Reading foodie guide: where locals eat and drink
Eat your way around this Berkshire town via wobbly tortillas, muscovado tarts and boozy nutmeg-laced milk cocktails
Looking for restaurants in Reading? Want to know where to eat in the Berkshire town? Editorial assistant and digital writer Ellie shares her tips for the best restaurants in Reading, along with where to find the best silky slices of jamon, squidgy cherry chocolate brownies and momo dumplings.
The Tasting House – best for wine
A wine-bar-cum-shop-cum-restaurant, in this smart spot visitors can browse the shelves while sipping a glass of wine (don’t miss the funky orange option). Pop in to pick up a bottle – all handily categorized according to flavour profile, from light and crisp to fresh and juicy – but if you want to try before you buy, pre-load a card with credit and take your pick from 24 ever-changing wines on offer at the self-dispense system (handily served in a choice of three measures).
Create your own charcuterie and cheese board to eat alongside the booze (think West Country brie, Loire goat’s log or coppa) or indulge in an artisan toastie with halloumi, rose harrisa and honey. Brunch is now being served, too, so perch on a long wooden sharing table and tuck into egg and avocado muffins, rustled up in the tiny open-plan downstairs kitchen, or head upstairs and sip on a glass over a game of Scrabble.
It’s also well worth keeping an eye out for the House’s events – they’re listed on the in-house blackboard and online – from a tasting of German bottles to an exploration of wines from America’s West Coast.
Anonymous Coffee – best for coffee
Nestled inside The Tasting House, Anonymous Coffee serves two contrasting espresso coffees from different roasters, giving caffeine-fans the chance to try something a little more unusual, or stick with what they know. Expect everything from London-based Union Coffee to Radstock’s Round Hill Roastery. Baked goods are delivered from local bakeries, so snaffle a blistered custard tart from Bare Bread Baked or a slice of Biscoff loaf cake from La Petite Bouche Bakery, all available to eat in or takeaway.
Thames Lido – best for tapas
A 10-minute stroll from Reading station brings you to Thames Lido, an idyll for swimmers and foodies on the edge of the market town. Breakfast is served from 8am, so arrive early and take a pre-brunch dip in the outdoor heated pool, then stroll over to the glass-windowed restaurant in your fluffy robes and tuck into bacon sarnies served on homemade sourdough or wood-roast kippers with mustard. If swimming isn’t your style, go later in the day and make the most of the lido’s steamy saunas and spa treatments (everything from hot stone massages to facials) before feasting on tapas.
The best seats in the house are those on the (glass) edges of the room, allowing you to watch swimming caps bobbing in and out of the water while you sip on a glass of Vinho Verde (alternatively, perch at the bar and watch the chefs at work in the kitchen while you graze). A Mediterranean menu is the focus, and every dish, however simple, delivered on our visit. Hunks of floury white sourdough came with a garlic-spiked olive oil for dipping, then plates of wobbly tortilla, silky slices of jamon, sticky mushroom croquetas and blackened chicken thighs on a nutty romesco sauce. End with a scoop of Crema Catalana ice cream and a tipple of PX, or, in the chillier months, a smooth hot chocolate pepped up with sea salt and Amaretto.
L’ortolan – best for Michelin-starred dining
If you want a fine-dining dinner, drive five miles west of Reading to the village of Shinfield, to eat at Michelin-starred L’ortolan. High-end French cuisine is married with smart, traditional interiors at this former vicarage, with plates of confit salmon served on white tablecloths (elsewhere, splashes of plush purple add a warm, welcoming touch). There are three dining rooms, but try and get a table in the Glass Room (a conservatory extension) for views of the landscaped garden and lots of natural daylight.
Three is the magic number here, with three menu options: a la carte, menu gourmand or discovery, the latter offering the ultimate experience – 10-courses, all of which change daily. Expect the likes of pan-fried sea bream with parmesan, blue cheese mousse with grape, and apple parfait to end. After something a little more low-key? Take your pick from the three-course a la carte menu which offers torched mackerel with wasabi to start, squab en croute as a main and muscovado tart for pud.
If you fancy upping your food skills you can also book one of the restaurant’s masterclasses, spending a morning watching the chefs at work (with plenty of homemade pastries to keep you fuelled) before lunch and petit fours.
The Shed Café – best for sandwiches
Tuck into stellar sarnies and hearty toasties at this rustic weather-boarded café. It’s a low-key spot with pared-back interiors: exposed brickwork, wooden tables inside and a couple of chairs on the pavement outside. The three s’s are the focus: sandwiches, salads and soup. Tuck into the signature doorstep Shed Sandwich – chicken, hummus, avocado, pink onions and salad on slices of squidgy white bread, or a fiery toastie brimming with mozzarella, chorizo, jalapeño and sundried tomatoes. Look out for saucy Friday, when one hot dish is served – everything from dhal to jerk chicken – but once it’s gone, it’s gone.
Milk Bar – best for rum cocktails
Specialising in rum (there are over 110 bottles to choose between), Milk Bar is a must-visit for cocktail fans. There’s a drink for every flavour you might fancy on the night, be it the Bad and Boujee with Tabasco and grapefruit peel, garnished with bird’s eye chilli, or Reading Milk, a boozy nutmeg-laced milk concoction. Don’t worry if rum isn’t your tipple of choice. There are plenty of other options, from a Mango Monkey made with Monkey Shoulder scotch, or Rye Rhubarb for vodka fans. Keep your eyes peeled for music nights where you can pair a bit of live reggae with your rum.
Picnic Foods – best café
Whether you’re after a strong espresso or slice of coconut cake, Picnic Foods is the place to make a beeline for. Known locally as the ‘coffee kings’, the team uses their own beans (ethically sourced from Honduras) for the café’s brews and sells them roasted and ground to take away, too.
The food menu changes each week but typical dishes include a smoked mackerel salad doused with sweet chilli sauce and served with couscous and fresh leaves. Eat in or take-away. Or just grab something from the wide array of baked goods, all made in-house. Choose between squidgy cherry chocolate brownies, spiced rhubarb and almond cakes, or knobbly cheese scones sandwiched with brie and bacon.
Momo House – best for Nepalese food
A 45-minute stroll north of Reading centre in the suburb of Caversham is Momo House, an affordable spot serving Nepalese classics and curries. Order a few dishes for the table to share, from signature momo dumplings filled with pork or chicken to vegetable thalis – a set meal comprising of rice, naan, tarka dal and mixed vegetables.
As well as more popular Indian-style curries like rogan and kormas, house specials include chicken rara (minced chicken tossed with cumin and coriander seeds) and lamb kathmandu (diced lamb marinated in mango pulp with onion and cashew nut sauce). It only opens in the evening from 5 – 10.30pm, but you can pre-order for a delivery if you know what you fancy ahead of time.
Words by Ellie Edwards
Photographs by Shannon Lee Robinson and Connie Cain