Being a vegetarian can be awkward, and let’s be honest, nobody wants to be that awkward friend. While a few restaurants dedicate whole menus to vegetarians and vegans, it’s easy to feel a little left out. I think I speak for most vegetarians when I say a Portobello mushroom lobbed into a burger bun doesn’t count as a burger substitute!
Here are a few of the best restaurants I believe cater to vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, without being specifically for vegetarians. There are plenty of options to choose from, you don’t have to settle for something you could have made at home!
72-74 Cowley Road, Oxford OX4 1JB / arbequina.co.uk
Located down Cowley Road in an old chemist, Arbequina offers a casual dining experience. It is a small venue with tables dispersed snuggly, and a few seats at the bar. The menu hosts an array of delicious small plates, many of which are, thankfully, vegetarian. Their onion tortilla really is second to none and the crispy chickpea salad with chilli butter and yoghurt another close favourite. Crispy on the outside and soft in the middle, these little morsels of goodness are nestled into a beautifully dressed salad, the yoghurt perfectly cutting through.
228-230 Cowley Rd, Cowley, Oxford OX4 1U / oxford.antepkitchenonline.co.uk
Another restaurant down Cowley Road, Antep Kitchen is a much larger venue with many tables to choose from (or not, as its normally fully booked!). Upon entering you are greeted by a huge charcoal barbecue with a selection of meat and vegetable skewers. It is a vibrant and buzzing restaurant great for dining out with friends.
Many of its traditional dishes are vegetarian, so it comes as no surprise that their vegetarian options are tasty. The veg Sarma Beyti is a must-have – roasted aubergine, potato, and mushroom, wrapped in bread with cheese, drizzled with butter & topped with tomato sauce. A comforting mix of veg and carbs, I’d find it hard to understand why anyone wouldn’t want this dish!
9 Little Clarendon St, Oxford OX1 2HP / pierrevictoire.co.uk
Softly lit and cosy, it’s a real date night winner. Pierre Victoire is in Jericho, a ten-minute walk from the city centre. Tucked away down Little Clarendon Street, it is surrounded by lovely bars perfect for a pre-dinner drink.
While it only has one vegetarian main option (quality over quantity!). They do it very well – the French classic Tartiflette. Layers of cheese, potato and mushroom baked with reblochon cheese. You simply can’t go wrong!
111 Walton St, Oxford OX2 6AJ / branca.co.uk
Venture a little further into Jericho and you will find Branca. A modern Italian restaurant, with exposed brick walls and large glass windows. They also have a lovely outdoor seating area that is great in warmer months. Serving pizzas, pasta and seasonal mains, they pride themselves on cooking with the seasons. While most of their seasonal dishes aren’t vegetarian, their pizza deserves recognition. Pillowy soft dough with plenty of cheese. I particularly like the roasted aubergine, goats cheese and pesto one, they also serve a plant-based burger.
120-121 High St, Oxford OX1 4DD / theivyoxford.com
Found right in the heart of the city centre in an old bank, the Ivy is not one to be missed. With its vibrant interiors and impressive bar, an entire menu dedicated to vegetarians and vegans is the cherry on top. The jackfruit and peanut bang bang salad is a great starter, and the chargrilled halloumi with giant couscous, labneh and pomegranate is my favourite main course. The Ivy boasts a fine dining experience that I often feel lacking in vegetarian meals, but the menu lives up to expectations. The depth of flavours and presentation of food ensures you leave feeling satisfied.
Great for a mid-shop pick me up or a casual dinner, this colourful oasis at the entrance of the Westgate is hard to miss. Its brightly coloured interiors and quirky décor are a feast for the eyes, even before trying the food. Their mixed mezze starter is a must-have. Crispy falafel (hard to come by!) and an array of Middle Eastern dips. It is served with plenty of flatbread to mop them up, you wouldn’t want any going to waste! For main, their halloumi and falafel wraps are equally as good, and in my experience are served very quickly.
28-32, St Michael’s St, Oxford OX1 2EB / handlebaroxford.co.uk
Set atop a bike shop in the centre of Oxford, The Handle Bar is one of my favourite breakfast spots. Other than a few fairy light laden bikes dangling from the ceiling, it is minimalistic yet homely. Their veggie breakfast, the ‘goodie veggie’, comprising of poached egg, creamy mushrooms, HB beans, plantain chips and avocado on toast is the best I’ve had. The plantain is a welcome change I haven’t seen anywhere else. Although I am yet to try it, they also serve tapas in the evenings which I have heard great things about!
Guest Writer: Georgia Sparks
Georgia is a huge foodie. In her spare time, she loves to do anything revolving around food be it cook, eat or write about it. She has an Instagram @whatgeorgiacooks where she posts her creations.