We’re in strange, confusing and uncertain times, aren’t we, Reading? But the one thing Explore Reading is certain about right now is the need to support our small, local and independent businesses. Many of our small traders rely on daily turnover and are unsure what the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing advice means for them.
But, although many of Reading’s indie businesses, cultural sites and community groups are closing their on-site services, they’ve reacted quickly, setting up online stores, delivery or takeaway services, gift vouchers or even putting their services online. Now they need your support to get them, and the town, through this scary period.
We often hear the phrase “use it, or lose it” in relation to our indies in Reading. Well, now more than ever is your time to use it, so that our town is still full of brilliant, enthusiastic and excellent local businesses when we all emerge from our sofas.
Find out below how you can help some of Reading’s independent businesses and culture organisations during the coronavirus pandemic, even if you’re self-isolating. Make an online order, or buy a voucher and help keep our local small businesses going and get our town’s best goods and services to help you power through the next few weeks (?!), months (?!) .
Take care Reading, stay safe and keep supporting local businesses.
Are you a small Reading business not on this list? Email me at [email protected] and I’ll try to include you.
Support Reading’s cafes, restaurants and cultural organisations.
If you’re self-isolating you don’t want to be stuck indoors without good coffee.
Fortunately, the coffee shop inside the Tasting House is selling brewing equipment and bags of whole Unity beans or ground coffee to order. Email orders to [email protected] and they will get back to you to arrange payment and delivery.
In the future, owner Phil Carter plans to offer virtual brewing tutorials online, so we can all learn to make coffee like his excellent brews from our kitchens. View their menu on Facebook.
Update: Clay's have decided not to offer takeaway under the current changes to stay at home guidelines. They are providing free daily meals to Katesgrove and Whitley residents through the Whitley Community Development Association.Follow them on Twitter for daily delicious recipes you can make at home!
Our best new Reading restaurant award winner is setting up a takeaway service from next week.
At first this will be for collection only, but they are looking at delivery for the Reading area. Just think, you can have their incredible venison bhuna in the bath if the mood takes you.
Since the advice to avoid pubs was announced, local breweries have been hit particularly hard, with many losing all current trade orders.
Although they've made a big impact in a year, Double-Barrelled are still relatively new as a brewery and need public orders to help them keep serving up their beautiful craft beer for the next few months.
They’ve opened an online shop where you can buy their canned beer delivered to your door - current brews include fruit sour ‘The Big Heist’, hefeweizen ‘Pyjamas’ and trusted pale ale Parka, which is my perfect drink-anytime beer.
They will be adding new beers all the time, so keep checking back. There’s also gift vouchers and merch so you can stock up for the future.
Many of our local breweries, including Siren, Elusive and Loddon, are also offering delivery right now, read more with this full list on the Bracknell Beer Festival blog.
Fidget and Bob
The Kennet Island cafe are already a de-facto community centre for their neighbourhood, and they're still a stalwart of support through this difficult time.
They’ve stopped serving dine in customers, but are offering call and collect of all their daytime menu items, and are still stocking Beechwood Eggs for takeaway.
Ring ahead for takeaway orders and collections - 0118 931 0271, or email [email protected].
In just a matter of days Caversham’s Georgian cafe has become a veritable farm shop for its local community.
Since stopping dine in service, they’ve carried on serving up takeaway in the mornings - including Khacapuri cheese bread goodness for you to heat up at home.
They’ve also started delivering veg boxes and stock of Beechwood Eggs, Jam Lady jam and of course, their own RGBread and Georgian spices, to stock up your cupboards.
