9 independent places to eat in Reading
Bored of the same weekly take-out? Making cheesy pasta every night? Just looking to explore? Whatever your reasons, look no further than Reading’s flourishing food scene if you’re after something bright, delicious, and new. It’s full of high quality independent restaurants, and a diverse range of flavor palates – what’s not to love?
First off; Bakery House does have table service, but this is really more of a take-out (which seems to have confused the fine folks on TripAdvisor).
That out of the way – this easy-going, cheap-and-cheerful Lebanese grill makes consistently excellent, brightly flavored comfort food that’s great value for money. Bakery House is great to for take-out cravings on a cold, lazy evening. Excellent grill options: the mixed grill, shish touk (marinated barbecued chicken skewers) and the chicken shwarma (<- best, IMO). Make sure you smother everything with garlic-lemon spread (toum). The baklawa is great too, if you’ve got a sweet tooth, and for lifters looking for high calorie/high protein meals, give the Ozey Lamb a shot. Bonus: order the hot falafel wrap sandwiches if you’re after a filling lunch on the go.
Price Range: Mains average about £12, hot wrap sandwiches are less than a fiver (minus Deliveroo charges).
Hours: 1000 – 0000 (Mon – Sat), 1200 – 0030 (Sun)
Notes: Vegetarian and Vegan friendly.
Your local take-out this is not. Helmed by a married couple with a clear passion for good food, this cosy spot specializes in fusion cuisine based on a South Indian flavor palate, and it’s quickly become one of my favorite restaurants in Reading. Their curries are spicy without sacrificing flavor, rich without being greasy, and satisfying without knocking you into a food coma. Clay’s rotating menu consistently contains amazing, creative fusion dishes drawn from a range of techniques and flavors. The location is also conveniently near campus (take the 21 from campus, get off at London St. Foot). This sit-down, family-friendly restaurant is appropriate for a chilled out dinner with friends or loved ones. Oh, and book ahead on their site– you’ll need a reservation.
Price Range: Pre-theatre menu is an absolute steal at two courses for £15, or three courses at £18 (if ordered before 1815, Tuesday to Friday) – perfect before an evening out. Otherwise: curries are £10-£15, while three courses + a drink will set you back about £30.
Hours: Tuesday-Friday: 1730-2200. Weekends: 1230 – 1500 + weekday dinner hours.
Notes: Vegan and vegetarian friendly.
Sitting opposite Queen’s Court student housing unit in town, Pepe Sale is the regional winner of The Food Awards England, and if you have reason to splurge for a luxuriant Sardinian-Italian meal – this is the place in Reading to do it. With pasta made fresh every day, closely attentive service from knowledgeable staff (and Toni Sale himself making the rounds), and a menu of new specials for adventurous regulars, the food of Pepe Sale is well-complemented by its service. But, it’s the food that takes centre stage–menu offerings are often made with simple ingredients, yet everything is perfectly done in quality and preparation in a way that really belies passion and pride in good food, while the consistently perfect balances of oil, salt, acid, heat, and herby-green goodness guarantees a mouth-watering experience. Book a table as soon as you have occasion – you don’t want to leave Reading having missed out.
Price Range: 3 courses, drink, and side sets you back just under £40 per head. Markedly less if you skip out on appetizers and dessert – a pasta plate averages at around £15.
Hours: 1200-1430 for lunch, Thursday to Saturday. 1800-1030 for dinner, Monday-Saturday (open just a bit longer until 2300 on Fri and Sat)
Notes: Limited vegetarian options. Also, order the dessert pasta. You read that correctly.
Meaty, rich, and bursting with flavor (and always beautifully balanced with acidic, pickled veg or sauerkraut), the food here is heavy and satisfying if you’re after a warming meal, be it pillowy pierogi dumplings, crisp meat-and-potato pancakes, slide-off-the-bone racks of ribs, or delicious fried sirloin and mushrooms. The changing selection of soups and goulashes make for pretty full meals – perfect when it’s cold out. This well-hidden local haunt is tucked just off the edge of Reading’s main off-campus student neighborhoods, and it’s great value for money, with filling and generous portions.
Price Range: Mains average between £10-£20
Notes: Limited vegetarian options, (absolutely) not advisable for those seeking gluten-free options.
Styled after a typical Korean group-barbecue experience, The Soju certainly looks the part with built-in table-top grills, K-pop decor, and service buttons to call servers to your table. The food is excellent, representing the primally satisfying flavors of sweet and/or spicy marinades on raw meat, seafood, and veg that you get to grill yourself at the table. Outside barbecue, a good range of Korean dishes are represented too, including Korean fried chicken, buckwheat noodles in cold broth (brilliant hot weather food), hotpots, and a selection of stews, normally shared and eaten on the side of the barbecue with rice. This place is definitely an event rather than a typical weekday meal. Need suggestions? Try dak galbi (sweet or spicy marinated chicken thighs), L.A. Galbi (marinated beef short-rib, wildly popular in Los Angeles), and samgyupsal (spiced, thick-cut pork belly – cook it until rendered, crispy, and sizzling), with sides of rice, mixed kimchi, ssam, and at least one stew. Also – soju is Korea’s clear rice liquor. It’s really easy to drink, and it REALLY sneaks up on you – so be warned and enjoy responsibly! I can’t officially endorse trying any of Korea’s drinking games – but I’ve heard Titanic and Bottle Cap are great after a few beers.
