Corona diaries: Week 1

I’ve always stayed away from Deliveroo, partly because I like restaurants – not just the food, but the experience, the welcome, the people-watching and the spectacle. But also, I’ve always distrusted their model. The dishes are usually more expensive than they would be if you dined in, they take a significant cut from the restaurant and your food arrives some time after it was cooked, often lukewarm and sometimes a bit crumpled from transit (I ordered a Franco Manca pizza on Deliveroo once: it was one of the most forlorn things I’ve ever seen). The customer pays more for worse food, the restaurants make less, the riders are hardly handsomely rewarded for thankless work: the only winner seems to be Deliveroo.

Nonetheless I placed an order this week, because Bakery House announced on Twitter that they were about to close their doors until we reach what everyone is calling “the other side”. They’ve soldiered on doing delivery and takeaway ever since this crisis began, offering discounts to NHS workers, plugging away and trying to make the best of it. The response when they made their announcement was the best of Twitter: dozens of people coming out of the woodwork to say how much they loved Bakery House’s food, how keen they were to eat there again once all of this passes. And Bakery House said something which got me, as they say, in the feels: Please don’t forget us.

I’ve been in lockdown for over a fortnight, now, and I think I’m beginning to understand that fight against forgetting. At the moment I can still remember what it’s like to meet friends in the pub, go for a coffee and sit in the Workhouse courtyard with it, to eat in restaurants or go for a walk without having to cross the road every few minutes to keep people that magical two metres away. I can remember what hugs from friends feel like. But we’re all taking part in a behavioural experiment which has never been tried before, and it will change us – and the world – in ways we can’t even begin to imagine yet. What will we have forgotten in four weeks’ time? In eight? In twelve?

And I can see so many restaurants wondering if they will be able to come back, and whether customers will still be there for them if and when they do. Clay’s, for instance, Tweeted recently that they “Woke up from a nightmare that everyone learned to cook and no one came after we opened again”: it sums it up neatly. I hope we all remember how lucky we were before all this started, and that we find ways to help the people and the businesses we love when everybody emerges from this bizarre hibernation.

My Deliveroo rider managed to get lost, and I could tell from the app that he was round the corner trying (unsuccessfully, thank goodness) to give my food to somebody else. But it didn’t matter – who would get cross with a Deliveroo rider at a time like this? – and my boneless baby chicken, freed from the foil container, was every bit as beautiful as I remembered. Tender meat, not-quite-charred skin, a separate dish with their superb golden rice and a well-dressed salad which retained its bite and crunch despite the bicycle ride from London Street.

I guess people write because they want to capture a moment, or because they want to remember. I’m glad I have this recent memory of Bakery House to hold on to. I won’t forget them. I doubt any of their other customers will, either.

* * * * *

In the same Tweet, Clay’s said that the landlord of their house had sent them a message telling them not to worry about the rent until this crisis was over. You really do see the best and the worst of people, which brings us to Sykes Capital, the owners of The Village, the artist formerly known as Kings Walk. There was a story in the Financial Times about commercial landlords threatening their tenants with legal action for unpaid rent, which included Sykes Capital and their tenants Pho and Escape Hunt. It always amazes me how landlords would sooner force out a tenant and get no return on their property than reach some kind of accommodation, let alone to do it when there’s a global pandemic and they are completely unable to trade.

I remember when Sykes gave an interview to Alt Reading in 2016, saying that he aimed to establish Atlantis Village as “the home of fine dining in Reading”. He planned to open a French restaurant there called Baroque, and said he hoped it could be the first restaurant in Reading to get a Michelin star. Four years on, Baroque never materialised, La Courbe, Mix and Dolce Vita closed and now instead of articles in local websites it’s a mention in the Financial Times. Oh well. Maybe the businesses which have been impacted can apply to Sykes’ charitable foundation which provides “support when no other charities or organisations can”. Charity begins at home, after all.

* * * * *

I’m not the best cook in the world, not by a long chalk. I do the cooking in my house, and I have a few recipes that never fail, but otherwise I’ve always relied on a mixture of eating out (why do you think I write a restaurant blog?) and ready meals. I always planned to expand my repertoire one day but I wouldn’t have chosen to do it in these circumstances, especially when access to ingredients can make every day like a particularly crappy episode of Ready, Steady, Cook.

