It seems almost unbelievable that I’m only just writing this post, considering I have heard and read so many good things about Spiced Roots in the couple of years it’s existed on Cowley Road (not to mention it currently holds the number 1 spot for restaurants in Oxford on Tripadvisor). I had my first taste of Spiced Roots’ food last year at Cowley Road carnival and was certain I had to visit their restaurant, but last week a catch up with a friend was the first time that really presented me with that opportunity.
There is so much choice for vegans on the menu, with all SFV dishes labelled, and all sounding completely delicious – and interestingly different from most food you can find in Oxford. No surprises then that combined with the fact that Daisy and I had a lot to catch up on, this meant we took about ten years to decide what to order, and the poor waitress had to return to check endless times before we were ready to order.While we waited for our food to arrive, we were brought out a little pot of chilli garlic pineapple. It had a good kick to it, and the sweet and savoury combo really worked, so it provided a nice taster for the meal to follow. We ordered some fresh juices which were delicious, but this is a great spot to go for a well-made cocktail alone if your feeling that.
To start, we shared the Smoked aubergine choka and sada roti. The choka was a super smokey kind of chunky dip, and the flavours were absolutely beautiful. The bread accompanying it was fluffy and soft, lightly charred on both sides, and was so comforting with that smokey aubergine. Even the simply dressed salad to the side of the bowl, which I can often take or leave, added to our fab first impression of Spiced Roots’ food.
Daisy ended up opting for a vegan main as well as me so I got to see a couple of examples of the stuff the restaurant was plating up. My own dish was avocado and jerk tempeh served with black rice. Having only prior sampled their food served informally filling a bowl at Cowley Road Carnival, I was not remotely expecting what was presented to me.
The dish was plated beautifully and honestly looked like a work of art. On a small pile of black rice was one lovely charred corn on the cob (if I were at home I’d eat this straight off the cob with my hands, but the way everything looked made me think that probably wouldn’t be appropriate here, so I made a bit of a mess trying to slice it off with my standard knife and fork… not sure which was more of a faux pas)! On a second larger, neat pile of rice, was a little stack of the jerk tempeh, avocado, and a couple of roasted cherry tomatoes. The flavours blew me away, every bite had a lot going on but it all was so complimentary. It was also something so different from what I could ever make at home, and that is so often not the case with a lot of ‘meh’ restaurant food these days. Dotted around the rest of the plate were pomegranate jewels and just enough sauce to bring the whole meal together. I didn’t hesitate to wipe the slate clean.
Daisy ordered a callaloo stew which was also plated up gorgeously, and the mouthful I tried of it was delicious. I just couldn’t resist ordering a side so I could try as much of their food as possible, so we shared some fried plantain too. It was a lovely little addition to our main courses, as this is a restaurant that takes the ‘less is more’ approach, and me being greedy, I usually like to overindulge when I’m eating out.
It’s so rare to find a proper vegan pudding, and here there are two on offer. Though I didn’t really need any more food, I couldn’t turn the opportunity down. Daisy and I decided to share the banana bread, in part admittedly because it was half the price of the other vegan dessert. Again, when the plate came out it was presented beautifully. The portion size was a lovely little finisher to the meal. The sauce to cake ratio was spot on, with the banana-y sweetness and tangy sauce flavours balancing so perfectly.
Eating at Spiced Roots got me excited about restaurant food in a way that I haven’t felt in a while, and I would go back in a heart beat. With so many other options on the menu to explore, including what looks like a great value lunch, brilliant service, and such a nice vibe from the restaurant, I definitely won’t take as long to find my next excuse to go!