When the sun’s out, there’s nothing better than a cold drink in a pub garden. But it’s a regular moan that there’s no good pub gardens in Reading. Well, that’s not true. To help you get your al fresco drinking on, we’ve rounded up Reading’s best beer gardens, pub terraces, and riverside bars. We’ve included the best pub gardens in Reading town centre, east Reading, west Reading and Caversham. We haven’t included further afield country pubs in this list, but there are a couple still reachable by bus, if you’re looking for a country pub vibe, without the drive.
All photography: Claire Slobodian
The Allied Arms
The Allied Arms is pretty much synonymous with beer gardens in Reading. Despite a tiny indoor area, the 190-year-old, family-run pub has got one of the largest outdoor spaces in the town centre. Hidden out the back is a long, narrow, paved terrace with 16 big pub benches across two levels.
Sheltered by buildings on both sides, it’s secluded from the traffic and noise. It’s also right next door to 7Bone burgers, so when the wind is right a waft of barbecued meat tickles your nostrils. On a sunny day it’s guaranteed to be buzzing with people looking to get a pint after work.
They’ve recently updated their bar to offer ten real ales on tap, although they’re never quite as interesting as the selection at The Nag’s Head. It’s also more expensive, pints here are around £4.50, compared to £3.80 at the Nag’s (which, to be fair, doesn’t have a garden. It has a car park with benches.).
57 St Mary’s Butts, Reading, RG1 2LG. Open 5-11pm Monday, 12-11pm Tuesday-Saturday, Closed Sunday.
The Fox and Hounds, Caversham
The Fox, as absolutely everyone is calling it, is the favourite local for Caversham residents thanks to its friendly staff, great beer selection and cosy interior. Step outside the back door and you’ll find another reason to love it. In late 2017, the old car park was transformed into a wood-clad beer garden, complete with sofas, benches and an outside craft keg bar serving up exciting brews from Siren, Arbor, Wild Weather, Vibrant Forest and more. It’s a big, buzzing, cheery place and a great spot to have a craft beer in the sunshine north of the river.
In winter it’s also one of the cosiest gardens in town, with heaters throughout and a full tent placed over the whole thing to keep the warmth in. Since taking down the winter canopy for summer though, there’s been no replacement umbrellas put in. So, on a boiling hot day, like the one when I visited (FA Cup Final day, since you ask), there was little escape from the blazing sun overhead. I’d like to see more sunshades put in to make it easier to sit out for longer spells of time (like 90 minutes, perhaps). But when the sun did get too much, I moved to the smaller separate ‘overflow’ garden space just outside the fence, along the main road, which also has six or so pub benches with normal umbrellas and is pleasant, if not as vibrant, as the back garden.
51 Gosbrook Road, Caversham, RG4 8BN. Open 12pm-midnight Monday-Saturday, 12-11pm Sunday. Read our review of The Fox and Hounds.
The Back of Beyond
Ok, so this is a Wetherspoon’s pub, let’s get that out of the way first. You know exactly what you’re going to get here and it’s not indie beers and gastro grub. But the garden is an unexpected attraction that’s great when the sun appears.
Out the back of the long, thin pub there’s a spacious, hanging basket-decorated terrace, with room for around 40 people, all overlooking the canal. It’s surprisingly picturesque and a pleasant way to wile away a few hours in the sun, especially if you’re in a big group (as long as you ignore the construction site next door).
At the bar, you’ll get probably the cheapest draft beer in town, bottles of craft beer and a surprisingly decent gin selection. They have Tanqueray, Portobello Road and Edinburgh Gin all from only £2.60 for a single and mixer. You get a proper balloon glass, your choice of tonic and garnish. You don’t even get that at the Thames Lido.
The Back of Beyond, 104-106 King’s Road, Reading RG1 3BY. Open 8am-midnight, daily.
The Hope and Bear
In early May, the former Abbot Cooke pub on the London Road got a big refresh and a rebrand. Although it’s still under the same owners, it’s now got a new name, a new decor and a new menu. Outside it’s been painted a dark green, some may say Honest Burgers Green, I couldn’t possibly comment. Gates are also painted in the sort of grey shade that every hip bar has in its paint pallette nowadays. Inside, it’s got a quirky decor, moving it closer to a dining space with mid-century modern cocktail chairs, stacked suitcases, floral print walls and low-hanging light bulbs.
It still has two big gardens with lots of space though. The one along London Road is the bigger of the two and gets sun during the day time, so is the spot to pick for the weekend. It’s all faux grass, manicured gravel paths, smart blue benches and solid wood circular tables and benches. It also has a heated area come night time. The King’s Road garden area, meanwhile, is good for an evening drink as it catches the late evening sun. It’s narrower with built in wooden booths at the top, dining tables and Tolix chairs and a couple of pub benches along the side.
The beer blackboard lists a sizeable number of craft brews, including Siren and Little Creatures, all of which come in around £4-something. There’s also a smaller menu of five pre-matched gin and tonic pairings, including Portobello Road and Fever-Tree with a grapefruit garnish, at £7.95 automatically served as a double. Alongside that there’s six cocktails, including summer favourite Aperol Spritz. The food menu is still classic pub stuff: a steak, a burger, a roast chicken. But nothing jumped out enough to inspire me to order grub on my visit.
Overall the gardens are spacious, comfortable and charming and, despite being along two of the most congested roads in town, actually feel quite secluded.
