Review: Fortuity Food Pop-Up Restaurant

Some months ago, a friend shared with me a link to an event that I couldn’t have dreamed of happening in my area until fairly recently. Fortuity Foods, a pop-up restaurant at The Kings Arms in Wheatley, was bringing Oxford vegans a fully plant-based, three course menu. I booked a table as soon as the date was announced, and after much poring over the menu and Googling of the fancy foodie words it contained, I met with a friend at the pub this weekend for our first fine dining experience. Please feel free to click on the photos to see them at full size!


img_6319We were presented with a platter of bread from Modern Baker while we waited for our first course, served with a homemade vegan butter which was fantastic – I’d love to steal the recipe for this. For starters, Valentina went for the seitan medallions, and I chose the spinach tortellini. When they arrived, both meals looked very professional, neat, and pretty on the plate. Valentina’s seitan came on a bed of sweetcorn and a chilli jam, which I tried a bite of and it tasted wonderful, with a nice balance of heat and sweetness. We both felt this salsa was actually the star of the dish, as the seitan could have done with a little bitimg_6330 more seasoning. My tortellini filled with mushroom however was incredibly flavoursome, and came served with a tomato consomme. I don’t really understand how a consomme is made but from what I can tell from watching Masterchef, this one was pretty good; it was quite clear and packed with flavour too. The ‘spring vegetables’ were in fact some carrot and celery chopped into the tiniest of pieces, which added some texture and freshness to the dish. This course was a really good start to the meal, I only wished there was more of it!

img_6332Our main course arrived fairly promptly, though sadly we had to wait a good few minutes until we could tuck in because our cutlery had been taken away after the first course and not replaced. The waiter was very apologetic when he realised though, and we both appreciated this was their first time running a (sold out) pop-up restaurant so it would’ve been hard to keep on top of absolutely everything. My main course was the chickpea ballotine served on a bed of crushed peas and a cauliflower mousse. It also came with a small smudge of black sauce which I have to admit I still have no idea what it was. The taste of the whole dish overall though was delicious. The vegetables were seasoned beautifully, the refreshing flavours of which were really complemented by the ballotine. img_6334Again, the dish was pretty small and I could have happily eaten two portions of this without it scraping the sides. With it being fine dining though, I had expected that to be the case. Valentina’s dish was a bit more substantial because of the dauphinoise, which tasted nice, and the layers looked amazing, though sadly there was one layer of potato which was a bit thicker than the others and therefore slightly underdone. The green vegetables accompanying the dish tasted really good and probably stole the show on this plate.


img_6338We deliberated slightly over whether to get a third course or not, both of us being on budgets, but I’m definitely glad I persuaded myself. My chocolate torte more than made up for any hunger I was still feeling after the small savoury courses – I actually couldn’t finish it all because it was so rich and decadent. So. Much. Chocolate! There was a layer of chocolate and nut brittle inside, as well as the thick dark chocolate ganache, and an avocado and pistachio mousse. Unfortunately I didn’t really taste much pistachio in there, perhaps because the chocolate was so intense, though I could taste the avocado, and I can’t quite make my mind up on how I feel about that in a dessert. I peered over at the cheese board on someone else’s table and that looked fantastic, there was a £3 supplement for this, but having seen it, perhaps next time I’d be tempted to try it. img_6340Valentina was a little less impressed with her dessert which was a cherry and cashew mille-feuille. It looked very attractive on the plate, but the layers of what would usually be puff pastry looked overdone so they were a bit more like a biscuit and difficult to cut into with just a spoon. I didn’t take up Valentina’s offer to try a taste because I was simply too full from my own dessert, but she mentioned the cashew cream was a bit bland, though the cherry compote was tasty. I think the dish had a lot of potential and I was really torn between which dessert to order as they’d both sounded fantastic on the menu, so probably with a bit more refinement this would have been amazing.

Overall, I’d definitely recommend that local vegans attend a Fortuity Foods pop-up, if and when they hold their next event. It’s a chance to try vegan fine dining at a very reasonable price, and certainly something different from anything I’ve experienced before. We could tell that this was their first event as there were bits here and there that could have been improved, but the love and care that was taken over creating the menu and preparing the food was unmistakable. I had a really interesting and enjoyable evening, and I’m looking forward to seeing what’s on their next menu!

Review: The Tree Hotel

The Tree Hotel in Iffley village launched a vegan menu fairly recently, and since it’s been on my radar, I’ve been dying to find a time to try it out. As neither me or Jamie drive, it’s been a case of waiting until I had a day free to take a walk down there. Happily, this weekend a good friend from out of town came to visit, and as we both quite enjoy walking, we decided to walk to town via Iffley Lock, and stop at The Tree Hotel for a meal on the way.


Despite having lived in Oxford for nearly six years, this was my first time venturing into Iffley village, and it’s so cute! I wouldn’t have expected this quiet rural village to have been a couple of steps away from the busy Iffley Road. When we entered the pub, no one was there to seat us and it wasn’t super clear where to go, so we peered through a couple of doorways before someone noticed us and showed us through to the bar. We asked for a table for two, and were asked ‘are either of you vegan?’ before being given the menus, which I thought was great, because quite often they just provide the vegan menu on request rather than actively encouraging people to choose from it. The pub has a nice beer garden, and as it was so sunny and warm, we decided to get a table outside. We believed there was a wedding party staying at the hotel, as we’d seen a couple of ladies dressed up and the car park was full, but there was only one table occupied in the restaurant, and a couple of people having a drink outside. With it being lunchtime on one of the rare summery days we have here, Carolina and I were surprised at just how quiet it was, as this place clearly has a lot of potential and we felt like it should have been really busy with people getting food or just enjoying the sunshine with a drink.

