Casual Fine Dining in Central Reading at London Street Brasserie:
Reading is particularly well served with restaurants. But, many of them are (rather good) outlets that are part of a chain. Finding something that isn’t can be a bit of a challenge, although there’s a growing number of independents these days. One of the earliest and still most notable exceptions in Reading is London Street Brasserie, a quirky space literally built out over the Kennet Canal. It was originally the Toll House on Duke Street bridge and, built in 1750 it is grade II listed. The location makes it really special in summer when you can sit out on one of the restaurant terraces overlooking the canal. The London Street Brasserie opened in April 2000, which makes it well established by Reading standards. Timing almost coincided with the opening of The Oracle shopping centre a few months earlier. To its credit, London Street Brasserie still has a deservedly good reputation in the town for excellent food and drinks at reasonable prices. We went along the other night to take a few pictures so we could share why London Street Brasserie is so popular with locals.
Spread over two floors, the brasserie has great views out across the Kennet Canal. There’s a cosy bar area where you can enjoy a drink before or after your meal and the contemporary style dining rooms have plenty of space between tables. We started the evening with cocktails at our table – a Rhubarb Gin Martini for my companion and Spiced Champagne cocktail for me. Both beautifully presented, I rather liked my Champagne cocktail with apple juice, elderflower and winter spice – it was just the right balance of sweetness for me. And a bit of fruit juice in my champagne always makes me believe I’m being healthy.
London Street Brasserie has what they call a ‘set luncheon menu’ which runs until 7 pm from Monday to Friday and until 6.30 pm on Saturday. It’s a good way to try the food – you can a starter and main for £17 or any starter for £6.25, any main for £12.95 and any dessert for £5. And you can mix and match with the à la carte menu which is just what we did.. I really liked the sound of the Loch Duart sashimi salmon from the main course with Asian daikon slaw, pickled ginger and wasabi. Meanwhile, my companion ordered a hearty sounding dish of haggis, toasted sourdough, fried duck egg and ‘HP Jus’ from the set menu.
My salmon was delicious, light and with a generous helping of slaw. I was warned about (and forgot about) the wasabi. It’s carefully plated with wasabi around the edge…beware, it really is strong! The rest of the dish was perfectly balanced and beautifully fresh with subtle ginger and citrus notes.
Haggis and fried duck egg went down well. The yolk of the egg perhaps could have been a little runnier, but that may have been our inevitable ‘picture taking’. While I’m not a great fan of fried eggs I can appreciate that the flavour pairing is an excellent one, if unusual.
I was really taken with the idea of venison braised in red wine with button mushrooms and pancetta, parsley mash and savoy cabbage. A classic dish, it’s the sort of food I make and eat at home, although not quite to the standard of London Street Brasserie. Beautifully rich red wine sauce and a generous helping of melt in the mouth slow cooked venison made this casserole excellent value at £12.95, although the parsley mash was just a little vibrant!
My companion’s Moroccan spiced rump of local lamb with harissa, chargrilled Mediterranean vegetables and barley couscous looked and sounded sublime. Perfectly pink lamb contrasted with the vegetables to make for a colourful and well-spiced plateful.
For dessert, my plum Bakewell with cinnamon ice cream was delicious and tasted better than our photographs suggest. Served ‘deconstructed’ the bakewell sponge was placed on a plum sauce and topped with a light creme anglais and almonds.
I did have a touch of food envy though when I saw the Lemon Tart (both desserts were from the set menu). And I didn’t get to taste.
We’d ordered a bottle of Bin 30, St Desir Pinot Noir to go with our meal, the choice of my companion who tends to know better about wines than me. I was impressed by how well it paired with our food. Perhaps the only place where it wouldn’t have worked so well was with the sashimi, but I was sipping delicately on my champagne cocktail at that point. At £32 the wine was excellent value and the sort of thing I might just try to find retail. London Street Brasserie does have a good wine list and there are always special offers of bin ends. I was VERY tempted by the Chateau Musar currently offered…
Needless to say, London Street Brasserie stays firmly on our list of favourite restaurants in Reading. Definitely one to try if you haven’t done so already.
London Street Brasserie
2-4 London Street
Looking for something similar in London? We recommend the Wellbourne Brasserie in White City