After a wealth of new Reading restaurant openings last year – including the impressive award-winning, Clay’s Hyderabadi Kitchen, indie cafe Anonymous Coffee Co, cosy West Reading Japanese Oishi and slick, velvet-clad steakhouse and member’s bar The Corn Stores – I thought 2019 would see somewhat of a slow down for our growing restaurant scene. I was wrong. We are still in the midst of an exciting time for new restaurants in Reading.
For 2019, this list features over 17 new restaurants, five of which are cafes, including a new Workhouse venture in Caversham. There’s also Reading’s (and I think the UK’s) first vegan fast food joint in Miami Burger, two more flashy Oracle openings – one Greek, one Argentinian – as well as The Pantry at the Town Hall and Double-Barrelled, a tap room and craft beer brewery.
Ok, now, I have to confess I’ve also cheated slightly with this list. You’ll spot a handful of openings that actually opened in November and December 2018, which I didn’t get around to covering on Explore at the time, but really, they’re all getting into full swing now, so they still make worthy entries to the class of 2019.
So, here it is, the list of the newest and hottest restaurants, cafes and bars set to open in Reading in 2019. I’ll update this list as new restaurants and opening dates become clear throughout 2019. And look out for reviews of these throughout the year.
Main image credit: Persiahouse.co.uk
New restaurants opening in Reading
Open: End of 2018
Find it: 10 Prospect St, Caversham, RG4 8JG. View website. Open 8.30am-5pm Monday – Saturday, 9am-5pm Sunday.
Reading street food favourites Georgian Feast brought their marvellous ajika chicken inside back in the autumn when they took over the former Nomad Cafe in Caversham. They’ve kept the baking staff, so are still making that classic sourdough bread, cafe classics and delicious vegan cakes. But they have also introduced a menu of dishes from Georgia and beyond. Look out for the hearty skillets with baked eggs and herbs, chicken or aubergine wraps and, of course, their famous khachapuri cheese flatbread. They’ve also started opening for set dinners in the evening with three courses for £20, from 7pm Thursday – Saturday.
Open: December 2018
Find it: Unit 20 Stadium Way, Reading, RG30 6BX, view website. Open 3-8pm Friday and 2-7pm Saturday.
December saw the opening of our town’s first craft beer brewery and tap room from Reading-based brewers Luci and Mike Clayton-Jones. They’ve set up in a warehouse next to a Screwfix along the Portman Road, so it’s highly glamorous.
But there’s a huge amount of space and they’re able to brew four beers at a time – all of which are creative, well balanced, easily drinkable and full of new flavours – one is even made with beetroot. Despite the warehouse surroundings, the tap room is comfy and snug, with 15 keg beers on tap – usually four of Double-Barrelled’s own brews and other well curated breweries from the UK. Read more about Double Barrelled Brewery.
Kung Fu Kitchen
Open: December 2018
Find it: 80 Christchurch Road, Reading, RG2 7AZ. View website. Open 3pm – 10pm Monday- Sunday.
One of the biggest gripes I have about Reading’s food scene is our lack of a good Chinese restaurant. Memory of Sichuan on Friar Street, which serves hot pot and spicy dishes from southwest China, was probably the closest to authentic for a while, but the menu, pricing and service are all too inconsistent.
So I was excited when I heard that Cafe Metro on Christchurch Road (opposite the university) turns into a casual Chinese eatery under the name Kung Fu Kitchen in the evenings. Decor is very minimal, portions are big and shared group dining is encouraged, just as it is in China. The crowd is mainly lots of Chinese students. You can find sweet and sour chicken if you really want to, but the menu is full of many more flavourful traditional dishes from across China that are worth exploring, such as hearty north-eastern dumplings, spicy Sichuan mapo tofu, western Xinjiang big pot chicken and Beijing street-style noodles.
There’s also, as there is with most Chinese menus, a proliferation of offal and offcuts, look out for (or avoid) tripe, intestines, chicken feet and pig’s ear.
Open: December 2018
Find it: 2 Bridge St, Caversham, RG4 8AA, view website. Open 5pm – 11pm Tuesday – Friday, 11am-11pm Saturday -Sunday.
