Round-up: the year in similes (Part 2)

It’s that time of year again: I’m off on holiday and that means no review. I plan to spend a fortnight eating completely uncritically and not saying things like “no, you have to have a different dish to me so I can try both”, because apparently that wears thin after a while. But I wouldn’t want to leave you completely empty-handed so instead you get a sequel to last year’s post about similes in which I compared toast to Miley Cyrus, cocktails to Gillian McKeith and a starter in one of Reading’s poshest restaurants to Pedigree Chum. Could I top that this year? Read on and find out. (Oh, and tune in next week for a brand new feature on one of the most neglected types of dining there is. Bet you can’t wait!)

Banquette
“The only drawback was the black banquette running round the room – it looked plush and comfy but was disturbingly like a church pew, with less give than Jimmy Carr and Gary Barlow put together.”
(RYND)

Basket
“The basket had a slightly convex bottom which meant that cutting the burger with a knife and fork (purely because the burger was really big: I’m not too prissy to pick up a burger with my bare hands) was a bit like eating on top of a Pop-O-Matic with no chance of rolling a six.”
(Oakford Social Club)

Batter
“Having said all that, the batter was just gorgeous – light, crispy and salty it broke away in fragments like shards of edible glass.”
(Mr Chips)

Brioche
“This all came with a slice of toasted brioche, served separately so it didn’t interfere with all the prettiness on the plate, like an ugly relative kept out of wedding photos.”
(Shaun Dickens At The Boathouse)

Chicken
“The accompaniments I could have taken or left – the rice was an anonymous yellow basmati with what looked like bits of frozen vegetables, the coleslaw could have been from anywhere, those strange purple pickles again – but complaining about that would be like going to see Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation and criticising some of the extras in the crowd scenes. The chicken was the star, and I knew it.”
(Bakery House)

Dosa
“This is definitely the thing to order, I reckon, and everything about it was marvellous. The masala was a mixture of firm chunks of potato and gooey, comforting mash. The chicken was full of spices – cardamom, star anise and cinnamon all ended up on the side at the end – and again, the texture was exactly right. Add to that the part-crispy, part-spongy dosa to grab, scoop and dip and the range of sauces to mix things up with and you have something that’s part meal, part edible adventure playground.”
(Chennai Dosa)

Empanada
“I’m used to Argentinian empanadas made with thin pastry, but the Venezuelan version is also made with corn and as a result was also a little bit thick and stodgy for my tastes. But the filling was magnificent – sticky shreds of slow-cooked, savoury beef. Beautiful on the inside, iffy on the outside, like seeing a hot person wearing an unflattering outfit.”
(Arepas Caffe)

Fish
“I could happily have eaten this without the fish – plain, poached fish is a bit like Orlando Bloom, lovely to look at but ultimately not very interesting.”
(Three Tuns)

Monkfish
“Eating that dish was a bit like listening to an epic fiddly guitar solo: there’s clearly lots of skill involved, but the only person really enjoying themselves is the person playing the guitar.”
(Shaun Dickens At The Boathouse)

Pulled pork
“Instead it was fine shredded strands with clever spice and heat, Private Eye to most places’ Take A Break.”
(I Love Paella)

Spare ribs
“The first one was a grim right angle of gristle where there was almost no meat and what meat there was clung on in a manner best described as Blatteresque.”
(Bali Lounge)

Superfood salad
“Really, it was like the contents of one of those square plastic tubs you buy for lunch from M&S in an attempt to pretend to be a better person than you really are; if this was a party in a bowl, it was the kind where you started looking at your watch half an hour in because all the fun people had already left.”
(Jamie’s Italian)

Tandoor pool
“It felt like an ill-advised attempt at the Masterchef invention test, or a Bollywood remake of cauliflower cheese.”
(Miah’s Garden Of Gulab)

Tarte tatin
“The whole thing was totally out of kilter – the balsamic dressing was sweet, the roast figs were sweet, the onions were cloyingly sweet… the overall effect was like gargling neat Ribena while listening to that song by Daniel Bedingfield (you know, the one with the falsetto. Ick).”
(The Baskerville)

Round-up: the year in similes

I’m sorry, but there’s no new review this week. The thing is, I’m off on holiday and going to restaurants in another country tends to make going to restaurants in Reading rather an impossibility. And I’m sure you wouldn’t want to read reviews of What I Ate On My Holiday (besides, it’s quite nice to eat off duty once in a while and not have to make mental notes of everything. Trust me on this.) So please accept my apologies, but this is the first break from reviewing I’ve had since last Christmas and I figured a break would do me good.