The Grumpy goat
The Grumpy Goat
Another of Reading’s much-loved independent businesses, The Grumpy Goat stock two of our very favourite things: ale and cheese. Stepping through the door into their petite Harris Arcade space is like entering a veritable beer lover's Narnia. Everywhere you turn, shelves are piled high with over 400 different varieties of beer. It’s the biggest, and best, range of craft beers and real ales in Reading and includes local breweries Siren Craft Brew, Wild Weather Ales and Binghams Brewery, alongside American, Belgian and even Icelandic bottles. Next to the counter the cheese fridge is filled with excellent chunks of British and European cheeses such as the award-winning Two Hoots Barkham Blue. Owners Anne-Marie Whitehouse and Charlie Beatty are passionate and enthusiastic about what they stock and make the shopping experience a delight. They’ve also started taking their passion for beer around town with events such as Beer Fridays and the Craft Theory beer and music festival. In return they’ve found a strong and dedicated following who are all happy to shout about The Grumpy Goat as one of the best things in Reading.
The Grumpy Goat 8-9 Harris Arcade, RG1 1DN. View website.
The panel says
“Not only do they run a great independent, highly successful shop, but they are super-lovely too. Amazing choice of craft ale, beer and great local cheeses – what’s not to like?” John Luther, South Street Arts Centre “Amazing cheese and amazing beers and spirits.” - Tim Hooper, Milk Bar “A formidable selection of craft beers, ales, ciders and cheese with fantastic bubbly staff.” - Pete Wheeler, DJ and producer.
Arts charity and event organiser Jelly bring together so many different groups of people, often vulnerable community members, that the cancellation of their events is going to be a tough one.
Fortunately they have responded to change quickly and have already run their knitting circle through video call, next month’s book club and other monthly events, such as art club and after-school art will likely take this format. Follow their event updates on Eventbrite.
They’ve also made their first steps into online art content which we can all view and engage with through their Instagram stories.
Their collective of artists are working on a project where they start a piece of work and send it on to another artist to continue, increasing collaboration and digital media.
Their annual art week, Open for Art, usually in June, will likely be postponed to take place later in the year.
Support by becoming a friend of Jelly (£25/year), or making a one off donation on their website.
Kung Fu Kitchen
The mighty Kung Fu Kitchen do home-cooked Chinese food liked you'd really eat in China. There's a big menu spanning all the regional cusines, from hearty Xinjiang big pot chicken and potato, to spicy Sichuan dishes. Order the griddled cabbage and you'll never look at cabbage in the same way.
They're offering delivery for central Reading and collection in their Christchurch Road restaurant. You must call well ahead so they can plan collection slots every 15 minutes so you won't share contact with other customers and tell you when to turn up.
Text them on 07587577966 to order. View menu here
The always enthusiastic supper club duo have launched a Malaysian food home delivery service.
Instead of hot takeaway, food is vacuum packed and chilled, ready to store in your freezer or heat up straight away at home.
The have a Makan bundle of meat curry and sides, as well as a vegan bundle andy ou can also order items individually. Menu options include prawn and veggie fritters, beef rendang and a vegan jackfruit rendang. They’re also selling vouchers for future use and jars of their spicy sambal paste.
Prices are around £5/6 a portion. They're delivering through the mail across the UK with delivery at £6.99, or free for orders over £60.Order online.
From Wednesday 18th March all productions at the local community theatre have been cancelled for the rest of the season.
Not only is this a blow to theatre goers, but will affect the whole thriving community group.
During the closed season they will run creative and theatre workshops online for members and their youth theatre. They are looking into online, live-streamed productions, if anyone can help them with that, please get in touch.
For now, they are welcoming donations on their website to help support them for seasons to come. Donate to Progress Theatre.
Reading’s most innovative theatre company has paused ticket sales on its next big show, and instead are focusing on reworking their many adult acting courses and children’s drama clubs to run them online.
To the joy of parents everywhere, they will also be running additional regular online drama sessions for children at affordable prices, so that families can keep children engaged at home.
You can also become a Friend of Rabble Theatre, with a monthly donation starting at only £2 a month.
I’ve been donating to Rabble for a couple of years, and it includes complimentary tickets to their preview shows as well as other benefits at shows. It’s well worth it to keep quality theatre in Reading. Become a friend of Rabble Theatre
Reading Farmer's Market
The market is going ahead on Saturday 21 March, so turn up and shop for organic veg, homemade bread and more.