Persian cuisine is another gap in Reading’s restaurant line up. Well no longer, as Persia House takes over the long-empty Karma buffet restaurant on Caversham Bridge. It’s a big, impressive restaurant with large windows looking out over the river. But inside it’s a warm room with exposed red brick and white plaster walls, decked out with Persian rugs, embroidered cushions and tile art.
The menu features familiar Middle Eastern dishes such as chargrilled meat kebabs, hummus and baba ganoush, but elsewhere there are subtle differences to restaurants such as Bakery House, for example. Persian specials include khoresht stews slow cooked with lamb, aubergine and split peas, zereshk poussin cooked with barberries, pistachios and almonds and slow baked aubergine with crushed walnuts.
Wok to Walk
Open: December 2018
Find it: The Oracle Riverside, Reading RG1 2AG. View website. Open 11am-10pm Monday – Thursday, 11am-midnight Friday – Saturday, 11am-9pm Sunday.
This is essentially the Subway of stir fry with 13 franchise branches around the UK. You move along a foodie production line, choosing your base of vegetables, rice or noodles, adding ingredients such as chicken, tofu, broccoli, cashews or mushrooms and picking a sauce named after an Asian city: Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Bangkok, Saigon, you get the gist. Then you watch it all get cooked for you in a wok. I tried to visit one lunch time and it wasn’t fast enough to make me stay in the queue. Maybe I’ll try again soon.
7 Flowers and Tea
Open: December 2018
Find it: 4 Cross Street, Reading, RG1 1SN. View website. Open 10am-6pm Monday – Friday, 10am-5pm Saturday, 10am-4pm Sunday.
While Reading’s coffee scene keeps booming at a colossal rate (there’s five cafe openings on this list alone), we haven’t really had a dedicated tea house. Enter 7 Flowers and Tea, a quirky flower store/cafe hybrid from a charming Korean florist. She wanted to bring the modern tea houses she saw in Seoul to Reading. It’s a small but beautiful, calming room, with the side as you enter given over to tubs of flowers and stems for stylish bouquets they can make up in the back room, or cute potted succulents and cacti for your coffee table.
On the left, behind a row of five tables is an impressive two-metre-high garden wall of flowers and botanical leaves – don’t worry hay fever sufferers, I gave them a squeeze and they’re all plastic. The one page tea menu features green varieties, smoky Pu’er and more delicate floral brews such as blackcurrant and hibiscus, osmanthus or chamomile. My pot of jasmine and lily (£4.50, enough for two) came out in a see-through perspex pot over a candle burner to keep it warm. I was instructed to let it brew for the three minutes on the accompanying egg timer before pouring into a thimble sized perspex tea cup. There’s also classics such as Earl Grey and Assam, which come served in a traditional china teapot and cup.
Like all good tea shops, you can get cakes too. It’s a small menu but I tried the almond and black cherry slice and it was moist and delicious. Only afterwards, I discovered it was vegan.
Open: 5 January 2019
Find it: The Upper Mall, The Oracle, Broad Street, Reading, RG1 2AG. View website. Open 9am-9pm Monday – Saturday, 10am-6pm Sunday.
Reading’s first ever dedicated vegan restaurant opened in January, and it’s also a fast food joint. The menu, and the restaurant, does a good McDonald’s impression, except there’s no meat, no dairy and everything has been cooked in a healthy way. All dishes are made from beans, grains, soya or vegetables, the chips are baked not fried and come without salt. and all packaging is sustainable or recyclable.
That’s all admirable and there’s a big audience for vegan food, but I was not a fan of the flavours. In fact I described them as beige. Read my Miami Burger taste test for more.
Open: End of January 2019
Find it: 387 Oxford Rd, Reading, RG30 1HA.
What does the corner up from Kobeda Palace, the Afghan restaurant on the Oxford Road need? Why another Afghan restaurant of course! That seems to be the thinking of the owners of Da Village who have just launched their own Afghan eatery opposite the Abu Bakr Mosque. I’m not really sure what that gangsta-effect name is about, but the restaurant is a slicker, shinier version of Kobeda with red and black decor, a giant plasma TV hung on one wall, minimal seating and a kebab shop-style counter to order from. In a menu that also seems similar to Kobeda, they’re focusing on grilled meats, lamb biryani and chicken karahi.
