It was out of pure chance that we ended up, on a sunny weekday evening, at Giraffe alongside Reading's Riverside. In the heat of the last few weeks, our fridge finally decided to pack up and the food that was left inside had to be chucked out - (don't ask - it wasn't pretty). To console myself (and due to lack of fresh food) I decided to take us all out for a burger. (As you do). And so the four of us ended up at Giraffe.
As soon as we arrived, we were greeted by a member of staff who told us to choose where to sit, and he would bring over our menus. Which was where our 3 year-old decided to push out her bottom lip because she wanted to sit on an ORANGE chair (her favourite colour). No problem, he said - and brought one over. Which demonstrates just what the service at Giraffe is really like. Nothing's a big deal. You want to sit outside? Fine. You want an ORANGE chair, and a glass of ORANGE, with a little ORANGE plastic giraffe sticking out of it? That's fine, too. Everything's just so relaxed.
We all ordered burgers. One of the girls had a fishfinger burger; lettuce and fishfingers in a toasted bun with a generous portion of chips. Our youngest opted for a chicken burger - a chicken breast with lettuce and tomato in a toasted bun, also with chips. They actually have two sizes of children's meals - one for under 7's - and one for the older kids. This is brilliant, because it helps you to fit the menu to whatever appetite your child has, so you pay what you need to and reduce waste. The portions the girls got were still generous - and more importantly, they still managed to find room for pudding later on.
We ordered two Giraffe beef burgers, which came with chips and a little pot of chipotle mayonnaise. The chips were long, skinny and crunchy. The beef tasted charred on the outside, was juicy in the middle and actually really good. You can choose between a whole load of optional extras, like cheeses, avocado, onions or mushrooms to have in your burger too; I chose fried onions, which were red, glossy and sweet. Perfect.
Drink-wise, if you go, get the Teapigs fruit tea. My husband had this, while I had the fresh lemonade but although my drink was really zesty and refreshing, his iced tea was gorgeous, which meant that we all took it in turns to swipe it and nick some while he was pretending not to look.
Strangely, after the generously-proportioned main courses, the puddings seemed a little more modest. The girls chose ice cream 'sundaes', which came in the form of one scoop of vanilla ice cream - one with strawberry pieces scattered over the top and the other speared with a flake. We went for the apple crumble, which (as the menu suggested) was ample for the two of us to share, but came with only one scoop of vanilla ice cream in the centre, which meant much jabbing of spoons and secret swiping of ice cream while the other person really was looking away. The crumble itself was full of soft pieces of apple - sweet but not too sweet - with a crunchy topping.
The burgers at Giraffe were great. The main courses were just the right size - we're used to having Man vs Food moments in other restaurants, egging each other on to finish the last few doughy bites. We didn't need to here. We were full, but comfortably full. The puddings were fine - the girls' puds smaller than we expected - but to be honest, perfect for giving you that little refreshment before leaving, rather than you waddling out, trying not to make any sudden movements (TGI's, I'm looking at you). But what made us want to come back to Giraffe more than anything is the service. Nothing was too much trouble. The staff were attentive, funny and put us all at ease. And I think that's the difference between a good restaurant and a great one. You wouldn't want to eat at the poshest restaurant in the world if the staff were rude. And I bet they wouldn't give you an orange plastic giraffe in your drink, either.
Giraffe are situated on the Riverside, just outside the entrance of the Oracle. You'll find it on the Wagamama side. Tel: 01189 590101.