All stalls will be taking extra hygiene measures and are going cashless, so bring your card for contactless payments.
Some vendors will be able to deliver for anyone who is self isolating.
View the website for contact details.The Cattle Market, Great Knollys Street, RG1 7HD. Saturday 21 March, 8.30am-12pm
Rising Sun Arts Centre
The Rising Sun Arts Centre
On even the most average of weeks The Rising Sun Arts Centre plays host to art classes, yoga sessions, African drumming workshops, tango lessons, film nights, book clubs and tea dances. And that's before we even get to the lively weekend gigs held in the cosy, sweaty front room. The arts centre started life as a squat for a group of artists who saw potential in the beautiful Victorian red-bricked building on Silver Street. By the mid '90s it had gained charity status and it’s been run by a passionate and dedicated community of volunteers ever since. It enters the list as one of Reading’s most vibrant, welcoming and hands on arts centres.
The Rising Sun Arts Centre, 30 Silver Street, Reading, RG1 2ST. View website
The panel says
"It really is a one off. I spend far too much time there, have seen some of the best gigs ever and met friends for life. My second home." - Sid Siddle, Club Velocity. "The fine Victorian brickwork needs to be admired. It is spontaneous, handsome, remarkable and sometimes completely bonkers." - The Whitley Pump
Food & Drink
Shed is home to the best sandwiches in town. Tucked under other best of Reading entry Milk Bar on Merchant’s Place, it's a real Reading hidden gem. Despite being hidden, it has a passionate following of lunch evangelists, including most of our panel, who happily sing the praises of the Top Toastie, freshly-made soup or Saucy Friday dishes to all who will listen. But it’s not just the food that makes Shed number four on this list, and the most nominated cafe in town. Owners Pete Hefferan and Lydia Owen have build a friendly, relaxed cafe where they remember their customers and talk to you like friends. Having lunch at Shed is delicious, cosy, fun, and cheery. Almost like having lunch at your friend’s house. But a friend that makes you really good sandwiches.
8 Merchants Place, RG1 1DT. View website.
The panel says
“Wonderful food and wonderful people” - Ian Caren, CEO of Launchpad “The tuna melt at Shed is by far the best sandwich in town!” Ann-Marie Whitehouse, The Grumpy Goat “Shed's Meat Free Mondays are always great and scrumptious” - Laura Gonzalez, Nomad Bakery
South Street Arts Centre
It’s our favourite local theatre, home to so many young artists and the Best Thing in Reading (we voted, it’s official).
We almost lost it once, and we don’t want to go there again. So, although the council has shut all our cultural spaces, it’s important we keep our beloved arts centre open in the long term.
The best way to do that is to invest in a South Street Membership.
£35 gets you priority booking and discount on tickets in the future, as well as invites to preview nights. It’s well worth it generally, and now you can consider it an investment in the theatre.
Excitingly, I’ve been told South Street is planning to throw a party when they are able to open again to raise money, welcome some guest performers and liven up all our spirits.
There even may be a few events going online so you can stream them live and enjoy the theatre experience from your sofa. I’ll update details when they are confirmed.
Time Trap Escape Rooms
We’re all going to spend a lot of our time locked in our rooms at the moment, so we best practice how to get out, I guess.
One of Reading’s most creative small businesses, Time Trap have come to the rescue for that and are offering free EXIT games - mini escape rooms you can play at home - with every gift voucher purchase.
Not only will it give you survival practice, but it will also keep the kids entertained while school is out.
Vouchers for the main escape room experiences are well worth investing in, as Time Trap’s experiences are imaginative and whimsical. It’s easy to get lost in the world of their carefully constructed theme rooms, which, let’s be honest, we'll all need after this particular dose of reality.
Vouchers are for a game of up to four people and last for 18 months. The offer for the free home game lasts seven days.Order online now.
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.