Review: Loungers


I was introduced to this chain by a friend very recently, and despite having never heard of them before, discovered that they have dozens of bar/restaurant establishments round the country. In the handful of weeks since discovering their existence, I’ve visited them in three different locations, and which hopefully indicates that the experience they provide is good wherever you go.

I’d probably compare Loungers to an upmarket Wetherspoons, but I don’t mean that as a bad thing. It is a casual dining, take your table number and order at the bar type affair, but equally the food is consistently good quality, reasonably priced, and brought out quickly with good service. They have a separate vegan menu which is placed on the table alongside the regular menu – no need to worry about having to sheepishly ask to see the allergen menu here. The vegan tapas options are slightly limited but decent enough value, and the other choices are plentiful, so I don’t think many could be disappointed. There is even a vegan option on their ‘specials board’ (which I must admit, I don’t think they rotate that often, as it was the same three dishes all the times I’ve been).

IMG_4636On my most recent visit this weekend with family, I decided to order the courgette, pea, and edamame bean risotto from the specials menu. I was expecting it to be a smaller sized dish as it was about two-thirds of the price of everything else on the menu, but when it came out, it was huge! Perhaps I’ve found one of the few places who actually set their prices according to what the meal costs to make. As it was so cheap, I ordered a side of sweet potato fries, which were perfectly crispy and moreish. The risotto was deliciously creamy, and seasoned well. The rocket added a freshness and the peppers were still a little crunchy, which gave a nice texture to the dish. They were generous with the amount of veggies, unlike many places where you find yourself served up a stodgy bowl of 95% rice. There is nothing super fancy about it, but this comforting meal was actually even better than I expected, and it’s one of the few times I haven’t regretted ordering a burger when I had the option!

IMG_4629My sister ordered the butternut squash curry, which I’d tried before and thought it was really tasty, but we both agreed that sadly they haven’t got the ratio of sauce and rice right. It’s a big bowl of food but with a large portion of bread on the side as well, the dish could really do with a lot more sauce. It’s a very mild, sweet curry, so if you prefer something spicy this dish might not be for you, but it’s certainly something I’d quite like to try and replicate at home. I would definitely recommend trying the vegan falafel burger here too. It’s massive and took me a long time to eat (usually unheard of) and every mouthful was enjoyable. It’s served with the thin and crispy kind of fries that I love, and a house slaw – which is nice, but packed with onion, just as a heads up…

IMG_3901Vegans have a choice between two cakes for dessert, a fruity flapjack, or a dark chocolate and ginger torte here. I have yet to try the flapjack, but the torte is something pretty special, certainly the best vegan dessert I’ve tried out at a chain restaurant. It’s rich and creamy and very indulgent, with the flavours being spot on. I only wish other places would cotton on to how fab vegan desserts can be and start replacing the sorbet currently wasting space on their menus.

With lots of crowd-pleasing options for omnis and vegetarians too, this is a good one for keeping everyone in your party happy. Como Lounge is in Witney, so would be a nice place to recommend if you’re a student and your family are coming to visit, or if you have access to a car (although, it’s not at all tricky to get there by bus from Oxford city centre either). There are other branches all round the country though (I’ve visited in Northampton, Rugby, and Bury St Edmunds), so even if you’re not Oxfordshire based, I’d suggest checking out their website as there could well be one near you.

Review: Spurtle and Spoon at Barefoot Oxford


I need to make a retraction. I wrote only a handful of posts ago that reviewing a bowl of oatmeal would be ‘a bit much’. I was wrong. This week I went for breakfast with some friends from work at the newly launched Spurtle and Spoon pop-up breakfast bar, hosted at Barefoot Oxford in Jericho, and the experience was definitely good enough to share.

The kitchen opened at 8am, and mostly due to being at the mercy of the timings of public transport, we were those super keen people waiting outside the shop front before they were quite ready. In any case, it gave us some time to consider what we were going to order – on offer from Spurtle and Spoon was a variety of overnight oat bowls, homemade granola, or sourdough toast with a couple of choices of toppings. Barefoot also have an absolutely beautiful display of freshly baked cakes, and when is cake for breakfast not a great idea? So that was an option too, and I believe they always have at least one vegan option, that morning’s being a very pretty looking courgette cake (see, it would’ve even almost been healthy!).

