Alto Lounge, 32-32A Church St, Caversham, Reading, RG4 8AU.
‘Alto’ means ‘high’ in Italian. And that’s the state we’d have to be in to go back into Alto Lounge. So, yeah – SPOILER ALERT: We don’t much care for this Caversham ‘café bar’. And we’ll tell you for why in a minute. One of more than seventy ‘Loungers’ across the country, this place has sat on Church Street pretending to be a bar and a ‘café’ and a restaurant and a tapas place and God knows what else for far too long. So we’re going to do our bit to get rid of it by murdering it in this review. Cheers!
Drink Selection: Toss. They’ve had the same ol’ bloody draughts in there for YEARS now. The bottle selection isn’t great and of the four or five draught selections there, two were off when we last went in. And didn’t reappear all evening, despite there being three bar staff working. We settled for flat Becks Vier in the end. *thumbs up*
Punterwatch: Parents. Alto Lounge is seemingly some sort of agreed hotspot for posh young mums and dads to gather and fawn over their annoying spawn. It’s also a place for people who can’t handle real pubs – a ‘safe zone’, if you like. And people who like flat Becks Vier.
Atmosphere: Minimal. It has its busy spells – especially over the weekend. But there’s not much atmos created by a few tables of middles class moms in deck shoes breastfeeding their babies while reading The Observer and tutting about Brexit.
Food: Now, a few years ago, you’d get some half decent grub here. Breakfasts, especially. And maybe you still can. But we bloody well couldn’t when we went. Here’s what we ate…
Now, on the left – that’s how the ‘buttermilk friend chicken’ came. Over a tenner that was. One puny chicken stripper thing. We had to ask the waiter if it was a mistake or a kid’s meal. Apparently it was neither.
On the right? That’s half of a ‘hero’ burger. At over twelve quid. Look at it. Then look at the fork for scale. ‘Hero’ burger. ‘HERO’!
Price: Too much. If the food, drink and service were better (or even just average), it wouldn’t stick in the craw so much. But everything’s just that ever-so-slightly too much and it rankles. It rankles your craw, whatever the fuck that means.
Decor: ‘Kooky’. Well, it was when it first opened up. Now it just looks tired. Old photographs with no theme or narrative crowd the walls. It’s like a car boot sale at Frankie & Benny’s Head Office. Look out for the picture of the granny kissing a budgie that looks like she’s fellating a marital aid, though. That always tickles us, anyway.
Pub Games: It’s not a pub, so we wouldn’t expect dart boards or pool tables. There’s a table of tatty old board games next to the complimentary papers. And a decent enough quiz on Sunday evenings. The quiz proves popular, though – so you might want to get in earlyish to bag a table.
Beer Garden/Smoking Area: You can smoke outside to dirty looks from parental patrons if you dare.
Other Reviews: We’re nothing if not fair here at SaNSPiR. So, for a little balance, we thought we’d share a few other reviews of the place with you. Get Reading liked it, giving it four stars. But then they like everything. Especially IKEA. RDG’s premier food reviewer Edible Reading had some encouraging things to say too (though not many). So there you go. BALANCE.
Kirstie Allsopp off of the telly said this on her visit: ‘this place deserves to suceed, it’s great.’ That was her spelling, by the way – not ours. If you’ve ever seen any of Allsopp televisual output, you’ll know that she’s a dull, middle class mumsy bore who rattles on endlessly about mortgages and banisters. And that’s exactly the demographic you’ll find in Alto Lounge.
So if you’re a boring posh parent who likes to discuss how expensive their pram is, then by all means – go to The Alto Lounge. In fact, go there, stay there and never go anywhere else. You dreary, self-obsessed, breeding dullard.
*double thumbs up*