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The Oracle, Reading

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      16.04.2010 02:32
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      A good shopping centre, just nothing amazing

      The Oracle shopping centre is the main shopping centre in the middle of Reading, in Berkshire. It is quite easy to access from the M4 and the A329M. I usually get to it either through Bracknell or Eversley to avoid the motorways and the extra traffic.

      The Oracle, when I first saw it advertised, was billed as this big amazing shopping centre, but personally I do not find it as great or as huge as I was told it was. It does have some great stores in it, but nothing out of the ordinary and it just seems like any other shopping centre to me. It is of an average size for a shopping centre, with 2 floors. These are accessible by escalator, stairs and lifts, so access is available for all.

      The stores inside the Oracle include Lush, New Look, HMV, The Disney Store, Thorntons, Morgan, Octopus and Boots. There are many other stores of all types, including clothes stores, phone stores, entertainment stores and shoe stores. If you can't find the kind of thing you are looking for in the centre, there is many other stores outside the centre. There also is a large department store.

      The Oracle has its own car park, which I found to be a bit nightmareish, but I have been in worse. There is usually quite a queue to get in, and you get access to the car park by ticket barriers. This ticket is then paid for on exit from the car park, and inserted into the barrier machines on the exit. There is quite a steep slope into the car park, which goes around a couple of circles to get in. There is 4 levels of parking, but be prepared to hover and circulate to actually get a space, it seems this car park is always mentally full!! The parking prices are a little bit expensive, especially when you get past the 2 hour mark. There are lifts from the car park which will take you to the back entrance of the Oracle. You just walk over a bridge and you are at the centre.

      There are toilet and cash machine facilites in the centre, and as far as I know the cash machines do not charge you to withdraw your cash. The toilets are of a good standard, although often quite busy, but they seem to be always cleaned. The centre itself always seems clean and tidy, and there is plent of security staff and CCTV so you feel at ease whilst shopping, even when the centre is at its busiest.

      Given the choice, I would probably go to a different shopping centre, as nothing really excites me about the Oracle, nor does it show me anything special. I am more likely to go to Festival Place in Basingstoke, but there is nothing wrong with this centre, it is just nothing special to me.

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        23.01.2010 20:58
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        It's where I shop, mainly.

        In my little patch of Berkshire, for decent shopping there's only one destination; The Oracle in Reading, which is in its tenth year of existence. I've been a regular visitor for about the last 3 years, and have dined in many of its restaurants, used its cinema, bought many of the items that adorn my home and the clothes on my back within its hallowed grounds.

        I say "hallowed" with no little degree of irony as I used to think that the centre was called "the Oracle" as it is some sort of shrine to consumerism, unfortunately it turns out the truth is a little less romantic - the name comes from a former workhouse that stood where the centre is now along with a bus station amongst other things - maybe "The Depot" just didn't sound as good!

        In any case any visitor to Reading town centre will be hard pushed to not find themselves drawn into the Oracle at some point or other, the centre winds its way from the River through to the main High Street (Broad Street), there's a bewildering amount of levels and corridors when you first visit, but good access via escalators and lifts for those who need them, with the ground floor being labelled "R" for "riverside" in parts, and elsewhere plain old "1".

        You will find all the usual big names within the site. There is a large Debenhams to one side which is right next to the River. Take those interestingly labelled lifts and Hennes, Gap, Lush, Disney, Game, the Body Shop are all nearby along with a host of others - link to full details at the bottom of this review. There's room for the quirky and more unusual too - one of my favourite shops is Octopus, which sells really original gifts from painted hairbrushes to crazy looking clocks. The upmarket "Hotel Chocolat" is always a temptation too, there really is something for everyone, although I have long wondered who goes to the Chinese medicine shop which is in a fairly prime position - I've yet to see anyone in there let alone buying anything!

        Foodwise there is a vast array of restaurants, from fast food to the more expensive. On my last trip I noticed that there is a new Jamie Oliver Italian restaurant opening on the riverside, it will be in good company with destinations such as Giraffe, Wagamma and Yo Sushi. On sunny days you could almost imagine yourself in a continental setting with diners enjoying eating outside at Pizza Express and Nandos.