Open: 1 February 2019
Find it: The Roseate Hotel, 26 The Forbury, Reading RG1 3EJ. View website. Opening hours TBC.
The swish Forbury Hotel, now rebranded as The Roseate, is in the middle of an expansion to include a coffee shop and a spa in a new tower of serviced apartments out the back of its courtyard, facing the Blade building on Abbey Square. The coffee shop is small, but stylish with a handful of sumptuous green velvet chairs and mocha-rich clay plaster walls. My long black coffee from Arabica beans was strong and smooth with a slightly nutty aftertaste. The flat white was slightly sweet with a silk milk top.
The Roasted cafe in Roseate’s New Delhi hotel displays shelves and shelves of exquisite French patisserie, but here, there’s only a couple of sandwiches and salad bowls or chocolate brownies, croissants and pain au chocolate – which was very good, flaky pastry and a mix of chocolate and vanilla coming through in the middle. It’s not revolutionary, but it’s a stylish coffee stop for hotel guests and for the surrounding office coffee break takeaway Market.
Gardens of Caversham
Open: 16 February 2019
Find it: 15, Bridge Street, Caversham, Reading, Berkshire, RG4 8AA
Workhouse number four has opened in Caversham, sort of. They’re opening slowly, so details are still all a bit fuzzy, but from what I’ve gathered so far, Gardens seems to be a project led by a group of the younger members of staff at the existing Workhouse cafes. They wanted to bring the quality coffee we all know and love to a new part of town, but to do it in a slightly different way to the existing stores. The mission here is: “unique coffees from innovative growers around the world.”
They’ve completely refurbished the ground floor of the Caversham building from its days as a Lloyd’s bank, which means the room is slick and modern and notably different: no mismatched chairs or peeling paint. With plain cream walls, hanging metallic globe lights and pale wood furniture, decor is closer to the Workhouse Number Three at Dee Park than the original two branches. Expect the familiar coffee style menu of espressos up to lattes, and a list of daily pour overs as well as bags of beans to take home and baked goods at some point.
Tutu’s Ethiopian Table Palmer Park Lodge
Open: 3 March 2019
Find it The Lodge, Palmer Park, Wokingham Road, Reading RG6 1LF.
Back in 2017, Chalkboard Cafe in Palmer Park shuttered quickly, leaving families heading to the play park, gym goers heading to the sports stadium, or those just out for a walk in the park, without a place to grab a coffee or a spot of sustenance.
After a long open review process, Reading Council awarded the tenancy to local legend Tutu Melaku. Tutu has been running her Ethiopian Kitchen at Global Cafe on London Street for years, and now she will adapt that menu to include a mix of Ethiopian favourites, such as doro wat spicy chicken, lentil stew and injera sourdough pancakes alongside standard cafe classics – think sandwiches, salads, cakes and hot drinks. I’m glad to to see the cafe come back into use after a long period of emptiness, and for it to become a community hub for the Wokingham Road area.
To celebrate the launch, there is a free BBQ in the park on Sunday 3 March from 12-3pm. Vegan/vegetarian options will be available as well and there’ll be drinks and cakes to buy. RSVP by Friday 1 March to [email protected]
Vegivores Sri Lankan Black Curry
Open: Spring 2019
Find it: Caversham, address announced soon.
You wait ages for a vegan restaurant to arrive in Reading and then two come along at once. This one is courtesy of Reading’s first all-vegan street food trader who have been selling out of their plant based lunch boxes at markets in town, at Thames Valley Park and at the university since summer 2017.
Their Caversham venue will be an informal all day cafe serving up vegan breakfasts, lunches and dinners as well as coffee and cake – all with a weekly rotating menu. That menu is still being developed with a new full-time chef but we expect some of their favourite market dishes to make an appearance, such as Sri Lankan black curry, hoisin jackfruit with slaw and vegan mac ‘n’ cheese.
