Since opening in March 2006, Cerise, the restaurant stowed in the basement of The Forbury Hotel, has quickly established itself as a favourite among professionals in the area and food lovers alike, it was even shortlisted as Best Newcomer in Tatler's Restaurant Awards 2007. The Shire Hall in a previous incarnation, this attractive listed building is a hidden gem of a boutique hotel, tucked away in a relative oasis of calm in an otherwise bustling Reading town centre. With 23 beautiful bedrooms, decor that tastefully combines the traditional with the contemporary, and its own private 30-seat cinema, The Forbury certainly has many attributes to be proud of. Overlooking the Forbury Gardens and close to the historic abbey ruins, this is the perfect place to indulge in a spot of fine dining.
As a backdrop to the main dining area, there is a small but welcoming bar area serving a variety of bottled beers and spirits. Decor is plush but with a stylish edge - solid wooden floors and subtle shades combine with splashes of colour and bold prints - the effect is understated elegance, and in keeping with the rest of the hotel's luxurious style.
For starters I chose the seared Scottish scallops with pork belly gently fried in butter, pancetta and potato espuma, which served to excite the tastebuds and whet the appetite for my main course of seared fillet of line-caught sea bass with basil and crab tortellini, tomato jelly, aioli and balsamic, both perfectly complemented by the 2006 Gavi di Gavi Vigneti Lugarara, from La Giustiniana. Meanwhile my usually critical companion gave unqualified approval to the tartare of Aberdeen Angus beef, quail eggs, caviar and baby leaves starter; and a main course of roast rump of Cornish lamb and confit shoulder with spinach pureť and sun-blushed cherry tomatoes, nicely washed down by a 2003 Barossa Ned and Henry shiraz. To round off a most enjoyable evening, I tried the ingenious combination of Valhrona chocolate fondant with cardamom ice cream. With restaurants like this, sooner or later Reading's long sought after city status will finally be realised.
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