Two of our fave things: 1) gawping at the famous, 2) eating loads. Let's do both!
The Bladebone pub must have the Middletons to thank for a fair amount of its custom. For years the press were camped out to catch a glimpse of Kate with William, then came the mini royals and of course Pippa’s big fat Berkshire wedding. All those tourists, journos and photographers need food and water, and they lucked out here. The Bladebone is in Chapel Row, a drive through settlement, part of the chi chi Bucklebury.
It was named in in 1666 when the ‘Bladebone’ of a mammoth was sealed within copper and hung above the door… In 2016, Chef patron Richie Sanderson and his wife Charlotte took over and have worked blinking hard to create a buzzy, fun local with a solid rep for great food – winning an armful of awards, including Muddy’s Best Destination Pub. Check out the framed first receipt that went through the till. Love it!
Surprisingly buzzy and relaxed for such a traditional-looking village pub. But it just goes to show you should never judge a book by its cover. It’s quirky, fun and when Mr Muddy and I rocked up on a cold Thursday night, it was jumping (and it had been like it all day), deftly accommodating everyone from real-ale drinkers, to bar snackers to three-course diners.
It’s not a huge space but it’s flexible, informal bar-dining at the front, pretty conservatory at the back with a lovely beer garden. The decor is neutral with quirky bits of furniture and tongue-in-cheek artwork. *Ahem saucy Playboy covers in the men’s loo, a frame full of corks, antlers and quotes. Service is efficient and friendly and kids warmly welcomed.
SCOFF & QUAFF
It would have been easy for the management to rest on their laurels – and generally lack imagination. Instead – whoop whoop – we luckies get a long and wide-ranging menu which changes with the seasons, incorporating all the pub classics with pow. Fish and Chips with truffled mushy peas, the Mammoth Bladebone burger made to your spec and a number of delicious ‘Signature’ dishes.
I love the menu. The standard starter, main and dessert has been changed up to reflect the personality of The Bladebone and its owners: Little Introduction (snacks), In the Beginning (starters), A Great Middle (main), Bit On the Side (self-explanatory) and What An Ending! (pud). Chef sent out some diddy wild honey and mustard sausages in a mini saucepan and some cheesey scones with a choice of salted and seaweed butter. Both epic. If I had only eaten the scones and butter I would have gone home happy. But decision had to be made.
I started with the salt and pepper squid with aioli – light batter, not greasy and gone in 60 seconds. I know some people are over the wooden board, mini frying baskets presentation, but you don’t see them that often in these parts and, while some might think it gimmicky, I thought it was spot on for the vibes of The Bladebone. The other half had the Signature scallop Gruyere. A delicate dish, cheesy and rich.
I also tried the Oink Oink Signature dish – slow cooked belly and fillet of pork, Potato dauphin with gravy, apple and crackling. The bon bon was particularly special. Like a posh roast dinner, it was a great meal for a cold Winter’s night. The other half went for a steak. A default order for him and can often lead to disappointment. The steak was cooked to perfection, covered in blue cheese (his choice), the perfect onion ring and fries. He didn’t speak for 10 minutes. Which in this case was a good sign.
We shared a pud (jeans were just getting too tight)– and this row of profiteroles was a pretty as a picture and very sharable. It was light, sweet and the perfect sugary end the meal. Now I need to have a lie down in a dark room and think about my gluttony… again.
OUT & ABOUT
You’re just a few minutes drive from the Muddy award-winning family attraction, Bucklebury Farm Park – which is within spitting distance of the Ma and Pa Middleton’s house. Plus there’s loads of woodland walks nearby to walk off your meal or work up an appetite.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Visiting families, Sunday lunchers, casual bar drinkers. Relaxed groups welcome but I’d recommend booking ahead.
Not for: Fine dining or formality. TheBladebone is knocking out some confident cooking made with quality ingredients but at its heart it’s still very much a pub.
££: Small plates and starters in the £3-£8 range. Salt and pepper squid is £7 and the scallops, £9. Big plates start at £15 for fish and chips, rising to £25 for steak – my pork roast main is £19.
The Bladebone, Chapel Row, Reading RG7 6PD Tel: 0118 971 4000