That said, I didn’t want to leave you without a post this week. I wanted to put something up. I’ve already reviewed the ten best dishes of the last year, so what else could I do? Fortunately, racking my brain and re-reading the reviews from past twelve months, something occurred to me. I use a lot of similes, don’t I? I thought. This was only reinforced by reading the reviews of some of my favourite dishes: it’s true. I seem to love similes like… someone who really likes similes, like… well… similes fail me, put it that way. So why not sit back, enjoy the year in similes… ready?

Bread
“The toast was thinner, whiter and cheaper than Miley Cyrus.”
(Café Yolk)

Burrito
“The chipotle sauce didn’t come through at all, leaving me wondering if I’d asked for the wrong one or if the staff just hadn’t glugged on enough. The cheese didn’t register. But I suppose these could be viewed as fussy quibbles about what was basically a big edible pillowcase stuffed with a lot of quite good things (they also do a smaller version, presumably for lunchtime and less ambitious eaters, and a larger version – presumably for Eric Pickles).”
(Mission Burrito)

Chicken
“I didn’t finish it: there didn’t seem any point, when every mouthful was the culinary equivalent of the One Show.”
(The Bull On Bell Street)

Cocktail
“The “Bloody Caesar” – a Bloody Mary variant featuring clamato juice, lime, horseradish and sherry – was all citrus and no tomato, thinner, sharper and more joyless than Gillian McKeith.”
(Bel And The Dragon)

Feijoada
“It wasn’t going to win any beauty competitions – half the plate covered in brown mush, a quarter covered with rice and a quarter covered in greens, a beige pie chart”
(Pau Brasil)

Flatbread
“…you also have the flatbread it’s all served on – gradually soaking up that sauce and those juices, waiting until enough meat is gone that you can roll it up, like a magic carpet, and eat it without dignity, savouring all those flavours and maybe, just maybe, dripping a bit of sauce into the bottom of your polystyrene container.”
(King’s Grill)

Gooseberry jam
“The star of the show, without a doubt, was the gooseberry jam. I wasn’t expecting it to be red, but it had the tartness of gooseberry and – this was the masterstroke – a nice spike of chilli. It absolutely saved the plate in front of me (it was the Tim Howard of the food world: it could have saved almost anything). I’d probably have eaten it smeared on a mattress, that’s how good it was.”
(The Catherine Wheel)

Kachori chaat
“It was in many ways so alien to what I normally try in restaurants that I felt a little bit as if I’d just eaten the national dish of the Moon.”
(Bhel Puri House)

Lamb terrine
“I did feel apprehensive about eating it, though, because I was expecting something coarser and all those chunks (such an unattractive word), bound together with jelly felt like a Damian Hirst starter at best and Pedigree Chum for poshos at worst.”
(Cerise)

Noodles
“The only real misfire was the other side dish; fried noodles turned out to be wide, flat, almost completely undressed, clumpy noodles which transformed into rubber bands within minutes of being brought to the table.”
(Art Of Siam)

Omelette
“A good omelette is thick, seasoned, gooey in the middle, folded over and full of wonderful things. What I got instead was a thin frittata, no seasoning, cooked completely through and rolled into some kind of surreal egg spliff.”
(Cafe Yolk)

Onions
“Onions are as cheap as can be, so how could they possibly be one of the tastiest things I ate all evening? But it’s true, I promise: sizzling, continuing to cook at the table, soft and sweet, spicy and caramelised, coated in all those juices. They were incredible, and we pounced on them like yummy mummies hitting the Boden website come sale time.”
(Bhoj)

Ribs
“The meat practically jumped off the bone without needing any encouragement, leaving the bone as white and dry as the Queen’s Speech.”
(Blue’s Smokehouse)

Roast suckling pig
“The crackling – light, salty and sinful – was how I imagine Quavers would taste in heaven.”
(Bel And The Dragon)

Sea bass
“This was closer to the sort of food I was expecting at Malmaison: Jack Lemmon to the burger’s Walter Matthau, granted, but I liked it a lot.”
(Malmaison)

Of course, to use yet another simile, you might feel that reading this post is a bit like sitting down to an episode of Friends to find that you’re watching that one that pretends to be a new episode but is actually made up of loads of clips of previous episodes that you’ve already seen (you know the one I’m talking about). If so, I’m not sure I can blame you – so tune in next Friday when I’ll have a brand new review for you. Just like a restaurant reviewer.

