A bountiful Harvester at Prospect ParkBy Phil Creighton
June 23, 2010
The Mansion House, my friend Barbara told me while we were eating there on Sunday, used to be a pavilion. It’s hard for me to imagine – it’s always been a restaurant since I’ve been in town.
But one of the staples of Prospect Park, originally built by John Liebenrood, has had a range of uses, changing as our town has changed with it.
Now it’s a Harvester and a busy one at that. We visited on Sunday lunch time to find people queuing out of the doors and waiting for up to half-an-hour for a table. Given that the place seats hundreds, it’s very popular indeed.
One look at the menu, and you’ll see why. Order a main course, then choose a sauce and a side to go with it and also enjoy unlimited trips to the salad bar.
So for around £9 per person you can enjoy a real feast.
It’s also popular for families, possibly because the young ‘uns get their own great menu. We were really impressed: for £3.95 they enjoy a main course with a side dish and unlimited salad, with some healthy choices there. The mains include the delicious sounding risotto-stuffed mushroom and flame-grilled chicken, the latter of which our toddler choose. From mash, jacket potatoes, wedges, fries and baby spuds she went for the baby ones and, to accompany, she enjoyed green beans: her favourites.
Her desserts included fruit skewers (£1) but she wanted raspberry jelly (50p). She likes making it go wibbly-wobbly before consuming.
That unlimited salad deal is a real treat. The Harvester Salad Cart is huge and you could fill up on it alone: fresh veg, bread rolls, sauces and dips are all on offer and you can go back again and again. Given that it was always a bun fight when we got there, Jamie Oliver could take notes for his healthy eating campaign.
As we knew we were going to be in for a belt-busting main course, we gave the starters a miss – but we could have enjoyed tomato soup (£2.79), salmon and mozzarella fishcakes (£3.99) or nachos (£3.99).
There’s also an Earlybird menu which is now available all day. This also comes with unlimited salad and includes the Harvester burger (£4.99), fried chicken (£4.99) and meatball pasta with garlic bread (£5.49).
For our mains, Judith chose the Sunblush Mezzaluna Pasta (£6.49) from the vegetarian section. She loved the pasta parcels that were stuffed with ricotta and spinach. It came with a delicate caper and shallot dressing, but I felt it was more of a splodge of olive oil which made it greasy.
Barbara, inbetween telling us tales of Reading’s recent past, chose the flame-grilled salmon fillet (£7.99), which looked more like a fillet for four than one – huge portions with tasty mash and green beans.
I went for the 8oz rump steak (£8.99 and medium rare) and opted, for research purposes, to have chips with it. It came with a peppercorn sauce served in a tiny, handle-less and very hot jug. Although the beef was veering slightly more towards the well done side of things, it was still tasty.
Although full, we had to try the dessert menu, if only to keep Sarah Jane company with her wibbly wobbly jelly. My Honeycomb Explosion (£3.49) fused ice-cream with honeycomb, toffee and Belgian chocolate sauces and was quickly polished off. Judith and Barbara went for the similar Lemon Blizzard Sundae (£3.49), meringue and lemon sauce stood in for chocolate.
The staff were brilliant (and all seemed to be called Emma), but they were, unsurprisingly, over-worked. Getting served at the bar reminded me of being back in the Students’ Union – just two bar staff to handle far too many people. Poor Emma (our Emma anyway) had to wait on a lot of tables which meant she barely had time to catch her breath, let alone chat to us.
The food at Harvester will never win awards – it won’t even win a cricket trophy – but on the evidence we saw on Sunday, it’s still a hit for six with Reading’s families.
- Telephone: (0118) 950 5125
- Website: www.harvester.co.uk
- Address: The Mansion House, Prospect Park,