When Roberto and Luana moved to Winnersh, they didn’t just want to cook satisfying Italian food. They wanted also to restore a welcoming environment to the Pheasant Inn — a restaurant, pub and hotel that had become blighted by a rough reputation.
Roberto told me of his experiences eating and cooking in Michelin-starred restaurants around the world. He trained in Paris and has worked in Chicago, London and elsewhere.
In Winnersh, just a few miles outside Reading, the duo deliver a passion for service and high-class gastronomy steeped in Tuscan flavour. He prepares the mains, she creates the desserts.
The pub may still look like a pub, but the dining experience transports you to the heart of Italy (and a bit of Britain, if you wish).
My boyfriend Iain and I started with fresh olives marinated in herbs and chili. Iain next enjoyed a delicious goat’s cheese tartlet. Baked butternut squash, leek, sun dried tomatoes and a tomato bruschetta salad accompanied.
I revelled in a Rome-style bruschetta. The brushetta featured grilled homemade sourdough bread with tomatoes, garlic, basil pesto, spring onions and extra virgin olive oil.
For my main, I had sirloin steak and chips. The succulent meat came with roasted vegetables, triple-cooked chips and
baked onions infused with honey and black pepper. Roberto prepares a choice of fine sauces: red wine and port reduction with blue cheese Gorgonzola dolce or creamy green pepper and cognac. From sauce to steak, the flavours balanced one another for a decadent dining experience.
Iain enjoyed asparagus and cheese ravioli. Topped with fresh basil and tomato sauce, the homemade pasta revealed an impressively soft and rich taste so good it could shelve store-bought pasta any day.
For a sweet ending to an evening of sweet service, Iain chose Amaretto Tiramisu, a finger biscuit with amaretto and coffee, mascarpone cheese and chocolate. I had a caramelized lemon Bakewell tart – smooth, sour and sweet, and at all the right levels.
- If you’re up for a treat, try the banana- and berry-flavoured Palesa Pinotage wine. Guests get a free bottle of wine with their meal if they book a room for £49.50. Or, for £79.50, two people can dine and stay overnight. Visit http://www.the-pheasant-hotel.co.uk or call 0118 978 4529
- For more ideas on great places to eat in Reading, sink those buds into some other Reading restaurant features.