My team at work were delighted that our boss had managed to pick a beautifully sunny Friday for our team away day, escaping the office on one of the nicest days of the year so far. As part of the day, we shared a meal at Pompette in Summertown, a great opportunity for me to head to that side of Oxford and give the restaurant a try – it’s never somewhere I would’ve picked myself as there isn’t a vegan option in sight on their website.
Because of the size of our group and the fact that we were using the private dining room, the food had all been pre-ordered, so there was no deliberating over the menu. Regardless, I’d recommend getting in touch in advance if you’re going to eat here, as I was very much going off-menu with my order. Despite having nothing listed, they were perfectly happy to accommodate my dietary requests, and put together what sounded like a pretty well-thought-out three course meal for myself.
While we were waiting for our food to arrive, we were brought out baskets of warm, fresh bread. There was a mixture of white and wholemeal hefty chunks of loaf, both types of which were perfectly baked. I am a sucker for bread before a meal and rarely learn my lesson not to fill myself up. I thought it was a nice touch that while they’d brought out softened butter for everyone else, they gave me a bowl of olive oil for dipping. It’s very often dry bread or nothing if you’re eating at a lesser establishment. We had dishes of rock salt as well, which I thoroughly enjoyed coating my bread with for a very satisfying appetiser.
The first course was a bunch of sharing seafood salad platters for everyone else, and a globe artichoke for me. Perhaps the whole thing was actually for sharing because it was rather large – I did offer to the rest of the team but they weren’t too fussed. This was my first time eating artichoke anywhere other than on pizza (the shame) so I don’t have a lot to compare it to, but I really enjoyed the meaty texture of the heart and the mild flavour. It seemed that it had been boiled and it didn’t have any seasoning itself, but the delicious vinaigrette that it was served with packed a punch. I would seek this out again as a starter – in fact, I ordered an artichoke salad the following week at The Perch as I was keen to eat it again.
Alongside the artichoke, I had a small plate of caponata. It had a nice mix of sweet and salty flavours, with carefully diced aubergine, onion and tomato, alongside capers, olives, and sultanas. In general I’m not a fussy eater, but unfortunately two things I do hate are olives and sultanas! While I had to avoid these, I still enjoyed the dish, which has to be a good sign.
It was double aubergine for me with it also being featured in the main course, but luckily I love this purple fruit! They’d put together a paprika braised lentil dish with aubergine, which was really smokey, and well seasoned (lots of salt, some may say too much, but that someone is not me because I love it). The lentils had a good bite to them, and there was also crunch from almonds and croutons on top. It was topped with purple sprouting broccoli, sadly a little overcooked for me, but still tasty overall. My dish looked a bit small compared to everyone else’s but the lentils were incredibly filling. Sadly throughout the main course I was surrounded by platters of medium-rare beef, and there was a lot left over, which made me really sad, and it’s worth noting if that sort of thing is a big deal for you.
For dessert, while everyone else tucked into indulgent pastries and cakes, I was given the seemingly obligatory vegan pudding, ‘fruit plate’. Admittedly, while everyone else was struggling to finish off their sweet having eaten so much already, I didn’t mind so much, as I was ready to burst myself. The fruit was very ripe and incredibly sweet, having been doused in syrup. The raspberries did add a bit of tartness. The berries were served with soft fruit which looked very enticing but sadly I have a minor allergy to them so I couldn’t eat it! Still, as fruit salads go, they’d used good quality ingredients and it was actually a pretty nice dessert for a summery day.
We experienced really great service throughout the couple of hours we were there, and I felt comfortable that they understood what vegan meant and had put care into my food. As it was a work trip, I’m not sure exactly what the bill came to, but given the location, the atmosphere, and the prices on the menu, I’d put the restaurant on the list of places you’d choose to go for a special occasion, rather than as an everyday occurrence. Although, the restaurant is definitely not actively encouraging vegans to come here, and there’s any number of nice places in town that I’d put higher up on my list to go. So all in all, I’d say don’t stress if you get invited for a meal here. You will definitely get something for each course, it will be prepared nicely, and taste great. But maybe don’t go out of your way to seek it out.