Having been given a whole cauliflower and not wanting it to go to waste, I did a bit of research and decided to make a curry this week. I had all the stuff I needed in my cupboard and decided it was worth using a tin of chopped tomatoes to make it instead of doing the sensible thing and flogging said tin on eBay. A cursory Google suggested a recipe from the Guardian, one of “Angela Hartnett’s midweek suppers”. Two and a half hours later, having spent what felt like a lifetime chopping, grinding spices and using every pan in the house, I sat down to a sort of flavourless mulch with pasty albino triffids bobbing in it as if they were desperate to be rescued. Midweek supper my arse: Angela Hartnett obviously chops faster than me, has bigger pans and a fiercer hob, or alternatively I might just be pants at cooking. I know what my money’s on.

We slogged through it (“at least it’s good for you” said my other half) and half an hour later I began inhaling a packet of cookies. The next day I derived great satisfaction from slowly, lovingly spooning the remainder into the bin: it was far more enjoyable than either cooking it or eating it had been.

By contrast, during lockdown Clay’s has been putting a recipe on Instagram every day. A couple of days ago I made their simplest: a mixture of tinned tuna, diced peppers and onions, smoked paprika, salt, olive oil and lemon juice. What emerged, magically, was a little day trip to the Mediterranean – perfect to be lobbed onto a slice of toast and drizzled with another glug of extra virgin olive oil. Perhaps I just need to pick my culinary gurus more carefully.

* * * * *

There’s a weird back to the future feeling about life in lockdown. It takes me back almost thirty years, to a time when I was at university, technology hadn’t really got much further than the Sony Discman and we made the best of the limited options we had. Going for long walks with music in your headphones was something I used to do back then, and now I’ve embraced it again, albeit constantly looking around me to avoid people and giving hard stares to the offenders who act as if they don’t care whether they catch the virus, or give it to me. My walk generally heads out past Eldon Square and up Alexandra Road towards the university campus, past beautiful houses which are so near and yet so far, the tantalising width of a winning lottery ticket away from me.

Another throwback is the lengthy phone conversation. This week I called an old friend of mine – not a video call where I’m constantly looking for the angle that halves my number of chins, but a good old-fashioned voice call. On my phone, wearing my headphones rather than getting tangled up in the corkscrew cord of the landline, but still a memory of how things were in simpler times. It might catch on. “I’ve never been so in demand” said my friend. “All my friends with jobs and social lives suddenly have loads of time on their hands.” I know this situation is far harder for some people than others, and I know I’m relatively lucky, but in other ways it’s a proper leveller.

A couple of days ago I spoke to my oldest friend Mike, who is holed up in his studio flat in the French Alps. Normally he spends the winter there skiing and then in the summer he runs coach tours across Europe. That work won’t happen now and like some game of musical chairs, he is stuck where he was when the music stopped. He showed me the view out of his window, of pristine slopes begging to be skiied on, except that nobody is allowed to now. The lockdown is more stringent in France, and you have to carry a permit with you saying when you left the house. You’re allowed an hour for walking (“I always put the time as 20 minutes later” he told me, “the police don’t check.”)

Otherwise the monastic experience seems to suit Mike – he says he’s looking forward to having some time to reflect. He gave up drinking before Christmas, and even this crisis hasn’t shaken his resolve. I congratulated him, while simultaneously thinking of all the bounty from Siren Craft, Double-Barrelled, West Berkshire and Pang Valley in the fridge, the kitchen and the basement. I tell myself it’s little and often, and I mostly believe it.

On the call we agree to revive another tradition of days gone by, the mix tape. He follows me on Apple Music, and we agree to put together twenty songs for each other by the end of the week. He gets his done with the kind of brutal efficiency only teetotallers can manage, and the next morning I can see it there waiting to be discovered.

I listen to it while pottering round the kitchen, making myself a coffee with my new Aeropress. I’ve had it a week or so and I think I’ve got the hang of it – I’ve even, in truth, become the kind of coffee wanker who weighs his coffee with scales. I like the mindful, almost meditative process of making coffee, and Mike’s playlist is the perfect accompaniment (my favourite track on it, so far, is Get Out Of Town by Caetano Veloso: Mike has always loved a bit of Latin American music). I spend a happy couple of hours putting together a playlist in return, and wondering if anybody else I know would like one. Maybe I’ll start sending postcards next.

Mio Fiore, Newbury

It is a sad but unavoidable fact that the moment I review somewhere Not In Reading, no matter how glowing the review and no matter how easy it is to get there, far fewer people click on the link and read it. So if you’re reading this, I should start by thanking you – and then I should go on to explain why this week it’s the turn of an Italian restaurant in Newbury, a five minute walk from the train station.