IMG_4480After a little deliberation, I went for an overnight oats bowl made with dairy-free milk, topped with raspberries, toasted coconut and a spoonful of nut butter. It said on the menu that it came with cashews, but I had an epiphany about four hours later when looking at my photos, that the cashews were in fact nowhere to be found. However, they were pretty generous with the toppings and as it completely passed me by at the time, I think I can let them off. The bowls were particularly Instagram-worthy, coming with a sprinkle of freeze dried raspberries and rose petals too.

IMG_4478It was a really tasty and comforting bowl of food, perfect for these spring/summer days when the weather isn’t quite sure what it’s doing. The oats themselves tasted like they weren’t sweetened, and when I make overnight oats myself I usually grate an apple or add a bit of dairy-free yoghurt, so it tasted slightly different from what I’m used to. The ample toppings mixed in gave it plenty of flavour though, and Becky said that hers topped with banana and cacao was really tasty too. These were huge bowls of oatmeal, enough to keep me going until 2pm (apart from a handful of strawberries as a mid-morning office snack, which I ate because they were there, despite feeling ridiculously full). I have a pretty fast metabolism, also known as greediness, so that’s quite unheard of for me.

With the oats and a pot of breakfast tea, my order came to a very reasonable £6.50. We all said we’d like to go back again as the food was great and we’d like to try some of the other options on the menu. I think we might make going out for breakfast a more regular occurrence, because it’s the best meal of the day in my opinion, and what nicer way to start off a day that has to be spent in the office?


Review: Zizzi


After my less than positive review of Prezzo last week, I wanted to show that it is possible to get decent quality vegan food from a chain restaurant. My family came to visit Oxford at the weekend on a beautifully sunny day, and I booked a table for lunch at Zizzi on George Street. My boyfriend and mum both eat meat, my brother is vegetarian, and my sister and I are vegans, and Zizzi is one place that we’ve found that has loads of choice and everyone is happy with their meal every time we go. I had suggested a couple of different places prior to my family’s visit, but my sister was really keen to go to Zizzi as she is in love with their vegan lentil ragu.

IMG_4445One of the great things about going to Zizzi is how easy it is, you don’t have to feel remotely awkward when asking for their vegan menu as they’re working hard to promote it and are regularly changing/adding things to the menu. To start, we all ordered one vegan garlic bread, which came with at least a whole head of garlic to the happiness of my sister, and another with cheese. They were a very generous size so two were easily shared by the five of us, and everyone equally enjoyed the vegan one. When our mains came, our very enthusiastic waiter offered the non-vegans cheese, adding ‘and it’s vegetarian parmesan’ which was thoughtful and shows again how they are aware of their customers’ different needs.


I ordered the vegan classic pizza, which comes with Mozzarisella and ample choice of toppings – I went for mushrooms, spinach, and artichokes, which until very recently I’d never tried, and have now discovered a love for (if you haven’t tried them either I urge you to go for it, they’re great). I just love Zizzi’s pizza. Although the vegan mozzarella is a bit less stringy and doesn’t quite taste the same as dairy cheese, it’s just as delicious in my opinion (and more so if you consider the fact that no living creature was mistreated in order to produce it). My sister, Lucy, ordered her favourite dairy-free ragu. It wasn’t as mind-blowing this time as she remembered it, but I couldn’t tell you if that was down to the individual chef or how she’d remembered the dish, but she still said it was very enjoyable. It definitely looked tasty so I might have a go at recreating it at home. I’m inspired to make some homemade pizzas this week too, especially with the huge new range of cheeses that Tesco has just brought out which are begging to be tried.

IMG_44691Lucy had also been desperate to try their new vegan dessert since they announced it recently, a sticky chocolate and praline torte. Shortly after she’d ordered, a waiter came over to say unfortunately they’d just run out of the chocolate and coconut ripple ice cream it was supposed to be served with, so offered strawberry sorbet instead, which was fine. I had half expected him to tell us that the torte had sold out, because I’ve seen that happening quite often to people on vegan Facebook groups when they’ve visited; obviously the demand for this vegan menu is even higher than Zizzi anticipated, which is great. The portion size was generous and the torte was very rich, so Lucy had a little help from Jamie to finish it off. I think she was happy she finally got to try it and it didn’t disappoint!

