Dickens Brasserie Mercure George Hotel, ReadingBy Tom Fahey
July 15, 2009
A restaurant’s character can often make or break it and, while the chains are always a safe bet, they can’t really compete with the heart and soul of a well-conceived independent.
Dickens’ Brasserie is a new restaurant in the George Hotel. The George is the oldest building in Reading – a coaching inn dating from the 1400s and as good a place as any for a British themed independent.
You’ll find Dickens opposite the HMV entrance of The Oracle. It’s rather inconspicuous and the sign is not in step with the branding, but you can’t miss the roped entranceway.
The Dickensian theme kicks in as soon as you enter, with the appropriate books, art and ornaments arranged around the room.
The space is quite small, but not tightly packed, and the décor is simple and clean.
The menu contains some Dickensian pictures and quotes but – fortunately – the theme doesn’t influence the food.
The lunch menu is the same as you will see in a hundred pubs, the dinner menu, while not exactly British, is far more interesting and individual.
There are seven starters (£4.50-10.50), 12 mains (£12.50-17), eight desserts (£4.50-£5.95), then some salads and sharing plates.
Terrine of guinea fowl was generous and well made if slightly under seasoned. Scallops with sweetcorn purée and bubble and squeak were a nice example of creativity from the chef.
Open ravioli of mushrooms was the strongest starter – two sheets of soft pasta enveloping a rich, creamy, mix of oyster, shitake and shimeji mushrooms.
The faggots here are very good. They are the most out-and-out British dish and it’s a brave move putting them on the menu. Meaty, rich and rib-sticking they came with a good gravy, mash and a generous helping of spinach.
Sweet potato, feta and spinach strudel was pretty hefty, but had a crisp exterior with each flavour holding its own.
Venison was well cooked and came with mixed beans and a sweet potato dauphinoise which was perfectly pleasant and not overly creamy.
Of the desserts, knickerbocker glory was three scoops of ice cream atop a sundae glass, raspberry sauce and an amoretti biscuit. Once upended and easier to eat it was very nice. The sticky toffee pudding was good, likewise the chocolate and caramel mousse.
Over two visits, Dickens’ food has been consistent. The chef is competent and is using his creative licence to good effect with an original menu of tasty dishes.
His food should really be the star of this show and makes the Dickensian theme seem fairly unnecessary.
Underneath the branding, the bar menu, and the sharing plates, there is a great little independent waiting to get out.
- Telephone: (0118) 957 3445
- Website: www.mercure.com
- Address: Mercure George Hotel Reading
10-12 King Street