        Most people's one gripe with the centre would be the parking costs, which are expensive. If you do visit it is worth checking prices carefully if you park at either of the two designated car parks - the rates jump sharply after 5 hours, if you are having a meal or watching a film at Vue, you can easily find yourself spending longer at the Oracle than you thought. Spaces themselves are normally fairly plentiful, though if you are coming into Reading the park and ride is a cheaper option, and the centre is also easily accessible from the Queens Road carpark, which always seems to have shorter queues and is quicker to get out of than at busy times.

        The centre does seem to try to put on regular events which do render it a bit more interesting - these big city centre shopping centres can be a bit soulless. There's no amazing architecture here, they have tried to make it look "modern" I think, and so far it is not too dated, but the river is the main focal point. Events such as the Christmas market and annual Children's Beach (the riverside is transformed into a Beach with sand and spades), are always welcome. We particularly enjoy the annual Children's festival which takes place in the Oracle and part of the High Street, there are always plenty of goodie bags to be had from Lush and the Bear Factory, and entertainment for little ones including art, face painting and shows, all for free.

        A less glamorous but necessary part of the centre is the free toilets - award winning apparently, in any case there are plenty of them, the cubicles are larger than average, they are always clean even on the most busy of times, with ample disabled and baby change facilities. I've always found information and maps to be readily available too.

        On thing that has been a bit lacking in the past is places to sit inside, apart from a few benches by the toilets there was nowhere. Recently, I suppose to rectify this, there seem to have been some squidgy seats and carpet plonked along the hallways - they are quite popular but already a bit ragged around the edges, perhaps they ought to consider something more sturdy and wipeable.

        I've heard locals moan about the Oracle, I would imagine when it was built it pretty well re-defined the whole town centre, but being a relative newcomer used to the shopping that London can provide, I really appreciate all that the Oracle offers me. If I can go there child free it is even better, however you will manage fine here with a buggy though the amount of lifts you will have to navigate is rather frustrating. I've not been to the Oracle that often in the evening, when the vibe is rather different, but again car parking is freely available and the restaurants and bars are pretty busy.

        I would recommend the Oracle for a day out shopping, and for eating out it is a good destination. Reading isn't, to me, a bastion of good town planning, but the Oracle is pretty well laid out in spite of having been squeezed in between what was already there ten years ago. On the scale of these things, it is a pleasant place for pedestrians to wander around, and you will find all your consumer needs here, which is the aim of a shopping centre after all!


        More info here: http://www.theoracle.com

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          03.10.2009 17:54
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          The Oracle is not just place to shop - it also a great place to relax and dine on some delicious foo

          The Oracle is a large shopping centre located in Reading which houses a great array of shops, restaurants, bars and even a cinema - if you can't find what you're looking for at The Oracle you're simply not looking hard enough!


          Opening Times
          ____________

          Monday to Friday 9.30am - 8pm
          Saturday 9am-7pm
          Sunday 11am-5pm


          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


          Location and Parking
          _________________

          The Oracle is easily reachable by car, bus or train.

          By car you can access The Oracle from Junction 10, 11 or 12 of the M4 (I find J11 the easiest). From Junction 11 it takes just under 10 minutes to get to the Oracle (assuming no traffic) - you take the A33 passing the Madejski Stadium on your left, follow signs to Reading Town Centre and continue straight for about 2 miles before turning right at some traffic lights directing to The Oracle car parks.

          There are two car parks - Holybrook (623 spaces) and Riverside (1679 spaces).

          Prices:

          Up to 1hr (not applicable in Holy Brook Car Park) -------- £1.30
          Up to 2hrs ----------------------------------------------------- £2.40
          Up to 3hrs ----------------------------------------------------- £3.60
          Up to 4hrs ----------------------------------------------------- £5.00
          Up to 5hrs ----------------------------------------------------- £7.00
          Up to 6hrs ----------------------------------------------------- £9.00
          Up to 7hrs ----------------------------------------------------- £12.00
          Up to 8hrs ------------------------------------------------------£15.00
          Over 8hrs ------------------------------------------------------ £20.00

          Entry after 6pm: up to 1hr ----------------------------------- £1.00
          Entry after 6pm: over 1hr ------------------------------------ £2.00

          24 hrs ---------------------------------------------------------- £20.00

          Lost Ticket / Penalty Fees ------------------------------------ £20.00


          By bus you can take advantage of two park and ride schemes - see http://www.parkandride.net/reading/reading_frameset.html/ for details.

