From my first visit to The Coconut Tree soon after it opened in Oxford, the restaurant went straight to the top of the list of places I wouldn’t hesitate to visit again, or recommend to friends. Offering up fiery, authentic Sri Lankan street food style dishes, I counted up 17 labelled vegan options (yes, you read that right) on their current main menu, and that’s not even including the cocktails or puddings (yes, you read that right too – it’s in the plural). On top of that, with the menu rotating every few months or so, you could happily go back here as a regular and never get bored.
With this in mind, I was very happy to be invited back to The Coconut Tree last month to share a delicious meal with some fellow bloggers, as the restaurant team and food and travel writer Girl Travels World co-hosted ‘The Ultimate Sri Lankan Supper Club’. By the time everyone in the group arrived, the cocktails were flowing, and it’s not just the food that hits the spot here. There is a page of specifically vegan cocktails in their drinks menu, though I think you’ll find some other ‘accidentally vegan’ ones in the mix too. It was lovely to meet fellow plant-based Instagrammer, Katrina, in person, and share a meal with a group of wonderful people passionate about good food. It wasn’t long after we’d all sat down that plates of food found their way to us from the kitchen.
I probably ate the equivalent of three normal people sized meals that evening, and should’ve stopped eating far earlier than I did, but the food was just so good. Out came a bowl of chickpeas stir fried in coconut oil with red onions and plenty of chilli, followed by a deliciously creamy parippu, or dhal, and some crispy parota rotti, which is actually tasty on it’s own but perfect for scooping up the lentils with and dipping in any one of the curries that followed.
I enjoyed the sweet but spicy pineapple curry, and the milder creamy cashews complimented the other curries well by adding a different texture. Hot and crispy battered mushrooms add another textural element to the meal too, and were equally delicious. The new ‘dirty jack’ dish was definitely meaty in texture so might satisfy any cravings you have on that front. Yet another curry, the ‘fat sister’ (pumpkin in turmeric) was warming and creamy, and was mopped up nicely with the last of the roti. As you can probably tell already, it’s a good idea to come here with a group of friends if possible, so that you can get to try as many of the dishes as possible!
The devilled mushrooms were super spicy and perfect for sharing with friends. The vegan kotthu is another one of the larger dishes on the menu, and probably one of my favourites. There is just something so comforting about this bowl of tasty chopped up roti and fresh stir fried veggies. By the time this plate was brought out, I was fit to burst, but it was one of those occasions where I couldn’t help but keep eating until the plate was clear – it just tasted so good.
You might think on that note that we’d finish our meal there, but somehow we had to make room for pudding. I only managed to stomach a couple of bites due to the knowledge of impending regret at quite how much food I’d just eaten for my size, but what I had was delicious. I tried the vegan stracciatella last time, a beautifully creamy coconut milk ‘ice cream’ with ripples of dark chocolate, but knew I had to sample it again. There’s also another new vegan dessert on the menu, the ‘drunken banana’ which at £3 is crazy cheap for a dessert, and incredibly indulgent. One bite of the caramelised battered banana dripping in treacle finished me off. Was it an uncomfortable bus ride home? Yes. Was it worth it? Absolutely.
The hospitality at The Coconut Tree is fantastic, the drinks and food consistently hit the mark, and with such an abundance of vegan options for a super reasonable price, it is probably my number one restaurant to visit in Oxford right now. To anyone here for a short visit, I can’t recommend enough that you check it out!