Round-up: One year of Edible Reading

A slightly different round-up this week; I’m not going to do the usual summary of past reviews. I’m not doing restaurant news this week either, because there isn’t much news: the places which are due to open (CAU, Rynd) are still due to open and nowhere has closed that I know of, unless you’re devastated that Reading has lost one of its two Bella Italias (and if you are, I’m not quite sure why you’re reading this). We do have a gluten free café opening on Cross Street, so there’s that I suppose, but that’s all. Instead, it’s a chance to round up a year in the life of Reading’s restaurant scene, because Edible Reading is one year old.

There have definitely been changes in the last year. As always, we’ve seen a steady churn of restaurants opening and closing: we’ve said goodbye to some, like Kyklos and the Lobster Room, and hello to others, like La Courbe and Coconut. I was sad about Kyklos – it never lived up to its potential, but some of the dishes were good and the service was excellent, and it would have been lovely to be able to eat Greek food (a really underrated cuisine) in the centre of town. The new boys are also a mixed bag – La Courbe does brilliant food but never quite feels like a restaurant, and Coconut isn’t quite distinctive enough to offer something different in a town with plenty of options already.

The more interesting arrivals have been in Reading’s cafés: with My Kitchen and Lincoln Coffee opening in the centre there have never been more alternatives to the hegemony of Coffee Corner. If you add in the other lunch possibilities, like Bhel Puri (another welcome opening in the last year), and the other contributors to Reading’s coffee scene (those lovely chaps at Tamp Culture), this is an area where things definitely feel like they’re changing for the better. I’m just sorry that Cappuccina Café, with its delicious banh mi and pasteis de nata, didn’t stay the course too.

There’s more to food culture than restaurants, and this too is one of the more promising signs over the last twelve months. Reading now has a top-notch wine merchant in the shape of the Tasting House, and The Grumpy Goat offers a mind-boggling range of beers and many of the area’s delicious cheeses. The recent spate of supper clubs in the area also shows that food has never been as important to Reading as it is today, and although we still don’t have enough street food at least we have the artisan market on Fridays, even if the opening hours are plain silly. It’s a start, anyway.

Anyway, I was wondering how else to best round up the year, and then I realised: I am totally out of step with the zeitgeist. Journalism these days is all about lists – you only have to read a Buzzfeed link to figure that out – and I haven’t done a single list all year! What was I thinking? So, without further ado, here’s how I’d like to sum up a year of Edible Reading, with a list. Reviewing restaurants is all about reviewing meals, evenings, experiences – and sometimes that misses the point that there can be great dishes tucked away even in middling meals. So to redress the balance, here for your delectation, in sort-of-alphabetical order, is a list of the ten best things I’ve eaten in the last year while reviewing restaurants for the blog. Zeitgeist here I come!

1. Yum gai yang, Art Of Siam. This salad is all about contrast (and not at all about leaves and lettuce). The chicken is perfectly soft and cooked and the vegetables seem to be purely there for texture as nothing, but nothing, stands up to the flavour of the dressing. It has tons of heat – enough chilli to require a glass of milk or at least a handkerchief – but also has the tartness of fresh limes to create a liquor in the bottom of the dish that’s worth spooning up because it is so fab. The flavour is super intense and salty and is enough to render even me speechless (or that might just be the chilli).

2. Lamb karahi, Bhoj. The little silver bowls of meat at Bhoj remind me of spice bowls in an eastern market which seems very apt for this dish. The lamb (and “juicy baby lamb” at that) has been cooked for so long that it falls apart into shreds at the lightest touch of a fork and the sauce is much drier than the usual British-Indian chunks-of-meat-in-an-orange-sauce affair. Here, it’s more a sticky, rich, spiced gravy with the odd cardamom pod for accidental-eating fun. Order one for yourself because you won’t want to share. I did, and I still regret it now.

3. Chilli paneer, Bhel Puri House. I could never turn vegetarian – it’s just not in my nature – but this dish at Reading’s only (to my knowledge) vegetarian restaurant is so good that adding bacon wouldn’t improve it. High praise indeed! The small cubes of paneer are marinated in chilli and fried. That’s it. But, my goodness, they’re so good! The layer of lettuce underneath is pointless and if you accidentally eat a green chilli thinking it’s a green bean (I mean, who would make such a mistake? erm…) you realise where all the heat comes from. Not so hot that it burns and tingles but enough to make every sticky cube worth fighting over.

