up and coming
The Abbot Cook is a Mitchell and Butler pub at Cemetery junction in Reading town. You can see the Arthur Hill swimming baths through the window in the night-time picture. In this decade it has changed to the Abbot Cook from the Upin Arms and before that from the ‘Jack of both sides’. The pub appears to reflect and redefine the character of the area, charting social change.
The Upin Arms used to court the custom of Reading town’s many students being placed half way between Thames Valley University buildings and the Reading University campus. It had the feel of a vampires lair where the vampires drank shorts and Lager. Only one ale available and it was not hand pulled. Dark, and possibly a bit dank, with a sticky carpet, loud music, TV screens playing sport or music videos, cheap microwaved food and long opening hours. Service was slow and surly. Recent Government cuts will inevitably lead to fewer and poorer students, their target customers are disappearing. The pub re-invented itself as the Abbot Cook targeting an altogether different customer. Hopefully it will appeal to my friends and family.
The name ‘Jack of both sides’ refers to a proverb ‘jack of both sides, is before long, trusted by nobody, and abused by both parties.’ and to its physical location with entrances on two sides, towards two roads. According to some pub reviews it used to have trouble with drugs and violence.
As the pub has moved to serve different segments of the community so the character of its location, Cemetery Junction, is gradually changing. It’s definitiely calmed down in its most recent incarnation.
The Abbot Cook incarnation is named after a 16th century local Catholic Martyr, the Abbot of the now-rubble Reading Abby, Hugh Cook Farringdon. The pub serves overpriced average food (£9 for a chicken breast and some potatoes in a mushroom sauce) including some vegetarian options. There is a friendly, bare-parquet-flooring with authentic victorian furniture, church-candle riddled, warmth to it’s atmosphere.
It has about 4 real ales on tap, they pull pints into jugs and have oversized stemmed glasses for half pints. Oh! I felt all girly drinking a half pint, never again. The staff don’t know what a slieve glass is, but they are phenomenally polite, cheerful and helpful. One bar man spent nigh-on half an hour talking to be about Mitchell and Butler and the different chains of pubs they own. I’m guessing he’s on the management trainee track. It has a supportive and friendly atmosphere. Like me it’s pleasantly quirky – succulent plants in teacups decorate each table. There are also some double sockets for the cupboard and her companions.
My local pub has become somewhere I want to go.