Price Range: Korean meals are shared – ordering a shared starter, stew, BBQ mains, and sides, you’ll be looking at about £20 per head. If there are many of you, consider one of the shared barbecue platters, or hotpot.
Notes: Limited vegetarian options. You’ll want to want to bring clothes you can chuck straight into the wash – everything is going to smell of smoke, grilled meat, and Korean chili paste. If you’re aiming for Friday or Saturday evening, either go early or book a table.
My favorite Thai spot in Reading. The high street Thai restaurants are good and all, but Bolan Thai trumps them in value for money. More importantly – everything is also exceptional in quality, from their spicy, crispy pork belly, whole grilled sea-bass, and classic pad Thai, to their calamari, noddle-stuffed wings, and satay chicken skewers with sweet peanut sauce. This quiet restaurant is located one floor above The Soju, and opposite the Time Trap Escape Rooms. Those who enjoy the balance of salt, sweet, sour, spice that comes with Thai food (topped with loads of Thai basil) – don’t miss your opportunity for a delicious, laid-back meal.
Price Range: Shared appetizer, main and side will be about £15 per person. Alternatively, a plate of Pad Thai or Pad Khee Mao is about £8. Variety of set menus are also excellent great value.
Hours: 1200-1500, then 1700-2300 during weekdays. 1200-2300 weekends.
Notes: Vegan and Vegetarian friendly. All food allergens are listed for each dish.
Part café and part exotic import supplier, this cozy spot on Mt Pleasant is a couple minutes from Whitley Villa Surgery, and while most might stop by for coffee and a Portuguese custard tart (if you’ve never had these, visiting for these alone is acceptable), the food gives it a well-deserved place on this list. Specializing in home-cooked, classically Brazilian and Portuguese dishes, Pau Brasil has a hearty and delicious rotating lunch menu with a flavor palate unlike anything else in Reading (or, I’m willing to bet, Berkshire). Go in expecting plantains, salted cod cakes, cheesy fried croquetas, and – most reliably – feijoada (the national dish of Brazil, made of stewed meats and beans, served over rice and greens). Less of a restaurant and more of a very friendly café, lunch here feels a lot like visiting a friend or relative for your favorite meal (who happens to home-brew a pretty intense chili sauce). Coffee and cakes are very worth stopping by for. Be sure to use your visit to browse through their stock of Brazilian and Portuguese import ingredients!
Price: Range: £8-£16 for food.
Hours: Generally 1100-1700. Extended hours Friday and Saturday, closes early Sunday.
Notes: Vegetarian options available. If you’ve never had them, be sure to save room for a pastel de nata (or four).
This is a pub that specializes in New York style pizza, and stocks a pretty decent selection of bourbon. They take their pizza pretty seriously – dough is made in-house with a 2-part 48-hour fermentation process, tomato sauce is homemade, and the aged mozzarella is imported straight from an Italian farm in Caserta. Order, and you’ll get a very particular kind of pizza – huge slices, thin-crust and crispy, this is probably best treated as a fork-and-knife affair. Be warned – the two slice + drink deal is a substantial meal (and I say this as someone who’s managed to eat an entire large Domino’s pizza on his own). Not feeling the pizza? The delicious appetizers/sides section of the menu makes for a great change of pace from typical pub snacks – popcorn chicken, arancini (deep fried balls of risotto, cheese, ham and/or mushrooms), mac-and-cheese bites, jalapeno poppers with marinara dip, and (of course) calzones. Give this one a try if you’re feeling a pub night based on beer, bourbon, Italian-American snacks, and pizza (that won’t make you feel like you’ve just swallowed a brick).
Price Range: The 2-slice option comes to £7-8. Appetizers are £4-£6
Hours: 1100-2300 (closes at 2200 on Sundays).
Notes: Vegetarian friendly. There’s a variety of substantial weekly offers, deals, and challenges, so be sure to check the website before you head in!
Ok, so this isn’t a restaurant, but it’s VERY worth a mention. Started in 2016 by a man missing London’s proliferation of street food and booze, this organization aims to recreate that, providing a platform for local food traders and pop-up bars (and the occasional DJ). The most accessible way to explore them is their Wednesday lunchtime market, over in Market Place (square near Starbucks and Greggs in town centre). My personal recommendation: Peru Sabor, a Peruvian food stall that’s also the best damn street grill in town (I’m recommending the lomo soltado, or the ox-heart anticucho with salsa criolla, fried giant corn and broad beans). Give Blue Collar a like on social media, and save the dates for Feastival, as well as their four-day CHEESE FEAST.
Price Range: Varies between stalls–be prepared to shell out maybe £6-£9 for lunch.
Hours: Wednesday Market is 1130 to 1430. But check the website/social for details of other events!
Notes: Vegan and vegetarian options abound at every event
Written by Elliot Kim