Star Pubs & Bars and Thirsty Bear Group have completed work on a £500,000 refurbishment of the Wynford Arms in central Reading, reopening the pub this week after a two-year closure.
The development has converted the pub into a bar and New York style pizzeria called Thirsty Bear.
The site is the first for Thirsty Bear with partners Vince Healy (managing director of Ascot Inns) and New Yorker Michael Wheeler (who is an experienced pizza restaurateur) looking to create a group of up to six.
Work at the Wynford Arms has doubled the pub’s trading area, transforming the traditional pub interior with a stunning contemporary look and subtle American influence.
Downstairs the space has been opened up to make a light airy bar with an open plan pizza kitchen and dessert and barista coffee stations. Upstairs, disused accommodation has been converted into a stylish lounge with comfortable seating and a roof garden created on a flat roof extension with seating for 45 people.
Thirsty Bear’s offer has an American theme. Authentic New York style pizza is central to the menu. The company is using “secret” tomato sauce topping and pizza dough recipes with a £20,000 pizza oven imported from America to ensure a crispy thin crust.
Fabio Ferrarini, an award-winning pizza chef, trained Thirsty Bear’s chefs and kitchen staff. Other American dishes such as ribs and chicken wings are also on the menu and a dessert station is selling smoothies and shakes as well as American favourites including Mississippi Mud Pie and New York style cheesecake.
Drinks are American focused with beers such as Lagunitas, 30 specially sourced hard-to-find bourbons and 10 American gins. Half of the wine list is American wines.
Lawson Mountstevens, managing director of Star Pubs & Bars, said: “It’s great to be able to reopen the Wynford Arms and complement the regeneration of the neighbourhood. Vince has many years experience in the hospitality sector and looks set for success; the pizza recipe is second to none and Thirsty Bear will bring a distinctive and individual concept unlike any other in the town to Reading.”
Healy added: “The Wynford Arms is the ideal location for our first Thirsty Bear. With Cross Rail coming, Reading is undergoing redevelopment and there are hundreds of homes being built in the area surrounding the pub. We believe the combination of a unique pizza, fresh pasta and a great drinks range will be a great addition to Reading’s busy restaurant and bar scene.”
Healy and Wheeler are looking for further well-located town centre sites with a minimum capacity of 100 covers and external seating in the southern, western and northern home counties in order to expand the concept. They will consider 15-year plus tied and free of tie leases as well as freeholds.