This month James Moore visits Park House Bar, a hidden, historic gem of a pub on the University of Reading Campus. A beautiful space, with quirky atmosphere, interesting beer menu and excellent whiskey selection. It’s also featured on the 2018 CAMRA Ale Trail.
Park House Bar, University of Reading
Nestled in the middle of the Whiteknights Campus of the University of Reading, Park House Bar is a former senior common room, where the professors used to drink after lectures (they probably still do). It’s a stone’s throw from the student union and the main square with the imposing Palmer Building.
Unlike a lot of the more modern buildings on campus, Park House Bar is in an old-fashioned red brick building which could be mistaken for a senior academic hangout, but in fact it’s open to the public. Although the first quirk is that it’s only open Monday to Friday during term-time, so do check opening times before you go!
Rounding the campus path, the towering red brick building is a surprising contrast to the black and glass modern student union. It’s an impressive sight. At the front, you can either enter through the glass door on the left or through the more expansive entrance hall to the right, but it’s reasonably easy to get lost in the dark wood corridors, so I recommend the former.
Ostensibly a student bar, it’s certainly like nothing I remember from my university days. Wood panelled walls, glass display cabinets and a tiled fireplace surround you as you enter, with tables dotted around and the bar sitting along the back wall. It certainly doesn’t feel studenty, but more like somewhere you might find an older gent nursing a pint of mild next to the fire, telling everyone how it was in his day.
This main room has more of a traditional pub setting, but off to the right is a dining room where you can also settle in for a drink with comfy armchairs. A big square room, it has less atmosphere than the main bar, but has bigger tables for groups and parties. I also spied a big stack of board games in the main bar, and it is indeed dog friendly. There is also some good seating outside, where I can recommend an al fresco pint in the spring term.
At the bar, there are around five mostly local ales on tap, with an average price of around £3.20. You’ll find breweries such as Siren Craft, Binghams, Loddon and Windsor & Eton but on a more recent visit I spied Titanic Plum Porter on the pumps, although from further afield it’s worth a visit just for that. There is also lager, cider and a good selection of Meantime Brewery beers on keg.
Looking behind the bar, there also appears to be one of the largest selection of whiskies in Reading, including good bourbons, Islay’s and varieties from Japan. There are also plenty of good gins, rums and wine: all booze lovers seem catered for here. But they also do tea and coffee if that’s more your fancy.
If you’re hungry, Park House Bar also serves up traditional pub grub style food, including burgers, fish and chips and chilli until 9pm.
Getting to Park House Bar is incredibly easy if you’re coming by bus from the town centre (or from Lower Earley), as it’s on the regular Reading Buses 21 service. Get off at the campus, walk through the main square (past the Reading Film Theatre). Head behind the Student Union and you’ll find the beautiful Park House Bar building at the back. Parking is troublesome because of the student/staff permit system and needing to get advance permits from the University Parking team, so I highly recommend getting the bus or walking onto campus.
Also note that from 5 March 2018, the bar will be cashless so you will need a debit or credit card to pay for your drinks and food.
Park House Bar is a perfect Explore Reading pub. Tucked out of the way, but welcoming to all. Take a bit of an explore off the high street and you can grab a pint in the comfy, cosy, striking space. It’s also currently on the CAMRA 2018 Reading Ale Trail, so you can pick up a sticker for your book on a visit.
Park House Bar
Address: Chancellor’s Way, University of Reading, Whiteknights Campus, RG6 6UR. Read more
Open: Monday to Friday 11am* to 11pm (*4pm during University holidays). Closed on Bank Holidays
Get there: Reading Buses Route 21 takes you right into the university campus. Follow the path across the green and Park House is behind the Eat at the Square building.
James Moore is Explore Reading's resident pub reviewer. He samples the best pubs in Reading to bring you a new review every month. A beer expert and active within Reading & Mid-Berkshire CAMRA (the Campaign for Real Ale), James also runs '1001 Beers to Try Before You Die' - one of YouTube's most fun beer review channels.