          If you already live in Reading then you can check http://www.reading-buses.co.uk/ for a proper timetable. There is also a late night bus service available called NightTrack which operates from between midnight to 3.30am.

          By train coming into Reading Station The Oracle is just a mere 5 minutes walk away. Exit the station through the main exit and cross the pedestrian crossing right outside, turn left and follow the road straight until you hit Broad Street, opposite John Lewis. Turn left and The Oracle is on the right hand side opposite Marks & Spencer.


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          The Layout
          _________

          The Oracle is divided into three main sections:

          1. The Riverside
          2. The Lower Mall
          3. The Upper Mall


          The Riverside, as the name suggests, is situated in a very pleasant area surrounding a river - the River Kennet to be precise. It is here that the majority of the eateries are located as well as the Vue cinema.

          The main shops are located in the lower and upper mall.


          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


          The Eateries
          ~~~~~~~~~


          Wagamama
          ==========

          Serves pan-Asian style rice and noodles dishes.

          Opening Times:
          Monday to Saturday 12pm - 11pm
          Sundays 12.30pm - 10pm

          0118 951 1599


          Strada
          ======

          Serves Italian style food ranging from pasta, pizza, salad and meat and fish dishes.

          Opening Times:
          Monday to Saturday 12pm - 11pm
          Sundays 12pm - 10.30pm

          0118 939 4861


          Giraffe
          ======

          An extremely diverse eatery - you can get food (and music) from all around the world including the East, Australia, Europe, America in the form of brunches or main meals and exquisite desserts, plus they have a great drinks menu including hand roasted coffee, smoothies, cocktails, beers and wines.

          0118 959 0101


          Las Iguanas
          =========

          If you're looking for Latin food this is the place to come - from South American to Mexican cuisines the range is fantastic and you can also try their specialised spirit Cachaça distilled from their own sugar plantation in Brazil.

          0118 956 6200


          Pizza Hut
          =======

          Kind of speaks for itself - your typical range of pizzas, pastas and salads.

          0118 959 6644


          Nandos
          ======

          You want chicken? Then come to Nandos with its Afro-Portuguese theme and secret ingredient of PERI-PERI.

          0118 950 2199


          Old Orleans
          =========

          Old Orleans offers authentic Southern Style food and drink, particularly from Louisiana including Southern Fried Chicken and American cocktails such as hurricane.

          0118 951 2678


          Ivory Lounge
          ==========

          A bar that offers a menu of tapas, wines and cocktails with a high class decor - a perfect place to just chill out.

          0118 956 6832


          Tootsies
          ======

          A great place to get burgers, grills and salads.

          Opening Times:
          Monday to Saturday 11am - 11pm
          Sundays 11am - 10pm

          0118 958 6338


          Krispy Kreme
          ===========
          Doughnuts, doughnuts, get your doughnuts here! Plus you can get some great lattes, cappuccinos and espressos too.

          01189 594 983


          The Mission Mexican Grill
          =====================

          If you're in the mood for Mexican this is the perfect place to choose from a simple range of food from burritos and tacos to salads, grilled chicken and steaks.

          0118 951 1999


          McDonalds
          =========

          Yuck! But if you want fast food you can get it here!

          0118 950 2657


          Caffe Nero
          =========

          Italian coffee bar with just about any coffee you can imagine plus a food menu including handmade sandwiches, pastas, soups, pizza, salads, biscotti, pastries and cakes.

          Opening Times:
          Monday to Friday 8am - 7pm
          Saturday 8am - 8pm
          Sunday 9am - 6pm

          0118 950 0588


          Ha Ha Bar and Grill
          ==============

          Restaurant and bar focussing on grilled foods with an unusual open plan kitchen so you can see your food cooking.

          0118 958 2822


          The Slug and Lettuce
          ================

          A simple bar that serves a range of food and drink.

          Opening Times:
          Monday to Wednesday 11am - 11pm
          Thursday to Saturday 11am - 12am
          Sunday 12pm - 10.30pm

          0118 957 1839


          Bella Italia
          ========

          A Cafe, bar and restaurant, Bella Italia has a lovely menu from traditional Italian and Mediterranean meals for those romantic candlelight dinners or lighter meals with pizza, pasta and grills.