IMG_5837Obviously I’d already had a decent look at the menu online before we got there, and all of the starters sounded delicious, but I was intrigued by the teriyaki tofu so went for that. I expected it to come on skewers for some reason but when it arrived it was an attractive plate of stir fried tofu and finely diced onion and herbs with a side salad. The dish was a really generous size and the marinade was spot on, I’d love to steal the recipe. I almost preferred the flavour of the onion mixture to the tofu because you got such an intense teriyaki flavour from it.


Carolina, who isn’t vegan herself, liked the sound of a couple of things on the vegan menu too, so we decided to share two main courses, which I was really pleased about as I’m notoriously bad at deciding on one dish to eat, and it meant I got to try more of their selection. We went for the vegan shepherd’s pie served with sweet potato fries, and a curry. I believe the shepherd’s pie was supposed to be served with salad and they didn’t put any on the plate, which ordinarily I might have questioned, but between my starter and the curry, I felt like we had enough salad that it wasn’t worth worrying about too much. On the plus side, I guess it also meant there was room for more sweet potato fries on the plate. I feel like I review a sweet potato chip in every post I write, and never have anything bad to say! Anyway these were lovely and crispy, and had just the right amount of salt. The shepherd’s pie itself was really tasty. The mashed potato was so creamy, enough so that I found myself thinking ‘I really hope this is vegan’, because I’ve never managed to get it like that at home. The filling was made with a vegan mince substitute and a handful of the veggies you’d expect – peas, carrot etc. It was more tomato-y than I would expect a shepherd’s pie to be, as opposed to being a gravy based sauce, but it was so nicely seasoned and really enjoyable. Vegan pub food can be hard to come by and this really hit the spot.

IMG_5840There were two curry options on the menu, a malabar tofu curry (which I have to admit I just Googled because I’d never heard of it before, and turns out it’s usually a seafood dish) and a vegetable green Thai curry, both served with jasmine rice. We ordered the latter, but following my search, I’m wondering whether we were served the former, as the photos of a malabar curry look much more similar to what we were served. I wasn’t expecting there to be any tofu in it because it wasn’t mentioned on the menu description of the curry we chose, so I did think it was lucky we both liked tofu otherwise we’d have been pretty disappointed when it came. This was the first time Carolina had properly tried tofu as well so it was even luckier that she didn’t mind it really. So I ended up eating so much tofu over the course of this meal, far more than I usually would in one go. But having said all this, the curry was really wonderful and we both thoroughly enjoyed it. The sauce was such a beautiful flavour; it was sweet, rich, and creamy, and still came with plenty of vegetables in, including carrots, green beans, peppers, and aubergine. So whichever curry it was, I recommend it. The salad was a nice addition as well, helping you feel slightly better about the nutritional content of an otherwise clearly very indulgent meal!

IMG_5847For dessert, I was slightly torn between the chocolate tart with strawberries, and the apple pie and custard, which was notoriously my favourite as a child (when we’d have it for pudding after a big Sunday roast, I would somehow manage to go for seconds, thirds… basically as many helpings as I could get my hand on). However, as it was such a nice warm day I thought the fruit would be a bit more refreshing, so I went for the chocolate option. We decided that the pudding took longer to come out than the main course, I’m guessing because they heated the tart up properly in the oven. I was slightly disappointed that the ‘fresh strawberries’ mention on the menu in plural ended up being literally one small strawberry chopped into three slices, considering that was what swayed me to order the dish. The tart was fairly small – sorry the perspective of my photo doesn’t really show the size of the whole dessert – but you definitely wouldn’t have needed anything larger, as it was incredibly rich and sticky molten chocolate. This chocolate reminded me more of the milk chocolate desserts I’d had before I was vegan, and again I found myself questioning whether it was really dairy free (typical vegan paranoia I think). The pastry case was a little chewy but the flavour of the whole thing was wonderful. I managed to get quite a lot of chocolate on my face. Clearly I was enjoying the dessert enough not to worry – loved it.

When paying for my dessert, I had a quick chat with the waiter and asked him whether many people came in and ordered off the vegan menu, and he told me it was really popular, which I was very happy to hear. There really aren’t many places locally that offer something like The Tree Hotel menu, which I’m sure is why it’s successful, and I only hope that other local places start to follow suit as the market is clearly there. I’m happy enough when there’s a single palatable vegan option on a menu when eating out at a pub, but to have been served such lovely food in a nice setting like this really felt like a treat. I’ll definitely be bringing my family here when they next come to visit, and would recommend a nice walk to Iffley to enjoy the food here any time. The last time I checked, they don’t offer the vegan meals on a Sunday sadly as they have a buffet/carvery on instead of the usual menu, but I’m sure it’s always worth calling ahead to see if they have anything suitable. My three courses came to £20, which is more than I’d usually spend on one meal out, but I was more than happy to pay it because I really felt that the quality of the food was worth it. I spotted a sign that they do 2 for 1 on main courses on Monday evenings, so I think I know when I’ll next head down – and maybe I’ll bump into a few fellow Oxford vegans there? ;P


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: 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.

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!