Welcome to Bad Night Out, where we explore the underbelly of a city through its nightlife spots.
WHERE AM I?
It's Saturday night and I’m in an Ibis hotel room in Reading, screaming. There’s a spider on the bed. For some reason, the hotel has removed all its phones so I have to send a WhatsApp message to the reception desk that says: “There’s a spider on the bed. Please can we move rooms?”
You’d think that I would be embarrassed by this, or that it would put a dampener on the rest of the night, but I’m actually very optimistic. It simply cannot get any worse! Reading, here I come. I'm here, as I've been to Kingston-Upon-Thames and Chelmsford, to get a taste of the town's worst clubs and bars, based on TripAdvisor reviews.
It's hard to conjure the words to describe Reading's general vibe. Ultimately, there isn’t much of one. At a stretch, you could say that’s a vibe in itself. But yeah, Reading has the usual landmarks of any mundane British city: a big shopping centre, a river that runs through the middle, a Côte Brasserie.
More excitingly, however, is the fact that Reading’s lowest rated bars and nightclubs on TripAdvisor are all less than ten minutes' walk from each other. There's also a McDonald's that stays open to 2:45AM, so that's something to look forward to.
CAFFEINE AND COCKTAILS - 4.1 ★★★★
What someone on the internet had to say about Caffeine and Cocktails:
The bar staff were OK but shortage of fruit. I struggle with mental health and uneven numbers can adversely affect me. The DJ was inflexible to his audience and seemed to be playing what he liked.
I begin my tour at Caffeine and Cocktails, an extremely Instagrammable new bar tucked down a corner by a bridge. Despite the name leaving me unsure about what will happen to my heart if I set foot in this place, I’m exhausted from my ordeal with the spider. A healthy dose of coffee and alcohol might be just what I need.
I settle on the Chocolate Brownie Espresso Martini, because it’s raining and I fancy a treat.
It's a drink demands to be Boomerang-ed on your Instagram Story – much like the venue's decor. The seats look like they’ve been bought off Swoon, and there are neon signs encouraging you to have a good time, plus lots of plants and marbled surfaces.
The music is loud and awful. When I arrive, some kind of jazzy saxophone is blaring and I assume that there must be a live band with a lad blowing a sax with all his might. But no, it's just a DJ staring into his laptop.
He decides to follow up the jazz with a terrible remix of Ol’ Dirty Bastard and Kelis's "Got Your Money". So naturally, I down my caffeinated cocktail and head onto the next place.
MATCHBOX - 3.6 ★★★★
What someone on the internet had to say about Matchbox:
If you want room temperature Prosecco and a Dj that talks too much that you can’t even Shazam a song. Then this is the club for you.
When I arrive at Matchbox, I overhear a staff member saying that you get a free shot if you follow the bar's new Instagram page. Naturally, I follow it, then unfollow almost immediately. I've already paid a £5 entry fee, free shots are the least I deserve.
Matchbox is Reading’s only R&B venue, and the music is actually good. People are dressed up in heels and bodycon, and by comparison I feel deeply underdressed. Time for my free shot!
I choose Cherry Sourz because apparently I hate myself.
Overall, Matchbox has a great atmosphere – people are buying fishbowls, and there’s a man wearing full lederhosen. But still, I have two places left on my tour.
LOLA LO - 3.4 ★★★
What someone on the internet had to say about Lola Lo:
shot lady was really rude and ruined my night
One of their bouncers told me to "get a life" and knocked my phone out of my hand while filming something as I was standing outside Macdonald's waiting for my order. Despicable.
Here I stand in what I imagine is Reading’s answer to Mayfair’s Mahiki. Who knew that so many people liked tiki-themed nightclubs?
The drinks menu includes a cocktail called ‘Jamaican Me Crazy’ (haha lol), but I go for a Moai cocktail because it comes in a novelty mug shaped like the statue. What a laugh.
Turns out, they don’t let customers use the novelty cups for unspecified health and safety reasons. So basically, I’ve just paid £10 for an extremely sugary syrup in a regular glass. No one seems to mind.
I do manage to find a giant plastic Moai statue and pose in front of it, so that you'll believe that this place is supposed to be tiki-themed.
A group of men watch me have this photo taken and shout, "Saucy!" And just like that, it is time to leave.
Q CLUB - 2.5 ★★★
What someone on the internet had to say about Q Club:
Staff Told Us To Calm Down And We Was Only Having A Laugh. Drinks Are Expensive. Reading A Shit Night Out Come Newbury
The venue itself was gross.
In less than ten minutes of being in Q Club, I discover that everyone lacks spatial awareness. But I'm here for a more pressing reason. Danny Williams from Love Island 2019 – a man whose surname I only just learned – is doing a meet-and-greet in the VIP area upstairs. Despite being known as one of the least-liked Islanders, his personal appearance has attracted an extraordinarily long queue. People are wearing heels and checking their make-up in iPhone front cameras before being summoned up the stairs to meet him. Good for you, Danny.
Truthfully, I'm not here entirely because of Danny. When I organised my trip to Reading, Q Club had advertised Maura (a Love Island legend) as appearing tonight. But they changed to Danny and I’ve bought a beer now, so what can you do?
After a 35-minute wait, I finally get to the front of the queue. Danny and I look at each other wordlessly. His eyes are glassy and his smile fake, he hates this just as much as I do. I say “Hi” and hope that he doesn’t mistake my near silence for my being starstruck, when I’m in fact in awe of how underwhelming this experience is.
We take our picture and glance at each other once more. Later, the picture appears on Q Club's Facebook page.
As the photographer and I leave Q Club, a man runs outside after us. He demands to see every picture we took in the club, then tells me I’ll never be allowed back inside. Goodbye Q Club, goodbye Reading.
It's……… absolutely not the one for me.
UPDATE: VICE UK would like to apologise for using photos from inside Q Club without permission from the owners.