale ale. On a warm sunny afternoon, sitting out in the beer garden, it went down a treat.
As we have found at other Fuller’s pubs, food at the Bull is of high standard, although the Sonning location is reflected in somewhat elevated menu prices. Our visit coincided with Sonning Scarecrows, where every two years villagers deck their homes out with various displays depicting all sorts of wacky things. The village was jammed with visitors and most of them seemed to find the Bull at about the time we showed up. Nevertheless, we found seating without too much trouble despite the crowds and our food came out exactly as ordered without undue delay. Given the circumstances it was an impressive demonstration of management expertise—the Bull certainly runs a tight ship. All in all we had a good experience at the Bull.
Besides the Bull there are a couple of other eating options in the village. One is Coppa Club at the Great House Hotel. It is an intriguing new concept that may be applied on a wider scale. Situated overlooking the river by Sonning Bridge this is one that Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer would like to check out on a future visit. Other options include The Ivy Indian Restaurant in the village and, in season, Sonning Tearoom at Sonning Lock. Over the bridge on the Oxfordshire side of the river are the French Horn and The Mill Dinner Theatre, two very upscale eateries whose thresholds the likes of Mr & Mrs Fueled by Beer are very unlikely ever to cross.