HOMEMADE beer and expert Italian cuisine has been highlighted as a strength of one of the town's dining hotspots.

Zerodegrees on Bridge Street has been nominated as Restaurant of the Year in the Reading Retail Awards.

The restaurant and microbrewery has attracted a loyal following over the last 10 years and the manager believes the business is going 'from strength to strength'.

Mohammed Akthar said: "We are aware of the competition. Being in Reading means you have great business connections, but there are a lot of people offering something similar to us.

"Being so close to The Riverside means you are right on top of the competition and we also have Pizza Express just down the road offering a similar brand of food.

"However, I truly believe we offer something unique. We are targeted towards a sophisticated audience and we have recently hired a pizza expert.

"Reading has been really kind to us. It is an authentic environment and we try to attract all audiences with the food we offer.

"We would like to think we offer a competitive price range for all of our diners, with slightly more expensive options available for those who want them."

Mr Akthar, who has worked for Zerodegrees for two years, became the manager of the hip beer emporium two years ago and assumed the leading role after spending a few months as a waiter.

He has been working in restaurants for more than 17 years and is hopeful Zerodegress will progress to the latter stages of the prestigious business awards.

"We would be ecstatic if we were successful. Restaurant of the Year is a big category to be nominated for.

"We have won a few awards for our home-brewed ale and we were also recognised for our design and the layout of the restaurant.

"In my time as manager, the restaurant has gone from strength to strength and the team is really dedicated."

Entry forms for the Reading Retail Awards are available at Broad Street Mall and The Oracle. Nominations close on Monday, July 10.

Visit: readingretailawards.co.uk for more information.