Reading’s restaurant scene has changed a lot in 2017. Development at The Oracle Riverside and along the King’s Road has drawn some big name, quality London chains to our town, including Franco Manca and Comptoir Libanais.
Meanwhile, a refresh at King’s Walk is encouraging smaller, more independent restaurants, such as Soju and Pho. The Market Place is getting two new venues, The Botanist and Honest Burgers. Plus there’s the restaurant at the Thames Lido to look forward to. If you’ve ever thought, ‘Reading, there’s nowhere good to eat here’, think again.
To help you navigate our newly expanded dining scene, Explore Reading round up the hottest and the newest restaurants to have opened in Reading in 2017, as well as the upcoming openings to keep an eye on for the rest of the year.
Recently opened restaurants
Reopened: October 2016
Despite opening at the end of 2016, The Lyndhurst just sneaks into this list because we really like it and it’s not a chain. That’s worth shouting about. Since being taken over by new tenants it’s now a gently stylish gastro-pub. The menu is full of beautiful British classics: crab on toast, mackerel pate, corn-fed chicken, lamb rump. The oozy duck scotch egg starter is a thing of beauty. Every dish arrives looking more impressive than the menu prices suggest (starters £6-£7.50, mains £11-£15.50), although some (notably the seared tuna) could use a touch more finesse and seasoning to lift them from good to excellent.
The pub itself now features stripped wood floors and higgledy-piggeldy farmhouse furniture. Quality from the kitchen is generally high, service is warm and friendly, and the atmosphere is laid-back. It’s good for a chilled Sunday lunch or a cosy date night.
88 Queens Road, RG1 4DG | Open 12-11pm Monday-Saturday, 12-10.30pm, Sunday | 0118 9503 888 | View website
The Three Guineas
Opened: January 2017
The Three Guineas is no longer recognisable from its days as a dark, squidgy-carpet kind of bar. The revamped Fuller’s station pub has been gloriously restored with ‘Brief Encounter’-era light fixtures and charming railway touches – most notably the GWR platform clock suspended above the bar. Outside, they’ve managed to turned the bland plaza into a pleasant after work terrace and there’s a hidden cellar bar, which Explore Reading’s pub reviewer raves about.
Despite the plush red booths set up for restaurant service along the back wall, The Three Guineas is best treated as a pint-and-a-bite place. The menu is pub classics that come out fast so you can chow down and still stick to your train timetable. It includes fish and chips, chunky sandwiches, burgers, pies and an all day breakfast.
Unfortunately the extensive renovation means a price tag comes with it. Nibbles go up to £5.95 and mains hit a ceiling of £13.75. For that price you can get far better quality at The Lyndhurst. But then you wouldn’t make your train, of course.
Station Approach, Reading RG1 1LY | Open 7am – 11pm Monday – Friday, 8am-11pm Saturday – Sunday | 0118 957 2743 | View website
The Crown on the Bridge
Opened: March 2017
Another refurbished pub with a pimped-up food menu, this time care of London hotdog specialists The Banger Bros. There’s eight of their topping-laden beef Brockwurst dogs, including the Coney Island Chilli Dog (topped with beef chilli of course), and the more adventurous Korean Dog, stacked with kimchi and gochujang mayo. Don’t worry, there is a plain one if all that sounds too bonkers. There’s also five burgers, with very similar toppings, and a variety of bangers and mash plates.
Get Reading’s review also declared The Crown’s chips ‘the best in Reading’. Bold claim. Surely that’s worth investigating.
3 Bridge Street, Caversham, RG4 8AA | Food served 12-10pm Monday – Saturday, 12-9pm Sunday | 0118 9471 407 | View website
Opened: March 2017
Update: Namaste Kitchen changed ownership in April 2018. Prices and the menu have changed.
Namaste Kitchen serve up hearty Nepalese dishes in Katesgrove stalwart The Hook and Tackle. Half the pub is given over to the restaurant with table service. Here you can order Nepal staples such as Daal Bhat (lentil curry and rice sets), fried noodles and huge plates of fried momo dumplings. The bulk of the menu features plates to share, like dried mutton, chilli chicken and crispy fried fish. There’s also lots of choice for vegetarians and two Newari set meals, featuring flavours from the Newar people, the indigenous inhabitants of Kathmandu.
In their recent review, Edible Reading declared a meal at Namaste Kitchen as, “like a fireworks display. There were culinary explosions”. Which is high praise indeed. So what are you waiting for?
The Hook and Tackle, 16 Katesgrove Lane, RG1 2ND | Open 12-11pm Sunday – Thursday, 12-11.45pm Friday-Saturday | 0118 959 4617 | View website
Opened: April 2017
The former Wynford Arms is now New York-style pizza joint The Thirsty Bear. Inside it’s going for Brooklyn chic but doesn’t quite get there. There’s exposed brick, framed graffiti prints and bare filament lightbulbs. It’s let down a little by identikit dark wood tables and chairs.
