Workhouse Coffee, Oxford Road

The exterior of Workhouse Coffee Company on the corner of Oxford and Edinburgh RoadsWest Reading is not somewhere I’d automatically associate with fine coffee, but I’d heard good things about the Workhouse Coffee Company, so when the basketball club had a game against the Reading Rockets, it was the perfect excuse to check it out. It was also just after Workhouse was named in the Independent’s Top 50 independent coffee shops list, so I was keen to see what the fuss was all about.

What I found was a delightful little coffee shop, perched on a corner at the end of a row of shops. Inside it is wood and white paint, which, coupled with the large windows on two of the four walls, give it an amazing sense of space. As well as being a fabulous place to drink coffee, it’s also very serious about its coffee, being a roaster as well as a coffee shop, with beans on sale and a range of drinks, including a cafetiere for two and a pour-over filter.

There is a small but lovely-looking range of cakes, along with the usual pastries. Finally, there’s a range of sandwiches, Panini and filled croissants, along with pasties and sausage rolls in case you get hungry.

You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.

  • On the corner of Oxford and Edinburgh Roads, perched at the end of a row of shops, you will find the Workhouse Coffee Company
  • A better view of the exterior
  • Inside you are greeted by coffee and cake, the ideal combination
  • There are coffee beans. For all I've been told about about needing to keep beans airtight and out of the light, Workhouse is happy to have them in open trays...
  • The row of pour-over filter cones in the window.
  • A closer look at the espresso machine.
  • The interestingly located menu on the wall opposite the counter.
  • Down to business: my espresso, served in a classic white cup
  • And a delicious slice of baked cheesecake.
  • My espresso sneaks a look around the place.
  • A better view from the table in the corner.
  • And so onto the pour-over filter. I didn't need the milk in the end, but it caused an interesting dilemma...
  • ... which way to line up the handle and the spout? The perils of the coffee blogger!
  • Sod it, just chuck in a slice of chocolate cake and hope no-one will notice!
  • By this time I'd moved tables (I was taking up too much space). Here my coffee takes in the new view.
  • There was a lot I liked about Workhouse: the light-fittings, for instance.
  • Worth a closer look...
  • As you can tell, I really liked the light-fittings...
  • A view of the interior from the back.
  • Another view of the interior.
  • And the seats by the window
  • The bar at the back
  • And the comfy bench in the corner.
  • And finally I really like this shot for some reason...
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The first thing to say is that Workhouse is not huge, but has resisted the temptation to cram too much in. This, coupled with lots of windows, gives it a feeling of light and space, even on the grey Sunday afternoon I was there. Even if I hadn’t known about it, if I was wandering down Oxford Road, I would have been tempted to pop in.

Inside you are faced by a long counter/bar with the cakes, pastries and coffee beans laid out temptingly before you. Beyond a gap in the bar, you can sit at the counter opposite the espresso machine. The rest of the seating is arranged around the opposite walls, but be aware that the layout is changing soon (so I’ve been told)!

There are a couple of small, round tables by the door with stools, then a couple of square tables at the back with a nice padded bench and another small bar with some stools. In all, you could squeeze maybe 20 people in. One unique feature is a foldaway table and some small chairs that you can take outside if you want. Personally I wouldn’t want to sit on the pavement on Oxford Road, but if you’re a smoker, it’s a nice touch.

One strange feature, largely dictated by the space/layout, is that the menu is on the wall opposite the counter. As a result, I only saw it after I’d ordered and sat down! Despite this minor setback, the overall result is a lovely space to sit and drink coffee.

So, to the coffee: Workhouse is also a roaster, so, as well as the usual range of espresso-based drinks, Workhouse has a range of its own beans available as either a cafetiere for two or individually as pour-over filters. Naturally you can also buy the beans.

Purely in the interests of research, I sampled as much as I could. I started off with an espresso, then moved onto the filter with the Guatemalan bean. All the crockery was plain white, very much in keeping with the décor, which pleased me no end. Both coffees were well made and I enjoyed them, but they will appeal more to those who have subtler tastes than me.

I also gave the cakes a try, starting with a lovely-looking baked cheesecake. Since it was the last slice it seemed only right that I should have it. Fortunately it tasted just as good as it looked: rich, creamy and as good as I’ve had (actually I was tricked; it was the last on display, but more was put out later. Very sneaky!). I also sampled some chocolate cake. It was sitting on the counter labelled “Try Me”. It would have been rude not to. It was equally lovely, rich and moist with chocolate chunks: the ideal chocolate cake?

Workhouse was busy without being crowded while I was there and it’s got some fiercely loyal customers who told me how wonderful it was. There’s also a much bigger branch, King Street, in central Reading and it’s a very Cosmopolitan outfit with an Aussie owner and German manager. The barista on my visit was a Filipino and the others are a Pole, Canadian, American and Romanian!

335 OXFORD ROAD • READING • RG30 1AY
www.workhousecoffee.co.uk +44 (0) 118 956 8300
Monday 08:00 – 18:00 Seating Tables, Bar
Tuesday 08:00 – 18:00 Food Sandwiches, cake
Wednesday 08:00 – 18:00 Service Order at Counter
Thursday 08:00 – 18:00 Cards Cash Only
Friday 08:00 – 18:00 Wifi No
Saturday 09:00 – 18:00 Power No
Sunday 10:00 – 18:00 Mobile 2G/3G, Voice
Chain Local Visits 6th January 2013

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