          0118 956 6963


          Pizza Express
          ===========

          Becoming a bit of a household name, Pizza Express offers up tasty pizzas and salads with great al fresco riverside seating so you can enjoy the view as you eat.

          0118 9574 411


          There are also some eateries inside the lower and upper malls.

          YO Sushi
          =======

          Located inside House of Fraser in the lower mall this is a nifty little place to get great Japanaese food - you can choose from 90 core dishes or you can pick and choose from a conveyor belt of scrumptious goodies.

          01189 557 600


          Style Cafe
          ========

          Located in the lower mall, Debenhams' own self-service cafe where you can choose from light meals and snacks to full meals.


          Douwe Egberts Coffee
          ==================

          Located in the upper mall in Debenhams is a chilled coffee bar just in case you need to break up a heavy shopping experience - sometimes people take the saying 'Shop till you drop" a little too far!
          08445 616161



          The Vue Cinema
          ~~~~~~~~~~~

          With 10 screens and auditoriums ranging from 80 - 350 seats and Dolby digital surround sound you are guaranteed a quality cinema experience at the Vue Cinema, Reading. Ignoring the hideously overpriced refreshments that we as patrons are subjected to at any cinema in the world, this cinema is always clean and the toilets are kept to a high standard.

          Check out times at www.myvue.com or telephone 08712 240240.


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          The Shops
          ________

          The Oracle has an extremely extensive range of shops ranging from household brands to lesser known eccentric shops. Here is a quick overview of the outstanding choice you get in each category of shopping:

          Fashion
          ~~~~~~

          Ladies
          =====

          Bank
          Debenhams
          Dorothy Perkins
          Fat Face
          French Connection
          H&M
          House of Fraser
          Karen Millen
          La Senza
          Mamas & Papas
          Mango
          New Look
          Oasis
          Topshop
          Wallis
          Zara


          Gentlemen
          ========

          Bank
          Ben Sherman
          Burton
          Crew Clothing Co.
          Debenhams
          Fat Face
          H&M
          House of Frasier
          Suits You


          Audio Visual
          ~~~~~~~~

          Carphone Warehouse
          Currys
          Game
          HMV
          Orange
          RosettaStone
          Sky
          Vodafone


          Books and Music
          ~~~~~~~~~~~

          Debenhams
          HMV
          Waterstones


          Confectionary (my favourite)
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Hotel Chocolat
          Krispy Kreme
          Millie's Cookies
          Thorntons
          Whittard of Chelsea


          Footwear
          ~~~~~~~

          Bay
          Brother2Brother
          Debenhams
          Faith
          Geox Respira
          House of Fraser
          Jones Bootmaker
          Oasis
          Office
          Shoon
          Sole


          Gifts
          ~~~~

          Ashley Blooms
          Build-A-Bear workshop
          Clinton Cards
          Crabtree & Evelyn
          Debenhams
          Disney
          House of Fraser
          The Lemongrove gallery
          L'Occitane En Provence
          Mamas & Papas
          Menkind
          Thorntons
          Waterstones


          Health and Beauty
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Boots
          Crabtree & Evelyn
          Dr&Herbs
          Lush
          Supercuts
          The Body Shop
          The Fragrance Shop
          The Perfume Shop

          Jewellery
          ~~~~~~~

          Azendi
          Beaverbrooks
          Coast
          Ernest Jones
          Goldsmiths
          H.Samuel
          Magnolia
          Pravins
          Swarovski

          Sports and Outdoor
          ~~~~~~~~~~~~~

          Debenhams
          Fat Face
          Sports Direct.com
          Timberland


          Opticians
          ~~~~~~

          David Clulow Opticians
          Vision Express | optical lab


          Other Services
          ~~~~~~~~~~

          Baby Warming Facility

          Car Valet

          Cash machines

          Child Safe Scheme - a designated area to take lost children. There are orange stickers dotted around with the helpline to call if you become separated from your child (0870 062 27 43) plus at the information desk you can get free wristbands to put your mobile number on so you are easily contactable.

          Citizens Advice Bureau

          Lifts

          Lockers

          Lost and Stolen Credit Card Cancellation service

          Lost Property

          Newscentre

          Postal Service - Royal Mail

          Push Chair Hire

          Shopmobility - scooters, wheelchairs and powerchairs are available for
          use.

          Shoppers Assistant - available for the elderly or those with mobility
          problems.

