Skip that sad sandwich at your desk and discover Reading’s vibrant lunch time scene. Local restaurant reviewer Edible Reading picks five of the best cafes, restaurants and street food markets for lunch in Reading. Grab a takeaway, dine in or settle down with a coffee at the food blogger’s favourite local, independent lunches in Reading town centre.
Read more about Edible Reading in their My Perfect Reading Weekend column.
A few months ago, I chanced upon a blog post from Living Reading promoting lunch venues in Reading. Regrettably, it was just an underwhelming list of chains (albeit smallish ones), all with no discernible link to Reading. The whole thing baffled me: why weren’t they banging the drum about our town’s vibrant lunch scene? After all, Reading has an incredible, diverse array of lunch options which has evolved in leaps and bounds in recent years.
I know the chains – big and small – get much of the footfall, but you can easily find a dozen better places for lunch in Reading, from sit down meals, to cafes, to sandwiches grabbed on the run. Space – well, word count – precludes me from listing them all (sorry Perry’s, Picnic and many more), but here are five of the very best spots for lunch in Reading. They all have local roots, they’re all small players, they’re all proudly independent and best of all, they’re all miles better than grabbing a claggy sandwich from a supermarket chiller. Enjoy!
Still Reading’s finest sandwich purveyor in my book: go for the Top Toastie or the Tuna Turner on white bread or sourdough, so the gooey cheese seeps through the whole shebang. The tea is lovely, the milkshakes aren’t too shabby and Saucy Friday – where Shed does a hot dish every Friday lunchtime (main image) – is especially good, provided it’s the jerk chicken with rice and macaroni cheese. Cakes are also pretty impressive, and service from Reading institutions Pete and Lydia is always a complete delight.
The Old Forge, Merchant’s Place, RG1 1DT. Open 8am-4.30pm Mon-Sun, 10am-5pm Sat. View website
Shed also features in our list of the best things to do in Reading.
Fun fact 1: I was once barred from reviewing Workhouse by the owner Gregg Costello, Reading Twitter’s answer to Donald Trump. Fun fact 2: Workhouse was once rated as one of Britain’s 50 best breakfasts by a national newspaper (their suggested breakfast option? Err, an espresso). Despite that nonsense, it’s a cracking place for lunch. The toasted sandwich with salami, olive and stinky Camembert is a wonder but the real draw is the quiches. For me, Workhouse’s quiche Lorraine with heaps of bacon and ribbons of sweet, slow-cooked onion is one of the finest lunches in town. Put some time aside though, as they always take an eternity to reach your table. The courtyard is a great sun trap, too, if summer ever comes.
10-12 King Street, RG1 2HF. Open 7.30am-6pm Mon-Fri, 8.30am-6.30pm Sat, 9.30am-6pm Sun. View website
Bhel Puri House
Just around the corner from Workhouse, Bhel Puri does exclusively vegetarian Indian street food and is run by the same people as Royal Tandoori. You need to pick carefully here, or be brave, but you could do a lot worse than the perfectly pyramidal Punjabi samosas or one of Reading’s great dishes, chilli paneer, cooked to caramelised perfection. Bhel Puri has access to the same courtyard as Workhouse – the one outside the George Hotel – and they have menus on the tables there in the summer. A perfect spot for a mango lassi, although in my experience everywhere is a perfect spot for one of those. They’ll serve you quick enough for a weekday lunch, but it’s nice to take your time at the weekend.
Yield Hall Lane, RG1 2HF. Open 12-8pm Sun-Thu, 12-10pm Fri-Sun. View website
Recent runner-up in the World Cup of Reading Restaurants, my Twitter poll to find Reading’s best restaurant, Bakery House is a superb place for a sit-down dinner but its lunch options are equally impressive and much underrated. A quick hop across the IDR but easily reachable in a lunch break, they do magnificent wraps for around four quid. The falafel are faultless, but for non-vegetarians the lamb shawarma – intense, savoury shards of meat (and lots of them too) is very hard to beat. You can eat at the bar at the front, or take it back to your desk and be the envy of everybody. If you’re sitting in, the options get even more tantalising – houmous topped with roasted lamb, little punchy maqaneq sausages or a vegetarian mezze selection are all very good choices. You may smell of garlic for the rest of the day though, so be warned.
82 London Street, RG1 4SJ. Open 10am-midnight Mon-Wed, 10am-12.30am Thu-Sat, 12pm-midnight Sun. View website.
Bakery House also features in our list of the best things to do in Reading.
Blue Collar Market
Last but not least, no piece about lunch in Reading would be complete without mentioning Reading’s weekly street food market every Wednesday in Market Place (not to be confused with the hugely indifferent Chow, which trades on Fridays). There is a plethora of terrific options, but my personal favourites are Peru Sabor with their gorgeous, tender ox heart anticuchos and Georgian Feast, whose spiced chicken thigh wrap might be the single best sandwich in the whole of Reading and a ridiculous snip at a fiver. I’m also looking forward to trying the new grilled cheese sandwich stall in the not too distant future. In an ideal world, Blue Collar would trade there every day, but we can at least look forward to them taking over the Forbury in summer too.
Market Place, RG1 2DE. Open 10am-4pm Wed. View website.
Blue Collar Market also features in our list of the best things to do in Reading.
Edible Reading share their favourite things about Reading in their My Perfect Reading Weekend column.
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