After only two visits, The Reading Room restaurant has easily become one of my favorite dining destinations in St. Pete. Everything about this place excites me: the beautiful outside gardens, cool vibe, hip decor and especially the fantastic FOOD.
Seriously, what’s not to love?
I must admit it’s more of a special occasion restaurant than an every weekend type of place. Unless you’re working with a much larger budget than I am. In which case, you should be going all of the time because it’s that good.
The menu is laid out like a book so it’s divided into chapters to keep with the “reading room” theme – the building was formerly a Christian Science Reading Room. Chapter I are the starters, Chapter II has fairly larger plates and so on and so forth.
There are so many questions surrounding the food scene in Tampa Bay and where the food in our restaurants really comes from (Farm to Fable anyone?). What I love about the Reading Room restaurant is that you can actually SEE the veggie gardens and that they base the dishes on what’s growing just a hundred feet from the kitchen. The freshness of the food is undeniable and it’s very clear why.
If they can’t get the ingredients from their gardens they look to other local and organic farmers in the area, such as Brick Street Farms. So they make their best efforts to locally source the food whenever possible.
Speaking of the garden, I highly recommend showing up a half hour before your reservation (yes, you’ll need one) to have a drink on the patio. It’s lush and large which makes it fun to peruse while trying to guess what each of the plant beds contain.
Something to know before you go…The Reading Room serves only beer and wine. BUT, that doesn’t mean they can’t make a great cocktail.
Using mostly wines, vermouth and aperitifs (non-distilled liquors don’t count) as the star ingredient, the head bartender got creative and curated the loveliest cocktail list. I promise you won’t miss the liquor.
The First Things First combines contratto aperitif, Prosseco and bitters. In Italy this would be considered an “aperitivo”, a pre-dinner drink with palate cleansing qualities meant to be sipped on while socializing with friends. Which is exactly how I enjoyed this bubbly beverage (remember my tip above about having a drink in the garden? DO IT).
My friend wanted a drink closer to an Old Fashioned so he went with the Slippery Slopes. Carpano Vermouths, Burnt Orange, Cream Soda and Ginger served with a slice of orange zest over a big ball of ice.
Now to the most important part, THE FOOD. I will just start by saying it’s melt in your mouth, to-die-for good.
To give you some perspective, we were dining a group of six people and celebrating a 30th birthday so we went kinda nuts ordering. Which is the best way to do it.
They offer three “Cheeses”, so naturally we got all three. I’m not a cheese connoisseur so I will leave it at that this: one was rich and creamy, another was an intense blue and the third was harder than the formers. All three were wonderful. Especially accompanied by their “thoughtful pairings” as the menu states.
House-made mozzarella and burrata is my jam. If you aren’t familiar with burrata, it’s mozzarella on the outside and creamy ricotta on the inside. Unbelievably delicious especially when made as fresh as it is at The Reading Room. It’s served with crunchy carrots, celery bread and smoked almonds. This small plate is just the right size for a light bite before the main dish.
Recommended by the waitress was the Marrow + Egg Toast who compared it to a savory french toast. Bone marrow soaked potato bread topped with a perfectly cooked over-easy egg. The radicchio added a crisp freshness, some color and a nice crunch. We actually ordered two of these for the table. Great decision.
After enjoying all the shareable appetizer-like dish plates, aka the ones from Chapter I – IV, it was time for our main dish: the Steak (which my boyfriend and I split FYI). Up until recently, I barely ate red meat. However, something has come over me in the past couple months and I just can’t. get. enough. steak.
This ended up being my favorite dish of the night. The steak was cooked to the perfect medium-rare temperature. Plenty of tender strips atop charred broccoli, peas and broken rice in the most flavorful broth. A piece of creamy egg butter laid on top that melted with the meat in your mouth. Not sure what egg butter is but I want more of it soon.
Admittedly, we were full from so much food at dinner. But, who can turn down a few sweet bites of decadent dessert? Certainly not me.
The brown butter spice cake was topped with a refreshing carrot sorbet. Perhaps that sounds odd but it definitely didn’t taste odd. A cream cheese schmear coated the bottom of the plate. An interesting and yummy take on carrot cake.
Last but not certainly not least was the Sundae. Made up of deconstructed waffle, multiple kinds of ice cream, peanuts and chocolate sauce (the “Usually Suspects” per the menu). Seemingly a normal dessert but as you may have guessed, it was much more than that.
Didn’t regret one bite of this exquisite meal at the Reading Room restaurant. Already looking forward to my next visit.
The Reading Room
Hours: Wed – Sat 5 – 10pm; Sun 4:30 – 9pm; Closed Mon & Tues