Today’s Coffee Spot marks something of a first for me. Up until now, I’ve been revisiting existing Coffee Spots as they reopen following England’s easing of COVID-19 restrictions. In contrast, The Gardens of Caversham, the latest venture from Reading’s Workhouse Coffee, is somewhere I’ve never been before, although I’ve been aware of it since it opened early last year. So, when I was in Reading last week, I headed across the Thames to say hello.
The Gardens of Caversham is on the right-hand side as you go north over Caversham Bridge, directly opposite the junction with the A4074. Initially it reopened for takeaway service in June, reopening the indoor seating just two weeks ago, although the staff said that the current seating provision is considerably reduced compared to pre-COVID times. The coffee offering, however, is as extensive as ever, with a healthy selection of beans for sale as well, all roasted in-house.
When it comes to food, there’s a wide range of cakes and pre-prepared savouries, all baked in the kitchen at the back, although the more extensive breakfast and lunch menus are on hold for now. Also, keep an eye on opening times, which are under constant review.
You can read more of my thoughts after the gallery.
The first task is finding The Gardens of Caversham since, other than the A-board, it’s fairly anonymous from the outside. Occupying the ground floor of a three-storey townhouse, it has three tall, arched windows running across the front, although the left-hand one now houses the door. Even though I was looking for it, I walked past the first time, since I was approaching on the wrong side of the road.
Although the building looks fairly shallow, when you step inside, you realise that The Gardens of Caversham is an awful lot bigger than it appears, thanks to a ground floor extension that goes a long way back. The large counter, on the left-hand side, is set back from a little way from door and runs the remaining length of the wall. The seating, meanwhile, is in an L-shape, starting in the window and then running the full length of the right-hand wall. This has only recently been reinstated and, if you look carefully, you can still see the tape on the floor, marking out the old one-way system for the takeaway-only service that was in operation for the first month.
At the back, where the counter ends, is what you would expect to be the back wall of the house. Instead, this is where the extension kicks in. On the left, beyond the counter, is the enclosed kitchen, where all the baking is done for all three Workshops (this one, King Street, in the centre of town, and the original on Oxford Road), including all the sweet and savoury products currently on offer. Opposite that, on the right, is a cosy, windowless seating area which used to hold a large, communal table, currently the victim of COVID-19 restrictions. In its place is a smaller, two-person table facing the right-hand wall.
It’s a similar story in the main body of the coffee shop, where the seating has been thinned out to maintain social distancing. Even so, there’s still a reasonable choice, with a pair of small, round two-person tables at the front (one for each pillar between the window arches) and four tables along a long, padded bench that runs the length of the right-hand wall. There’s a four-person table at either end, with two two-person tables in the middle.
By the time I reached The Gardens of Caversham, it was close to closing time, at the end of a long, highly-caffeinated day, so I ordered a decaf flat white, which the staff made in my HuskeeCup (like everywhere I visited in Reading that day, The Gardens of Caversham was only serving in disposable cups, although it was the only one that took my reusable cup). As well as the decaf, The Gardens of Caversham had its coffee of the week (Brazil Daterra) on espresso, along with the Ned Kelly blend and the Pixcaya, a single-origin coffee from Guatemala (I think). Meanwhile, several blends and single-origins are available as pour-overs.
My flat white was rich and smooth, the coffee in harmony with the milk. I paired this with the last slice of carrot cake, which was excellent, the rich, moist cake the perfect companion for the creamy icing. Finally, I picked up a bag of the Brazil Daterra, which has been going down a treat through my cafetiere every morning since.
December 2020: The Gardens of Caversham was a runner-up for the 2020 Best Cake Award.
|15 BRIDGE STREET • READING • RG4 8AF|
|Monday||09:30 – 15:30||Roaster||Workhouse Coffee (espresso + filter)|
|Tuesday||09:30 – 15:30||Seating||Tables|
|Wednesday||09:30 – 15:30||Food||Cake, Savouries|
|Thursday||09:30 – 15:30||Service||Counter|
|Friday||09:30 – 15:30||Payment||Cards Only|
|Saturday||09:30 – 15:30||Wifi||No|
|Sunday||09:30 – 15:30||Power||No|
|Chain||Local||Visits||28th July 2020|
Please note that the opening times are temporary due to COVID-19. Please check with Workhouse Coffee for accurate times before visiting.
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