Pub review: The Dairy

Three months ago I wrote about the quiet revolution taking place at Reading University’s bars. Park House, always one of Reading’s best kept secrets for an al fresco drink, underwent a surprising but convincing transformation this year: out went the cheesy chips and in came a menu that made all the right noises – listing suppliers, talking about provenance and using both local producers and the university’s own beef. 

I went, I tried it and I was pleasantly surprised – so much so, in fact, that when I put together my updated list of Reading’s best spots to eat outdoors Park House bagged a place. Some people missed the cheesy chips, apparently. But there’s no accounting for taste: some people are going to miss Boris Johnson. 

But could lightning strike twice? That was the question Zoë and I asked ourselves after I met her from work and we ambled to the Dairy on a golden midsummer evening. We strolled past the Turks Head (you can tell it’s glorious weather when even sitting outside the Turks looks tempting), past the sedate, leafy thoroughfare of Kendrick Road, and I thought to myself that it was moments like these I should be storing up in my head, so I could turn them over in my mind when the clocks went back and the feeling of sun on my skin was a distant memory.

The Dairy also revamped its menu in 2022 and makes the same claims as Park House when it comes to where they get their ingredients from. Bread from Waring’s, eggs from Beechwood Farm, all the right noises, all that jazz. But I was particularly keen to see if the Dairy had raised its game because, to be honest, it could easily have done so just by buying in some ready meals from M&S. 

Or, for that matter, Asda. My previous visit to the Dairy on duty, back at the start of 2019, had been a grim experience with lukewarm, chewy curry and a chicken burger which, underneath its modish charcoal bun, was as wan and tasteless as Jacob Rees Mogg. So, did lightning strike twice or was it more a case of fool me twice, shame on me? I can honestly say I approached the Dairy with no real hunch as to how this one would play out. 

On another day I would have sat indoors – the Dairy has a lovely room off from the main bar – but as it was so sunny we plonked ourselves outside. I’d hesitate to call it a beer garden, but out the back of the Dairy it has plenty of tables which catch the sun nicely. They’re big tables, with deep benches which can even accommodate a rear as sizeable as mine, so they’re more suited for bigger groups than a tête-à-tête, but we weren’t going to let that stop us.

The Dairy’s dinner menu is relatively compact and in three main sections – stuff from the grill, burgers and hot dogs. But the main thing that jumps about it, from a casual reading, is how cheap it is. The dishes from the grill are about six quid, burgers are nine pounds and hot dogs are seven. Rather confusingly the cheapest dishes come with a couple of sides and a sauce, the more expensive ones with a single side. If there’s logic there I don’t see it, although most of the sides only cost a couple of pounds anyway. I don’t see how it can’t be subsidised, and I’m not sure how they make money on it, but you would struggle to rack up a bill here. 

It’s only later, when I was back home and leafing through the Dairy’s Instagram feed, that I realised this menu has been slimmed down from their launch menu at the start of the year. It’s especially a shame because it’s almost like someone looked through the launch menu, marker pen in hand, and struck a big black line through anything that looked particularly fun: so farewell to the jerk plantain and halloumi skewers, the beef burger topped with smoked pork belly and blue cheese, the brined fried chicken with pickled watermelon and the fish dog with crispy fried goujons, tartare sauce and chilli crushed peas. 

See what I mean? What was left was the menu equivalent of the Golgafrincham B Ark, and I’m hoping at least a few of you will get that reference. But none the less even if dinner turned out to be a mistake it at least wouldn’t be a costly one. And besides, the Dairy still has an amazing range of local beer with options from Wild Weather (the excellent King Street Pale), Siren, Phantom and Academia lager from Double-Barrelled, which is brewed exclusively for the university.

I went up and ordered our food, along with a half of cider for me and a half of Take Nothing For Granted, a Siren collab with Brew By Numbers, for Zoë (she loved it, by the way – if you see it, try it). The whole shebang came to just shy of twenty-two pounds, which is crazy money for dinner and a drink. I did feel though that the chap behind the bar didn’t understand the menu all that well and it was a bit of a struggle to explain what sides we wanted with what dish. 

“Don’t I get to pick a sauce to go with mine as well?” I asked. 

“It comes with barbecue sauce” he said. 

“Should I take cutlery or do you bring it out?” 

“Either is fine.” 

I didn’t have unwavering confidence that what we’d ordered was what would turn up – and it wasn’t, entirely, including that barbecue sauce which was nowhere to be seen.

Anyway, let’s talk about the food. I’d gone for grilled, smoked chicken thigh which comes with a couple of sides – and because I’d had a big lunch that day I decided to eschew the carbs, picking chipotle slaw and Boston beans with bacon to go with it. Now, the first thing I should say is that they brought me chicken breast by mistake, as you can probably tell from the photo underneath this paragraph. But the second is that I promise it wasn’t quite as boring as that photo makes it look.

I mean, I was hoping that it would come with the skin on, all crispy from the grill. While we’re at it, I was hoping that it would taste or feel like it had been grilled at all, which this didn’t really. I was also hoping it would taste as if it had been smoked (over hickory wood chips, according to the menu), and this was resolutely a smoke-free zone. Instead it was a slightly pale, largely naked chicken breast speckled with a few sesame seeds. And yet despite all that it wasn’t unpleasant; if you came at it with low expectations, which I sort of did, you’d probably quite enjoy it, especially at the low price of just over six quid. It really could have done with some barbecue sauce, mind you.

The Boston beans made up for that, and were one of the high points – a mixture of beans, chickpeas and peppers in a sweetly tangy sauce with big slabs of bacon thrown in for good measure. If you eat at the Dairy after reading this review (and you might) these are well worth tacking on to whatever you order. They do a bacon-free version too, and actually though the bacon was nice enough it would have largely been the same dish without it. The chipotle slaw, on the other hand, was not good. I don’t really mind whether coleslaw comes in mayo or vinaigrette, and a chipotle mayo would have been lovely: but raw shredded veg with neither, just shrouded in acrid dust, doesn’t do it for me. If I’d known it would be like that, I’d have risked the fries.

Zoë had gone for the brie and bacon burger, and visually it looked decent – a tall stovepipe of a thing with a thick wodge of fridge-cold brie sandwiched between two patties, the whole shebang resting on a sturdy slice of tomato which Zoë fished out in short order. 

“They don’t tell you it’s going to be two burgers, the menu doesn’t really tell you a lot” she said, with a hint of suspicion, probably because she was mulling over the risk that they’d also smuggled in some unwanted gherkins. “I know what you’ll say about this – you’ll say that the slice of brie is too thick and it hasn’t melted.”