It’s a culmination of a few things, really. First of all, restaurants serving pasta have become a bit of a Thing in London in the last few years. It started with Padella, the no-reservation-queues-round-the-block establishment in Borough Market and their legendary cacio e pepe (I’ve never been: I don’t do queues). I did however recently have lunch at Covent Garden’s Bancone, a more recent exponent, and it was truly marvellous stuff, my rabbit and juniper ragu pretty close to anything I’d had in Bologna.

Then Mio Fiore, which has been on my to do list for some time, appeared in a national newspaper. In the course of reviewing a(nother) London pasta restaurant in the Guardian, Grace Dent mentioned in passing that she’d particularly enjoyed Mio Fiore’s spaghetti puttanesca during a Berkshire road trip (“something of which we’ll never tire”, she grandly exclaimed). Well, now: this part of the country never troubles broadsheet restaurant reviewers, so even a brief appearance like this warranted further investigation.

But the thing that clinched it was discovering that Pepe Sale, Reading’s exemplary Sardinian restaurant, was listed as for sale. The report subsequently turned out to be incorrect – apparently proprietor Toni described it as a “prank” – but at the time it threw me (and, I suspect, many other Reading diners) into a bit of an existential tailspin. How many more chances would I get to eat that stunning suckling pig? Where would I get my fix of top notch Italian food once Pepe Sale was gone? That settled it, so before too long my partner Zoë and I were on a train to Newbury to carry out what I had decided was essential research.

The first two things that struck me when I walked through Mio Fiore’s front door were that it was absolutely packed on a Tuesday evening and that there was a strong, glorious whiff of garlic (and I’m not sure they struck me in that order, either). A busy restaurant is the best kind of all, and no restaurant that smells of garlic can ever be a bad thing. It was a high-ceilinged room, almost like a barn, and they’d put in a second floor with a balcony, although I was glad we were seated on the ground floor by the windows, with a good view of the place. Everything was for utility rather than show – not often you see actual bricks in a restaurant rather than tiled bricks or wanky exposed brickwork. The wood-fired oven glowed behind the counter.

Compared to my recent horror show at Cozze, the menu at Mio Fiore exuded a quiet confidence. It felt compact – half a dozen starters, a manageable range of pasta and pizza dishes and only four other main courses. It wasn’t clear from the menu whether you could choose to have a smaller pasta dish as a starter, so we cooked up all sorts of permutations of what we might order before our waiter turned up and explained that we could indeed do that. That would have made things simpler, but for the fact that the specials board we hadn’t previously seen added further temptation and complication in the shape of another half-dozen dishes. We made inroads into a beautiful bottle of Gavi di Gavi and honed our final choices.

I’m no particular fan of Grace Dent, but I am a fan of puttanesca, so I had to try it. There’s a beautiful alchemy that happens when tomatoes, anchovies, capers and garlic combine and this dish had it in spades – sweet, salt and savoury in perfect, tantalising equilibrium, with the faintest hint of chilli to dial up the contrast. The pasta was spot on, too – just the right side of al dente, and the perfect vehicle for the sauce. The nice thing about having pasta as a starter is that it never outstays its welcome, although that was never going to happen with a dish this beautiful; I could have eaten a mountain of the stuff. Once I’d finished the spaghetti I took a spoon to the remaining sauce, not wanting to miss a mouthful.

Zoë had opted for an equally traditional dish, and if the fettuccine with ragu didn’t quite meet the lofty heights of Bologna it came creditably close. The ragu had a lovely depth to it, the pasta again was spot on and the whole thing was liberally covered with Parmesan (although I always say you can’t have too much). We didn’t know how much Mio Fiore would charge us for our starters until the bill arrived, but they’d priced both pasta dishes at six pounds ninety-five, which strikes me as impressive value.

If the meal had finished there, it would have been pretty damned good, but the main courses kept up the standard without a misstep. My chicken with Gorgonzola and wild mushrooms was from the specials menu and was another beautiful dish. Like the pasta dishes, it’s the kind of thing that features on the menus of Italian and faux-Italian restaurants across the country, but you can tell when it’s executed with skill. The sauce was silky, with enough tang from the blue cheese but not so much that it overpowered everything else going on. Crucially, the “wild mushrooms” were in fact wild: they are so often tamed somewhere between the menu and the kitchen. The rosemary roasted potatoes didn’t get a chance to shine, sitting under the chicken and smothered in the sauce, but that was hardly a bad thing.

