Where's the best greasy spoon in Reading?By Nathan Evans
December 03, 2012
Nathan Evans loves Take Me Out and the Mail Online sidebar
…and while he might feel bad about it, he’s making no apologies for a greasy spoon he’s found
I’m a man with many guilty pleasures – so many, in fact, that I’m not sure I really feel guilty about them any more. Take Me Out, for instance, or Mrs Brown’s Boys. That new single by Taylor Swift. The sidebar of the Daily Mail website.
My latest, though, is the Hot Snack Café – and it’s all guilt, all pleasure.
It’s a Portakabin on the industrial estate where I work and it’s the epitome of the greasy spoon. The car park’s full of white vans. The tea’s out of an urn.
The mugs on the counter wall have the flag of St George on them.There’s a red top tabloid on every formica table, and I bet if you looked the crossword would be half-completed in all of them.
The furniture’s all screwed to the floor and the TV, mounted to the wall, plays music videos just loud enough.
And the food? The food’s magnificent.
When it’s done right, there’s something magical about a greasy spoon breakfast – bacon slightly charred on a grill, yolk soaking into cheap white toast, some nameless brand of brown sauce in a squeezy bottle.
The Hot Snack Café has all that in spades (the menu up on the wall also says “try our omelettes”, but I bet nobody takes that seriously).
It saddens me that I haven’t found the perfect breakfast in Reading. Bill’s is okay, but the service puts me right off.
Carluccio’s is great – thin, almost-translucent crispy pancetta, soft herby scrambled eggs and delicious wild mushrooms, all on toasted ciabatta – but it’s not a full English, it’s an upmarket reimagining of one.
I’ve heard great things about Alto Lounge, but it’s too far across town. The classic greasy spoons – Munchees, The Gorge – have never quite done it for me.
It’s a pity. A good breakfast place is a must because, of all meals, the full English is the one that feels least acceptable to cook at home: too many calories, too many elements to juggle, too much washing up.
Until I find one, the Hot Snack Café will have to do.
I was there last week with my friend Wendy; apart from the surly lady behind the counter I think she may be the first woman to ever set foot in the place.
“I love a good breakfast.” I said. “But everything has to be right. I prefer streaky to back.”
“You’re wrong. Back bacon can be great in a breakfast.”
“I couldn’t have sausages like those, that would put me right off.” I said, pointing at hers with my fork, Grange Hill style.
They were the kind of cheap sausages where, during cooking, the skin pulls away from the tip in a way best described as all kinds of wrong.
“They’re the nicest bit!”
“No way. Look at them, they’re really smooth on the inside. You just know they’re all eyelids and a***holes.”
“You’re missing out, Evans. Sometimes you need a taste of council estate meat.”
I could think of plenty of ways to reply to that, but decided it might be best not to.
Anyway, at that point Wendy started enthusing about the childhood delights of Findus Crispy Pancakes, Vesta Chow Mein and Prince’s Bacon Grill in a tin, and said she was going to look them up on the Tesco website that afternoon.
In fact, I began to worry that lunch might turn out to be her most nutritious meal all week. These guilty pleasures have a habit of spiralling out of control, after all.
I couldn’t judge her – I’m partial to a Fray Bentos myself, against my better judgment.