Once you get to your eighties you need fairly regular comfort breaks, and so it was that I found myself in Maidenhead searching for a lunch stop for my parents today.
This was by no means a stop of choice, but the need to park fairly close to the lunch venue overrode the need to stop somewhere half-decent.
I can make a good and honest case for any town in England (see here and here) but goodness me Maidenhead stretches my powers of persuasion. I tried to warn Simon Everitt last week, but he pressed on regardless, the very embodiment of fearless pub-going.
My ambivalence toward this place dates back to several visits to Beer Guide pubs, nearly all of them hopeless, during which I was reminded of Gordon Sumner’s lyrics to Roxanne on one New Years Eve I wish to forget. The Chinese takeaway that night was disappointing too.
Wikipedia says it’s a large affluent town, but you wouldn’t think so. Don’t take my word for that, my Mum couldn’t believe how run-down it was, and she’s from Dunstable. Mum is still commenting on how shabby the Marks & Spencer looked in a High Street shorn of character.
The central car park is the worst I’ve ever been in, with no obvious exit to the town centre. There are no obvious buildings of historic interest (bar the one below), and the one interesting looking pub, The Honeypot, turns out (of course) to be a “Gentlemens” Club, with hilarious consequences when you go in seeking craft beer.
Just as well then that the Bear is an excellent Wetherspoons, and the one place I’ve found reliable beer in town over the years. It’s packed, but service is cheerful and quick. Dad enjoys a half of Old Rosie as a change from his usual Aspalls. He’ll live.
The Bear is an impressive historic building, heaving with a cross-section of Berkshire life today. If Spoons is struggling it’s not because of lack of custom. More likely the economics of feeding and watering three of us for £15.37 tells a story of tight margins.
The Maidenhead Mods scooters gathered out front provide the only bit of colour, though this is as far from Brighton beach as you could imagine.
Simon found the Grenfell Arms on the edge of town OK as well, and I’d give that a try if you come on holiday to Maidenhead.
On the positive side, you can be at the Nag’s Head in Reading in less than half an hour from here. Personally I’d stay in Slough.