We get it: time’s short, Super Noodles swiftly get boring and choosing where to eat out with your hard earned student loan is an unwelcome stress for all of us. It’s a well known fact that easy accessibility to cheap but tasty food is a student’s basic right, and the best place to exercise this is the street food van. True, British street food has taken a bit of a beating over the years; just the words ‘food van’ evoke a somewhat unsavoury image of ‘meat’ being chain-sawed off the solitary, rotating doner, or fully legit culinary combinations, like that old classic, chicken tikka with chips and mayo. Oxford, however, is somewhat different; in amongst the standard gravy-ed chips and burgers, there are, in fact, treasures to be found on the streets of our city, the proof that something both affordable and edible can be found in the humble van. So if you’re looking for something convenient and tasty, that won’t leave greasy finger marks on your copy of The Economist or lead to the tragic trail of ketchup down your Jack Wills gilet, read on.
Hussein’s (St Giles, outside Taylor Institution)
OK, we lied. This one is a bit greasy, but don’t let that put you off. Hero of St Giles and surrogate father to every St John’s student, the Nobel prize-worthy Hussein has been serving up the best doner kebab in the six foot radius between his van and the next, for as long as we can remember. With a lengthy menu, great prices and unparalleled banter with the man himself on offer, any visit to Hussein’s is what we might call an ‘Experience.’ The chips are great, the portions generous, the doner perhaps best appreciated if soaking up the remnants of Park End. Play your cards right and they’ll even let you dispense your own sauce; a sterling end to any Oxford evening.
Pizza Artisan (St Aldates, outside Christ Church)
This unashamedly hipster camper van, fully equipped with the standard wood-fired oven and a never-ending mix tape of ska, will provide quite possibly the greatest pizza you’ll find in Oxford city. This is dough-based goodness at its absolute best; more expensive than your average takeaway, yet, we can say with confidence, infinitely better and completely worth it. With diverse menus for both vegetarians and normal people, every pizza is prepared and cooked before your eyes with a range of extras, such as salad and oils, on offer free of charge, to crown these pieces of culinary royalty. Avoid the ‘Fifty Shades of Nutella’ (essentially glorified chocolate spread on toast) but the ‘Chimera’ and ‘Blue Moon’ are both very highly recommended.
StrEat Cuisine (St Giles)
Admittedly, it was the time machine-esque appearance of this van that motivated us to try it. That’s probably where the magic stopped. Although it claims to be gourmet, we found the lunchtime menu more than a bit bland, the prices more than a bit cheeky, with nothing beyond fairly standard wraps and pasta on offer. On the other hand, those who appreciate variety will be delighted with the daily changes to the menu, communicated in advance online. Much more promising are the reasonably priced and imaginative breakfasts, with cheap hot drinks available for a quick pre-lecture boost. Fans of overpriced and obscure Eastern European pastries will also find themselves in heaven, with such fare surprisingly offered alongside oft overlooked classics like pineapple upside-down cake. To be fair, though it left us slightly confused as to what they’re actually trying to do, StrEat Cuisine has only had its dazzling chrome doors open to the public for a short while, and, while they haven’t quite nailed it yet, we can’t help but be cautiously excited to see where they go from here.
“Crêpes” are all too often bog-standard pancakes with a French name tacked on to make them sound posh, and with visions of ‘Authentic French crêpes topped with cheddar, Marmite and Wiltshire ham’ in mind, we were prepared for underwhelmage. However, Broad Street’s Crêpe-o-Mania is run by an actual Français, who offers 10% discounts with French Soc membership or a SJC discount card, and immediately quashed all of our cynical preconceptions. With nothing but crêpes on offer, it’s a one-trick pony, but what it does it does well. The sweet options, such as Brêton apple and cinnamon, are recommended for a quick post-tute pick-me-up, but an impressive savoury range is what really sets it apart from the rest. At £3.75 or so a pop, this van is well worth a visit for the occasional treat and, for the keen languages enthusiast, a short French conversation. Delicious and educational (or so you can tell yourself), drop by for a quick pit-stop and you won’t regret it.
Falafel House (Gloucester Green)
If Wahoo’s not your ideal Friday night and you’re more of a fried chicken and board games kind of kid, you’re probably familiar with the utopia that is Gloucester Green. However, this is not the only attraction to be found in this semi-barren wasteland in the middle of our city. Falafel House is a quick, affordable alternative to the standard hall lunch, with friendly service, decent prices and a more interesting choice than your average Costa or Pret. They have resolutely stuck to their mission to create as many combinations of falafel, hummus and halloumi as humanely possible, though you can personalize your purchase into a food fit for the gods with a wide range of salads, sauces and dressings on offer. The kofta is good, the baklava a little disappointing, but the real star of the show here is definitely the falafel, cooked to crisp perfection: a little slice of middle-class heaven.