          Speaking Your Language - Staff are available to help with any translations foreign people may require.

          Taxi Booking Facility

          Telephones

          Toilets - located in the Riverside Rotunda which include baby changing facilities and baby feeding rooms. These toilets have won the Loo of the Year award 4 times so far in 2001,2002,2007,2008.


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          Entertainment
          ____________

          Aside from just the eating, drinking and shopping available at The Oracle, there are entertainment events hosted throughout the year from competitions to retailer events and even The Oracle hosting their own events.

          To give you a taste of just some of the things that go on, here are the remaining events left for 2009 which are echoed in similar style year to year.

          Monday 12th October - John Barrowman will be in Waterstones in the lower mall from 1pm onwards to meet and greet his fans at a book signing for his new book "I Am What I Am" - wow!

          Monday 17th October - Debenhams are hosting their own Wedding Fair to aid in your wedding plans where you can meet cake makers, hair stylists, florists, ring designers, caterers and just about any other company you could ever need to make all the intricate little details for your wedding become real. There are also prize draws to wins some great prizes.

          Saturday 21st November - Christmas Spectacular with fireworks galore - it kicks off from 6pm but there is entertainment beforehand.

          3rd December - 27th December - independent market traders are invited to set up on The Riverside for the Christmas Fayre to spread the festive joy.


          ----------------------------------------------------------------------------


          My Experiences
          _____________

          I'm not a keen shopper but I absolutely love the atmosphere at The Oracle so if I get forced into going shopping out of desperation I will always endeavour to go to The Oracle. With such a great range of shops I don't think I can recall ever having an unsuccessful shopping trip, and with an unbelievable range of great foods available from simple bar food, to more complex delicacies from around the world you can't help but enjoy your time at The Oracle and turn a boring shopping trip into something much more enjoyable.

          It feels as if the whole centre is designed to be as friendly and as helpful as possible with lots of facilities to aid parents and the less mobile, top quality toilets, a spacious and ultra-modern layout for the upper and lower malls with easy lift and elevator access and a lovely Riverside section which has great views to luxuriate in whilst enjoying your meals.

          And if the remote possibility that you can't find what you're looking for in The Oracle materialises you are right next door to the high street which has even more shops to choose from such as John Lewis, Marks and Spencer, Primark, Monsoon, Miss Selfridge, River Island.

          The only negatives I have so far found with The Oracle are that at peak times it can get very busy with a lot of people milling about everywhere and shops and eateries can get overcrowded (all though during this recessive period it has not been quite so noticeable) and similarly with traffic in the surrounding area it can become quite heavy and you may be stuck queuing for quite a while on occasions. I would recommend trying to get there early to both beat the traffic and give yourself a great chance of getting a good parking space if you are travelling by car. The only other negative is that prices are a little on the expensive side for the majority of the eateries.

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            17.09.2009 22:38
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            The Oracle is a monstrosity of a shopping centre which somehow landed in the town of my birth while I was a young teenager. It contains a number of shops, and the shoppers seem to love it, with a capital L. These include shops as diverse as the Disney Store, Mango, H&M, HMV and the Perfume Shop.

            There is also the River Kennet which runs through the Oracle, and alongside which many of the restaurants and cafes are located. Here you will find Pizza Hut, Nandos, Old Orleans, and the multiplex Vue cinema. Granted, this is a very nice sun trap in summer, and is very good for kids when the "beach" is set up by the river. This is basically a free giant sandpit with buckets and spades, but the kids seem to love it.

            The Oracle is in the town centre, and can be accessed in a number of ways including from Broad Street, which is the main shopping street in town. There is quite a lot of parking in the Oracle, and also in Kings Street multi storey car park, just down the road. This isn't too cheap, but there is a flat fee of £2 after 6pm, which is really handy if you're popping out to the cinema.

            All in all, I feel that the Oracle has very little in the way of soul, and it seems to appeal most to the younger generation. It is handy for some bits of shopping, but I still prefer the hustle of Broad Street, especially in the festive season. The Riverside is a nice place to sit and have lunch, so long as you aren't knocked over by a kid on a skateboard!

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              05.06.2009 18:12
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              If you fancy a day of splurging and eating, the Oracle is the place for you!

              The Oracle is an amazing, sizeable shopping centre, right alongside a varied high street and a smaller shopping centre, the Broad Street Mall.