4. Bread and butter, Côte.
Bread. Such a simple thing, right? But at how many places in Reading can you get truly decent bread? A two quid basket of bread at Côte is six diagonal slices of what is arguably the best bread in Reading – crispy and slightly chewy on the outside, fluffy and malty on the inside. It’s served with a little pot of room temperature salted butter which melts as it goes onto the warm bread. If you’re canny it’s worth splitting each finger of bread into two to make the most of the surface area. It’s a perfect amuse bouche before getting down to the serious business of ordering (and when you do, Côte’s tuna niçoise also came close to making this list – just saying).

5. Chips and mayonnaise, The Eldon Arms.
A bowl of chips is another simple pleasure that’s often done terribly. Whilst the French fry has its place, proper chips should always be thick cut. In the Eldon the chips were served without pomp, without daft toppings or being put into a pointless gimmicky tiny frying basket: not affected, just bloody delicious. Thick cut, crispy on the outside and fluffy on the outside. Simple. Then served with a bowl of proper (there’s that word again) home made mayonnaise which had enough garlic in it to make enemies the next day but with no fanfare to announce its arrival because, in the chef’s eyes, it was just mayonnaise. It saddens me greatly that the Eldon is closed, and the burgers got all the plaudits but strangely it’s the chips I miss most.

6. Chicken lahsooni tikka, House Of Flavours.
Chicken tikka is one of those dishes that has entered the British lexicon, a shorthand for Indian food that so often gets abused and made into something cheap. This, though, is nothing like the chicken tikka flavour you’d get in a Pot Noodle (and, regrettably, I know this for a fact because I had one recently – never again). The chicken, marinated in spice and yoghurt, is as soft as butter, as if it’s only just been cooked through, no more. The spices are rich and smooth and best of all, in my opinion, there’s lots of garlic too. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice over the top to give it a bit of zing and you have, I reckon, about as perfect as starter as can be.

7. Mixed grill, La Courbe. What’s not to like about a restaurant that can serve up meat in this many different ways and for them all to be really good? The lamb kofte is soft and herby, rather than hot. The chicken is marinated in ginger and cooked so the inside is soft but the outside is caramelised. The grilled lamb comes flavoured with cinnamon to give a slightly sweet taste and cooked so it’s just pink but still soft. The dollop of houmous on the side was surprisingly average, but the superb tabbouleh also deserves special mention: fresh, clean and green.

8. Tuna tartare, Malmaison. Like I said, even bad meals can contain brilliant dishes and despite the gloomy surroundings this dish shone brightly in the Malmaison firmament (only partly because of the glass plate they served it on). The tuna was super fresh and went perfectly with the avocado, truly ripe with that delicious buttery taste. The wasabi and slivers of pickled ginger on the side were perfect dotted onto a forkful of tuna and avocado, and the sesame dressing drizzled round the edge had a slight sticky sweetness which made it worth mopping up. If only the rest of the restaurant had lived up to the food.

9. Crab ravioli, Pepe Sale. As the first restaurant to get the ER treatment it pleases me greatly that Pepe Sale makes it onto this list. The crab ravioli is on the specials menu so often that it should become a standard, especially as it’s so good. The ravioli is perfectly cooked, just al dente, and made fresh that day on the marble counter just inside the door. The fluffy crab inside is more generous than it needs to be (but then that’s probably how Pepe Sale has maintained a loyal following for the past fifteen years). The tomato and cream sauce is rich but not overwhelming so a bowlful feels like a treat not an overindulgence. A year on, one of the first dishes I reviewed is still one of the very best.

10. Fried chicken, rice and peas, Perry’s. Perry’s, despite its size, is one of the more intimidating places I’ve eaten since I started ER. I’m glad I went in, though, because it does food that I would struggle to get anywhere else. The chicken is seasoned, coated in flour and fried and then served with a generous helping of rice and peas. Calling it rice and peas is one hell of an understatement, mind. This a side dish on the scale of your mum’s best stew – rice and peas cooked in stock, herbs and spices that are too numerous for me to identify. There’s plenty of chilli in there but the whole flavour is more sophisticated than plain old chilli suggests. Even if it wasn’t an amazing dish in its own right, I’d want it on this list because, more than anything, it symbolises food I would never have eaten if I hadn’t started this blog.

