Miller & Carter (Reading)

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Black pearl scallops with pancetta, on a black pudding with a balsamic glaze

Chain restaurants are always the most difficult to analyse. It’s just hard to get excited about a group of restaurants that are bound by a strict menu and an abundance of corporate messages, both inside and out of the dining establishment. But to draw upon the most used cliché in the business world – this one ‘bucked the trend’.

Miller & Carter, the self-proclaimed ‘experts in steak’, has a pretty good idea of what works and what doesn’t. The menu was unpretentious yet well-thought out. If you want honest food and a nice atmosphere, it’ll be worth paying for.

We started with the black pearl scallops, on a black pudding with pancetta and a balsamic glaze. The scallops were slightly overcooked but there was a strong flavour combination and the rich black pudding sat well with the sweet balsamic glaze. The scallops, although a good match with the pancetta, lacked a bit of flavour, which would have been forgivable if they weren’t the centrepiece of the dish.

We then opted for the fillet steak. Despite being blinded by the incredibly well-polished cutlery, the steak was excellent. It really was. When you go to a steakhouse, if the steak isn’t perfect they’ve essentially got a business that’s dead in the water.

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Medium-rare 8oz fillet steak

But this was not the case. The medium-rare 8oz fillet was tender and accurately seasoned. I didn’t find myself cutting centimetres of fat away from the meat, only to leave it in a pile on the plate, so I was happy.

The only criticism of the main course was that the accompanying salad came out out far too early. The dressing had started to congeal.

The atmosphere, which is half the battle with any restaurant, was pleasant and accommodating and the service was sharp and attentive, without being obstructive and annoying.

If you’re looking for a good quality steakhouse, with a nice ambiance, then you won’t be disappointed by Miller & Carter. Although it’s a chain restaurant  – the well-cooked food, a nice atmosphere and helpful staff make it an independent dining establishment in its own right.

8/10