              The Oracle is situated in the heart of Reading town centre, combining several boutique style stores, along with major department stores like Debenhams and House of Fraser and around 90 other stores.

              With a 10 screen Vue cinema and lots of different restaurants, The Oracle will definitely have something for everyone.

              The Riverside restaurants, cafes and bars stretch along both sides of the River Kennet, providing an opulent dining experience, whatever your tastebuds desire. And when the weather's nice, there's the opportunity to eat outside.

              The restaurants at The Oracle include Wagamamas, Nandos, Pizza Hut, Pizza Express, Strada, The Slug and Lettuce, McDonalds, Chilis, Giraffe and Old Orleans, amongst many others. You can normally get great discount codes for many of these restaurants either online or from leaflets often handed out in the shopping centre.

              Two bridges span the river, Cooks Bridge, a footbridge linking The Riverside Car Park to House of Fraser, and Delphi Bridge, which provides access to the Vue cinema and Debenhams.

              The variation of shops inside The Oracle is astounding, and includes Topshop, New Look, Game, HMV, L'Occitane, Dorothy Perkins, Essentials, H and M, Boots, The Body Shop, Millie's Cookies, Whittard, Brother 2 Brother, Paper Sun, Sports Soccer, Mango, Octopus, as well as many others, including many jewellers and perfume shops.

              Here are a few facts about The Oracle:
              The Oracle was developed by Hammerson plc.
              The Oracle is spread over 22 acres including The Riverside area and the Riverside Car Park.
              More than £250 million was invested in the development.
              There are 778,000 sq.ft. (72,000 sq.m.) of shopping and leisure over 3 levels.
              The main entrances are Minster Street, Holy Brook, The Riverside and Broad Street.
              A wide variety of public art was designed to enhance the overall appearance of the scheme.

              To park at The Oracle is fairly good value, at around £1.20 for one hour, £2.40 for 2 hours, and so on. There is the opportunity to park after 6pm until 8am the next day for only £2. This is handy as The Oracle is open from 9am to 8pm Monday to Friday, and 9am til 7 on Saturday, 11 til 5 on a Sunday, and the security is astounding. It is also useful if you are going for a post-6pm cinema viewing. There are some spaces near the shopping centre (on King's Road) however, which after 6pm are completely free, it is just up to you whether you take a chance parking there as there is no guarantee of a space.

              The Oracle has exceptional disabled access, with lifts and ramps as well as moving stairs, a disabled loo on the ground floor and guide dog access/loops for hearing aids and a flashing fire alarm for the deaf.

              There are plenty of cash points situated near the loos, near the riverside entrance, as well as plenty of maps so you know what is where, benches to sit on for a break, and TVs giving out current information and news on events in the Oracle. The Oracle does have events on a regualr occurence, such as the present Fresh Food market, by the riverside.

              The Oracle is a great, modern shopping centre, comparable to Bluewater and Festival Place, Baskingstoke, with a huge variety of stores. It takes around one to two hours to get a good look in most of the stores, and along with the drinks stands inside (Starbucks, Fuel juice bar) it is great place to have a long day of shopping, with nice drinks/food breaks in between shops.

              If you work in the Oracle, you can join the Employee's scheme and get great discounts in nearly all of the stores, such as Buy 6 Millie's cookies, get 6 Free and 10 or 20% discount in lots of clothes stores, as well as much cheaper food on the Riverside.

              So if you're passing Reading, pop on into the Oracle and have a good old mooch about!!! Just watch your purse strings...there's so much to choose from!

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                04.09.2005 15:57
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                Fantastic shopping experience - especially for female shopoholics!

                The Oracle shopping centre is located in the heart of Reading, Berkshire. It opened in 2000, after being developed by Hammerson Plc, and since then offers the best combination of shopping and leisure facilities around. The Oracle boasts over 90 top name retail outlets and over 22 contemporary and family orientated restaurants, bars and cafés. It also hosts a 10 screen Vue Cinema that can be found on the Oracle Riverside.

                The Oracle Riverside is the epitome of delight, and along its 270 metre promenade surrounding the River Kennet are a selection of restaurants where outdoor seating is also provided for when the weather permits.

