It was revealed last year that famous US fast food giant Wendy’s was to open new restaurants in the UK for the first time since 1999.
And the very first restaurant in the entire country is here in Reading.
From today, June 2, people in the town will be able to tuck into the likes of the Baconator, Sam’s single, double and triples, the famous chocolate Frosty and various other fast food offerings.
The UK menu will also have unique items available only in this country like Veggie Bites, and the Veggie Stack burger.
Wendy’s recently became American’s second most popular fast food outlet when it overtook Burger King to take the spot behind McDonald’s.
Now, it has come to the UK.
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Reading’s branch is the first, which will be followed by more branches in Stratford-upon-Avon and Oxford.
But the real question is, what’s it like?
People who have tried it in America have raved about it, and Wendy’s seems to go out of its way to stress its commitment to using fresh ingredients.
BerkshireLive’s Hugh Fort went along to try a range of the items on offer.
First UK branch of Wendy’s
Now, I’d like to make it clear, I did not eat all of every item in this picture, which would have resulted in a probably overwhelming urge for an afternoon nap.
What I did do, with the help of the willing photographer Grahame Larter, who jumped at the chance of joining me in a bit of face-stuffing in Reading, is try quite a few of the items on offer at Wendy’s.
The new restaurant in Reading isn’t the biggest, but it’s well laid out, with screens and smaller tables, as well as a bigger table right in the middle for larger groups.
There are many screens dotted around, and an efficient looking service area, behind which is the kitchen.
A trip inside the kitchen was out of the question due to covid -related safety reasons, but our orders arrived quickly.
We ordered, a Baconator meal (burger, fries, chocolate frosty), a spicy chicken sandwich, veggie bites, a Dave’s triple. and a chicken avocado salad.
Again, to reiterate, we didn’t eat all of it.
The first thing that struck me about it all was that the food was actually hot, rather than at places like McDonald’s where you often get the impression your Big Mac has been sitting around for half an hour.
The second thing you notice is that Wendy’s burgers are square.
I’m not sure this makes much difference to the taste, but it’s certainly a unique selling point.
The Baconator is Wendy’s most famous offering.
It’s a formidably meaty offering, which, as the name suggests, is packed full of bacon and cheese, and is served with ketchup and mayo.
The major difference is the quality of the burger.
As the photos were being taken, there was a considerable juice drippage.
Can anyone, ever, remember eating a burger from McDonald’s or Burger King that dripped meat juice?
It was a proper, meaty, burger, that was hot, juicy and perfectly accompanied by the various other parts of the burger.
It was accompanied by Wendy’s skin-on fries, which were less greasy than in other places, but pretty similar.
Staff insisted we tried dipping the chips into our chocolate Frosty, which was unusual.
The Frosty was nice but very similar to other offerings – and too thick to drink through a straw.
And I’m all for reducing plastic use – obsessive perhaps, but someone cleverer than me needs to invent paper straws that don’t disintegrate mid-drink.
The cutlery served with the meals is made of wood, so that gets the thumbs-up.
Next, was the Spicy Chicken sandwich.
This was also lovely.
Generally, you don’t want to give too much thought as to where the chicken in fast food restaurants comes from, or what type of life it has led.
Wendy’s offering probably isn’t free range, corn-fed, but it was a tender breast in a crispy coating and a distinctly spicy sauce.
The two bites I had were delicious.
Wendy’s brioche buns are also a winner for me.
Grahame also praised his Dave’s Triple, which he said was far too much for him.
He claimed to have only bought it because “it would make a good photo”, which seems implausible.
Veggie Bites and Chicken Avocado Salad
One of the new offerings on the menu are the Veggie Bites and, I’m sorry Wendy’s, I didn’t really like these.
It’s good the Wendy’s UK bosses want to add some unique eggie offerings here and I’m a fan of a veggie burger, but these weren’t my thing.
They were quite dry and a bit crumbly.
While there was some spicing, I didn’t think it was enough.
They’re served with a chilli sauce which helps, but I’d probably not order them if I was to visit again.
The Veggie Stack burger, which in hindsight we should’ve tried, is another UK-only offering for vegetarians.
Feeling pretty full, the final item we tried was the Chicken Avocado Salad.
This is chicken breast again, with a crunchy coating served on salad leaves with a mushed up avocado and a spicy ranch dressing.
This is perfectly pleasant, the chicken, again, was tender.
As anyone knows, one of the main characteristics of the vastly overrated chicken breast is its combination of “dry and chewy” which is why I never bother buying it.
Wendy’s has done an excellent job in avoiding this.
The sauce was spicy and the salad and avocado went very nicely with it.
I’m not sure I’d ever order a salad in a fast food outlet, but some people might and this is one is a very good one.
The Wendy’s verdict
Wendy’s is in Reading, but how does it compare to other places?
Well, the standout is the quality of the meat.
With McDonald’s and others, the burgers are often cold, and dry, and don’t really taste of a great deal on their own.
Wendy’s square offering seemed to be of a much-higher quality.
Grahame and I both agreed on that, and kudos for whoever’s in charge of chicken for getting it so tender.
On the downside, the veggie bites are a bit bland and the chocolate Frosty, which people seemed to rave about before the trip, seemed indistinguishable from any other thick shakes you get.
Also, in the above video, I was cautiously in favour of dipping your chips in the milkshake.
Since then, I’ve decided I’m not a fan of it.
It sort of works, the hot, salty chip and the cold, sweet milkshake, but, actually, give me ketchup any time.
I’d also be interested to see whether the quality of the food holds up when there’s a massive queue and a packed restaurant, or whether you get the squashed, cold, burgers that only slightly look like the pictures you get in other places.
We’ll have to go back to see.
- Wendy’s is on the corner of Friar Street and Station Road and is set to open at midday on Wednesday, June 2