“Not at all – nobody ever complains that a burger has too much cheese on it. What’s it like?”

“It’s not bad. It’s not an Honest or a Smash N Grab, but it’s okay for nine pounds. The texture’s a little strange though, a bit dry and crumbly.”

Again, it wasn’t until later when I was looking through the Dairy’s Instagram that I saw their writeup for this dish. In it, they say this burger is “made with local beef and part mushrooms” and “more sustainable than any burger you will try” – but what did that mean? Was it cut (or, rather, diluted) with mushrooms? It would explain the slightly spongey texture but again, why did the menu omit this detail? Was this about sustainability, or cutting corners? A nine pound burger is all very well, but most people would pay more to have the real deal. It was all very odd. Even the bun looked like a bog standard bap rather than the promised brioche: maybe they’d run out.

Zoë had cannily picked the most expensive side, the smoked macaroni cheese (four pounds on its own, fact fans). And again, it was quite pleasant with a good golden crust. But smoked it wasn’t. Better, I thought, was a nibble of macaroni bites – four hefty breadcrumbed spheres of macaroni cheese which were deeply enjoyable and provided the spritz of fun my dinner badly needed, given the naked chicken and dusty coleslaw (and these, by the way, did come with some barbecue sauce). Not in the same league as the same dish at Bracknell’s Blue’s Smokehouse but, crucially, bigger and a darned sight cheaper. Next time I’m drinking at the Dairy I might order some in preference to a packet of Piper’s.

All this added up to a slightly underwhelming meal, a mixture of inconsistency, inaccuracy, basic errors and wasted opportunities. And it was a completely different experience to eating at Park House in the spring: by contrast it felt like like the Dairy had got the hang of writing a menu that read well, even if the most attractive dishes had gone missing in action, but that they perhaps hadn’t realised that the dishes then had to live up to the promise of the words. 

Very few of them did, but I do have to say in the Dairy’s defence that if something seems to good to be true it almost always is. The Dairy is one of the most aggressively priced restaurants I can think of in Reading, and if you aren’t sure how they’re making their money something has to be going on. Whether that’s adding mushrooms to your burger mix, or making coleslaw without mayo, something is always going to give. 

And if the mark at the bottom of the page isn’t quite as low as you’d expect it to be, that’s precisely because the Dairy is a cheap and cheerful option and I’m partly judging it on that basis. It could arguably be more cheerful, but it couldn’t be much cheaper. And as Zoë said at the time, whatever you thought of the food it did at least feel like a Brakes lorry hadn’t played any role in proceedings.

Never the less, I’m sure I will drink at the Dairy again before the summer’s out, and even if this meal wasn’t stellar I thank my lucky stars that it was nowhere near as harrowing as the one I had at the Dairy back in 2019. But next time I might grab dinner at Kungfu Kitchen first, before meandering down the hill for what remains an excellent selection of local beers in what’s left of the sunshine. In that respect at least, the Dairy is still hard to beat.

The Dairy – 6.7
Building L14, London Road Campus, Redlands Road, RG1 5AQ
0118 3782477

https://www.hospitalityuor.co.uk/bars-and-pubs/the-dairy/

Café review: Cairo Café

Something I often bang on about often in restaurant reviews is that feeling of being elsewhere, of the power some places have to completely transport you, in mind if not in body. Restaurants as travel agents, taking you somewhere else without having to rack up a huge hotel bill or get to the airport two hours early, or feel that sense of gloom about no longer being able to join the “arrivals from the EU” queue.

Last Saturday evening I had dinner on the sunlit terrace at Buon Appetito, and I felt like I could have been anywhere on the continent but nowhere near Reading. My Aperol spritz shone a luminous orange, soft jazz was playing on the speakers and my pizza was speckled with savoury bombs of gorgonzola left, right and centre. At the end of the meal the manager brought over a couple of amaros for us to try – one from Sicily, rich and sweet, the other from Calabria, medicinal with rosemary and mint. Could I really be a stone’s throw from the Oxford Road? It felt hard to credit.

I had a similar feeling the following day, pretty much from the moment Zoë and I walked through the front door of Cairo Café. It’s where Beijing Noodle House used to be, in a site they’ve bizarrely divided into two not side by side, as usual, but front and back: you walk down a corridor to get to Nepalese restaurant Chillim Kitchen out back, but at the front, with a much smaller bright yellow sign advertising its presence, is Cairo Café.

Inside is a little room that could maybe seat ten people, if they knew each other extremely well. Two small tables for two are on the left, all vibrant tablecloths, and on the right is a high table seating four. A couple more stools are up at the window staring out onto West Street, which offers a characterful viewing experience. It’s tiny, but I loved it, with all the little touches like the black and white photos on the wall and a couple of clocks showing Cairo and Reading time.

Like many places serving lunch in town, the menu – in bright yellow above the counter betrays a certain amount of bet hedging. You can have a conventional panini or baguette, if that’s what you want, and the menu gives you all the mainstream choices – tuna mayo, brie and bacon, chicken tikka and so on. And at the counter you can see all the steel dishes with those fillings, if you want to try the same sort of thing you could easily get somewhere like Pierre’s. But the middle of the menu, marked “Cairo Street Food”, is the reason I went: a range of Egyptian dishes, some of which I’d tried and some I’d never heard of. And the kitchen, just about visible out back, is where all of these are conjured up.

“I’m sorry, but we don’t have any falafel” said the owner, aproned and smiling. “It’s been a crazy morning.” Undeterred I asked him to explain a few things on the menu I hadn’t heard of before, and discovered that warak enab was what I would recognise as dolmades, stuffed vine leaves. He went on to explain that sakalans was an iconic Egyptian dessert, a sandwich made with halva, cream and honey: I made a mental note not to leave without trying it. 

I placed my order – this is a venue where you pay at the end – and took a seat. The room had a strangely serene calm, and despite knowing that all the noise of the less salubrious end of town was just the other side of the door, I had that feeling of being transported, of not being in Kansas any more. I could see the owner up at the counter plucking fresh mint leaves for our tea and I had that dangerous feeling that comes from time to time, the slowly building hope that I might have discovered a gem. The tea, by the way, was cracking: fresh and fragrant.

