I’ve been a vegetarian for just over five years now and can’t see that ever changing. I don’t have any kind of aversion to people that do eat meat, my own son still loves a good bacon sandwich and will often moan at me when I cook a veggie burger over a meat one. I just don’t like the taste/texture, and can’t say I miss it either.
I’m 100% not one of those people that bang on about being vegetarian. I rarely mention it. This is the first time I’ve written about it, and when eating out, and only if I’m really pushed to answer, will I say I’m vegetarian. I just don’t think anyone should have to label their diet and a restaurant should be able to cater to everyone regardless of their food preferences.
Anyway, the point of this post is to write about my very favourite vegetarian dishes in my local town of Reading. You may have read my post about “Why I Now Love Reading“ after moving here around 15 years ago, but if not, it started with all the amazing independent coffee shops the town now has…then I started to gradually try out the new restaurants and actually ended up loving the food scene.
There’s huge room for improvement, that’s for sure. When I was home in York a few weekends ago, which granted is far bigger than Reading, the independent choices there are in abundance and you’re spoilt for choice.
Reading however has no real bakery to buy fresh bread and pastries from, no grocer, and there’s a definite need for more relaxing, cosy type places…but no town or city is perfect, and in my opinion, the only way is up for Reading.
Similarly, we really need a good farmers market, one where you can buy most of your food for the week and avoid the supermarkets. That would be heaven! I’ve been to the existing Saturday farmers market a few times, but I find it a little hit and miss.
Oh…and I’d love to see a good ice-cream parlour open after the very sad demise of Tutti Frutti. 🙁
Aside from Bhel Phuri (see below), I don’t think there is anywhere else in Reading that is exclusively vegetarian or vegan! I’m still waiting for an amazing vegetarian restaurant to open (hurry up Vegivores) and whilst I love some of the pop-ups we have, we just need somewhere that little bit nicer.
At work, we’re always struggling to find somewhere ‘special’ to eat and the best we currently have is Valpy, which I love and never turn down. Cerise at The Forbury Hotel is okay, but if you’re in a small group it can lack atmosphere and be very quiet.
I’ve wanted to write this post for quite a while but am sometimes a little wary as I’m well aware I haven’t tried everywhere in Reading yet, I’m not even close!
Of course, I’m also fully aware that this is a totally subjective post, these are *my* personal preferences and there will be many of you that will disagree, agree, possibly try places you haven’t yet had a chance to visit, but also, hopefully, share some new vegetarian places I haven’t yet tried.
I desperately want to find and love an Indian restaurant and whilst I know Clays Hyderabadi in Reading is raved about, and the cabbage pakora and paneer majestic are outstanding, we just didn’t have the best experience and I actually found the vegetarian options to be a bit ‘meh’. Plus the decor was so orange, the air-con was freezing and it was all a bit 80’s? When we went there were three veggie mains and one was mushroom based (I don’t eat mushrooms). Sorry Clay fans, I know so many of you love it. I will go again sometime soon as I think it’s always good to re-try places you weren’t sure about the first time.
I’m also yet to make it over to Bakery House, another place I’ve heard lots of good things about.
Scrolling through my phone and looking at all the food I’ve eaten in Reading in the last few years made me realise that I definitely have some firm favourites and is what prompted me to write this post.
I’m by no means an authority on local food and these are just my personal opinions. I’m a foodie who’s just passionate about the local area and love that I can now say I’m a Reading-based food blogger. If you’re interested in getting alternative takes on the Reading food scene then do check out Explore Reading or Independent Reading who both write about the town.
So, without any more rambling here’s my list of where you can get delicious vegetarian food in Reading.
Anything. Honestly. Occupying a pitch with Blue Collar Street Food every Wednesday in Market Square I’ll quite often take my lunch early just to pop round and pick up a box of whatever they’ve made that day. Vegiviores rotate their menus, are 100% vegan, introduce new dishes often, provide generous portions and you’ll finish super full and healthy too. It’s impossible to choose just one.
NOTE: Vegivores are currently working on their brand new shop in Caversham and it’s expected to be open later this year. Kevin is doing an amazing job, he’s dead chirpy and I can’t wait to spend my lunch breaks in there. I’ll update this post with the location as soon as they’re open.
Check out the Vegivores website here
Located right near Workhouse Coffee and to the side of The Oracle, this place has an amazingly varied menu for vegetarian diets. I’ve been a long-time fan of the chilli paneer and would just order this one dish if I wasn’t so intrigued to try everything else on the menu. The Chilli Paneer is just out of this world. Cooked perfectly with a rich vibrant colour, a slight crisp bite around the edge with a soft paneer centre and generously sprinkled with chillies and spring onions it’s the perfect portion size for lunch.
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Conveniently located near Reading Station and serving up an array of wraps, panini, homemade soup and sandwiches (plus specials), Shed has to be one of my favourite spots for lunch and I crave their toasties (Brie and Cranberry to be specific) weekly. Although, I’ll happily settle for a coronation chickpea wrap or a bowl of homemade soup if they’re out of bread for the toasties.