                There are two bridges spanning the river, to allow easy access for both sides of the promenade, one of which is the uniquely designed Delphi Bridge, in the shape of an ellipse. The bridge has seating all along the outer rim, of which many a shopper sits to enjoy their takeaway McDonalds or café sandwiches whilst enjoying the view of the River Kennet stretching beneath them.


                *Retail Outlets*

                The retail sector of The Oracle is vast and covers such areas as Audio, Fashion & Accessories, Opticians, Books & Music and Health & Beauty. For example the following brand name shops can be found in The Oracle:

                Fashion/Footwear - Morgan, Dorothy Perkins, French Connections, Debenhams, House of Fraser, Karen Millen, La Senza, Zara and Burton

                Both Debenhams and House of Fraser span the ground and first floors of The Oracle, with additional second floor usage included as well. Here you can find Fashion, Electrical, Household, Perfume and Sports Equipment. House of Fraser also has its own café, the Albert Roux Café, a Riverside Restaurant, beauty rooms where you can indulge in a spot of pampering, or you can hire a personal shopper to cater for your needs.

                With respect to Books & Music, there is a large Waterstones and HMV in the Oracle, of which within the Waterstones there is a medium sized cafeteria with comfy chairs to sit and peruse your recent purchases.

                Other shops include, Boots, Mama's and Papa's, Game, Disney Store, Thornton's, The Bear Factory (Where you can create your own unique bear), Dixon's, Carphone Warehouse, Vodafone, Clinton Cards, The Pier and Whittards. Obviously this is just a small example of the numerous shops in The Oracle.

                The majority of the retail outlets are well laid out, and spacious, and appear to be well staffed. The changing rooms obviously get busy when the sales are on, or during peak season, but if your in Debenhams just nip to the men's area as the changing rooms are all single cubicles and their always really quiet.

                I generally find that the Disney store is one of the busiest outlets, especially in the school holidays and at Christmas, but hey it's so much fun browsing through all the kids stuff that you forgive the fact its so busy.


                *Events*

                The Riverside, at The Oracle is often used to host local events and celebrations. There is always fantastic light and firework displays on firework day, Santa and his elves can generally be found wandering around the store or in Santa's Grotto in the House of Fraser at Christmas, or other local events will take centre stage.

                For example, as part of the Heritage Open Days Weekend, the Riverside is the starting location for Jonathan the Jesters annual Pied Piper Trail Walk on the 10th and 11th September 2005.


                *Leisure Facilities*

                Along the Riverside promenade and within the Oracle lower floor are over 22 restaurants, bars and café, and cover a variety of food styles including Chinese, Mexican, Fast Food, Pizza, etc.

                Examples of these restaurants include:

                Café Giardino, Café Italia, Caffe Nero, Costa Coffee,
                Pizza Hut, McDonalds, Nandos
                Prêt a Manger, Slug and Lettuce, Wagamama, Yellow River

                Others include:

                Chilli's - American style restaurant serving great burgers and fajitas
                Old Orleans - Table clothes that you can decorate and write silly phrases on, and serves the best cocktails in town
                Haagen Dazs Café - worth it just for the ice cream

                There are several well-known bars alongside the Riverside including Brannigans, which often hosts student nights on Mondays and is a regular customer of 210FM, the Berkshire and Hampshire radio station. Personally I find the drinks over priced in Branningans and you would expect to pay around £3 a bottle or over £2.50 a pint during a normal evening. You are also not allowed to wear jeans during the evening on a Friday and Saturday.

                Other bars alongside the Riverside include:

                Santa Fe - a charming bar and restaurant (Keep and eye out for the cute bar staff!), of which only the bar area is smoking. Prices tend to be £2.60 for a bottle/pint but they also serve cocktails at around £4.50 of which there are some really deadly ones!
                Slug and Lettuce - Recently refurbished and now contains smoking and non-smoking areas. The bar area is surprisingly quiet on the weekends, but in the evenings is also very busy.
                Bar38 - A more modern and chrome feel to this bar, and being located next to Brannigans generally attracts the younger crowd.
                Bar Med - As its title suggests this bar has a Mediterranean feel to it, along with the bright orange walls and lively music. I went here for my 21st birthday and had a great time.


                *How to get here*

                Generally I walk to the Oracle, as my friend lives 10 minutes walk behind the Vue Cinema, but for others who don't live in Reading there are a variety of ways to get to The Oracle:

                1. Train - Reading train station is one of the biggest in Berkshire and has connections throughout the UK. The station is a mere 5 minutes away from The Oracle entrance on Broad Street (The main high street).