Zizzi always have discount codes you can download from their website, and they also offer a student discount with NUS – 25% on Wednesday, Thursday, and Sunday, and 30% on Mondays and Tuesdays, which makes it really amazing value. Our whole bill came to under £60 for two starters, five mains, and a dessert. The service was great and it was just a really nice eating experience. If you want a safe bet for decent quality food, or you have a party with a mixture of dietary requirements, I think Zizzi is a pretty good choice.

Review: Prezzo


My boyfriend, Jamie, had a £20 voucher for Prezzo which was due to run out, and I’d found a code on their website for 25% off food, so we decided to visit their Oxford Castle Quarter branch for dinner last weekend after listening to a conversation with Toby Jones at the Oxford Literary Festival (which is fantastic, by the way, I encourage everyone to have a look at the line up when the time comes again next year, because it is a great event in our city’s calendar)!

I wasn’t actually planning on reviewing a chain restaurant so soon, but sadly I was pretty disappointed with my meal here, so I wanted to share my experience. There are many chain restaurants in town that offer fairly decent vegan options (Bella Italia, Ask, Zizzi, to name a few), so if that’s the kind of food you’re looking for, I’d probably suggest to steer clear of Prezzo unfortunately. Although Jamie didn’t order vegan food, he said he felt the same, so perhaps it’s the overall Prezzo experience that isn’t that great, rather than their vegan offering alone. I’ve been to other Prezzo locations and I don’t remember thinking it was quite this bad so maybe it’s not all branches, but certainly the Oxford one is probably one to avoid.

IMG_4300We arrived just before 5.30pm so the restaurant was extremely quiet. It was definitely partly the fact it was so early, but the atmosphere was uncomfortable, and having looked at the menu beforehand to find all of the main meals at £12+, we were kind of surprised that it felt pretty much the same inside as a cheap Pizza Hut – even though technically we weren’t really paying for the meal as it was on a gift card, it still somehow felt like a rip off. There were two other tables in the restaurant occupied and everyone was very subdued, it was just a bit weird.

I already knew I was going to order the vegan pappardelle, described on the menu as being served with ‘our mix of chargrilled vegetables, roasted red pepper tapenade, parsley, rocket and smoked balsamic dressing’. I can only guess that the couple of specks of grey grease on top of my rocket was supposed to be the smoked dressing! At the time I was concerned some sauce had dripped onto my dish from something else. I couldn’t really taste it. I didn’t get much flavour from the tapenade either. The pasta tasted and felt like it had been submerged for some time in a neutral flavoured oil. The ‘mix’ of chargrilled veg was in fact just aubergine and two slices of sweet potato, the latter which I’ve never had with pasta before and probably never will again. On paper the dish sounded really nice, so it’s a shame the execution left so much to be desired. I was still a bit hungry but we decided not to get dessert, as everything seemed overpriced for the quality of the food, so I ended up snacking when I got home!

I do want to say that the service was great – the servers were very friendly, attentive, and as you might expect at this time of day, the food came out really quickly. That being said, the food is definitely the most important thing for me, so the good service probably isn’t quite enough for me to give Prezzo a second chance 😦

I’d be really interested to know if anyone has visited the Oxford Castle Quarter Prezzo, or any other, and maybe had a different experience though – let me know in the comments what you think!


Review: Brunch at GAF


Going out for a proper brunch was a new experience for me. I love to cook and enjoy taking the time on a weekend to create something like waffles or pancakes at home, which I just don’t have the time to make during the week. I’m also a big fan of having (at least) three meals a day. Who are these crazy people who are choosing to forego a precious meal?! So I may have snuck in a small breakfast before going to meet my friend Lucy in East Oxford at 11.30 which, let’s face it, is almost lunch time anyway…