153 London Rd, Reading RG1 5DE. Open 12-11pm Sunday-Wednesday, 12pm-midnight Thursday-Saturday.
The Purple Turtle
When I was a teenager, nights in the Purple Turtle garden meant a pint of snakebite in a scrubby patch of concrete with a couple of pub benches in the corner. But a lot has changed since then and the iconic Gun Street Bar is now all grown up (so am I, sort of).
Its impressive 2014 refurbishment means the garden now has two-tier wooden deck seating, arcade games, a big outdoor bar and a giant screen on the wall to show big events. It’s lost some of that old school community spirit, but just like the Purple Turtle, the garden design is properly eclectic: there’s a checkerboard floor, tiki umbrellas, punk murals, a psychedelic wall and a cushion-strewn Moroccan-esque shisha corner.
You might think of it mainly for nights out and 1am queues, but the garden is a worthy destination at any time when the sun’s out. They’ve upped the bar menu too so you have a lot more choice with beers from Loddon and Camden Breweries among others, they even do cocktails. But you can probably still get a cheap cider and black if you really want to.
9 Gun St, Reading RG1 2JR. Open 11am-3.30pm Monday, 11am-3pm Thursday, 11am-3.30pm Friday, 12pm-3.30am Saturday-Sunday.
The Black Boy, Shinfield
Following a refurb last year, this Shinfield pub now has a large and impressive faux grass and patio-filled outdoor drinking space that feels almost like being at a garden party. In the centre sits a big open fire pit which they light after dark. It’s surrounded by 6 cosy cubbies – open shed-style booths that seat about 6 people with heating, squashy cushions and funky designs, such as a bright butterfly print, or a beach bar vibe.
Elsewhere there’s tables and pub benches and a mixture of outdoor chairs. There’s a small, separate outdoor bar serving up summer staples: Peroni, San Miguel, Amstel, glasses of white wine and Old Speckled Hen or Greene King IPA on cask. There’s also a strong gin menu featuring smaller brands such as Jinzu and Gin Mare from £5.80 for a single and your choice of Fever-Tree tonic. They also have a pretty extensive food menu of Ploughman’s lunches and sandwiches, steaks and pub classics.
Shinfield Road, Shinfield, Reading, RG2 9BP. 11am-11pm Monday-Saturday, 12-10.30pm Sunday.
The Cunning Man
Sat right on the River Kennet at Burghfield, this Vintage Inns pub is perfect for a weekend walk along the river, followed by a cold pint in its huge grassy beer garden. In the centre, there’s a covered seating area with heating for winter (I go here after a Boxing Day walk),
Canal boats pull up alongside the garden and it’s surrounded by country track, so it’s often frequented by holidaymakers, cyclists, dog walkers and west Reading families, giving it a laid back, town escape vibe.
The bar isn’t doing anything original here, so it’s really all about the garden space. They’ve got Peroni and Estrella on tap along with basic ales (Doom Bar and London Pride, if memory serves), but on a sunny day, you’re more likely to see bottles of Old Mout Cider out on the garden tables.
Food is general pub grub, but a recent change in management has seen standards rise, and the steak sandwich is pretty decent. There still never seems to be quite enough staff working on bank holidays or sunny Sundays though, so the queue at the bar is often just a smidge too long. But it’s worth the wait for all that green space and that easy-going, relaxing sense of the country only a short walk from a Reading bus stop.
Burghfield Rd, Burghfield Bridge, Reading, RG30 3RB. Open 11am-11pm Monday-Saturday, 11am-10.30pm Sunday.
The Crown, Caversham
This pub on the Caversham Bridge is another one that has turned its car park space into a nice al fresco drinking space along the road. There’s another row of sheds with booths along the back wall, big group benches for sharing and smaller tables and chairs, all under a big canopy. There’s a TV for sports and a small hatch to the bar so you don’t have to traipse all the way inside for your food and drinks.
Drinks are fairly standard, but food is interesting, if borderline hipster. Last year the pub had partnered with Banger Bros to serve up gourmet hotdogs, but the menu offers no mention of that pairing any more. Instead, there’s burritos, burgers and ‘half pint dimples’ – sharing snacks like chicken wings, or scampi, served in an old school dimpled pint glass with a handle.
The pub garden at The Crown is pleasant and often bustling, but you’re sat watching a main road, so it’s not the most peaceful of spaces. If you’re after tranquility, get yourself around the corner to The Fox and Hounds.
3 Bridge Street, Reading, RG4 8AA. Open 11am-11pm Sunday-Thursday, 11am-midnight Friday-Saturday.
The Three Guineas
Not so much a pub garden as a revitalised patch of concrete outside the station, The Three Guineas is the most centrally located beer terrace in Reading. Since its refurb last year the pub is now a beautiful place to be and the terrace is fun and vibrant, with nods to the railway, brightly coloured chairs and cosy booths for four. Drinks are expensive though (well someone’s got to pay off that decorating bill). Most pints, of which there are over 12 young, modern brews to choose from, are over £5 and cocktails are about £9.
If you’re after a swift half before jumping on a train home from work, or away for the weekend, this is the most convenient way to do it. They have a TV out there on match days, it’s always full with a post-work crowd and it’s got a cheery, holiday vibe to it. Just make sure you sit with your back to the the ugly Garrard Street Car Park.