Things improved still further when the chicken shawarma wraps arrived on their little tin plates. So many places don’t know how to assemble a wrap so it can be eaten, so instead either all of it falls out of the end or you get a giant indigestible clove hitch of tortilla. You wouldn’t want these people rolling you a joint, put it that way. By contrast Cairo Cafe’s wrap was a stunner, carefully assembled as a square and flattened under a grill – neat, no wasted space, and the crisped exterior almost reminiscent of a pastilla. 

And the chicken inside was terrific: the whole filling was, in fact, with some kind of beautiful alchemy of chicken, cheese, mint and (this might have been my imagination) a hint of something like cinnamon. I ate it slowly, partly because it was hot but mostly because I didn’t want it to end. This cost a ridiculous – and in all honesty, unsustainable – four pounds fifty. You should go and try it, before he puts his prices up. He should put his prices up.

While we ate our wraps, in a sort of wordless euphoria, something lovely happened. A couple of gents came in to the café looking for a late lunch, but clearly in a rush. The owner explained that he was preparing our dishes and that it would take him a while to put some baguettes together. Were they willing to wait? It transpired that they weren’t, and so they scarpered and as the owner came over to take our plates away he was splendidly unapologetic.

“I’m not making food in a hurry. I want to give people something they’ll remember” – a quiet smile at this point, because the two chaps in question looked like they might have struggled to recall what they did the night before – “even if only for a little while.”

I was happy that we’d been prepared to wait, because our remaining choices, from the more resolutely Egyptian section of the menu, all came together and largely kept up a very high standard. Possibly the weakest thing were the waraq enab: I love stuffed vine leaves, but these weren’t quite the best I’ve had, a little too saccharine. I don’t know if they’re made on the premises – they might be, because they felt a little ragged and slightly loosely wrapped – but I’ve had better, both at Bakery House and at Blue Collar, from Fink as part of their superb mezze boxes. A good example of wayward pricing, too: these cost as much as a shawarma wrap. I know which I’d rather have.

But the other two dishes we’d chosen returned to the high standard of those wraps. Moutabal was a bright, zingy thing shot through with parsley, perfect loaded on to pitta (the pitta, again, was a slight weakness: a little hard, and not quite enough of it, although I’m inclined to be more forgiving than it was). It didn’t have the smokiness I associate with some examples – this was a light and happy dish, not a dark and brooding one – but I didn’t like it any the less for that. Dark and brooding gets boring, doesn’t it.

Even better was the sojuk, a marvellous surprise and one of the nicest things I’ve eaten this year. I was expecting something like Bakery House’s maqaneq – sausages cooked and served simply with onion and lemon juice – but what I got instead was wonderful pieces of coarse, caramelised sausages, punchy and brick-red inside, in a thick, spiced gravy (if I didn’t know better, I’d have likened it to a curry). Slow-cooked, soft pieces of green pepper and green chilli were in the mix, giving the potential for every mouthful to be a gorgeous sunburst of heat. 

Again, this was four pounds fifty and again I worry about the owner’s ability to make money charging so little. I ate forkful after forkful in beaming delight: Zoë loaded some on to a piece of pitta, dolloped some moutabal on top and said something to the effect of “this is really fucking good” between mouthfuls. It was, simply put, one of my favourite discoveries of 2022 so far, and I’m not sure I’m capable of going back and not ordering it.

As we reached the end, and sipped what was left of our mint tea, there was a moment of perfect peace. The hubbub of West Street had died away, no customers came in, the owner was out back. The clocks on the wall ticked away the advancing seconds, in Reading and Cairo, and I thought to myself: there’s something slightly magical about this place.

When the owner took these plates away, I asked him a little about Cairo Café. He’d been trading for four months, he said, and things were going well.

“Do you sell more stuff from the Egyptian side of the menu than the conventional dishes? It would be sad if most people who came here didn’t try this.”

Another grin.

“Yes, we do. But I try hard to convince people – we give out little samples, too.” I was reminded again of this man’s spiritual family here in Reading: people like Jo at Kungfu Kitchen, Nandana at Clay’s, Keti at Geo Café and Kamal at his eponymous new restaurant. People who believe in the narrative power of food, of telling stories, of welcoming you into their home with the food they grew up with.

“I’m glad customers don’t just come here for an English breakfast.”

“We don’t do one! We do that stuff in a baguette but we don’t do a full English. We sell an Egyptian breakfast instead” (it comes with falafel and shakshuka, by the way, and it sounds excellent).

“What should I order next time I come here?”

“I know we’ve sold out, but our falafel are really good. And you should try the beef livers.” I made a mental note: the menu says they come ‘all the way from Alexandria’.

The sojuk had a wonderful building heat, so I wanted something cooling and I’d left room for dessert so we ordered a couple more things. Again, the owner apologised that they would take a while but by that point I thought the prospect of another half an hour in Cairo Café was a positive boon, so I wasn’t complaining. First to arrive was a cooling drink which had rather been misplaced in the “Fresh juices” section, a drink made with yoghurt, milk and honey. I absolutely adored this – as a dairy fiend it’s right up my alley at the best of times, but what I loved about it the most was how light and delicate it was. It didn’t have that thick stubbornness a lassi can have, and the sweetness was almost floral, complementing things rather than beating you round the head. To add to the random pricing, this was four pounds but, for me, worth every penny.

Last of all, I had to try the sakalans. This took a while to prepare and I can honestly say I’ve never had anything like it – a warm, almost-crunchy baguette split lengthways and crammed with cream, honey and huge wedges of halva. I’ve loved halva for years – ironically, since my mother brought some back from a holiday in Egypt, and as a huge fan of sesame in all its forms this dish had a huge amount to appeal to me. The idea of sticking it in a sandwich had never occurred to me, but eating this I was delighted that it had occurred to someone. Zoë was a little less convinced by it, I suspect, but she was also either fuller, or more restrained, than me.

Our bill, for all that food and an hour and a half of serene, unmitigated delight, came to forty-five pounds, not including tip. I felt a compulsion to keep telling the owner how much I’d enjoyed everything, but eventually I realised I’d have to button it and stop thanking him. Besides, I have the opportunity to tell all of you instead, so it’s not as if I’m going to get an ulcer from suppressing anything. I went on my way absolutely convinced that I would be back, and positively evangelical about making sure some other people went there too.

My overwhelming feeling when I discover somewhere like Cairo Café is to think: how lucky are we in Reading? How lucky are we that despite the best efforts of the unholy trinity of Messrs Brock, Sykes and Horton-Baker, that cabal of the unimaginative, avaricious and dim-witted, people still come here to open their restaurants and their cafés, to battle away against the misguided focus of our public bodies and the bleak indifference of our local media. How lucky are we that we still get a gem like Cairo Café defying all of that inertia and doing their damnedest to get a foothold in this town?