I’d thought about going to GAF since it opened, but was a little put off by a couple of reviews I’d read which suggested the place tries to be a bit upmarket and subsequently the portion sizes are quite small. However, the menu certainly looked pretty vegan friendly, so we decided to meet there. Lucy arrived before me and got us a table at the back; it was pretty busy when we arrived, and only seemed to get busier while we ate. The staff were very friendly and attentive. Our drinks order was taken as soon as I sat down, and literally seconds later, a second waitress came to ask if we’d like any drinks, and we explained we’d just ordered. When we finished our meal, the exact same thing happened again! It was kind of funny, but you can’t really fault them for making sure we had everything we needed 🙂

“Clearly it’s really important to them that we stay hydrated” – Lucy

I really liked the sound of a few things on their menu, particularly the porridge, smashed avocado on toast, and the GAF breakfast. Ultimately I decided that it would be a bit much to dedicate a whole blog post to reviewing a bowl of oatmeal, however nice that oatmeal might be, and I was feeling something hearty so I went for the vegan GAF breakfast, at £9. It was labelled ‘vegetarian with a vegan alternative’ on the menu, as it came with an egg. I suggested to Lucy (rather hopefully) that maybe they would put a bit of avocado on my plate instead. Alas, when I ordered the breakfast, the waitress confirmed my suspicions: “so you want the vegan breakfast – with no egg, yes?” Ah, that well-known ‘vegan alternative’ of paying the same price for less food on the plate.

img_4065When the food arrived, the initial sight of lots of white space on my plate kind of played up to my assumptions that this was the sort of place where you pay a lot for a little, but actually it was a really nice amount of food. Let’s actually get to it: I loved it. I will definitely go back here again, the food was delicious and well worth spending a little more than I usually would for lunch. The juicy field mushroom and diced tomatoes were cooked exactly how I would have them. There was a mound of rocket on top of the dish which wasn’t mentioned on the menu description, which was a welcome addition for me, but I know not everyone is a fan of its strong flavour. I didn’t miss the greasy hash brown that usually comes with an English breakfast at all and only wished there could’ve been a few more of the gorgeous caramelised sweet potato chunks this came with, but that’s just me being greedy I think. I could really tell that the smokey baked beans were homemade, and the flavour pulled the dish together. I saved the compote which came with the toast, incredibly sweet and aromatic (kind of reminded me of a Christmas candle…), for once I was done with everything else, and it was actually a very nice way to finish off the meal, kind of like having a pudding!

I would recommend GAF for a great vegan brunch. The menu is labelled really clearly and caters for different diets, making it a good choice for those with vegans, veggies, and meat-eaters in their group (sadly they had steak on the brunch menu, which seems bizarre to me). The cafe is open for dinner too and Lucy mentioned that they change up their evening menu every month or so as they like to use seasonal produce, so I definitely plan on paying another visit in the near future! Watch this space…

Event: Oxford Vegan Festival

A beautifully sunny 25th of March saw Oxford’s first ever vegan festival, organised by Farplace Animal Rescue and held at the Kassam Stadium Conference Centre. I had no idea what to expect in terms of size and popularity of this event, but when we arrived to a reasonable sized queue at the building entrance, one question entered my mind – where have all you Oxford vegans been hiding?!

I love vegan festivals because they feel like a safe haven where you don’t have to worry about triple checking an ingredients list, or feeling awkward about asking what’s in something. I came along with three non-vegan friends and I think everyone ended up really enjoying themselves, which was great! We spent longer at the festival than I expected us to, definitely getting our money’s worth of free samples and indulging in plenty of goodies. We did a lap of the stalls before deciding what to get for lunch (it took me forever, far more choice than I’m used to!)


After deliberating over pizzas, burgers, flatbreads, fish and chips, and mac ‘n’ cheese, I finally landed on a seitan pie and mash from Young Vegans, served up with crispy onions and a rocket salad. This was my first time trying seitan and I absolutely loved this meal. It was meaty, filling comfort food at its best, and super reasonable at only £6. They’re regulars at Tottenham Green Market, and I might pay them another visit if I’m ever in the area! I also picked up a slice of battenberg (very sorry I don’t remember the name of the vendor who was selling this but I would love to be reminded so please do comment if you know!), and a mint chocolate brownie from Eat Dark Matters, as well as a curry pie from Mr Nice Pies to heat up for my boyfriend’s dinner when he got home from his day working; I’m nice like that ;). All in all it was a delicious day of over-eating and spending time in good company, which is pretty much a perfect Saturday in my book!

