Competition: Clay’s Hyderabadi Kitchen

I’m delighted to announce that the third ever ER readers’ competition is in partnership with Clay’s Hyderabadi Kitchen.

I first heard about Clay’s at the start of April when the owners contacted me with some information about the restaurant, and from that very first mail I sensed a real passion about food and excitement about their project. The owners, a married couple, had put everything into their dream of opening a restaurant and they told me all about their dishes, their background and what they felt they could offer to Reading’s food scene. I can offer you a certain amount of help, I said, but if I do more than that you’ll know who I am, and then I won’t be able to review you. So I gave them some general pointers about Twitter, who to talk to for more assistance and ideas and so on, but we agreed that we’d keep it arms length. Keep in touch, I said.

I was happy with that, because I sensed that Clay’s would be the kind of place any restaurant reviewer would want to visit on duty. Right from the off I had an inkling that it was going to be one of the most exciting restaurants to hit Reading in as long as I can remember, promising a specific kind of Indian regional cuisine you couldn’t get anywhere else. Further emails only confirmed my suspicions, from the degree of care that had gone into the menu to other details throughout: the wines, the beers, the spirits, the crockery, the cutlery, the glasses. In fact one of the beers on offer – the Hyderabadi IPA from West Berkshire – is the result of a meeting between Clay’s and the brewery which was arranged by my beer-loving friend Tim (nice work, Tim).

So far, so good. I’d done my bit while preserving my anonymity. What could go wrong? Here’s what: a couple of people blew my cover to Clay’s. It’s my own fault, really: in that first mail from Clay’s the owner told me that she had been reading the blog for some time and had taken to eating in Bakery House and the sadly-missed Namaste Kitchen while taking a break from the building work. Namaste Kitchen hosted the first Edible Reading readers’ lunch, which meant that the legendary Kamal knew my identity. And despite being sworn to secrecy he managed to give my details away, possibly after a couple of his favourite single malts. A second lapse at Blue Collar from another set of loose lips while waiting in line for my chicken wrap from Georgian Feast (another recommendation of mine), and the damage was done.

Oh well. It’s probably for the best, because the more I exchanged emails with the owners, the more I liked them and the more I wanted them to do well. Could I really give an unbiased review to a restaurant when I knew just how much they had poured into the place? This is the problem with getting too close: even if I managed to stay anonymous, I still probably couldn’t claim to be completely impartial. So, as it happens, I think the food at Clay’s is fantastic. I’ve been a few times – once before they opened, to finally meet the owners properly, and twice since opening day. I took my family (who revere Royal Tandoori) to Clay’s on a Saturday night, and they raved about the place.

Everything I’ve had there had been extraordinary , whether it’s the kodi chips (thin, spiced, battered slices of chicken – the best bar snacks in Reading for my money), the delicate discs of paneer, the miniature dosa with their buttery crunch and soft, spiced filling or the beautifully perfumed rice of the biryani.

That’s before we get on to the tilapia fillets with rich, reduced, roasted onion, star anise and chilli, or the red chicken curry with a hot, complex, hugely satisfying sauce.

And, unlike most Indian restaurants in Reading I can think of, there are just two desserts both of which justify you leaving a little space. One is a sweet dessert with onions which is worth trying for novelty value alone. But the second – my personal favourite, this – is double ka metha, a soft square of bread soaked with subtle sweetness, a dish which manages to be the perfect light, clean way to end a meal. But you can take that opinion with a pinch of salt, because during their journey to becoming a restaurant I find I started to feel invested in that journey (and, for full disclosure, I didn’t pay for all my visits there). Never mind – this isn’t a review, and you can take from it what you like.

What I did get in return for my help, apart from a guided tour through some of the highlights of the menu, was a treat for one of you. The winner of this ER competition will get a three course meal for two people – a starter, main and dessert apiece – along with either a couple of pints each (of mango beer or Hyderabadi IPA) or a bottle of house wine (white, red or rosé) to share.

All you have to do is this: describe your favourite Reading three course meal in 200 words or less. The only catch is that the starter, the main course and the dessert all have to be from different Reading restaurants. Email your entry to me – ediblereading@gmail.com – by 11.30am on Friday 20th July.

As regular readers will know, I may not be completely impartial about Clay’s, but I’m definitely impartial about reader competitions. So, as always, I’ve enlisted somebody far more qualified than me to judge the competition and pick the winning entry. This time it’s Adam Koszary. You might know Adam as the digital lead for MERL and Reading Museum, it’s more likely that you know him for that Tweet about the sheep that went crazy ape bonkers. But personally, I prefer to think of him as the chap who wrote this gorgeous love letter to the Ding. However you cut it, he’s going to be a superb judge and I’m really pleased to have him on board.

Only one entry per person and – as always – the usual terms and conditions apply. Adam’s decision is final, no correspondence will be entered into, no bribes will be accepted and you don’t get any extra points for deliberately including either a mutton dish or the words “absolute unit”, so don’t even try. The very best of luck to all of you, thanks to both Clay’s and Adam for making this happen and I’m looking forward to announcing the winner really soon.

