Reading is known as a business town and companies of all sizes are based here, from international giants such as Microsoft, PepsiCo, and Carbon Black to many UK companies headquarters, including Primark, John Lewis Partnership and Marks and Spencer to name but a few.
There is also plenty of history to boast about as the town can be traced back over 1000 years. During the medieval times is was one of the most important locations in Europe thanks to Reading Abbey. It was built by King Henry I of England. During the 18th and 19th centuries Reading was an industrial hub and has re-invented itself as a cornerstone of UK’s knowledge industry. Reading University, which ranks within the top 200 in the world very much adds to Reading’s reputation of excellence in research and innovation.
READING VENUES ARE SERVED BY EXCELLENT TRANSPORT LINKS
Superb transport links is one major advantage Reading enjoys, what even way you need to travel. Just 25 minutes from London direct on the Great Western Mainline. It’s also connected directly with central London, the City, and Docklands on the new Elizabeth Line. Reading can be reached direct from over 250 locations by rail, including Heathrow, just 45 minutes by the Elizabeth Line.
Luck wasn’t on our side in the afternoon of travelling to Reading by train, and some of us experienced delays and redirections due to signal failures. The problems were sorted fairly quickly and we all made the excellent evening programme that had been laid out for us.
DAY ONE OF OUR READING VENUE SHOWCASE
One of the selling point of Reading as an events and meetings destination is the central location of its new £900m railway station. All the venues on our visit were within a short 10 minute or so walk away from the station, no need to take taxis, making it more sustainable too. The Pentahotel Reading (4*) where we stayed, was within an easy and pleasant walk through the main shopping area. With 206 bedrooms, this six-floor concept hotel is designed with style, convenience and comfort in mind. We had a very comfortable stay and enjoyed the hearty breakfast buffet too.
The actual programme started with our wonderful hosts, Elaine Colley from MEET Beyond London, and Alex Brannen from Visit Reading greeting us over drinks at the hotel lobby. After introductions, Elaine and Alex run through the itinerary of our visit in a bit more detail and it was time to head over to our pre-dinner drinks at the Thames Lido at King’s Meadow, just a few minutes from the station again.
Wow what a gorgeously restored former Edwardian ladies swimming pool it is! We were met by co-owner Mark Thwaites who welcomed us at the Lido’s award-winning restaurant/cafe with glasses of bubbly and a delicious mock-mojito awaiting us. Mark told us about the fascinating history of the Lido and how it very nearly got abolished by the council before he and his business partner won the bid to rescue it and turn it into an adults only private members all year round pool and spa. We were shown around the sauna area as well as the light and very pleasant upstairs event space which accommodates 80 people for a standing event, or 56 seated.
One more tiny detail to add – upon leaving the Lido we bumped into Adjoa Andoh – Lady Danbury from Bridgeton! We are all in awe of her, and currently binging Queen Charlotte, so naturally we could’t leave without saying how much we adore her. She was very nice and stopped to chat for a while with us before sitting down with a friend to enjoy her supper at the Lido’s restaurant.
THE ROSEATE READING
Our next destination was The Roseate, Reading’s most Luxury Hotel, located in the beautiful former Shire Hall of Berkshire Council building. We were met by members of the Roseate’s regional and Reading events management team: Sheron Mugabe, Joana Ferreira and Charlotte Bailey who showed us what the hotel has to offer. The hotel was described by Evening Standard as the Sexiest townhouse hotel in the UK, that says a lot of its opulent Italian inspired interiors.
The newly built ‘House’ adjacent to the main hotel is perfect for both business and pleasure, with the latest technology and stylish surroundings. As you’d expect, the meetings and event rooms are very high standard and ideal for small to medium size meetings and events, accommodating up to 60 guests. There is also a luxury 30-seat private cinema ideal for corporate presentations or VIP guests.
After the tour we took in the small but very pretty courtyard garden to enjoy another small glass of bubbly before heading to The Reading Room Restaurant & Bar to enjoy dinner. We were in for a fantastic treat as the award-winning chefs spoilt us with the most exquisitely presented three-course dinner, with amuse-bouche of celeriac mousse to welcome us.
The creative dishes were not just beautifully presented, they were all braised for unbelievable taste too. I started with Orkney scallops with slow cooked pork belly, sweetcorn, ink tapioca, granny smith, curry oil emulsion. For my main I had Tandoori spicy monkfish served with Parisian potato, Parma ham, curried cauliflower, Cavolo Nero, tomato, and fenugreek. And for pudding Dark Chocolate delice, salted caramel popcorn, brandy snap, baileys ice cream. We we also served a delicious predessert strawberry and vanilla sorbet.
Without praising each dish separately, and they do deserve a special mention, I would just say that the dinner was outstanding. Every mouthful was simply delicious and perfectly cooked. Please make a note of dining here when you visit Reading!
DAY TWO OF READING VENUE SHOWCASE
On Friday, after breakfast we were shown around the array of the flexible Penta Plus meeting rooms and suites, with capacities of up to 250 theatre style. We particularly liked the Pentalounge – an inspired space for break time, dinnertime, or playtime – with pool tables and PlayStations.
READING TOWN HALL
We set off on foot of course to our first venue just minutes away, Reading Town Hall . This beautiful Grade II* listed building had recently been renovated to a very high standard. It boasts the largest theatre capacity in Reading. It makes a great location for large-scale conferences and special events such as awards nights. Its stunning Victorian Gothic facade provides the wow factor whilst its 700-seat state-of-the-art concert hall speaks for itself.
CROWNE PLAZA READING
Next stop the Crowne Plaza Reading on the banks of the Thames. Even before stepping through the glass entrance you are treated by fantastic views of the River Thames. The beautiful open space lounge and restaurant area is an impressive welcome to this 4* hotel. Raluca Pop, Director of Sales welcomed us with the General Manager and showed us around the event spaces and a standard room, plus a very impressive second floor suite, all of which enjoy a balcony overlooking the river. The hotel has a large gym and a spa with a pool making it a great choice for those wanting to keep up with their wellness routine.
A light but very delicious lunch followed ahead of our final stop of this Reading Venue Showcase.
THAMES RIVER CRUISE
The Caversham Pier, where we boarded the Thames River Cruise, is at the end of the Crowne Plaza’s terrace. We were greeted by the captain and crew and also introduced to a few more local businesses that had joined us on the cruise to tell us about their venues. We heard from Hilton Reading, De Vere Wokefield Estate, Reading Football Club, The Pavillion Reading and VoCo Hotel.
It was a perfect ending to a really well organised and informative fam trip to see Reading.
Huge thanks to Elaine from MEET Beyond London and Alex from Visit Reading!
WHO IS MEET BEYOND LONDON
MEET Beyond London (MBL) is run by the tourism body- Tourism South East, and is dedicated to inspiring event planners, and showcasing the array of unique destinations and high-quality event venues around South East England that rival London. From grand castles to contemporary museums.
If you are looking to escape the ordinary and explore unique conference and event spaces beyond the city, MEET Beyond London’s free, user-friendly website allows you to seamlessly browse venues, and gain access to a range of helpful, resources including the all-new capacity finder tool.
WHO IS VISIT READING?
Managed by REDA – Reading Economy and Destination Agency, Visit Reading is the official tourism arm for Reading and the wider Reading region. The website promotes, and areas to explore. It also has a dedicated Meetings and Event section dedicated to showcasing the large array of quality conference and event spaces outside of London.