Zero Degrees – A Reading Micro-Brewery with excellent grub!
Reading was the first place I ever bought a house – even 30 years ago I was priced out of London but I could afford a tiny, semi derelict and flea infested terrace there. I have something of a soft spot for the town – although of course, I lived there before the concept of a Silicon Valley. Now, the wealth of serious business investment has brought with it some excellent new places to go out for a drink or a meal. I still visit regularly as my friend and business partner, Simon, is based there. We often end up sitting in one of the restaurants along the canal, like Giraffe and seldom venture much further.
Somehow the creation of a micro-brewery and eatery, round the back of the Oracle and just on the edge of the main shopping centre, seemed to have passed us by. So, we were thrilled to be invited along to find out more about Zero Degrees. I had heard of the Blackheath location but didn’t realise there were three other Zero Degrees micro breweries in Cardiff, Bristol and Reading.
Occupying a large site, we walked into an already busy bar despite the fact it was early on Monday evening. Zero Degrees has plenty of space though and if you want a quieter spot there are plenty of corners where you could sit in privacy. The restaurant area was quieter when we arrived, but by the time we left had a real buzz. Once again though, the large footprint (always a surprise to a Londoner)meant that it never felt crowded and the tables could be well spaced.
We started with a tour of the micro-brewery. You can buy the beer in mini-kegs to take home at a very reasonable rate, worth remembering when you are tasting the range. And, it’s fascinating to see the process that makes the beer you end up drinking, from start to finish.
The range of beers changes regularly – although there are five beers which are always available. If you don’t know which to pick then it’s well worth trying a tasting flight, which we were told would be £4.00. We did exactly that and worked our way through Zero Degrees Pilsner, Pale Ale, Wheat Ale, Black Lager, Mango, Lemongrass Saison and El Jefe, a lime and coriander Mexican lager.
While I am always keen to try something new, I didn’t anticipate liking any of the speciality beers. Generally, I’ll try a pilsner or in winter, I might enjoy a glass of stout. But I’m more likely to ask for a glass of wine. I was pleasantly surprised and would happily have enjoyed the lemongrass saison or the wheat ale for the rest of the evening.
I like the creativity of the brewery – my favourite, the lemongrass saison is made with Belgian Belle Saison yeast and then flavoured with lemongrass powder on the hot-side in the whirlpool, then later with fresh lemongrass for example.
At this point, I was intrigued. Would the food match the care taken with the beers? Zero Degrees has a semi open kitchen and there’s a wood fired pizza oven – both good signs.
My starter of spiedini was made with halloumi cheese wrapped with sage and parma ham served on a bed of rocket and garnished with cherry tomatoes and olives. It was the kind of dish I know I shouldn’t order but do anyway as a treat. Deliciously cheesy and rich, the portion size was perfect for a little bit of naughtiness.
The lobster bisque gnocchi ordered by my companion seemed a little unusual, but the gnocchi was beautifully cooked and the lobster bisque creamy and rich. He was a happy man.
To mitigate for my wicked starter I ordered Moules Mariniere for my main course (although kept the side of fries!). I was impressed by the quality of the moules – plump, juicy morsels in a beautifully creamy, garlic sauce.
The Scotch Bonnet Carnitas pizza had caught the eye of my companion. Slow-roasted pulled pork, red onion, fresh hot chillies and coriander pesto sauce with a side order of what the restaurant describes as ‘seriously spicy scotch bonnet salsa’. Even my ‘mouth of steel’ friend proceeded with caution, as should you, though the wood fired pizza itself was excellent with a superb sour dough base and a generous portion of pulled pork topping. Delicious.
All for the purpose of research we were persuaded to order two desserts. For me, a delicious Belgian waffle drizzled with maple syrup, topped with vanilla ice-cream but without the strawberries, thanks to my allergy.
For my companion, the Cherry and Amaretti Cheesecake which came with crumbled amaretti biscuits, ice-cream and a garnish of strawberries
We thoroughly enjoyed our evening at Zero Degrees Reading and will definitely be back for more.
It’s the kind of place where even if there’s a large group in celebrating, you don’t feel claustrophobic or overwhelmed.
The beer was excellent, the food good value and tasty without being over complicated. The sort of place to go for a night out with friends when you want to talk, enjoy yourself and not end up breaking the bank.
9 Bridge St,
Reading RG1 2LR