Restaurant review: Barts Grill & RestaurantBy Mike Pyle
February 09, 2012
Stella Artois used to claim it was ‘reassuringly expensive’. While not a regular drinker of said tasteless lager, I can see what they were getting at.
As such, while perusing the menu at brand new East Reading eatery Barts Restaurant and Grill I started to become concerned.
It is absolutely full of delights – fabulous-sounding dishes made from locally sourced ingredients by top chefs – but where I expected to see hefty prices I saw nothing but reasonable, dare I say cheap, sums.
I looked around me at the tasteful decor, the brand new fittings, the elegant table settings and I started to think I must be missing something.
How could a restaurant like this really sell grilled poussin with rosemary and thyme, a lemon and honey glaze with lemon-scented rice and sautéed okra for under a tenner? Or pan seared salmon on braised red cabbage with oval fondant potato, Thai asparagus and horseradish creme for £11.10?
Barts is on the Wokingham Road site of where Colleys Supper Rooms stood until last year. Colleys had a bit of a cult following and there were a great many people who were disappointed to see it go.
It means Barts’ owner Jamshed Miah, who also runs the Miah’s Indian restaurants – two in Reading, plus brances in Pangbourne and Spencers Wood – has a hard act to follow.
He’s invested heavily in it. The place is almost unrecognisable from what it was but looks great for it. It’s also much bigger after being extended.
During the building Jamshed found out the council wouldn’t allow him to have much parking. After much wrangling he came up with an innovative solution – Barts is the only restaurant I know that will pick you up and drop you off before and after your meal for just £7.50. No more arguments of over who does the driving. You can also park in Palmer Park Stadium.
Jamshed has more than 30 years’ experience in the business but this is his first foray into English and contemporary European cooking and that’s why he’s enlisted the help of chefs Dave Faucher – former head chef at The Cumberland Hotel in London – and Sonia Alves.
It was with a mixture of excitement and nerves that my girlfriend and I nibbled on complimentary home-baked rolls served with oil and vinegar while we waited for our starters.
Two generous portions duly arrived.
I went for chicken liver paté with a mixed leaf and apple salad, carrot spaghetti, sun blushed cherry tomatoes and balsamic dressing (£5.50) while Alice had the oak smoked salmon parcel with orange and lemon segments, salmon Aruga caviar and citrus dressing (£6.25 – yes, you read that correctly).
My paté was smooth and light served with some classic Melba toast but the real star of the show, and as a dedicated carnivore I’ve never said this before, was the salad. The textures were varied and exciting, there was sweetness from the apple and the tomatoes, pepperyness from the leaves and earthiness from the delicate twirls of carrot.
Alice said the citrus tang went well with her salmon and wolfed down the caviar (she doesn’t get much of that at home).
For my main I chose grilled Barnsley lamb chops, herb pommes purée, sautéed savoy cabbage and minted jus (£10.50) while my guest had T-bone steak, pepper sauce, chips and onion rings (£18) – an offering from the table d’hote menu which the chefs vary regularly.
I’ve had mixed experiences with lamb in restaurants. Even good ones have overcooked it for me while I’ve also been presented with well-cooked fatty portions. Happily, my two huge Barnsley chops fell into neither category.
The herb pommes puree (herby mash) was a great accompaniment while the cabbage was lightly cooked, occasionally crunchy and flavourful.
My only complaint, and I’m not even sure it counts as one, is that it was served in a stylish oversized bowl: a plate would be better.
Alice’s steak was enormous, cooked medium rare, just as she’d asked for, the chips were golden and fluffy and stood upright in a small bowl – perfect for making them crispy – and the pepper sauce was piquant and rich.
Her only complaint was me trying to steal bits of her dinner.
Both our appetites were satisfied but, in the name of professionalism, we steeled ourselves and ordered dessert in the hope that we wouldn’t be presented with plates of sand as the misspelt menu suggested.
Pleasingly my dark chocolate ganache, served with nutty, spicy toast, chocolate sauce and strawberries (£5.50) was good enough to justify me ignoring the cheese board and sand free.
Alice had the rather exciting confit of pear Williams with almond soup and cinnamon ice cream (£5.50). She said the almond soup was a real treat, loved the ice cream but wanted the pear to have a little more sharpness to it.
As I sipped a Caribbean rum to round my evening off I found myself still unable to figure out how such good food could cost so little. You could pay double and not feel badly ripped off – you also probably wouldn’t get the attentive service we experienced or a lift to and from your meal.
Jamshed said life has started quietly at Barts but I’m confident that word will get round and it won’t stay that way. I suggest you hurry down there in case he decides to cash in on what could become just as much of an institution as Colleys ever was.
- Telephone: 0118 966 2268
- Website: www.bartsgrill.com
- Address: Barts Grill & Restaurant
21 Wokingham Road,
Reading RG6 1LE