Vegivores director Kevin Farrell told me: “We’re looking to do all day brunch at weekends. and are exploring the idea of vegan cookery classes as well. We’ll have an open kitchen, countertop herb garden, and sell quality soft drinks that don’t have refined sugar or plastic bottles. For about £15 I want people to get a great meal and nice drink.”
It’s going to open in Caversham, but the exact location is still under wraps until leases are confirmed and plant-based blood contracts have been signed. Keep an eye out for an update soon.
Open: Late spring 2019
Find it: The Town Hall, Blagrave St, Reading, RG1 1QH.
Another long-empty community site coming back into public use is the former 3Bs bar area in the base of the Town Hall. Don’t expect it to be the pub it once was though. After a confusing campaign of teaser posters billing the name as Lain’s Bar & Kitchen (apparently after the original architect of the Town Hall building), the council have finally settled on the name The Pantry. That’s after The People’s Pantry, the British restaurant and canteen on the site during the 1930s and 1940s, which was destroyed by a German bomb in 1943.
Describing the reason behind the name, Councillor Sarah Hacker, Lead Member for Culture, Heritage and Recreation said: “The People’s Pantry was a wartime institution designed to provide quick and satisfying meals for shoppers, business people, artisans and the army forces. The new café will hopefully prove as popular a destination for residents and visitors.” Alongside the cafe, the museum is getting a new ground floor gallery and museum shop.
Lemoni Grill House
Open: Summer 2019
Find it: The Oracle Riverside, Reading RG1 2AG, View website.
After months as a pop up Bacardi bar, the dome-like Jamie’s Italian will become a Greek restaurant later this summer.
New owners Lemoni currently have one independent restaurant in Southampton where they’ve racked up good Tripadvisor reviews for casual Greek barbecue dishes and mezze, apparently with big portions for affordable prices. I’m not sure how that’s different to The Real Greek, but I guess we’ll find out when it opens. Keep your eyes peeled.
Open: Summer 2019
Find it: The Oracle, Bridge Street, Reading, RG1 2AQ. View website.
Casual Argentinian steakhouse Cau closed in July last year when its parent company, The Gaucho restaurant group, shut up shop nationwide. This summer it’s being replaced by another casual Argentinian steakhouse. Hopefully this one will stay around for longer. It’s being taken over by suburban London steakhouse chain Buenos Aires who have branches in Horsham, Reigate, Wimbledon, Chiswick and Walton on Thames.
Buenasado promises beef from las Pampas in four steak cuts, all cooked on the asado Argentine barbecue. There’s also burgers, salads, a few chargrilled specials and a big Malbec-heavy wine list. Planning permission is currently in with the Council, so fingers crossed it emerges unscathed.
Indoor Food Hall at Lloyd’s Bank
Open: By September 2019
Find it: 1-2 Market Place, Reading, RG1 2EQ.
News that the beautiful old Market Place Lloyd’s Bank building was being turned into a hotel has been swirling around Reading for over a year now. Well, planning is in with the council and construction appears to be taking shape, so we may finally see it come together this year. Find out more about the plans for the development in this Reading on Thames Blog.
Owned by City Pub Group, the hotel’s ground floor restaurant concept will feature three open kitchens. Each of them will serve different cuisines around a shared seating area. The group describe the stalls as having: “a very defined niche, such as vegan food, Asian curries, gourmet burgers, smoked meats. [They’ll] offer small, focused menus with an emphasis on quality, healthy options that are quick to prepare.”
They’re billing it as an indoor food market, but it’s not really. Still, it’s a novel concept, and will bring us lots of food options to look out for. The plans also include what looks like Reading’s first rooftop cocktail bar above the hotel. As a Manhattan drinker, I’m excited to hear that.
Plus, we may still be getting an independent rival to this food hall sometime soon. I’ve heard from a little bird that local street food heroes Blue Collar are also actively looking for a venue in 2019. So Reading may have another indoor food market to get our chops around soon. Happy eating!
Hello! I'm Claire, the founding editor of Explore Reading. I'm a Reading native and former digital director of Time Out Shanghai. I founded Explore Reading so no one can say, ‘there’s nothing to do in Reading’, again. When not editing Explore Reading, I'm probably drinking a Manhattan.