Getting that list down to just ten dishes was no mean feat – no room, sadly, for the ribs at Blue’s Smokehouse, the churros at Tampopo, the truffle ravioli at Ruchetta and countless others. It just goes to show how much good food is out there in and around Reading if you know where to look – and sometimes even if you don’t – despite our reputation as a clone town.

When I started Edible Reading I did wonder if there was enough here to keep me going. A whole year of weekly reviews, the majority of them in central Reading, suggests that I may have been worrying unduly. Without a doubt, the best thing about the last year has been the involvement from everyone who reads the blog – commenting, passing on reviews, Retweeting and getting involved with the conversations. And even now, every time someone tells me they’ve tried and loved a restaurant after reading an Edible Reading review it absolutely makes my day. So please don’t forget to request places you’d like to see reviewed – and if you think I’m missing that one great dish that you order time and time again, add your two pence in the comments box.

Round-up: June and July

After another busy couple of months it’s time to take stock, recap the last batch of reviews and have a look at what’s going on in Reading’s food scene. Sit back, put your feet up, adjust the cushions and we’ll get started. All comfy now? Excellent…

Ruchetta, 7.5 – Easily the most expensive restaurant I’ve visited and reviewed, Ruchetta is a lovely house in a beautiful street with a menu appealing enough to send any hungry person into raptures. But is it quite worth the money? The $64,000 question (not literally, it’s not that expensive) is answered here.

Tampopo, 7.6 – I’d always dismissed Tampopo as another chain on the Oracle Riverside. Why go there, when you can just as easily and cheaply pop to Wagamama instead? It turns out there are a lot of reasons; go here to find out.

Tasting House, 6.8 – Is it shop? Is it a bar? Is it a restaurant? No, it’s Tasting House. The review, here, tells you whether it’s more Clark Kent or Man Of Steel.

Pappadams, 7.2 – In any other place, Pappadams might be the best Indian restaurant in town. In Reading, despite some lovely food, I think falls just short of that accolade. Read about why here.

My Kitchen, 7.5 – The lunch options in Reading seem to get more varied and interesting all the time. I went to My Kitchen to find out if it was a serious challenge to all those places on the legendary Coffee Corner. Sausage rolls, brownies and halloumi ensued: it’s all here.

Coconut Bar & Kitchen, 6.8 – One of Reading’s newest kids on the block specialises in yakitori skewers – a proper gap in the market. It’s an attractive room and they’ve obviously put work into the refit, but does the food live up to the venue? Here is what I thought.

The Catherine Wheel, 7.2 – In which Edible Reading became Edible Goring, through the magic of train travel. I was tipped off that the Catherine Wheel was a magical find in the country, and as it was less than quarter of an hour from Reading station I felt like I ought to put that to the test. My review – which includes Michael Portillo, Tim Howard, Watership Down and a mattress (sort of) is here.

It’s been a funny few months with very little in the way of openings and closings. Sadly, shortly after I reviewed it Cappuccina Café closed its doors for the last time (it’s a nail bar now, apparently next door to another nail bar). The sign outside said “It was genuinely a pleasure”. A real shame, as the time I ate there was also genuinely a pleasure and I know some of you will really miss their bánh mì.

I was hoping to confirm a comeback for the Eldon Arms: I’d heard – from the landlord, no less – that they were considering bringing back a restricted menu. Sadly, things have changed since I got that snippet of information – I now understand that the current landlords are leaving the pub and Wadworth has re-advertised it as vacant. Just as I thought I might get to try those burgers (or that delicious pulled pork) again, my hopes have been cruelly dashed. Such a pity, as it was a pub I could imagine spending more time in, good food or no.

The first opening that I’ve got wind of (that sounds disgusting, doesn’t it? let’s press on) is “RYND Bar & Kitchen” which is opening on 11 Castle Street, the site that used to be Club Evissa and before that was Dogma. (This “Bar & Kitchen” thing seems to be the new way to describe restaurants, doesn’t it? I can’t wait to book a “seat and cutlery” at one of them some time.) They’ve posted some pictures on their Twitter feed as they complete the fit-out of the interior, and according to their Facebook page they are currently recruiting “amazing, powerful, rhythmic, eccentric people” to join their team – including “Waiting staff who don’t mind getting weird”. Could be interesting: personally, “weird” isn’t high on the list of qualities I look for in waiting staff (and nor’s “rhythmic”, come to think of it), but what do I know? They are looking to open this autumn: their website is here, although there’s nothing to see at this stage.

