Monday, 14 September 2015

Food: Lunch at Itsu, Reading

I don’t know what planet I’ve been living on, but somehow I’ve only become familiar with Itsu recently. Over the past few months I’ve been into London a lot more regularly, for interviews, theatre trips and visiting friends who are gradually all moving there, and I started to notice that there are Itsu stores all over the city.

I don’t know how many times I stared through the windows, drooling over the amazing smells and wishing there was one closer to home so I’d have an excuse to swap my homemade cheese sandwich for some yummy noodles.

So imagine my excitement when Itsu got in contact about the opening of their new store in Reading and invited me down to try out some food.

Itsu is all about the mantra “eat beautiful” and its menu, which is inspired by “flavours of the Far East”, is full of food high in nutrients and low in calories and saturated fat. The other great thing about Itsu, is that the dishes are all freshly prepared each day.

Before I visited the Reading store, Itsu kindly sent me a goody box full of snacks, as a little taster of the kind of things they sell alongside their fresh food. Snacking is my favourite method of eating, so I was in my element trying all of these out. Wait, did you say something about sharing?!

First up I tried out the Metcalfe’s snacks. Now, it’s no secret that I love popcorn (it’s usually my snack of choice), but I’d never actually tried the honey-flavoured variety before. It hasn’t managed to throw salted of top spot for me, but it’s a great alternative for those days when I’ve got more of a sweet tooth. And the dark chocolate corncakes are perfect for fulfilling any biscuit cravings.

Also in the goody box was a selection of Itsu’s own snacks. Being more of a milk chocolate girl, I preferred Itsu’s rice cakes to the Metcalfe’s, and the honey cashews disappeared within minutes. This was my first time trying edamame beans, so I wasn’t sure if I would like them or not, but actually they just added a crunchy texture to the yoghurt coating, rather than offering any real flavour. As for the crispy seaweed thins, I wasn’t a massive fan, and neither was anyone else I offered them to, but maybe that’s an acquired taste?

I headed to Itsu at about 1pm on a weekday and it was busy with workers on their lunch hour and people taking a break from shopping. Luckily, Itsu Reading has another floor upstairs, so there was plenty of room to sit.

The store feels really bright, spacious and clean thanks to the huge windows and mirrored walls. All of the seating is at communal tables with high stools, and the décor is simple but works really well for the space.

I took Tom along with me, and between us we chose the salmon & avo maki rolls, chicken teriyaki, chicken Jaipur noodles, the purify raw green veg juice and an elderflower pressé.

I also couldn’t resist picking up another bag of popcorn and opted for the wasabi glaze, which I loved even more than the honey one. There were also USB sockets at every table, which is a great bonus for workers, shoppers and bloggers alike.

I should probably point out that I’d never tried sushi before as I’m not a big fish eater, but I was feeling adventurous so I tried a bit of the salmon. I can now confirm that I’m still not a member of the fish fan club, but Tom loves sushi and he assured me that the salmon & avo maki rolls were great.

Up next were the chicken Jaipur noodles. I’d wanted to try these for a long time, and they did not disappoint. Full of chicken, veg and noodles and just the right amount of spicy, we were fighting over the final mouthfuls of this one. My only question is: how does one eat such a dish in a sophisticated manor? Even using the spork the noodles were beyond my control and I ended up splattering my white jumper with sauce.

The chicken teriyaki was another great success, and it’s definitely ideal for picking up on your lunch hour if you want a healthy cold option. I’m hungry just thinking about it.

I wouldn’t say I loved the purify raw green veg juice, but you get what you ask for with the healthy juice options!

Big thanks to Itsu for inviting me over to the Reading store, I was really impressed by my first visit and will definitely be back soon to try out more of the menu.

Have you been to Itsu before? What are your favourite dishes?

*I was gifted the goody box and lunch in exchange for a review, but all opinions are entirely my own.

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