On a beautiful summery evening last week, Jamie and I took a walk down Binsey Lane to The Perch, having been invited to try out their recently refreshed vegan menu. I have known for a while that they served vegan options there, but living right on the edge of East Oxford, it’s a bit of a journey to get to without a car. Having changed jobs and now working by the railway station, it’s just a gorgeous half an hour walk from my office.
Feeling quite unlike myself, I decided to order salads for both my starter and main course (in fairness, it felt far too hot for the soup option). The Jersey Royal and Sorrel salad arrived presented really nicely on the plate, looking like a reasonable size with a decent amount of potato for the first course. It was a perfectly refreshing, summery dish, with crisp leaves, peppery radish, and a zingy tarragon vinaigrette. The potatoes were just cooked and seasoned generously. There was added crunch from sliced spring onion and a slight aniseed flavour going on in amongst it all. At nearly £8, the starters aren’t cheap, but you can tell the ingredients are really great quality and the dish has been put together with real care.
Jamie ordered the heritage beetroot pearl barley risotto as his starter, which is also available as a main course. The generous size bowl looked really beautiful in deep pink, with a pop of green from the pea shoots on top which added a bit of freshness. The beet flavour was punchy, with a slightly sweet earthiness. I really enjoy pearl barley in a risotto as the grains retain a nice bite, though the blended beetroot also added a creaminess to the texture. There was a sprinkling of vegan parmesan giving a bit of extra salty umami. All in all enjoyable, and we both agreed that the bowl full was very generous and particularly in the heat we wouldn’t have managed much more of it due to its richness.
My main course salad was a globe artichoke, broad bean, courgette and radish salad. I would’ve probably gone for the nut roast but it’s only available on Sundays, so make sure to book a table for then if you’re craving a proper roast dinner. I’d been sold this dish on the artichoke, which I only recently properly tried for the first time, and really enjoyed, so I was pleased to see when it arrived that there were lots of chunks of the meaty vegetable arranged around the bowl. The salad leaves were a bit more bitter than those in the starter, and there was also more peppery radish, which balanced out with the milder flavoured soft courgette. The scattered handful of broad beans added a bit of protein, which was admittedly fairly lacking in my meal. Everything was dressed in ample olive oil and incorporated with big grains of rock salt. It was quite simply but effectively put together, and another tasty dish.
Jamie had ordered the vegan burger, made with lentils, sunflower seeds, and beetroot. Despite looking kind of like uncooked mince, it was most definitely in the ‘veggie burger’ camp, as opposed to many of the mock meat dishes currently on the market. The burger mixture was quite sweet, though seasoned nicely. The bread bun was soft and also sweet which was bordering on too much, but the pickled fennel on top of the patty helped to lift that slightly. The pot of vegan mayo served on the side also went well spread inside the burger bun. It was a bit stodgy and not the best burger we’ve had. Jamie described it as ‘vegan food for vegans’, which is what I really hope restaurant food is starting to move away from. However, I totally appreciate that a mock meat burger would seem out of place on The Perch’s menu, and also know that a lot of vegans don’t want to eat that anyway – it would just be our preference. The chips though were delicious and I’d definitely order some as a side if my main didn’t come with any. They were the biggest chips I’ve ever seen, very classic British pub chips, crispy on the outside and super fluffy potato on the inside. Yum
We were feeling really full so we decided to order a pudding between us. Alongside the seemingly obligatory sorbet, they offered ice cream by the scoop (today’s vegan flavour was salted caramel) and an interesting sounding strawberry and vanilla ice cream sundae. Not being one to turn down a decent vegan dessert, we opted for the latter. What arrived was basically like an Eton Mess, and congratulations because the team really nailed this dessert. I was sceptical it was even vegan with the crisp & chewy pieces of meringue scattered on top, and the creamy rich ice cream (I checked, they use Booja Booja). Topped with perfectly ripe and slightly tart strawberries which offset the sweetness of the sauce and cashew ice cream, this was a delight to eat, and part of me regretted having to share.
We arrived at 6pm before the throngs of people had arrived, and our service did get slower as the restaurant and garden filled up. I would recommend choosing a time when you’re not in a hurry, but that’s also because it’s such a nice place to have a slower paced meal and enjoy the beautiful environment right there by the river. Although a bit slow at times, the service was so warm and friendly, and we really enjoyed the experience. I would recommend the pub for a leisurely weekend meal or as a place to celebrate a special occasion. Make the most of the summer weather and book a table while it’s sunny!
The Perch invited us to dine on the house, all views expressed in this post are an honest account of the food and experience.