It reminds me, many years ago, of another café only a few doors down from where Cairo Café is now: Cappuccina Café, a modest little place serving banh mi and pasteis de nata. I visited it, I rather liked it, I wrote a review and within a month it was closed. It remains, even now, one of the Reading closures I’m saddest about – more so, in a funny kind of way, than all the Mya Lacartes and Dolce Vitas out there; everybody misses them, but when I think of Cappuccina Café I sometimes think it’s mourned by me and me alone. I’m determined to do my bit to ensure that Cairo Café doesn’t go the same way. So please, go there and try the food: it has, I think, a little spark of magic. And heaven knows, we all need to keep that alive in Reading, as much as we possibly can.

Cairo Café – 8.3
13 West Street, Reading, RG1 1TT
07862 200055

https://www.instagram.com/cairocafe11/
Delivery via: Just Eat, Deliveroo, Uber Eats

Restaurant review: Shree Krishna Vada Pav

When it comes to food and drink, Reading is an especially interesting place. You may find this hard to believe at times, but it’s true.

I don’t mean all the stuff that’s obvious to you, especially if you’re a regular reader of this blog. I don’t mean our coffee culture, or our street food scene that’s the envy of towns for miles around. I don’t mean our two local breweries with taprooms, or excellent pubs like the Nag’s and the Castle Tap selling fantastic craft beer and cider. I don’t mean the jewels in our restaurant crown – places like Clay’s, the Lyndhurst, Kungfu Kitchen or Vegivores. I’m not even talking about our network of local producers and the independent shops, like Geo Café and the Grumpy Goat, which sell their stuff. You know all that already, although I suspect a lot of people who live here still don’t. 

No, I mean interesting in terms of the world outside our food-loving, indie-supporting echo chamber. Because a lot of businesses have clocked that Reading – with its university, its prosperous populace and its tech employers, just the right distance from London – is the perfect place for them to open another branch of their restaurant chain and make pots of cash. They have us down, mistakenly I like to think, as something of an Everytown, the perfect testbed for their particular flavour of the hospitality experience.

In fact, two very different types of businesses have Reading in their sights. The first, tapping into that affluent, well-educated demographic, are smaller, more targeted chains. They’ve often seen Reading as their first attempts to expand west (Honest, Pho) or east (The Coconut Tree), or just picked it as one of the first stops on a journey to nationwide ubiquity (Itsu). And this still continues, albeit to a lesser extent: we’re getting a Leon and a Wasabi this year, don’t forget.

But the second type is more interested in Reading as Everytown, and often we are the lucky Petri dish they squirt their pipette into before deciding whether to open branches elsewhere. And this is, I’m afraid, often an American thing. It’s no coincidence that Reading got one of the first Five Guys, got a Chick-Fil-A, albeit briefly, got a Taco Bell and a Wingstop and a Wendy’s and has a Popeyes on the way. Such is life: newly added to the Tube map, but somehow equidistant between London and the good ol’ United States. 

These big American chains with plenty of money are aided and abetted in their mission to slightly worsen Reading by our local media – which posted dozens of stories about Wendy’s, mainly because they were too dumb to think critically for even a split second about whether Reading getting the first Wendy’s in the U.K. was actually a Good Thing. But it also points to just how much is going on in Reading, and how interesting the battle will be between all these factions fighting it out for your money. No wonder Jonathan Nunn, the editor of Vittles, called our town a “fascinating anomaly”.

“Why is this the subject of your interminable preamble this week?”, I hear you say. I thought you’d never ask. The reason I talk about all of this is that the subject of this week’s review is that rare thing, a chain choosing to plonk a branch near the centre of town that people can get genuinely excited about. Because Shree Krishna Vada Pav, a small chain selling vegetarian Maharashtrian street food which started out in Hounslow and only has three branches outside the M25, comes here with an excellent reputation.

Eater London, which tirelessly covers everywhere worth eating outside Zone 1, has enthused about SKVP on numerous occasions. They classed it as one of London’s best Indian restaurants, and one of West London’s best value restaurants. And they said it served one of London’s finest sandwiches, on a list rubbing shoulders with greats like Beigel Bake’s salt beef bagel and Quo Vadis’ legendary smoked eel sandwich. Eater London aptly summed up what SKVP do as “carb-on-carb masterpieces”, and commented elsewhere that their dishes (carbs stuffed into a soft bap) had a “curious affinity with snack culture from the north of England and Scotland”. 

So you might not have heard of Shree Krishna Vada Pav, or you might not have known they were coming to Reading, but one way or the other this is a strangely big deal, despite the grand total of zero coverage in Berkshire Live or the Reading Chronicle. But who needs them anyway when you’ve got me, so this week I headed there on a Monday evening with Zoë to try as much of the menu as I could.

It’s at the edge of town, opposite the Back Of Beyond, and once you get past its Day-Glo orange exterior it’s fundamentally a very long thin room with a view of the kitchen and a corridor heading to the back – and presumably the loos – which seems to go on forever. (“I know” said Zoë. “I used to come here when it was Julia’s Meadow and I thought it was like the fucking TARDIS”). A panel down one wall gave a potted history of the chain which opened its first branch in 2010, although the founders go further back than that, having met at college in Mumbai at the turn of the century. I found all that oddly sweet, which is no doubt the desired effect.

Apart from that the interior was best described as functional – basic furniture, a mixture of tables for two and four and cutlery on the table. It looked very much like a fast food restaurant, albeit one with table service. The music was just the right side of overpowering, although I found I liked that.

“I don’t know how unbiased I can be” said Zoë as we took our seats. “Have we ever had a meal for the blog where I’ve been this fucking starving?”

She had a point. We got there around eight o’clock, having not eaten since a light lunch, and irrespective of how tempting the menu might be there was very much a strong urge to order nearly everything. That said, looking at the menu didn’t make that any easier. It was two things: cheap and huge, not necessarily in that order. It was split into sections, each of which contained an embarrassment of riches: a variety of pav and other bap-based dishes, some Indo-Chinese dishes, some chaat, some sandwiches and wraps, a section of “bites to enjoy” and some signature dishes marked as “SKVP recommends”. And the carb on carb struggle is real: if you want an onion bhajiya sandwich, this is the place for you.

