Image description: Small white bowls full of colourful Sri Lankan food on a table.
Meg Hopkins picks her top 10 favourite vegan restaurants in Oxford.
The Coconut Tree –
Food: Sri Lankan street food tapas style.
It is a little pricey (although they’re doing Eat Out To Help Out on collections until June) but my goodness it’s a-ma-zing. My weekly Coconut Tree got me through Hilary. The sheer range of vegan options is impressive, there’s four different vegan curries and plenty of other dishes. The atmosphere in the restaurant is also lively and welcoming so whether you’re getting a takeaway or eating in you’ll have a good time.
Best dish(es): My favourites are the Cashew Curry and the Sri-tatoes.
Food: Palestinian and Middle Eastern dishes.
They don’t have the most vegan dishes with only three mains but there is a reason this is one of the best rated Oxford restaurants on TripAdviser. In person the hosting and atmosphere are without parallel. And the food is to die for! Zaatar bake is definitely worth the long trek into Cowley!
Best dish(es): The best dish is the moussaka without a doubt.
Food: Fast food but make it vegan.
Deep into Cowley, Happy Friday is a hidden gem with a completely vegan menu, deserts and all. The portion sizes are very generous, and the atmosphere is super cute- they even have their own merch!
Best dish(es): If you’re missing cheese the mozzarella balls are an absolute must, or the cookie dough skillet.
Food: Do I need to say what they sell?
Iscream is superior to G&Ds and I will indeed die on this hill; it’s cheaper and has a great range of homemade vegan options. The owners often use produce from their own gardens and are beyond friendly. Basically, all the fruit flavours are vegan, and they actually taste and feel like ice cream instead of sorbet (no shade to sorbet).
Best flavour: The blackberry flavour is my favourite ice cream in the world.
Food: Turkish (and delightful).
Again, this is another wonderful Cowley restaurant that doesn’t get enough attention. There are a few vegan mains and sides, I tried the Turlu and the Imam Bayildi. I must confess that the Imam Baylidi is the dish that changed my mind on aubergine. To my shame I painted all aubergine with an oily brush but I was wrong. The aubergine was tender, not oily or dry and stuffed with beautiful vegetables and garlic. The bulgar wheat was also a very happy surprise- as were the enormous portions!
Best dish(es): Imam Baylidi
Food: Japanese and Chinese
Located in the Covered Market, Donburi Inn is a brilliant lunch spot. When it’s busy the queue to order and waiting to collect orders can get confusing and make the wait a little long but it is worth it. The food is made in front of you and is really reasonably priced.
Best dish(es): The veg gyoza curry with fried noodles, gyoza or vegetable spring rolls.
Gloucester Green Market-
Food: Indian, Greek, German, Chinese, Sri-Lankan, Spanish, Persian- there’s a smorgasbord!
I tried to decide on one or two market stalls to single out but it is simply not possible. The punjabi samosas are the best samosas in existence. The Sri Lankan £5 vegan meal combines so many different tastes and is a great way to try several curries at once. The Greek stall always has a huge queue and I’m dying to try it myself, but it comes highly recommended. Curries from the Tibetan Stall are delicate, flavoursome and simple. At the Chinese stall there are so many good choices and all really reasonably prices but the standout is the steamed bun
Best dish(es): Honestly picking would feel like choosing a favourite child so you’ll have to find out for yourself.
Food: Lebanese (?)
Najar’s is an Oxford institution and if you haven’t been yet, you need to rectify that right now. There’s a reason why every lunch and dinner there are queues of people! A huge wrap costs as little as £3.50 and it will keep you fill the entire day. I don’t know how they roast their vegetables or what spices they use for their vegetable samosas and I would say good money to find out.
Best dish(es): The spiced potatoes and roasted vegetables work so well together, give it a go at least once!
The Gardener’s Arms-
All of the dishes are vegetarian and most are vegan or can be made vegan. They have a lot of fake meat options so if you have cravings this is the place to go! The food is also well-priced so it’s a win-win! The Gardener’s Arms may be a little bit of a trek as it’s out in Jericho but to support a local, vegetarian restaurant I’d argue it is worth it; it’s so nice to have a whole menu to choose from instead of just a couple of dishes.
Best dish: the kebab bowl
Chiang Mai Kitchen-
This is an absolutely lovely restaurant and a great place for dates! The staff are super accommodating and friendly and the atmosphere is warm and inviting. There’s several different options for vegan starters and mains and deciding what to have is hard!
Best dish(es): Pad Thai Jay (without egg obviously).
Image credit: Meg Hopkins