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22 thoughts on “Competition: Clay’s Hyderabadi Kitchen

  1. Uncle Pastuzo

    I have thoroughly enjoyed your blog since it started, but this looks a straightforward PR plug and I’m outta here.

  2. Uncle Pastuzo

    It does indeed look delicious on the basis of the puff, and I wish them well. But to any rational reader, you had painted yourself into a corner before you took the first bite.

    “Right from the off I had an inkling that it was going to be one of the most exciting restaurants to hit Reading in as long as I can remember.” What?

    1. I’ve been transparently honest about why I felt that way in the piece. You might not like what I’ve said but you can hardly fault that. I see a lot of menus, I get – and turn down – a lot of shitty PR requests (no, I don’t want to try out the brand new O’Neill’s menu etc.) I have a lot of rational readers, let’s see how many of them agree with you. Either way, I’m comfortable with what I did, why I did it and being honest about all of that. If that’s not for my readers, they need to find another blog. Best of luck with that.

  3. Uncle Pastuzo

    My point is that at some point you may review this place’s competitors – I stress I have no connection to any – or indeed, you may already have. Branching out into advertorials, even if you have been upfront about it, muddies the waters. And I know I’m not alone in thinking that as far as this piece is concerned. And don’t be so petulant!

  4. markbarefoot

    As they say, you can please some of the people sometime, none of them all the time, and some never!

    People need to remember that people like yourself, and others, who are championing the food scene in Reading do it because they love food, and want others to try it. The amount of choice on Social Media for info about food/drink/music/events in Reading is growing and giving us residents more options to enjoy our town – long may it continue!!

    1. Well, yes, but I do understand their point. I have an innate suspicion of bloggers and especially Instagrammers who take food in return for puff pieces. I’ve tried to be transparent about what happened here – and I don’t think it’s that – but I respect other people’s rights to make up their own mind.

  5. Mister Affable

    You may be impartial in this instance, but that should not mean that such a good establishment fails to get a mention.
    I think most people who read your articles will realise what this is – you sharing your passion for food, and anyone who follows you on Twitter will know that others who have been here are enthused by this place just as much as you are.

  6. Atticus Finch

    A decent piece though it’s almost overshadowed by narrative about you than than that of Clay’s. I’ve followed your (very good) reviews of Reading eateries for years however in recent tweets and instas you come across as very negative about certain journalists/publications (e.g. Get Reading) which doesn’t seem to fit with your pro-Reading persona. For example, your insta pics are marred by what appears to be a petty screenshot about a perceived comped meal. Sometimes it seems though you’re commenting because you wish to be right more than you want people or establishments to do well. It’s disheartening to see someone with a platform calling out people who have criticised their work, especially when only days previous you’d criticised a Get Reading journalist for their work. I’ve admired your writing, wish you well and would like to see more positively support of peers in the future even if you don’t always agree with the minutiae. It’s only together we can promote and support this town.

    1. I’m afraid I respectfully disagree with this. GetReading is not a force for good in this town and could use its audience and platform much better than it does (I mean, probably in the past tense as it’s been a spent force for years). My Instagram is full of pictures of good food, you have called out one instance where I criticised an Instagram “influencer” who doesn’t declare that she is receiving free food. I stand by that – that sort of behaviour is toxic and erodes trust. I’m sorry you think it’s petty, Rohan, but I don’t agree with that. All the same, nice to have a civil and civilised discussion about it. Have a good day!

  7. Russet house

    Since I barely look at Instagram and don’t follow Twitter what you do elsewhere is of no concern, though my feeling is Get Reading is lamentable, but that’s another story . This is basically a ‘puff’ piece but fair enough….your blog, your rules ….I would like to try Clays but what seems to be missing is its location ?

  8. Paul Holes

    Hey man, I’ll tell you what’s toxic – revealing people’s real names when they commented anonymously. Not cool. That’s doxy. You should revisit that comment.

    This is a great review of Clay’s though. I’m looking forward trying the Bhuna after reading it.

  9. Mark

    Your reviews so far has been really good. Agree with some and disagree with few. I honestly believe you were forced to reveal (certainly I don’t see your honesty here!)your personal connection with the new restaurant as it was very obvious and also outed my Inedible Reading, weren’t you?????? After months of secrecy the cat was let out hahaha ! There’s more to this and not just the free meal. Perfect PR addressed as a competition, funny though 😜 Your cynical comments about getreading journalist and Caversham makes me think you are an inverted snob!

    1. Hmm… right… not really sure what to say to this but I will comment on the GR bit. I don’t think my comments about them are cynical, they’re just honest frustration that a website that should promote Reading publishes a lot of dross and runs the place down. That’s not inverted snobbery – at least I don’t think it is.

      Also, what you seem to forget is that I didn’t have to publish anything about Clay’s, I didn’t have to do a competition with them and so on. So quite how you think I was “forced” to do anything I don’t know. As another commenter said earlier: my blog, my rules 🙂

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