                2. Car - Access to The Oracle can either be from Junctions 10, 11 or 12 of theM4. If you are coming from the West I would recommend using J11, as the Oracle is clearly signposted all the way, and you will encounter less of Reading town traffic.

                3. Bus - Reading operates several park and ride schemes, to prevent the build up of traffic into the town centre. As an example of this service you can park at Madejski Stadium and use the park and ride into town.


                *Car Parking Facilities*

                The Riverside car park has 2,300 spaces which includes disabled parking, an additional 20 motorbike spaces, cycle bays and lockers on each level of the car park for shoppers personal use. There are two car parks, both of which are open 7 days a week. The Holybrook car park opens and closes 30 minutes before shop opening times, but the Riverside car park is open 24 hours for Riverside use.

                Upon entry to the car park a ticket is issued, and this is then used in the pay machines once you have finished in the Oracle. The price is standard, around £1 an hour, but on a Sunday, and after 6pm it's normally a standard charge of £2 regardless of the duration.

                The car park is often extremely busy, and during the busy Christmas Period, for example, the Oracle can become full. This generally occurs during a Saturday, but there are 5 other main car parks in Reading that are only a few minutes walk from The Oracle. In this instance I would recommend the car park on Queens Road.


                *Other Facilities and Shop-mobility*

                There are several other facilities within The Oracle, all designed to assist the shopper. These include:

                Supervised Crèche for children between 3 months and 5 years
                Baby changing and breast-feeding facilities
                Toilets
                Cash Machines (covers Barclays, Abbey National, Lloyds, Nat West and Link)

                The Oracle offers a Shopmobility service for those who have mobility problems, which includes the use of scooters and wheelchairs. You do have to register for this service, but this is quick and easy, and when we took my granddad along all he needed was 2 forms of identification. The process of registering him only took about 10 minutes, and then we were able to borrow one of the wheelchairs for use within the Oracle.


                *Opening Times/contact details*

                The Oracle is open 7 days a week, and covers the hours detailed below, although these are extended during Christmas.

                Monday - Friday: 9.30am-8.00pm
                Saturday: 9.00am - 7:00pm
                Sunday: 11.00am - 5.00pm
                Bank Holidays: 10.00am-6.00pm

                Oracle Shopping Centre Limited
                Management Suite
                Reading RG1 2AG

                0118 9 659000


                *So what do I think?*

                Well, The Oracle has been awarded several awards since it opened in 2000. These include the Police safer parking accreditation "The Park Mark Award", BCSC & ICSC Awards for Best New Shopping Centre 2001, and they have even won and award for "Winner of the Loo of the Year" 2001 and 2002.

                It stands to reason then that this is a pretty decent shopping centre.

                The entire mall, as well as the Riverside, is always spotless, with waste bins in several convenient locations, of which are seen to be emptied regularly. The Oracle is also a complete non-smoking zone, although areas within The Riverside and its bars and restaurants do have smoking areas.

                The choice of restaurants, bars and retail outlets far surpasses anything in the nearby towns, although Basingstoke's "Festival Place" is certainly fighting in the blue corner.

                Shop-mobility is ideal for those who find they have mobility problems, and the crèche is an ideal place to drop the kids whilst you do a spot of shopping.

                Me? Well I tend to use The Oracle on a frequent basis. I'm nearly always to be found in either Santa Fe or The Slug and Lettuce on a weekend afternoon enjoying a nice chilled bottle of Budweiser, although on occasion (and dependent on the evening ahead) I'll nip to Old Orleans for a nice "Woo Woo" a lovely refreshing Archers and Cranberry cocktail. I love shopping in the Oracle, and the vast array of shops means I'll nearly always find the outfit I'm looking for…if not, and it's a present then I'll just pick a name out of a hat and buy vouchers, seeing as nearly all the shops here sell them. The Oracle does have a tendency to be busy, especially the Riverside when the weather is hot, and crowding can be a slight problem, but the way it was designed means there are a series of "Steps" like stairs surrounding the canal, which provide great seating areas. Hey I love The Oracle.


                The Oracle Shopping Centre and Riverside is as the adverts describe - "Shopping & Leisure together".

                5 stars from me.

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