It’s possibly an indicator of how you should eat here that the handful of curries are squirreled away in the furthest corner of the menu, and ordering any of them never occurred to me. But also the pricing positively implores you to order lots of things and share them – the most expensive dishes are around six pounds but most are less than that. I took this as encouragement to take an approach much like the numbers game from Countdown: a couple from the top and the rest from anywhere else. We ordered – please don’t judge – eight dishes in total and our bill came to just under thirty-two pounds. That didn’t include any drinks, because SKVP didn’t have any mango lassi and we didn’t especially fancy anything else: there is, unsurprisingly, no alcohol license.

I do have to say that although the set-up says fast food, ours was far from that. We ordered at ten past eight, and it wasn’t until half an hour later that food started coming to our table. That’s not a problem of itself, but it’s worth mentioning because the restaurant ostensibly closes at nine. And weirder still, the customers kept coming: we were by no means the last table seated or the last people to get their food. I’m pretty sure that SKVP has been busy from the day it opened, and on this showing that’s not going to change any time soon. I should also mention at this point that the staff were quite brilliant, although clearly under the cosh. 

We ordered a lot of food – if you go, you don’t need to order anywhere near as much as we did – and it all came to the table over the space of five minutes. Again, I’m not complaining but it was an odd approach to bring nothing for half an hour and then literally every single thing. I would have preferred a steady stream of dishes, but that might just be me. But don’t be fooled into thinking that low prices mean small portions: you’ll get very full very fast if you make the same mistake we did.

Your challenge, if you go, will be narrowing it down. We had to try the vada pav – it’s in the name, after all – and although I liked it I’m not sure I loved it or preferred it to Bhel Puri House’s version. It really is a carb overload: fried potato served in a cheap white floury bap with a variety of chutneys. I think you kind of have to have it, but I don’t know if I’d have it again – the chutneys were excellent, sharpening and and elevating it, but the potato was a little too much stodge and not enough crunch. Zoë had the version with cheese (plastic hamburger cheese, I think) and she absolutely loved it. That might be the Irish in her.

“Can you believe this only costs two pounds?” I said.

“It’s a bit of old veg though, innit?” came the response, between mouthfuls. Did I mention that we were both ravenous?

More successful (and, frankly, slightly insane) was the “aloo bomb”. I’d wanted the paneer bomb – the sandwich, incidentally, lauded by Eater London as one of the capital’s peerless butties – but it was off the menu that night so they subbed it for the aloo bomb. It’s hard to do justice to this but essentially it’s a spiced potato sandwich that has been battered and fried and it’s every bit as nuts as that description makes it sound: Glaswegians, it turns out, aren’t the only people who will batter anything. 

A portion comes in two triangles so you only need one between two but it’s well worth ordering, if only to tick it off. It struck me as a vegetarian cousin of Gurt Wings’ infamous chicken burger in a glazed donut with candied bacon on top: you’d want to try it once to say you’ve had it, but you mightn’t order it again for at least twelve months.  Who am I kidding? When I go back that paneer bomb has my name on it.

Possibly the best dish was that reliable staple, the chilli paneer. Reading has always been spoilt for this by Bhel Puri House, where the tricky decision is whether to have chilli paneer, paneer Manchurian or – as I have on occasion, again, please don’t judge – both of them. SKVP’s version is beautifully pitched between the two – a little hot, sweet and savoury all at once, staying on that highwire without putting a foot wrong. The paneer was just caramelised enough without being crispy or burnt and this was one dish where, even though we were full to bursting, we made it a personal mission to ensure that not a forkful remained.

“You could come here and have a portion of that to yourself and a vada pav and that would be you sorted” said Zoë. “You could come here for lunch when you’re working from home, you lucky bastard.”

I’d be lying if I pretended the idea hadn’t crossed my mind, although they’ve have to take less than half an hour to bring it.

If the other dishes were less successful, it was still just the difference between rather good and very good. I quite liked the onion bhajiya, I really liked the red onion studded throughout them and I adored the little fried green chillies they were festooned with. But although greaseless they were a tad dried out for my liking: what they really needed was a chutney of some kind. And fried momo were more doughy than their Nepalese cousins, and probably didn’t bring enough to the table. But once you’ve had a spiced potato masala in a deep fried sandwich and a samosa, a third carby vehicle for it is probably overkill by anyone’s standards.

The samosas, by the way, were excellent. My benchmark for these is Cake & Cream up on the Wokingham Road (where they’ve recently gone up in price to a still-ludicrous seventy pence). But I reckon SKVP’s match them nicely, with a filling flecked with chilli that starts out gently hot before going on to clear out every tube you have from the neck up. You can have them on your own – you get four for a ridiculous three pounds fifty – but we had them bundled with a really delicious, deeply savoury and soothing chickpea curry which was one of the milder, less aggressively hot dishes of the evening. Five pounds fifty for this lot, if you can believe it.

I don’t know to be impressed or faintly disgusted with myself that we ate so much of what we’d ordered but eventually we admitted defeat, although not before picking away at the last peppers and spring onions from the chilli paneer. We waddled out into the night, and headed to the back room of the Retreat for a bottle of chocolate stout and a post-meal debrief: I wouldn’t say it was the stuff of Shakespeare, as it mostly consisted of us saying “I’m so full” to one another after a suitably pregnant pause, but it was a debrief nonetheless. The pause probably seemed less pregnant than I did.

It probably won’t surprise you, now that we’ve got to the end, to scroll a little bit further down and see the rating. I loved SKVP. I didn’t care that it took half an hour to turn up, I didn’t care that I missed out on that paneer bomb and, perhaps most significantly, I didn’t care in the slightest that I’d had a meat free evening. It gets an unqualified thumbs up from me, and I imagine a lot of you would enjoy it, even if it’s just for a quickish bite to eat at lunchtime, or before the pub (good luck catching it at a quiet time, though). And I suspect that my selections from this menu were probably pretty mainstream and tame: I look forward to trying more of it.

SKVP’s closest equivalent is Bhel Puri House – which I still love, don’t get me wrong – but it strikes me as offering something very different to Reading’s other vegetarian Indian restaurants, Madras Flavours and Crispy Dosa, both of which focus their menus elsewhere. And SKVP also achieves that underrated thing which not enough restaurants succeed in pulling off: it’s fun. Fun from start to finish, fun looking through the menu, fun picking too much stuff, fun eating somewhere unlike the rest of Reading, fun eating a deep fried potato sandwich. One hundred per cent fun. It was even almost fun lying in bed that night, feeling like a python slowly digesting a mongoose it had swallowed whole. Almost.

