This month, James Moore pulls up a stool for the excellent beer range, cosy covered garden and cracking roast dinners at Caversham’s award-winning pub The Fox & Hounds.
The Fox & Hounds, Caversham
Nestled on Gosbrook Road, slightly away from the main drag of the Caversham precinct, The Fox & Hounds (or just ‘The Fox’ as the locals call it) has had a remarkable turnaround in the past five years.
What once was quite a dingy local with an unimaginative drink selection (and that’s probably being kind) is now a thriving, award-winning pub with an excellent beer range. The whole pub was refurbished a year ago, bringing a modern feel, new lighting and new furniture, but thankfully no hipster exposed brickwork. It’s almost unrecognisable from its former guise.
Landlords Kevin and Kerri Durkan, along with a cadre of great staff, have taken The Fox & Hounds on a journey culminating in Reading & Mid-Berkshire CAMRA Pub of the Year gongs for 2015 and 2016. That’s an impressive feat from a pub that rarely even bothered the Good Beer Guide before.
The first thing you may notice, before you even step inside The Fox, is the blue plaque on the wall. It was awarded earlier this year to commemorate the pub’s fascinating historical connection. In 1960, Paul McCartney and John Lennon played their only gig as The Nerk Twins here, just before they formed The Beatles. Apparently, Paul’s cousin ran the pub at the time and the pair even worked behind the bar on occasion.
Follow those famous footsteps inside and you’ll get two rooms, to the left you have an expansive bar top and stools, and plenty of tables and chairs which you can plonk yourself down at. To the right, you’ll go through to the pub games room. The Fox & Hounds is one of the only pubs in Reading to have a dartboard, pool table and billiards table, so it’s a great place to ensconce yourself on a quiet evening with some mates.
Heading out the back door you’ll notice an even more recent transformation. In September, the old car park was turned into a cosy covered beer garden, complete with sofas, blankets for when you’re cold (a nice touch that most pubs don’t do) and an outside craft keg bar. This bar doesn’t have an official name yet but as it’s the mini bar at ‘The Fox’, I like to think it should be called ‘The Den’.
Nowadays, the beer selection at The Fox & Hounds is excellent and caters for everyone from the regular lager drinker to real ale aficionados and craft beer connoisseurs. There are eight cask ales available, usually all at £3.60 a pint, unless it’s a particularly high percentage ABV beer.
Alongside those there are up to six craft keg beers and good quality Euro-lagers such as Staropramen. The cask and craft keg beers change regularly, but you’ll often find young breweries such as Rebellion, Saltaire, Vibrant Forest and Siren Craft present.
And, if you still can’t find something you like despite all that choice, there is also quite an eclectic bottled beer selection in the fridges. On my last trip to The Fox, I very much enjoyed my pint of Ilkley Mary Jane, a lightly-hopped, easy-drinking session pale Ale from Yorkshire.
If you’re a gin fan, you’ll also be well catered for. There’s plenty of different craft bottles, including Brockman’s and Warner Edwards rhubarb gin, nestled on a shelf behind the bar. And they have proper large gin goblets to enjoy it and your favourite tonic.
For food, you can choose from a selection of Barrel & Stone stone baked pizzas, or on Sunday lunchtime you can enjoy a superb roast dinner with all the trimmings, which I think is worth the visit alone.
The pub is lively with events too, there’s regular live music and DJ sets, beer festivals and brewery tap takeovers. There is free wifi and it’s dog friendly. You will find the pub busy on Friday and Saturday nights though so get there early if you want a table.
Even though I live in west Reading, I often make the long walk across town just to visit The Fox & Hounds. My top tip: the easiest way to get there from Reading town centre is over the new Christchurch Bridge for pedestrians and cyclists across the Thames.
Over my many visits to the Fox & Hounds, I’ve become friendly with the landlords and staff after realising what a fantastic job they have done with the pub. In fact, they’ve made the whole pub a friendly place that warrants repeat visits. Sit yourself on one of the stools at the bar and you’ll hear all the local gossip. It’s the best seat in the house.