Upstairs there’s a bar area and small outdoor terrace for sampling the 35 varieties of bourbon behind the bar. Pizzas come with appropriate American portion sizing: they’re colossal. Unless you’re with a group, order by the slice (from £3.95/slice, £19.95/19” pizza). Don’t expect crunchy Italian bases though, these are true chewy NYC pies. I liked The Uptown, (pulled pork, bacon, caramelised onion and BBQ sauce), which is about as un-Italian as pizzas come, but is a glorious, sloppy delight. The Big Apple is the pepperoni classic. It’s slightly spicy, slightly greasy, very cheesy.
110 King’s Rd, RG1 3BY | Open 11am – 11pm Sunday – Wednesday, 11am-midnight Thursday – Saturday | 0118 9504 439 | View website
Opened: May 2017
There was a lot of noise about the opening of The Botanist in Reading. Their license was reviewed and rejected by Reading Borough Council a couple of times before they were finally permitted to open in our ‘cumulative impact area’. They’re a chain of cocktail-bar-cum-restaurants and have big, flashy branches in Sloane Square, Leeds and Marlow among others. “We’ve joined the cool kids club”, you might think. Well, not quite.
Here, The Botanist took over the heritage Barclay’s Bank spot at Market Place. They’ve somehow managed to turn its sleek grey brick and high ceilings into something dim and fussy. There’s fake tree branches, hanging greenery and garden tools everywhere. As one of our Twitter followers put it, “it looks like it was decorated by the ‘Changing Rooms’ team in 1998”. He’s not entirely wrong.
The restaurant does mainly gastro-pub classics. They’re decent, and service is sharp, but it’s not very different to most places in town. Their make-your-own deli boards (£10.75) are fun though: choose from scotch eggs, colds cuts, cheeses and dips. Distinctive touches come in the quirky plating. Hummus is served on a garden shovel, kids’ desserts come in little buckets and spades, kebabs (£11.50) arrive at the table hanging from a giant hook.
On the bar side, The Botanist possesses a really impressive gin selection and a whole fleet of botanical-themed cocktails (from £8.25). They spout dry ice or smoky aromas from kitsch teapots, plant pots and every kind of pot. But the bar area itself is tiny and engulfed in all those fake trees, so there’s no room for people. Whether this was a stipulation on their license to reduce ‘cumulative drinking’, I don’t know. But it feels like a waste of an innovative cocktail bar.
1-5 King St, Reading, RG1 2HD | Open 12-11pm Monday – Wednesday, 12pm-12am Thursday – Friday, 10am-12am Saturday, 10am-11pm Sunday | 0118 959 5749 | Visit website
Opened: June 2017
Japanese-to-go joint Kokoro do sushi sets, bento boxes and hot pots of things like chicken katsu curry or salmon teriyaki served on rice. It’s simple, filling and a cheap alternative to Itsu for lunch breaks, but be prepared to queue for hot food. It’s wedged in between a William Hill and a Flight Centre in the very narrow former My Kitchen space. There’s only two or three seats and on my last three visits the queue for takeaway was out the door.
12 Queen Victoria Street, Reading RG1 1SY | 11am- 7pm daily | View website
Opened: June 2017
Soju is one of the first new tenants in the more independent-focused King’s Walk, or ‘The Village’ as it’s now called. It’s a Korean barbecue joint and, as is traditional, each table features your own individual BBQ plate. You order up trays of thinly sliced raw food – beef is a particular staple, but there are seafood and big veggie plates too – and grill it yourself. Dunk it in Korean BBQ sauce or eat with spicy kimchi (pickled cabbage). There’s also a number of hot dishes including bibimbap (stone rice bowls) and dumplings and a take away stop next door for lunch breaks.
Read our full review of Soju Korean restaurant.
The Village, 9-11 King Street, Reading RG1 2HG | 12.30-3.30pm, 5-11.30pm Monday- Friday, 12.30-11.30pm Saturday-Sunday | 0118 334 8162
Opened: June 2016
I ate my first Franco Manca pizza in the original Brixton Market cupboard of a restaurant in 2010. My friend and I squeezed into a shabby church pew, ordered off a handwritten menu and wolfed our way through what was, at the time, the best undiscovered pizza in London.
Since then Franco Manca has gone big, with 40 branches across London and the South East, and now they’ve come to our home. Despite news that they would open in Jackson’s Corner, Franco Manca surprised everyone by taking over the old Debenhams Cafe spot along the riverside. It’s a bustling, wood-clad room with a small, charming strip of terrace outside – miles better than the old canteen.
They specialise in Neapolitan-style pizzas with chewy, bubbly sourdough bases cooked to exacting standards. There’s a slim menu of only seven pizzas, plus two daily specials. Sizes are big, crusts are flavourful and toppings all feature quality ingredients sourced from UK farms where possible, although premium tomatoes come from southern Italy. The most expensive pizza is £8.25, which is (perhaps deliberately) 65p less than the cheapest Margarita at Pizza Express. Our pick is the Number Seven: tomato base, two types of smokey cured chorizo and mozzarella. Keep room for the creamy, dreamy Burrata Pugliese starter.