So maybe Reading’s story isn’t written yet. And that’s an encouraging thing to realise, that with big U.K. chains to the left and bigger U.S. chains to the right we still have the chance to be stuck in the middle with our independent heroes, our restaurants and pubs, breweries and cafés, producers and shops. And in that happy place, I like to think there’s also still room for someone like SKVP – an occasional epic, incongruous, glorious curveball.

Shree Krishna Vada Pav – 8.1
97 Kings Road, Reading, RG1 3DD
07900 345120

https://skvp.co.uk
Delivery via: Deliveroo

Café review: Madoo

It’s a fact of life in hospitality that restaurants open and close all the time. There’s an inexhaustible supply of plucky new businesses ready to sign a lease and try their chances, and you can almost measure how long someone has lived in Reading by how far back they remember the history of certain sites. Do you recall when Thai Corner used to be Bistrot Vino, or when the Nando’s on Broad Street was a place called Bistro Je T’aime? You’ve probably been here since the early days of the Oracle, if not longer.

In some cases a restaurant makes such a go of it that you almost completely forget the establishments that went before. Some people have long memories, and remember Mum Mum or that pretzel joint on Market Place, but for many people I imagine it feels like it’s always been Tasty Greek Souvlaki. And although I know rationally, in the back of my mind, that there used to be a great branch of Ha! Ha! on the Kings Road – and that after that it was a Turkish place, and a tapas restaurant, and a weird kind of pub that closed on Sundays – it’s been House Of Flavours so long that it’s jarring to imagine anybody else there. It’s a bit like how, after you’ve been in a relationship with a person long enough, your previous life feels as if it belonged to somebody else.

But there are some sites where you need not only a long memory but a good one, because so many restaurants try and fail to make a go of it on the same premises. The quintessential example of this is the site of the old Warwick Arms, which has been Bali Lounge, the Biscuit & Barrel, Cardamom and King’s Kitchen and currently goes by the name of the Aila. I only reviewed the first two of those, and most of the others closed before I could get round to them.

Or take Cozze’s site on the Caversham Road, which has been Chi’s Oriental Brasserie, La Fontana, Al Tarboush, Casa Roma and Maracas, all of which eventually went pear-shaped. (Incidentally, I heard a fantastic story once that when Casa Roma decided to change to a Mexican restaurant called Maracas they did it mainly because they realised they could reuse all the letters in their sign except the O: I so hope this is true.) But can there really be a god in heaven when the TGI Friday opposite has outlasted them all?

What’s behind these high-churn sites, I wonder? Is it bad judgment, bad luck or bad juju? Are they run by enthusiastic amateurs who bite off more than they can chew, or are some sites simply cursed – by lack of footfall, of parking or of access, or by the presence of better (or better-known) alternatives nearby? Or is it just that they haven’t found their forever home – or rather, their forever homeowner – yet? All that crossed my mind last weekend as I stepped through the front door of Madoo, ready for lunch.

By the standards of titans like the Aila’s or Cozze’s site, Madoo’s is only slightly hexed. It used to be a sandwich shop called It’s A Wrap which lived up to its name by closing, and then it was the ill-fated Project Pizza (pizza may be many things, but surely it should never be a project). But it’s been Madoo for a couple of years now, and it forms a Little Italy on Duke Street with delicatessen Mama’s Way opened just next door. And it has its fans – I’ve heard lots of good things about its toasted sandwiches and it even came up in conversation with my physio this week. “I love that place, it feels like being in Italy” he said. “I started going there in lockdown because it was one of the only places in the town centre that was open.”

Inside it was a lot more hospitable than you might think from trying to peer through the tinted windows. It probably seats just over a dozen people, some of them up at a bar that runs along one wall, but it had a nice feel to it. The chevrons on the floor, pallets fixed to the ceiling and lights attached to the pallets make it feel somewhat like a zone from the Crystal Maze that didn’t make the cut, but for all that I rather liked it. One other table was occupied when I turned up just after noon, but half an hour later the place was full.

You order up at the counter but along the walls are loads of tempting bits and bobs to take home – dried pasta, a small selection of cheese, sauces, biscuits and all manner of snacks. I know a few eyebrows were raised when Mama’s Way opened next door but they seem to have put some effort into not treading on one another’s toes – Madoo has the space, and sells coffee but no booze, and its neighbour is minuscule and sells booze but no coffee. Between them they make up one of Reading’s most fascinating gastronomic micro-climates.

Madoo’s menu is a symphony of toasted sandwiches. There are a couple of salads, if you want to eschew carbs, but really it’s just about picking your fillings. Some of the sandwiches are made up and behind the counter, ready to eat, or you can pick an option from the menu, or pretty much customise it however you like. But the majority of the sandwiches are variations on a classic theme – pick your meat, pick your cheese, pick your veg or salad and off you go. Everything sounds fantastic on paper and many of the ingredients here – mortadella, speck, scamorza, gorgonzola – are far more exciting than anything you’d get in another dreary soggy sandwich from Pret. It’s affordable, too, with nothing clocking in at more than a fiver.

The other main decision you have is all about the bread. The menu suggests the sandwiches all come in ciabatta (incidentally, did you know that ciabatta is a comparatively recent invention? Created in 1982 to protect Italy from the existential threat posed by the baguette apparently, my other half tells me). And Madoo’s recent social media posts suggest you can have puccia, a flattish Puglian bread, instead. But when I ordered at the counter I was given the choice between puccia and focaccio and, out of curiosity, I picked the latter.

While I waited for it to arrive, I made inroads into my latte. I’ve had coffee from Madoo once before and it was somewhere on the borderline between nothing to write home about and actively bad, so I was hugely relieved to find that either it’s improved or they were having an off day last time. It isn’t top tier, not up there with the likes of Workhouse, C.U.P. or Compound, but it’s probably comfortably in the pack with Shed and Picnic – and tellingly, it was better than the one I had recently at Raayo.

I’d chosen toasted sandwich number one, a classic combo of prosciutto, mozzarella, tapenade and rocket and it came to the table looking the part with a nice golden sheen and telltale lines from the grill. It didn’t look hugely like any focaccia I’ve had before, but that didn’t mean it wasn’t authentic: they vary widely by region and this was a long way from the oily, dimpled foccacia most people are used to. Instead it was flatter, denser and less airy – if anything, better suited to a sandwich. It was still oily, though: enough to soak through both napkins that had been put underneath it. Why do cafés still put napkins under the sandwich or cake? It’s an eternal, nearly-unsolvable mystery that not enough philosophers have tackled over the years.

