Ha ha bar & grill, The Oracle RiversideBy Sarah Dave
June 09, 2010
Be careful what you say within earshot of your server when you visit Reading’s ha ha bar & grill in The Oracle’s Riverside.
No sooner had I finished commenting to my pal how it would be lovely to go on a wine tasting course than our waiter produced a salver of various house wines in shot glasses.
He had overheard my musings and wondered if we’d like to try a selection of whites and reds from their wine menu. How delightful. But next time I’ll be sure to mumble something about diamonds.
Diners are currently enjoying the chain’s introduction of the ha ha suggests specials menu, focusing on fresh and seasonal dishes using British ingredients where possible. The rotating menu of main courses changes every six weeks and there are wine suggestions beneath each choice. The diner has also said the it has upgraded their wine offering. We decided to give it a go.
There were five new main courses as part of this menu when we visited, including veal rib cutlet (£14.95) served with potato dauphinoise or chips, sautéed farm-assured chicken breast (£9.95) topped with Marsala sauce on a bed of lentils, green beans and seasonal potatoes, and vegetable parpadelle (£8.95).
I opted for chargrilled salmon fillet (£11.95) served on a potato cake and watercress with a tarragon butter sauce. The salmon was meaty and well-cooked and went well with the accompaniments.
The potato cake was more of a mashed potato hillock with a crispy outside than a flatter, floury potato cake in the Scottish/ Irish sense of the words but tasty all the same. The tarragon butter sauce was delicious and luxurious and fab to squish the mash into.
My friend had Welsh lamb cutlets (£13.95) served with celeriac and Maris Piper mash.
She said the dish rekindled her love of lamb as she had previously been put off by fatty cuts.
Had we not fancied anything on the new menu, ha ha has plenty of alternatives. It also has a lunch menu on offer every day until 5pm with goodies from just £6.
There are, of course, starters. I had lemon and garlic chicken skewers with a tzatziki dip (£4.75). I couldn’t really taste much garlic and the chicken was a little dry and stringy on the outside.
My friend had chicken liver, pork and Scottish heather honey paté served with sticky onion relish and bread (£4.75).
I admired her chutzpah at finishing nearly all of it – it was a huge portion. She said it was really lovely.
Other starters included king prawn cocktail, goat’s cheese on crostini, various salads and things to share like baked camembert and nachos.
We couldn’t refuse a dessert. Delights included sticky toffee pudding, chocolate fondant, brioche bread and butter pudding and baked vanilla cheesecake were tempting. But I opted for crème brulee – perfectly crunchy caramel top with a not oversweet custard innard.
I would have preferred the inside to be a little firmer however.
My pal went for a trio of mini desserts of lemon tart, mini chocolate fondant and a blackcurrant and lemon mousse (£5.95). She thought they were well balanced and, of course, filling. I tasted her mousse which was a lovely summery fool-type texture – very refreshing.
All round, the experience was satisfying. My problem with ha ha before was overpriced food for a so-so meal.
Now I think things have improved and many main meal items are under £10 unless you go for the massive steaks or fish.
And the shot glasses of wine? Well we did actually have a system of ranking the samples but by the 14th shot we couldn’t actually remember what the outcome was. We’ll just have to visit again. Hic!
- Telephone: 0845 126 2982
- Website: www.hahaonline.co.uk
- Address: The Oracle Riverside, Reading