People might be surprised that I haven’t visited the only vegetarian/vegan cafe in East Oxford up until this point. I had been keen to visit for a long time but only ever found myself on Cowley Road on a Sunday, when the cafe is sadly closed. We decided to take the 40 minute walk down from where we live to give it a try, while popping in to the East Oxford Farmers Market, which is on 10am-1pm every Saturday, and also well worth a visit for those who like supporting local business and the community.
The Magic Cafe, next door to Wild Honey, another place Oxford vegans probably know quite well, has an approachable and laid back interior. It very much looks like you’re being welcomed into someone’s living room. Everything is a bit worn but it is full of character and you can certainly see how it could be a hipster’s favourite place to grab a coffee while they work on writing their novel… The cafe was pretty busy, and large tables are favoured over lots of tables for two, so we nabbed a spot which we shared with another cafe-goer.
Today’s vegan dish was a chickpea korma (which I mistakenly and confusedly first read on the blackboard menu as chicken – doh). You could also go for a full plate of salad, of which four of the six dishes they had on offer were vegan. Both Jamie and I went for the curry as we were feeling pretty peckish, and upon seeing the lady in front of us in the queue being dished up a large steaming plate of goodness, we decided to follow suit. At only £6.50, the plate was very generously sized, big enough that you could easily get away with this being your main meal of the day. Alongside the chickpeas in the curry were pieces of aubergine, onion and butternut squash. The curry was mild and the sauce was a bit thinner than I would make at home, but it was very flavourful, and I almost burnt my mouth as I was so keen to tuck in because of how great it smelled. Jamie (a meat-eater) is not known to be super adventurous with his food when it comes to veggies, but he said he really enjoyed it too.
There were also two vegan cakes on offer on the menu: a spiced fruit cake, and a date and banana cake. I decided to get a slice of the latter, which was heated up and kindly brought over to our table shortly after we’d started eating our mains. This cake smelled like it was full of aromatic spices, and they were the overwhelming flavour rather than the banana (surprising, considering how strong banana usually is). If you don’t like dates this would obviously be one to avoid, as it really was full of them, so the texture was pretty grainy. Still, it was a tasty, comforting pudding to round off the meal with.
If you are after unfussy home-cooked food at a reasonable price, you should definitely give The Magic Cafe a visit, the real bonus here of course being that it’s also a meat-free environment. The menu changes daily so I’d certainly be keen to go back again another day and see what else they have to offer. Whether you’re looking for a filling hot meal, something a bit lighter, or just a coffee and a cake while you read a book, you won’t be disappointed here.