There’s an art to toasted sandwiches, that fine balance of getting everything inside hot and/or melted, all those mingling flavours cross-pollinating without ending up with a charred exterior. Based on my sandwich Madoo hasn’t quite got the hang of that yet, because although the ingredients were unquestionably good, it hadn’t had long enough under the grill for the magic to happen. The mozzarella had begun to melt but not reached full glorious elasticity, and the prosciutto – again, good quality stuff – was too close to fridge-cold at the core. But the tapenade saved the day, uniting everything with that deep, pungent saltiness. It felt like there were a few intact olives in the mix, too. 

Even with all that nit picking, it was a thoroughly enjoyable sandwich – and it reminded me of many happy lunches in the early Nineties from Parmenters, a sandwich shop in Oxford. This was back when the whole town was ciabatta crazy and you could get big pillowy sandwiches full of mozzarella, sundried tomato and pesto and eat them in quadrangles across the city (I didn’t realise, back then, that even the concept of ciabatta was barely ten years old). When I go back to Madoo, I have designs on something with scamorza, or speck, or pesto – or some arguably ill-advised combination of all three. 

Because I’m greedy, and because I wanted to try out more of Madoo’s food, I’d also ordered two mini cannoli – one with chocolate, another with pistachio. Again, they were served on their own personal napkins but that aside they were a beautiful indulgence – both with nicely brittle shells and the kind of smooth, rich filling that lingers on the tastebuds for almost long enough. I ordered the chocolate one – because I’m basic like that, and that’s just what I do – but the pistachio was equally lovely if not more so. I don’t know whether Madoo makes them or buys them in, but given that they sell them for one pound twenty each I’m not going to complain if it’s the latter.

My whole lunch came to less than a tenner – and again, it’s instructive to think how little that would buy you eating in at Pret these days. And service was excellent – kind and friendly, even to a total newcomer. I felt very much the exception in that respect: I was struck by how nearly everybody else who came into Madoo that lunchtime had clearly been there before, probably had a regular order or a favourite sandwich. Two chaps came in, talking Italian, went up to the counter, got their espressos, downed them and left. A family came in towards the end of my lunch and their son was wearing a Bari shirt. 

Every table was bright with chatter, and I possibly liked it even more because with some tables I couldn’t understand a word they were saying. It’s things like that which made me fall ever so slightly in love with Madoo and this tiny corner of Italia overseas. Because restaurants and cafés are about more than just the food, or the coffee. They’re also about the atmosphere, the little bubble they create and whether they make you want to be inside it. Madoo’s toasted sandwiches are definitely better than many of their competitors – not perfect, but not too far off it, and the ingredients they use are a cut above. But also I just loved sitting in a different part of Reading to my usual, to having a different type of coffee and sampling an entirely different flavour of people watching. 

I can absolutely see why it’s always so full. And although I may not ever become a regular there – I have too many lunch places still on my list to review, it’s rather an occupational hazard – I’m certain they will see me again. It’s great to have another option, too, because some days Reading still seems a tad thin on good candidates for a quick, light lunch. And besides, I’m reliably informed that they do arancini every Friday – so if nothing else, I’ll have to drag myself away from my regular appointment with Blue Collar one week to try them out. Maybe this spot on Duke Street has found its forever homeowner, after all.

Madoo – 7.4
10-14 Duke Street, Reading, RG1 4RU
0118 9502249

https://www.facebook.com/madooitaliandelicafe

Takeaway review: Biryani Boyzz

A couple of things happened last weekend that got me thinking about the cost of food, and the concept of value for money. 

The first was a visit to Nirvana Spa, where the menu had been ravaged by Storm Shrinkflation. “I’m sure last time I had the halloumi salad there was more halloumi on it” said Zoe, shortly before looking up her picture of the dish from a previous visit and finding that yes, you used to get three bits of chargrilled halloumi whereas now it’s just two. For nine pounds. I would have sympathised more, but I was too busy looking at a single, tiny tranche of pork and chicken terrine, also nine pounds, and thinking “where’s the rest?” My dish, which wasn’t billed as a salad, had more salad on it than Zoë’s, which was.

It’s one matter to reduce portion size and another to increase prices but it takes a rare kind of chutzpah to, as Nirvana has, do both at once. I’d ordered a pizza as a main course, which was nine inches at most and cost all of sixteen pounds: I couldn’t help but compare it to a lunch at Buon Appetito a couple of weeks before. Food is becoming more expensive, and it’s going to become more expensive still. That’s not necessarily a problem, but you at least want to feel that it’s great quality, even if it’s not good value. At Nirvana, it just felt like they were milking a captive audience.

The second experience, at the other end of the spectrum, was this week’s takeaway, from Biryani Boyzz (yes, not one but two Zs). It’s where Punjab Grill used to be, at the top of the Oxford Road before you reach Harput Kebab, and I think it was owned by the same people as Kobeda Palace, Palmyra and Da Village, although I’m not sure if it still is. Biryani seems to be one of Reading’s new trends, with Biryani Boyzz out west and Biryani Mama (which is owned by the same people as Crispy Dosa) just opened last week in the old Ask site on St Mary’s Butts.

Incidentally, because I’m going to be typing the word “Boyzz” numerous times during this review – with gritted teeth I might add – I want to say that I truly hope abusing the letter Z in this manner is a trend that doesn’t catch on. I know Biryani Boyzz is a stone’s throw from the equally woefully named Ladz Barbers, but I think they ought to learn lessons from history: restaurants with gimmicky Zs in their name rarely do well in Reading. When Chennai Dosa changed its name to Chennai Dosa Artisanz, it was the beginning of the end for them, and the coffee shop Artizan on St Mary’s Butts doesn’t seem to have ever opened. In my taxi back from Nirvana I spotted a place on the Wokingham Road called “Milano’z Pizza”: doesn’t the word pizza provide enough Zs already?

Rant over. I’d been tipped off to Biryani Boyzz by one of my readers, who said that it had excellent reviews on Google. So I went had a look, and although the reviews on Deliveroo were less glowing it piqued my interest enough to give it a try. Besides, their eponymous dish, the chicken biryani, was a startling four pounds ninety-nine. Could it really be any cop at that price?

Biryani Boyzz’s – I hated typing that combination of letters, just so you know – menu is a mixture of Indian, Pakistani and Afghan dishes. Chapli kebab is on there, as it would be at Kobeda Palace or Da Village, but you can also order Lahori chane, butter chicken if you want something more mainstream, or paya, a stew made with lamb trotters, if you’re the adventurous kind. 