The Oracle, Bridge St, RG1 2AT | 12pm – 11pm Monday – Friday, 11.30am-11pm Saturday, 11.30am-10pm Sunday | 0118 995 2086 | View website
The Real Greek
Opened: June 2017
Sitting in the space next door to Franco Manca, and owned by the same restaurant group, The Real Greek focuses on mezze – Greece’s answer to tapas.
Come prepared to share lots of their small plates, which come out on a three-tiered plate stand, like an exotic afternoon tea. Highlights include a crunchy and lightly oil-tinged falafel (pictured), the spicy feta dip and a surprisingly good whipped green fava bean dish. The tender chicken or prawn skewers are also worth ordering. If you really don’t want to share, they also do a good souvlaki wrap and chips, which is almost as good as the one at John the Greek’s street food stall.
With blue and white booths and beach photos on the walls, the room is a little bit Greece-by-numbers. Like Franco Manca the atmosphere is also a bit noisy and service can be hard to flag down, but set meals are tasty and good value. It’s an enjoyable entry point to Greek food if you don’t want to make the trip up to Kyrenia in Caversham.
The Oracle, Bridge St, RG1 2AT | 12pm – 11pm Monday – Saturday, 12-10.30pm Sunday | 0118 995 2270 | View website
Opened: August 2017
This new Middle Eastern restaurant juts out along the River Kennet at the Oracle Riverside. It’s the first restaurant to actually get a spot on the river itself and not a pavement’s width away. The terrace and view from its full glass back wall are really quite charming. There’s also a gift shop corner (buy the baklava to take home!) along with priced-tagged beach bags and silver coffee pots hanging from the ceiling, giving the inside the air of an Arabian Bazaar.
There’s a long open deli along one side of the restaurant, from which Lebanese cafe food is served (Comptoir Libanais is French, meaning Lebanese counter). Dishes include lamb tagines, juicy chicken shish platters, falafel wraps and, of course, plenty of hummus. It’s also a really good option for breakfast. I like the shakshuka – baked eggs with feta or spicy sojok sausage – or a flaky, buttery croissant served with a zesty fig jam.
The Oracle Riverside, Unit R50, RG2 0FP | 8am-11pm daily | 0118 321 3999 | View website.
Opened: August 2017
Oh look, it’s another small, well-loved London chain opening in Reading. This one serves up Vietnamese street food in a warm, wood-clad space at the entrance to King’s Walk.
The focus here is the titular dish, pho, or Vietnamese noodle soup, usually made with a beef broth that takes at least 12 hours to brew. Here, there are also options with chicken and vegetarian broths to suit all tastes.
Starters are worth sharing, so you can try them all. Make sure to order the fresh and zingy Gỏi cuon, which are summer rolls – like spring rolls but wrapped in thin, translucent rice paper instead of deep fried pastry.
1-1a King’s Walk, King Street, RG1 2HG | Open 12pm – 10pm Monday to Thursday, 12pm – 10.30pm Friday, 11.30am – 10.30pm Saturday, 11.30am – 10pm Sunday | 01183 914 648 | View Website
The Thames Lido restaurant
The Thames Lido
Opened: October 30
The team behind the luxe Bristol Lido took over Reading’s Grade II Listed Edwardian swimming baths in King’s Meadow back in 2014. They’ve been restoring the pool to its former glory, and will feature an outdoor lido, hot tub, sauna and steam room. Membership is up around £649/year. But this article only cares about the restaurant. The menu has been designed by executive chef Freddy Bird and features southern European and north African-influenced dishes. The kitchen features a charcoal grill and wood burning ovens, so meats come out smokey and deep. There’s a daily set menu (£16/2 courses, £20/3 courses) and an exciting a la carte with mains such as roast pork belly or ox cheek (from £18.50).
Excitingly, the restaurant will also be run by two experts of the Reading restaurant scene. Managing the restaurant will be Matt Siadatan from Caversham’s sadly departed Mya Lacarte, and James Alcock, formerly of London Street Brasserie.
The less formal poolside bar will also feature a mixture of tapas and afternoon tea-worthy cakes.
Thames Lido, Napier Road, Reading, RG1 8FR | View website
Open: December 18
The original Honest Burgers started as a Brighton market stall before opening their first restaurant at Brixton Village Market. They serve jumbo patties from quality British produce and homemade rosemary chips. Reading is only their second restaurant outside of London, after Cambridge. The Reading Branch is set to open next to The Botanist on King Street with a collaboration Reading burger featuring Barkham Blue cheese and relish from Nomad, as well as the special King Street Pale Ale brewed just for the restaurant by local brewer Wild Weather.
1-5 King Street |View website
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.