The second one also sounds worth keeping an eye on: Faith Kitchen, down the Oxford Road, which promises authentic African food. It’s not clear from their Facebook page when they plan to open, and their website is under construction, but the success of Tutu’s Ethiopian Kitchen suggests that there’s certainly room for another African restaurant in Reading. I’m looking forward to paying it a visit.

There’s more to a town’s food scene than its restaurants and the other main event of the last few months has been a veritable explosion of supper clubs. For years, Reading’s only supper club was the excellent Friday Dinner Secrets, but all that has changed recently. Pop-Up Reading hosted its first night in June and is already building quite a buzz on Twitter, mainly by posting absolutely mouth-watering pictures of food (don’t look at their Twitter feed just before lunch. Or just after a disappointing sandwich. Or when there’s nothing in the fridge). They’ve also got lots of good coverage both in AltReading and Excellent News. More recently, I’ve got reports of a third supper club in Caversham; I don’t know much about it, but Secret Supper Club has recently set up on Twitter, so it will be interesting to see what they do. Have you been to any of Reading’s supper clubs? If so, what did you think?

Right, that’s all for this month. I’m off to go look at the Pop-Up Reading Twitter feed, get my M&S egg mayonnaise sandwich out of the fridge and let out an enormous sigh. You’ll probably be able to hear it from where you’re sitting. Don’t forget you can still suggest places for me to review here if there’s somewhere you’ve always wondered about; most of my reviews still come from reader suggestions so please keep them coming. See you here again next Friday at 11:30 for the latest review (I’ll give you a clue: it won’t be of this egg mayonnaise sandwich, which looks like a 5.0 at best…)

The Edible Reading Survey: The results!

When I had the idea to do the ER survey, it was just a bit of fun. I expected that I’d have to constantly nag for responses, or that nobody would do it (like throwing a party where nobody turns up). So I designed a few questions – maybe not the right ones, with hindsight – and knocked it up and put it up there with no great expectations. And? Well, for want of a better word, wow. The response has been incredible – in terms of supportive comments, Retweets and, most importantly, people filling it out and giving me loads of feedback. It was actually oversubscribed and I had to close it less than 3 days later because I had so many responses.

Originally I was going to leave it there but a few people on Twitter expressed an interest in seeing the results and actually there are some fascinating nuggets in there, so I’ve been persuaded to do a post letting you know what came out of the survey. If you’re not fussed don’t worry, there will be a new review up on Friday just like usual. But if you are, or if you’re nosy, or especially if you’re one of the people whose answers make up this set of results then thank you so much. You all make this worth doing.

How often do you read Edible Reading?

This was an amazing result: 47% of you read it on Friday morning when it comes out. I was astonished by this (and really very flattered). I always wanted it to come out at the same time every week, rain or shine, and this result really justifies that decision. 30% of you read it once a week and 15% of you read it a few times a month. More hardcore still, one of you reads it several times a week to decide where to go (thank you!) My favourite response was from Respondent No. 97, who said “Rarely”. More on her later!

Are the reviews too long?

I put this question in with real trepidation, having had a few snide remarks on Twitter about the reviews being too long. 91% of you think they are just right. Phew. Again, it’s a conscious decision to offer more than you get in the local paper or TripAdvisor and these results endorse that (nobody thought they were too short – me included!) Respondent No. 97 thought they were too long. Fancy.

What would you like to see more or less of?

The bottom line is that you want more of everything! On balance you wanted more or the same of all of the options I gave you – reviews of central restaurants, restaurants outside Reading, cheap eats, high end, round-ups and interviews or features. Since I can’t clone myself, the next step is to look at the most and least popular options. Based on that the thing you want most is more restaurant news and round-ups, followed by reviews of cheap eats, followed by more reviews of central Reading restaurants. That’s great because those are the main things I do, and again that makes me feel a lot happier about sticking mainly to Reading. You were a lot less fussed about high end restaurants (which I can completely understand) and reviews outside Reading – so although I do those from time to time I’ll leave that to others. The interesting one was reviews and features – currently I don’t do those on the blog. What would you like to see? A piece about where to get the best sandwich in Reading? Email interviews with prominent Reading people about their favourite restaurants? Answers in the comments field.