I had some roasted vegetables with this, because I felt like I ought to at least try to eat some plants. They were served cold and didn’t go at all, but the waiter had warned me about that and I decided to press on anyway. They too were beautiful – sweet red and yellow peppers, long strips of griddled courgette and smoky aubergine with, again, a hit of garlic.

Zoë had a pizza, to make sure we tested the full range of the menu; this too was excellent. I remember eating friarelli at Papa Gee for the first time, never having heard of the stuff, but it’s more of an ever-present on pizza menus these days. None the less – bit of a theme here – it’s rarely used as well as it was by Mio Fiore. The real star of the show, though, was the salsiccia – delicious, coarse nuggets of sausagemeat, generously distributed. The crust and the dough were superb, the tomato sauce sweet and fragrant and the whole thing, really, showed how good the basics could be when you get the basics right. Zoë thought it was better than Franco Manca, better even than Lusso (Newbury’s dedicated pizza restaurant which is itself no slouch) and I was inclined to agree.

I don’t always have dessert on duty but there are two situations where I usually will: when my mind isn’t yet made up about a restaurant or when I know it’s good and I want to see if the final third of the meal can top the rest. No prizes for guessing which of the two it was here, and again the menu was restrained and unfussy: no hideous highlighter-pink profiterole Tower Of Babel to be seen here, just some of the classics – panna cotta, chocolate fondant, cheesecake, tiramisu. Zoë chose the chocolate fondant, which takes fifteen minutes to make – just enough time to watch the restaurant start to calm down, the busy tables settle up and leave, the birthday celebrations on the upper floor began to nudge down the volume. It really is a lovely place, I thought to myself, wishing I’d not waited so long to pay it a visit.

I always judge Italian restaurants on whether they have something decent to drink after dinner, so we were taking our first sips of Averna (bittersweet, on ice with a single wedge of orange) when our desserts arrived. Chocolate fondant, like all hot desserts, isn’t really to my taste but I tasted enough of Zoë’s to verify that it was faultless. The contrast in textures was absolutely as it should be, no over-gooey mess in the middle but not dried out either. It’s not a dish I ever order, but I’m glad Zoë picked it; there are few things quite as enjoyable as watching the person you love eat something they adore.

My choice, tiramisu, could have been equally prosaic. After all, who hasn’t had tiramisu countless times in one Italian restaurant or another? But again, the execution was impossible to fault. It wasn’t pretty, or fancy, but everything about it was right – soaked through with booze and coffee, with a beautiful indulgent depth to it. No corners cut, nothing artificial or superficial, just a textbook example of how things should be: six pounds exceptionally well spent.

Service throughout our meal was emblematic of the whole experience, in that the simple things were done automatically and the difficult things were made to look easy. The restaurant was packed all evening, and the waiting staff were clearly very busy, but although they worked their socks off they still exuded a certain assured serenity. Even the little things were right – letting you know they’d be with you in a second, always being chatty, never making you feel neglected or forgotten.

Maybe that’s the thing about family-run restaurants, because the waiting staff were a tight-knit, efficient bunch who were clearly a very comfortable and effective team. When my main course came, Zoë’s pizza was nowhere to be seen and our waiter, charming and suave the rest of the time, was up at the counter giving the pizza chef a good talking to to ensure we weren’t kept waiting. When he brought it over, barely a minute later, he was all smiles. This was the service all over – completely in control, the perfect link between the kitchen and the customer.

As we were settling up our waiter told us that Mio Fiore had been there for four years: we told him we came from Reading, he knew it and we had a chat about Pepe Sale. It was a good restaurant, he said, if maybe a bit dated, and I found myself unable to disagree. Our bill for two people – three courses, a bottle of wine and a couple of digestifs – came to just over a hundred pounds, not including service. It would be easy to spend less, but either way I thought this was thoroughly decent value.

I worry, reading back over this, that this might be another review of a restaurant outside Reading that many people won’t read, or that it doesn’t have quite enough pizzazz to persuade you to take that train to Newbury (not even if I mention the incredible selection of pre-prandial gins, ciders and Belgian beers at the wonderful Catherine Wheel). If so, the fault is entirely mine.

