FOUND! Berkshire’s most Instagrammable pub
If you love supercool London street food scene, then you're gonna love The Market House in Reading a laidback hangout to eat, drink and sleep on repeat.
Reading is having a renaissance. There I’ve said it. No eye-rolling at the back, it’s true. Not only has it been voted one of the top towns to live and work, but the social scene has perked up a treat, thanks to a smattering of new independent businesses and boutique chains. Case in point, The Market House. Taking over the old Lloyds Bank building on Market Place, you’re slap bang in the centre of town, a stone’s throw from The Oracle and Broad Street, Reading train station and the river a short stroll away. If you want to be in the thick of it, you cannot wish for a better spot.
Being born and raised in Reading, I do love a sympathetic restoration of an old building and that’s exactly what the team has done here. The Market House’s frontage of the Grade II-listed building, part of the conservation area and has great kerb appeal. There’s no onsite parking, but Reading has loads of secure car parks nearby or simply hop on the train or jump in a cab. We did. No faffing, we had full lock-on on 24hrs of fun.
No ordinary pub, cocktail bar or restaurant. If you’re a fan of East London’s cool street food hangouts Dinerama, Hawker House and the Borough Kitchen, then you’ll feel right at home here. It’s hip, funky, and draws a slightly older crowd. There’s a really inclusive friendly feel (kids and pooches all welcome) and you can turn up in Converse and no one will bat an eyelid. But be warned, it’s not formal or posh. This place is so laidback, you’ll be horizontal by the time you leave.
If you’re after some seriously Instagrammable pics for your grid, you’re spoilt for choice. I mean who doesn’t love an incredible swinging metal love seat swathed in a display of artificial spring blooms with pink neon wall art? Er, my husband, who was forced to take my pic. Inside, the bar and kitchen is vast space with canteen-style benches and tables, industrial details, neon signage. It’s got all the Shoreditch feels that we love.
They have kept the bank’s vault – unfortunately no longer stacked with wads of cash – but it’s a cool little space which can be hired out for private parties, with a retractable ceiling for lots of lovely natural light and the original thick cast iron door is still in place which makes a fun feature. Adjacent to this was the Gin & Cocktail bar which I basically propped myself up at for most of the evening! Sheltered by what reminded me of a Victorian railway ceiling covered in light bulbs – very cool!
SCOFF & QUAFF
You’ll appreciate the fantastic selection of spirits and seasonal cocktail menu (from £7.50-£10). Although not huge, you can challenge the mixologists to whip up any concoction you like. I kicked off the evening with an incredible gin cocktail. OK, maybe I had more than one! If that’s not your bag, then the range of craft beers and wine is vast.
Need something to soak up the booze? Probably. There are three kitchens in total, one hosts the brilliant pizza oven, serving fresh seasonal pizzas and salads, breakfast and brunch. This kitchen is managed and run by Market House. Then it gets interesting. The other two kitchens are taken over by local street food traders and these rotate regularly. Win-win, I say! When I was there, one had an oriental menu and the other more bavarian style, so a really nice contrast.
It’s worth noting that it’s super casual in every sense, counter service, recyclable bamboo cutlery and bowls. This isn’t for everyone, of course. If you are looking for a more formal sit down meal with waiter service then it’s a no-no, but what they do fits perfectly with the feel of the venue and it’s incredibly good value for money.
We put the pizzas to the test, there were six to choose from but all made using fresh dough and baked to perfection. It’s fun to watch the guys bring them in and out of the oven with the Pizza Peel (you learn something new every day!) There were two vegan options and also some tasty salady sides. I had a vegan cauliflower, onion and chilli pizza with saffron aioli, I coupled that with sweet potato, fennel and cranberry salad both divine.
The other half went for the much less plant-based option which was Beef N’duja meatballs with blue cheese and artichoke which he really enjoyed. In keeping with that laid-back market feel, they were served in brown recyclable pizza boxes. No frills, it’s all about the atmosphere and the taste. Only negative is the lack of desserts, but a top-quality frozen yoghurt machine is coming and will be offering a ‘pimp your yoghurt’ option. Sounds yum.
They have 24 boutique rooms over two floors each boasting a neon light number above the door which is a nice touch. We made our way upstairs to the little reception area to get checked in, taking in all the thoughtful and quirky bits of decor as we go. They have totally nailed the urban, industrial-chic look. The walls are a backdrop of bare, deliberately unkempt plaster, exposed metal pipes and incredible lighting and decorative touches. Bespoke neon lights are featured throughout the venue – I particularly loved the neon pink lips outside the ladies!
Each room is decorated differently and has clearly been a labour of love. If you’re looking for a room with a view, quite frankly you will struggle to find this anywhere in Reading town centre. Our crashpad looked on to an office block but there was a tasteful roller blind across the small window and on the other side of the room a frosted floor to ceiling panel which allowed light in without sacrificing style.
I loved the tastefully framed bits of Reading paraphernalia dotted around and I fell in love with the bathroom, complete with Bramley toiletries. For those wanting to practice their downward dog or warrior pose there was even a yoga mat casually rolled up and leant again the wall – I fooled myself for a nanosecond that I might use this! Naah.
I was slightly concerned when I spied the complimentary earplugs on the bedside table and wondered what I might be in for when I hit the hay! But was pleasantly surprised as it was very peaceful despite going to bed when the bar was still open and busy.
THE MUDDY VERDICT:
Good for: Couples or groups of friends looking for a laid back experience in darn right funky surroundings. Foodies who will never order the same thing twice.
Not for: Michelin Star seekers and traditionalists. For luxury, formality and metal cutlery, head to somewhere a bit more mainstream.
££: Cheap as chips! Our Superior King would have set you back just £79 for the night and includes continental brekkie. Pizzas were a maximum of £10 as were the Cocktails!
Words: Amy Richards