It was nice to see some familiar faces that I’ve come across at other festivals, but especially great to find out about local vegan businesses that I’d not yet discovered and to have a chat with the people working hard to try and make the thing they care about a success. I felt a bit sorry for the vendors who were in the downstairs foyer because business definitely seemed to be slower for them, most of the stalls and the seating area were upstairs which meant that once people had gone up there they didn’t really go back down until they were on their way out. However, we did our bit by purchasing an amazing banana soda bread loaf from Global Fusion Vegan Creole Bakery which went down a treat for breakfast this morning.

Farplace organise vegan festivals all around the country and I’d thoroughly recommend checking one out if you can, it’s such a fun day out and a great advocate for veganism, showcasing all the best things about being vegan in a really positive, inclusive way. Here’s to Oxford Vegan Festival 2018!


Review: Feast Without The Beast at The Fir Tree

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When I saw a page shared on a vegan Facebook group about a new Sunday lunch menu at the Fir Tree on Iffley Road, I was more than a bit excited – quickly sharing the link with my only vegan friend in Oxford, we arranged to eat there on the weekend. Feast Without The Beast only launched last weekend so there isn’t much online to tell you what you can expect from the food yet, but the menu looked promising, and this is the only place in Oxford with a fully vegan offering, so it was definitely high on my list of places to check out.

When I arrived, I felt a bit awkward about having called in advance to book a table because we were literally the only ones there. That can be a bit off-putting, but I’m sure it’s just because this is a brand new concept and not many people have heard about it yet – so vegan friends of Oxford, please head to the Fir Tree sometime soon and show them that the market is here!

Untitled designYou can really tell that a lot of thought and care has gone into putting together this menu, I could have easily ordered any of the dishes. The chef brought the food out to our table himself and seemed really keen that we enjoy our meal. Valentina ordered the moussaka, so I decided to go for the nut roast in the interest of testing out different things. This was, shock, the first nut roast I’ve ever eaten, so I don’t really have anything to compare it to, but I was happy that it wasn’t too dry thanks to the butternut squash, and its sweetness combined with the mixed nuts and seeds was really delicious. I might be more inclined to order a nut roast at other places now! The roast potatoes were perfectly crispy (why can’t I get mine to go like that..), and there was a decent variety of vegetables and trimmings along with it, including the thick gravy pulling everything together. I tried a bite of Valentina’s moussaka, which she said it reminded her of home, and that really summed up how I felt about my meal too, in the best way, because I think that’s exactly what you want from a Sunday dinner.

Untitled design (1)Although we were both feeling pretty full from our mains, we couldn’t say no to the opportunity to try a coveted vegan dessert that wasn’t a sorbet. Valentina had been dreaming about that tiramisu since I sent her the menu, and I’m never one to turn down a pudding, so I decided to order the snix, a millionaire’s shortbread style cake, which was served with fruit salad. It was sweet, coco-nutty, and very rich (literally dread to think how many calories I consumed over these two courses with all of those nuts), it felt like such an indulgent treat. Valentina said the tiramisu was deliciously creamy and although it wasn’t really like a traditional tiramisu, it was very tasty just the same.

Untitled design (2)Valentina mentioned that as she got to the pub a little early she thought she’d grab a coffee, but when she tried to order at the bar, they didn’t have any soy milk or even really seem to know what it was, which seemed a bit strange when they were serving an all-vegan menu. The yorkshire pudding also was a bit hard on top, but actually this was the first vegan one I’ve had cooked for me and it was still a pretty decent attempt (and far superior to anything I’ve come up with at home). So aside from these tiny things, it was a really lovely meal, and I only hope that more people go and show their support for the new menu.

If you’re a student missing mum’s roast dinner, or the thought of slaving away in the kitchen for two hours on a Sunday afternoon isn’t really your thing, I’d definitely recommend the Feast Without The Beast for a comforting and filling home-cooked meal. I’m sure I could bring my non-vegan boyfriend here and he’d love it too, and it’s the sort of place I might take my family if they were in Oxford for a visit. If you want to show sceptics that being vegan doesn’t just mean eating salad, this is the place to come.