The problem, you see, is that a restaurant as consistent and unshowy as Mio Fiore does not attract superlatives. The dishes aren’t triumphs of imagination, the presentation involves no visual fireworks. You won’t be wowed by creative combinations of ingredients you’ve never seen before. Mio Fiore has no designs on being that kind of restaurant, and if that’s what you crave it isn’t the place for you. I loved Mio Fiore precisely because it eschews all those things.

I’ve eaten a lot of middling meals on duty, cooked by people who don’t know, or worse still don’t care, how food should taste. I’ve seen so many menus that read infinitely better than the food that turns up at your table, all gastronomic mouth and no trousers. I know the flavourlessness of disappointment better than I ought to, and as a result I really appreciate somewhere like Mio Fiore where everything tastes as it absolutely should – but so very rarely does.

I’d pick a restaurant like this, focusing on the classics, over all the fads and trends any day of the week. That it manages to do all that with such warmth and expertise, in a lovely welcoming room with thoroughly likeable staff, is as worthy of a fanfare as anywhere else I’ve eaten. That it all takes place in a room which happens to smell of garlic is the dusting of Parmesan on top. I recommend going, so you can see just how excellent a restaurant can be without ever showing off.

Mio Fiore – 8.4
5 Inches Yard, Newbury, RG14 5DP
01635 552023


I’ve been reading a lot of other restaurant bloggers recently, and it’s made me think. These are proper restaurant reviewers in big cities, and they use impressive words like “bosky” and “friable” – both of which, I’m ashamed to say, I had to look up in a dictionary.

The other thing these reviewers do, which I’ve never done, is write in the present tense e.g. I bite into the burger. It has the deep flavour of well-tended cow and so on. This is a very striking way to write about food and it makes you feel like you’re there, in the moment, experiencing that bite with them.

I, on the other hand, tend to write in the past tense e.g. the burger was a bit bland. Recounting an event which has already happened makes it feel like you’re telling someone a story down the pub, but perhaps it lacks that immediacy. Maybe it puts a gap between the writer and the reader.

So does the traditional structure of a restaurant review. Here is why I’m reviewing this place, my reviews tend to begin, followed by this is what the room is like and here’s what I ordered and what it tasted like followed, as night follows day, by here’s what the service was like, here’s how much it cost and, last but not least, this is my verdict. Add the rating, the address and the website, repeat until dead. Job’s a good’un.

One thing those other restaurant reviewers and I agree on is that the best reviews to write are the rave reviews, followed by the hatchet jobs. The ones everybody dreads are the middling, the mediocre, the it was dull enough eating it, but heavens, now I have to write about it ones.

So, I ought to start by explaining that Cozze, the Italian restaurant on the roundabout at the bottom of the Caversham Road, has been on my to do list for literally years, and that whenever I ask people on Facebook where they’d like me to go next someone always pipes up and suggests it.

I should add that it started in Woodley before adding a second branch in central Reading with a third one just opened in Pangbourne. I should then say something like “well, a successful independent chain is a very unusual thing in Reading so I owed it to myself to see what all the fuss was about so I went there one night with my partner Zoë” and there you go, the scene is set.

But really, and maybe this will build some of the immediacy my reviews might sometimes lack, what I really want to tell you is how exceptionally bored I was by having dinner at Cozze.

Take the spaghetti carbonara I had as my starter. A good carbonara should be golden, the sauce should hug the pasta, it should be resplendent with egg, it should be salty and sinful and fun. The pancetta (although ideally it might even be guanciale) should be almost crispy and add its own whack of salt to proceedings. It shouldn’t be like this.

It shouldn’t be a pasty albino of a thing, swimming in cream with scant evidence that it’s ever seen an egg. You shouldn’t be dredging through the lake of liquid once you’ve finished, picking out highlighter-pink cubes of bouncy bacon and wondering why you bothered. It shouldn’t be worse than eating at Carluccio’s, for goodness’ sake. It shouldn’t feel like a dish cooked by people who don’t especially care for food or know how it’s meant to taste.

The sad thing is that the room itself is quite nice – a big airy space with nice furniture and vaguely Kandinsky-esque paintings on the wall. And the staff were lovely – really bright and friendly as they brought middling plate after middling plate to our table. We were the only people there when we arrived, although by the end three other tables were occupied. One big group appeared to be regulars, which makes me wonder if they’ve ever considered trying other restaurants. They might like them.

