Muse restaurant, Friar Street, ReadingBy Sarah Dave
October 09, 2009
‘Have you seen the toilets? You’ve got to see the toilets!”
It’s not the first thing you’d expect the manager of a food venue to tell you but David Cawdron is very excited about every inch of Reading’s newest bar/restaurant.
I’m hoping his words are not a comment on the food – but I’m about to find out.
Muse, on the site of the former Bar Four in Friar Street, opened in July. Owner Sarah Carter said she has created a female-friendly venue for over-21s.
It’s certainly that with its pink, red and cream interior and a couple of touches on the menu that make a girl feel right at home. Salads have their calorie content listed while other items have a heart symbol suggesting healthy choices. Beer prices in half pints are listed on the menu for us delicate souls.
My guest and I had great difficulty choosing. Light bites or starters included soup and crusty bread (£3.95), crab and cod cakes (£6.75) and curried mussels (£7.25).
A trio of fresh dips (guacamole, Moroccan hummous and spicy bean) with vegetable sticks and crusty baguette (£6.95) was chosen by my friend who thought it was delicious but the veg could have been crisper.
I had organic Gravadlax with melon, horseradish dip and rye bread. The horseradish was a bit unusual and the traditional dill/mustard sauce would have complemented it better. The fruit accompanying it – melon and strawberry slices – were refreshing, sweet and juicy.
It was a good first course.
On to mains: burgers, including a veggie option, were available. Other sandwich-related items include blue cheese and pear chutney on toast (£5.95) and Thai style beef ciabatta (£7.25).
Salads of quinoa and grilled halloumi (£8.25) and baby gem and lemon chicken (£9.75) were among five. Other mains included a squash and goat’s cheese risotto (£7.95) and surf ‘n’ turf skewer (£18.95).
My friend went for a feta and chickpea salad (£7.95) packed with olives, red onion, tomato and peppers. She particularly liked the parsley and mustard dressing.
I opted for grilled trout with chargrilled asparagus, lemon and parsley mash and hollandaise sauce. The fish tasted great while the smoky asparagus was very moreish. Keeping it simple here was key – and it worked. The one let-down was the mash.
Thankfully my side order of oven baked chunky chips (£2.25) made up for it – and hooray for oven baked.
Muse’s menu also has the charmingly titled Picky Bits – perfect during a pitstop while out shopping. It includes falafel and dip (£3.95), spicy chicken skewers (£3.95) and stuffed peppers (£3.95).
We passed on the desserts but Eton mess and triple chocolate brownie with pecans (between £4.75 and £5.25) were on offer.
Drinks included a selection of smoothies (£2.95) and freshly squeezed juices (£2.95). My guest tried the berry special smoothie which was thick and delicious while I went for a small glass of Garnacha Rose (£3.55). All their small glasses of wines are under about £6. Cocktails are from £5.50 to £8 for a Bellini.
My friend finished up with a cappuccino (£2.25) which was disappointingly small and had more froth than coffee while I was overjoyed to see Tea Pig loose leaf tea on the menu and supped a Rooibos crème caramel (£2) one.
It’s good to see an intimate bar serving good food but the layout is not the best for dining and I think it’s somewhere I’d go for a quick lunch than a languorous dinner, especially at weekends or during its regular live music nights.
And the toilets? You’ll just have to see for yourself.