The main thing that brings the menu together is its affordability. Nothing costs more than a tenner, most of it is far less than that and, of course, that biryani stands out at just under a fiver. I had to try that, so we ordered it along with a selection of starters, a couple of curries and some rice. The whole lot came to forty-five pounds, not including rider tip: not much money for quite a lot of food. 

Fancy a drama-free delivery paragraph? Of course you do. So here it is: I placed my order around twenty-five past seven, I was told it would be about an hour and in reality it was with me in forty-five minutes or so. And the driver took just over five minutes to reach me from the restaurant. There you go: drama-free delivery paragraph ends. It was all perfectly packed and piping hot, just to further reduce the element of drama: if only the situation in Ukraine could de-escalate as rapidly.

We’d chosen three things which broadly classed as starters, and they turned out to be a bit of a motley crew. Chapli kebab, which came in a brown paper bag shiny with grease, was a far cry from the very good ones I’ve had at Da Village or, back in the day, Afghan. It didn’t have that lean, meaty muscularity I’ve always enjoyed, and the texture was a little sodden and pappy, as if it had been padded out with something. There were bits of tomato speckled in it, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was more. It cost three pounds: after placing the order I wish we’d added a second, but after finishing it I was glad we didn’t.

Chicken 65 was more like it, but I still came away from it liking but not loving the dish. My previous experience of the dish comes from its time on the menu at Clay’s, and I tried to put that rarefied version to the back of my mind while eating this. The flavour of it wasn’t bad, with a good whack of acrid heat but the chicken was in little pellets rather than bigger, more tender pieces and there was something slightly off-putting about that. 

I’d have liked it to feel drier and less glossy – and I know this dish isn’t big on vegetation but I couldn’t help thinking that if, say, Momo 2 Go did a version of this it would have had a flash of green from some curry leaves or some coriander, whereas this was a relentless tidal wave of day-glo terra cotta. We left some of it. “I’m not even sure it was chicken” was Zoë’s verdict: feel the burn.

The last of our starters was Afghan lamb chops, which weren’t bad but weren’t exciting either. Cooked through with no blush, these were old-school chops where you got a postage-stamp sized piece of meat that was largely redeemed by bathing it in raita. To put this in perspective, you got four small chops for seven pounds, so if it wasn’t great it at least wasn’t expensive: presumably at Nirvana Spa they’d have charged you fifteen pounds for that lot. Deliveroo claims this dish is “Popular”. But then so is the Caversham branch of Costa Coffee.

Did things improve with the main courses? Well, yes and no. The yes came in the unlikely form of the butter chicken: it’s not a dish I ever really order but Zoë requested it and it was better than I was expecting. The sauce had a good, smooth sweetness which made the rice more interesting even if, again, there was only limited evidence it had ever seen any vegetables, or even just some herbs. And again, the chicken was in small, homogeneous pieces and lacked the generosity I would associate with the likes of Royal Tandoori or House Of Flavours.

But every rose has its thorn, and the thorn in this case was the chilli paneer. I think maybe I was expecting a dry chilli paneer, like the one you’d get at Bhel Puri House, whereas this was very much soft unfried cubes of paneer in a chilli sauce which took no prisoners and didn’t fuck around. My friend James has an expression for things that people like me think are hot but which wouldn’t make him bat an eyelid: he calls them “white people hot”. There’s no disgrace in that, per se: James classes Gurt Wings’ buffalo sauce as white people hot, although he’s never passed judgment on “The Gurt Locker”, their hottest sauce. I must take him to Kungfu Kitchen some time.

But it’s safe to say that Biryani Boyzz’s chilli paneer isn’t white people hot. It’s just hot. And not one of those clever, layered heats that builds momentum and pace as you work your way through a meal. No, it’s just really hot. Hot as in it makes your eyeballs leak with what might be tears, could be sweat or might just be a disgusting cocktail of both. Hot as in it clears out every sinus in your face while reaming your Eustachian tubes for good measure. 

Zoë said she thought there must be something like lime pickle in it and initially I disagreed, because I rather like lime pickle, but on reflection I thought she might be on to something because lurking under the brooding heat was something that could have been sour citrus. What do I know? If I’d had another couple of forkfuls I might not have been able to taste anything until the following Tuesday. The odd thing is that, in a treat ‘em mean, keep ‘em keen sort of way I admired Biryani Boyzz for doing something so uncompromising. It wasn’t for me, but there might well be customers out there who would love it. Reading the last few paragraphs, you probably know whether or not you’re one of them.

I’ve saved that five pound biryani til last, just so that this review has a little twist in the tale. You know what? I quite liked it. The chicken was on the bone, which of course it’s meant to be – and although you didn’t get huge amounts of it and it needed a little persuasion to get off the bone it was perfectly nice and the rice had some flavour – more, and better balanced, than the other dishes I’d tried. Did I mention that it was five pounds? And here we return to what I was saying at the start: something either has to be good value or good quality. Nirvana was neither, and Biryani Boyzz was one of them, in places. If Nirvana’s pizza had been something like a tenner, I’d have been quietly pleased, but if Biryani Boyzz’s biryani had been a tenner I’d have been nonplussed.

But cheap food for cheap food’s sake isn’t the holy grail some people like to think it is. Even ignoring that witless Berkshire Live article about how you can’t buy lunch in town for a quid any more (as everybody should), there can be a prevailing view in publications like Vittles that each time you get a dirt cheap meal in a restaurant you’re somehow sticking it to the man and getting one over on capitalism. But food ought to cost money, staff ought to cost money and everything ought to go through the books and be above board. I always worry that when food is cheap what you’re actually doing is just enabling a slightly different, equally unpleasant, flavour of capitalism.

Anyway, rarely have I been gladder that my takeaway reviews don’t come with a rating. Biryani Boyzz’s food is okay, and interesting in places, but I really don’t know where I’d put it if I had to find a place for it on a scale. And I’m not sure I’d order from them again, because I’d either spend more somewhere like Banarasi Kitchen or pay roughly the same amount at Momo 2 Go for very different cuisine. But I may not be Biryani Boyzz’s target market, and there’s nothing wrong with that. They didn’t lose me at that first Z, they didn’t even necessarily lose me at the second, but they probably lost me somewhere after that.

Biryani Boyzz
109 Oxford Road, Reading, RG1 7UD
0118 9573337

Order via: Deliveroo, Uber Eats