Zoë thinks I am being a little grumpy, and to be fair she ordered better than I did. But her stuffed mushrooms, laid out as if by a serial killer, might have been pleasant enough but I wasn’t sure they were elevated from anything you could pick up and do yourself in M&S. The ones at Papa Gee, in the heart of Caversham, at least have blue cheese in them to give some salt and tang and flavour: no such luck here. The dip seemed to be mayo. Who dips stuffed mushrooms in mayo? Why not just stick a bottle of salad cream on the table and have done with it?

God, and the desserts. White chocolate covered profiteroles filled with Prosecco and raspberry ice cream sounded like they might at least be interesting, but turned out to be one of the ickiest things I’ve had in a long time. They were filled not with ice cream but with cream that tasted of nothing much. The white chocolate was sickly enough, but the Barbie-pink raspberry gloop on top, and the scoop of raspberry ripple ice cream in which almost no raspberry was evident, completed the spectacle. Again, Zoë’s dessert, a honeycomb cheesecake, was a little better but still every other ingredient was shouted down by sugar.

I’d had my doubts about Cozze before going, which mainly came down to looking at the menu several times over the years. Part of that came from my suspicion that they’d taken a kitchen sink approach – would an Italian restaurant really offer chicken wings, moules frites, baby back ribs and peri-peri chicken? Would they really do four different burgers, accompanied by the wording all our burgers some (sic) with fries and are fully cooked? I mean, I know what they were trying to say, but even so.

But more than that, my real problem with the menu was just how many things on it were also on the menu at Prezzo (ironically Cozze has seen Prezzo off in Woodley: that branch has now closed). If you’re a chain, why set yourself up to be a rival to a place like Prezzo? Should that be the place you set your sights on? Again, it says you’re interested in making money, but not particularly interested in food. But if anything, Prezzo’s menu reflects some recentish food trends – there’s burrata, there’s ‘nduja and so on. Cozze’s menu, with none of that to be seen, feels like an Italian chain menu from about ten years ago.

My main was better, although it still wasn’t anywhere near the best pizza in Reading. It had goats cheese (not enough), leeks, four bits of semi-dried tomatoes and three bits of artichoke. Like most of the other things at Cozze it wasn’t actively unpleasant, just objectionably unexceptional. I drizzled some chilli oil over it to try and make it taste of something. The chilli oil appeared to have very little chilli in it – crap as a condiment, perfect as an analogy.

For completeness’ sake, before you or I drop off, I should also tell you about Zoë’s main course which was pollo prosciutto with pomodoro sauce and baby roast potatoes. Pepe Sale does a beautiful pollo prosciutto – a fillet wrapped in Parma ham and stuffed with cheese which you have with seasonal vegetables. It’s perfect: a few ingredients treated simply and with respect. For some reason, they choose not to drown it in chopped tomatoes and serve it in a bowl hotter than the sun like some kind of glorified ready meal. For some reason, Cozze does choose to do exactly that.

I had a mouthful and wasn’t clamouring for more. My advice, if you ever accidentally order this dish, is to eat it doing your very best to pretend you’re instead eating at Pepe Sale. But if your imagination is that good, you could probably enjoy eating pretty much anything. I used to have a brother in law with nasal polyps so bad he couldn’t taste anything: he’d probably quite like Cozze.

Don’t worry. We’re nearly there and our suffering is almost at an end. It just remains for me to tell you that we shared a five hundred millilitre carafe of Italian Sauvignon blanc which was slightly sweet and perfectly decent and that our meal came to fifty-six pounds, not including tip. That includes a discount because Cozze usually has offers through their website, so if you’re considering eating at Cozze you should definitely make use of them. Although if you’re considering eating at Cozze at this moment, I’ve probably failed as a restaurant reviewer.

You might feel that they caught me on a bad day. You might feel they’re unfortunate to be reviewed the week after I’ve written about eating in Bologna, having truly phenomenal pizza, pasta and gelato. And it’s not that Cozze is bad, to be fair. Nobody died, I wasn’t poisoned, nothing they do is inedible.

It’s just that if Cozze is that answer then “where can we go for dinner that nobody could possibly have any strong opinions about whatsoever?” is the question. The poverty of ambition is the thing I find a terrible shame. Although maybe that’s not fair either: Cozze aspires to mediocrity and, in that respect at least, it has to be considered a towering success. There are worse places to eat, of course. But there will always, easily, be somewhere far, far better.

Cozze – 6.3
93-97 Caversham Road, RG1 8AN
0118 9591459