Review: The Fisherman's Cottage

Tuesday, 4 August 2015
We've lived in Reading for nearly eight years now and it's fair to say that the local pubs have struggled somewhat - a couple have changed hands a few times, a couple have been closed for years and one has been converted into a restaurant.

I'm not sure if coffee has overtaken alcohol as the drink of choice (or maybe that's just my perception these days!) or if the fees on alcohol are just too high for pubs to make a decent profit out of it.  It seems to me that more and more, pubs need to focus on their food offerings.

When we first moved here, the Fisherman's Cottage was pretty run down.  I remember once asking for a glass of white wine and being given a glass of port.  It was vile - and asking to have it replaced lead to the very same mistake... We went a few times before we had the kids but it wasn't a favourite and once D came along it dropped out of even rare visits.  It always seemed like a massive shame - the location is fantastic - facing the canal and with a decent footfall of people travelling to town or out to Thames Valley Park.

It then changed hands and the new landlord tried hard.  He tidied the place up a bit and tried to get in an array of chefs and engaged with the local community.... but we only went in the once as it didn't seem to have changed enough and didn't seem all that family friendly.

Last year, the Wesnes family took over and embarked on a huge refurbishment job.  Although they could have pushed for an earlier opening to maximise on the summer trade, they made sure that the pub was entirely ready before opening - making the place feel lighter, airier and more like a romantic image of a fisherman's cottage.  They worked hard on the outside space too - the back has been cut down to a smaller area featuring little booths like seaside huts and the front tables have all had a facelift too.

Since all of this work, we've been in four times (and there are few places in Reading that I can say that about).  The first was at launch where we had some fantastic food including massive onion bhajis and some of the best garlic aioli I've ever had alongside shoestring fries.

Then it all went a little quiet on the food front as they had some staffing issues in their kitchen.  When a menu was introduced it didn't feature any vegetarian options at all.  While I found it somewhat frustrating, I recognise that everything that the family have been doing has been done slowly slowly in order to get it right.

They do now have a slightly more vegetarian friendly menu - although they are pretty focused on fish and chips for obvious reasons.  They've replaced those shoestring fries with thicker cut chips and I feel this is inkeeping with the style - although I very much miss that aioli.

Vegetarians have a good burger available - featuring butternut squash.  It's good that the option is a little different from the same old same old.  It's tasty and well presented with a good juicy coleslaw on the side.  The burger has just the right amount of salad and trendy brioche bun - although I'd love to see something with a bit more kick.

Unfortunately, for veggies, there isn't a whole lot else on the mains menu.  There is a cheese baguette and a mozzarella salad but that's it.  The specials I've seen so far have been mostly Thai curries that look amazing and smell completely tantalising but are all meat based.  

There are a few starter type options - we really enjoyed these crispy jalapeño poppers and felt that the garlic bread was a little bit dull but passable.  

You may feel I'm a little negative here but I should make it clear - I love this place.  I'm extremely glad that they have turned a pub that really didn't appeal to us to a place where we feel completely welcome and at ease.  The staff are fantastic - always making you feel like you are part of the extended family - the extended family that you don't see all so often but really enjoy catching up with.  The drinks menu is good.  I've sampled the red wine and Mr K has been really impressed with the regularly changing beer menu - including a Slovakian one a while back.  It's clear that the staff are knowledgeable about their beer and I've rarely felt more welcome in a restaurant with children.  There is a good selection of toys available and a reasonable kids menu featuring one of the largest pieces of 'kids' fish that I've ever seen.  D's eyes lit up and I can't blame him at all.  

I'd just like to see a bit more choice for vegetarians.  I'd love to see those bhajis and the aioli back on the menu.  I really hope that the Wesnes family continue to take the Fisherman's from strength to strength.  They've done a great job so far.  

Looking for a local but not that local to me?  How about: -
The Butlers Arms in Sutton Coldfield (I think I'd be in heaven with an almond pannacotta!)
The Deerstalker Bar and Bistro in Portrush (some gorgeous surroundings to eat in)
The Pointer in Brill (where I would happily dive into that pea soup)
or how about London's first vegetarian pub?  I have to admit that I'm drooling thinking about all of the options there.

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