I wanted to start my review by saying I had a really bad experience at Wildwood. However, this should come with the caveat that I visited the Bow Street branch in Covent Garden, and my experience may not be indicative of what the restaurant chain has to offer as a whole. I have heard mixed things – some people have been and said they loved it (Wantage branch), some people have told me they haven’t heard a single good thing about the place (Bicester). Regardless of what I’ve heard anecdotally since my visit, I know I won’t be looking to go back again any time soon.
I didn’t realise that Wildwood is a chain until I was pretty much on the way there. I was meeting my friend Daisy for a long needed catch-up, and luckily the food was very much secondary to that – we hadn’t seen each other in over a month and I probably wouldn’t even have minded going to McDonalds if it was the only place we could meet at. But this place on paper definitely looked a lot better than McDonalds, with a recently launched vegan menu which housed a bunch of different things to choose from.
I swear I write this literally every time I review somewhere, but we were chatting away and had to ask the waiter multiple times if he could come back as we weren’t quite ready. I wonder if this was frustrating enough for him to affect the service for the rest of the meal. After a bit of deliberation, I went for a vegan mushroom and sweetcorn calzone. This is probably a lot of peoples’ worst nightmare food but I loved a calzone as a teenager and definitely haven’t eaten one since going vegan. When our order was read back to us, I reiterated that it was the vegan version, as they offered something similar on their regular menu.
We were both super hungry and luckily it didn’t take too long for our food to arrive (though the same can’t be said for the people at the table next to us, who were seated not long after we were but their drinks order hadn’t even been taken long after we’d tucked into our mains). Daisy didn’t order from the vegan menu but I wanted to mention that her lasagne looked like someone had literally cut it in half and removed a portion out of the oven dish. It wasn’t served with salad, veggies or anything, and just looked like half a meal. She asked the waiter whether it was supposed to come with a side and he seemed to take great personal offence and responded kind of rudely something like ‘what were you expecting?’.
There was something that looked suspiciously like regular cheese on the side of my plate. I know it was definitely vegan cheese inside the calzone but I would recommend you don’t eat here if you are worried about cross-contamination. A few bites into the calzone, and admittedly I was reasonably enjoying the cheesy, doughy goodness, I realised I hadn’t actually eaten any mushrooms yet. I cut into the parcel to open it up and sure enough there were no mushrooms in there at all – it was literally just a sweetcorn calzone. I had ordered it because I really fancied mushrooms, so that was a disappointment, but I felt like I couldn’t say anything as I’d already started to eat it. They were generous with the cheese and tomato so it was not unpleasant, but it was pretty boring and, fundamentally, not what I ordered.
What with Daisy’s tiny sized main, we agreed we should share a dessert. They don’t have a vegan pudding on their all day menu, but on their specials for that day they had a vegan pear tart tatin served with vanilla ice cream, which sounded pretty good. When it arrived, it had a scoop of brown ice cream on, obviously not what we were expecting from the menu. We asked the waiter if that was definitely vegan because it had said it’d come with vanilla, and without actually talking to us he picked up the dessert and took it away. A few minutes late he came back with another tart, topped with little more than a tablespoon of vanilla ice cream (or at least, less than half of the amount you can see in the photo on the left). We asked again to be sure, ‘so this is definitely vegan?’ to which another waiter who was passing by said ‘Oh, we only have caramel flavor vegan ice cream’ (which to confirm, is what you can see in the photo). Baffled as to why we weren’t told this the first time, and that they had replaced our original completely vegan pudding with one that contained dairy, we explained yet again that we had wanted the vegan dessert. At this point, our waiter literally refused to go back into the kitchen to swap out the ice cream again. We decided to forget it and just get the bill, not believing how unaccommodating they were being. What was the point of having a vegan menu if it was clearly that much of an inconvenience for them?
Considering there is such an abundance of amazing vegan food around the Covent Garden area, it was a pretty disappointing experience and needless to say Wild Woods is the last place I’d recommend you for a pre-theatre dinner. Our experience of the menu in general though left a reasonable amount to be desired, enough so that I would not be rushing to visit any of their other branches either. I am always ready to be proved wrong though, so if you’ve been to one of their local sites (I know there’s one in Didcot too) then I’d love to hear what you thought below!