Respondent No. 97 wanted to see less of everything. Bit of a theme here, isn’t there?

Have you ever eaten somewhere because of an ER review? If so, was it accurate?

I hoped some people would say yes, but I don’t think I could have expected so many to say yes. 53% of you have eaten somewhere because of my review. 41% of you haven’t yet but say you plan to. Have a guess how Respondent No. 97 responded.

Of those of you that have gone somewhere because of an ER review, the next question was also a huge source of relief: 52% of you described the review as very accurate, and 46% described it as fairly accurate. 2% said not very accurate, none of you said not at all accurate. Taste is a very subjective thing, so I am delighted with that response.

Where else do you get information about Reading restaurants?

This one really surprised me. Of the people who replied, 81% of you use TripAdvisor. By contrast, only 28% of you use the local newspapers. I think this answer starts to make more sense when you look at what people want from a restaurant review (a few questions down the line). 17% of you said you used blogs, but most of the comments I got suggested that you think the Reading Post’s website is a blog; I bet they’d love that bit of feedback. Respondent 97 was a big fan of the Reading Post, as it happens.

I was a bit surprised that Respondent 97, who reads ER so rarely and dislikes it so much, took the time to fill out my survey. I was even more surprised when Respondent 97 had filled out the survey from a Greek IP address. It must be a coincidence that the Food Editor of the Reading Post was on holiday in Greece that weekend… mustn’t it?

Do you like ER on Facebook?

I think I’ve got some work to do here. 29% of you do, 13% of you plan to and 24% of you didn’t know ER had a Facebook page. I know not everyone likes Facebook, which is fair enough, but the FB page is starting to be a place people go to ask about restaurants or give me the latest gossip on where’s opening/shutting/reopening. It’s worth a look!

What’s important about a restaurant review?

Overwhelmingly, you want them to be honest, independent and informative. Those scored almost universally positively. That makes me proud that Edible Reading publishes honest reviews, good or bad, and isn’t constrained by the fact that somebody else has paid for the meal. It also explains why people are happy with the length of the reviews. I wonder whether the independence factor explains why the people who took the survey rely more on TripAdvisor than they do on the local press. Less important, but still overwhelmingly positive, were that the reviews are entertaining and detailed. The rating at the end polarised people – some people really liked it, some people thought it wasn’t very important, but the net score was still reasonably positive.

The last two results were a huge relief to me personally. Photography generated a surprising amount of indifference (as, I imagine, does my photography), and as for vegetarian options, the balance of opinion was that it wasn’t important. Probably just as well, because much as I can’t resist ordering burrata when it’s on the menu I can’t promise to order vegetarian friendly dishes in a restaurant on even a semi-regular basis.

What’s your favourite ER review?

I know, this question’s fishing for compliments. I’m sorry. But I was amazed that so many of you answered it, nominating a total of twenty-one different reviews! It was nice to see that so many of them had their fans, but the top three emerged quite clearly.

The bronze medal goes to The Eldon Arms – lots of fantastic comments about this, including “most surprising”, “I ended up having the best burger there” and the succinct, if surreal, “PAWK” (I don’t know about you, but I now have an image of someone a bit like the Cookie Monster who really really likes pulled pork).

The silver medal goes to Bhoj. There was a lot of love for this restaurant, and the review, a lot of it from people who would never have gone to it without the review. Examples include “I never knew it existed”, “highlights an otherwise pretty much unknown hidden gem”, “it made me try it – yum yum!” and “refreshing to see a low cost option reviewed favourably”.

But the gold medal – well, it’s about the only accolade the Lobster Room is ever going to receive now that it’s closed. Most of the comments here made me smile but especially “Extremely funny. The Fonz thumbs.”, “The Lobster Room, for bringing to life the awful goings on”, “The Lobster Room, for the sense of righteous indignation” and possibly the unimprovable “The Lobster Room (ouch)”.

So what have we learned? Most of you read the blog every week, you go to restaurants because of the blog and think it’s accurate, apart from the blog you rely on Tripadvisor, you want me to write more of everything, you really value independent honest reviews and you’re prepared to overlook my shoddy photography. But, to copy Springer’s Final Thought, what I’ve really learned is that what you like most of all is a rave review or an absolute hatchet job. I suspected as much! Tune in this Friday at half eleven (and I now know over half of you will) to find out whether this week’s review is either of those things.