Check out the SHED website and menu here.
Salad box 2 is always the veggie option. I have one every week at least. My favourite salad is the slow-baked halloumi served on a base of super fresh lentils mixed with toasted walnuts, mint, pomegranate seeds and orange segments.
John is the owner of Picnic and he’s always surrounded by his lovely team of girls who bake all their cakes on site. They’re friendly, there are seats and the portions are big.
It’s my go-to stop if I need a sweet treat.
Check out the Picnic website here
Gnocchi with a side order of chunky chips is my go-to dish here. Despite not having many veggie options it makes my list purely for this. I’m never very keen on recommending vegetarian restaurants with only a few veggie options, but Valpy is the exception to that rule.
I also love the Bruschetta with Barkham Blue Cheese and the Scorched Fig starter. Valpy seems to be doing so well after its comeback and sitting in my office which is based in the building directly behind their kitchen, means I often have to sit smelling the food cooking…it’s a great way to get me and my colleagues to eat there when we’re hungry!
The menus are seasonal so there’s a chance that what I’m suggesting won’t be on if you go, but I’m sure whatever is being served will be equally as good.
Check out the Valpy website here.
This is a new addition as in July 2019 Oakford Social launched a new menu and the vegetarian and vegan options are SO good! I’ve only tried the burger and the sausage and mash so far, but each dish was delicious. I know you can’t really go wrong with a Beyond Meat burger, but I did quite like that, for a pub, the menu was a little bit more imaginative…no dodgy mushroom burger in sight! I’m going to try to lasagne next time I go.
Cool decor, right opposite the train station, and a friendly atmosphere, it’s not a bad shout when you want a fun lunch with friends. It’s also family-friendly and my son enjoys their food too. The staff can be a bit grumpy sometimes, but it’s nothing majorly offputting. 😉
Quaffable, a Reading pub reviewer did a good review on the beer last year, read that here.
Check out the Oakford Social website here:
Is a coffee shop that also serves up Greek dishes, wholesome smoothies and lunch-time sandwiches. There’s Cup 1 (the original shop) and there’s now Cup 2 (the new shop).
My favourite dish, purely because my boyfriend Steve ate it non-stop for weeks is their spanakopita. I love Greek food and if you’ve not tried Spanakopita you really must. It’s a pie, of sorts, with layers of flaky pastry and then a generous filling of spinach and feta cheese.
I’m also pretty keen on their Greek scrambled eggs…but they need to add more toast to this one! 😉
Check out the CUP website here
Honest Burger in Reading is my go-to veggie burger spot and I’ve eaten their vegan plant-burger so many times now. It’s 100% vegan but because I’m a bit of a cheese obsessive I’ve added cheddar, extra cheddar…and when I went to their media night at the beginning of 2019 I added in the deep-fried Camembert patty too. Heaven.
I was genuinely surprised how much I liked this burger the first time I ate it as I’m not usually a fan of weird meat-that’s-not-meat type concoctions, but this is just something else.
Check out the Honest website and menu here.
April 2019 update: My official review post on Honest Burger in Reading is now live! Read it here. 🙂
Unlike my pizza-obsessed boyfriend I can usually take or leave a pizza, but if I’m taking it…then it’s Franco Manca every time.
You can choose a pizza from the menu or you can adapt to whatever toppings you like. It’s cheap, it’s filling, it’s fresh and you can basically do no wrong if you’re looking to eat fast too.
Check out the Franco Manco Menu here
I first visited Pho as their guest for a media review back in 2017 and knew from the moment they opened that I’d be a fan. It’s the one place I can where I can enjoy everything, feel like I’ve had a treat, but also stay quite healthy.
You can’t book a table, but we’ve never had a problem getting seated, the peanut sauce is to-die-for and I love the crispy spring rolls more than any other starter. Surprisingly I’m not a fan of their signature ‘Pho’ dish, but aside from that, you can’t wrong if you wanting some delicious Vietnamese food.
My full review of the restaurant is actually here if you want a read.
Visit the Pho website here.
Last but certainly not least is Brewdog. It’s been open in Reading since March 2018, but we didn’t end up going to try the food or drink the craft beer until around August 2018 as we had no idea the menu was so veggie-friendly. There are quite a few options to choose from, but I particularly love the SoyDog and the Buffalo Cauliflower.
I also really like that you can play a board game if you’re there for a while, and pinball if you like that kind of thing. I got a bit merry once with my friend Libby and it turns out I play pinball better when drunk!
The staff are pretty cool too.
Check out the Brewdog website and food menu here.
If you’ve made it this far, thank you for sticking with me. I don’t usually write a post this long and it’s taken me forever to do. Let me know if you think there’s somewhere you rate and love in Reading for vegetarians and I’ll add it to my ever-expanding list.