Eating my way around the World at Giraffe, Reading:
Reading is an old cardigan of a town for me, a familiar haunt and the first place I bought a home. Even in the 1980s, I couldn’t afford London house prices and instead bought a tiny house in the centre of town and commuted daily. At that time there were few places there if you wanted to eat out. A good Chinese somewhere near the Hexagon and a few half decent pubs. Generally, if I wanted a night out, I went to a country pub in one of the nearby villages.
Then, the Oracle shopping centre was built and the area along the canal in Central Reading had something of a revamp. And of course, now you can eat at almost every high street chain. Like all things in life there are good places and not so good places. I’ve been back so many times to Giraffe that it has to be one of the good ones I think! I do genuinely have my menu favourites but when we went to review the place, I decided that it would be a great idea to order pretending we didn’t know what our old favourites were.
We started the evening with a Prawn Saganaki and a dish on the menu called ‘Nachos Nirvana’. If I am honest, we should have known better – the Nachos dish costs £7.95 and is plenty for 2 if not 3 hungry diners. It comes laden with black bean chilli, Monterey jack, guacamole, sour cream, jalapenos and chipotle. It’s the kind of dish that works really well to share with a couple of cocktails.
Prawn Saganaki is one of my favourite dishes and here it was done very well, with a rich tangy tomato and garlic base, plump prawns and a crumbling of feta cheese. Delicious.
I’m quite a fan of the ‘Bowls for the Soul’ section of the menu at Giraffe and I particularly like the Vietnamese Steamboat which is a comforting bowlful of spiced up vegetables with chilli topped with honey and soy glazed seabream. But this time, my companion picked the Thai duck stir fry which looked like a rather refined Pad Thai. It went down very well – a bowlful of comfort food which was packed with veggies and tender morsels of duck.
For me, a naughty Rodeo Chicken Breast burger which comes laden with bacon, cheddar cheese, mushrooms, onion rings, barbecue sauce and mayo. It comes with skin on fries or a salad like all the burgers on the Giraffe menu.
I’m something of a sucker for a good portion of fries – I really can’t forgo them for a salad, though I’m happy enough to ditch the burger bun in the interest of my hips. Even if it’s a tasty brioche bun like the one at Giraffe.
We have developed a rather bad habit for ordering churros at Giraffe – and this time was no different. You can order one portion (enough for two tiny helpings) or a sharing portion. And there are two dips on offer – a dulce de leche and a chocolate with orange. I think it’s the perfect dessert and I suspect I’ll be ordering them again.
There are actually a number of old favourites we order regularly. Most of the tapas dishes are fabulous but we particularly like the Tacos Locos. And, as mentioned before the Bowls for the Soul, which are mostly priced between £10 and £13, offer excellent value and will be wonderfully comforting for the winter months.
Giraffe is just different enough to offer something special to the Reading diner. There’s a good selection of cocktails and well-priced wine. There’s usually a happy hour offer and there are often meal deals which mean it’s quite possible to eat out with a bottle of wine for around £50 for two. I’ll definitely be back. Although I know it as a chain of restaurants that has gone through various iterations and changes of fortune, the Reading branch is spacious, friendly and a great place for families, groups of friends and couples. With tables along the canalside, in the summer you can sit outside and watch the world go by. The rest of the time, you’ll just have to rely on the food, cocktails, beer and wine!
12 King St,
Reading RG1 2HN
You can find your nearest Giraffe restaurant here