It had been far too long since I’d last visited Happy Friday Kitchen, Oxford’s original vegan restaurant and California-style junk food bar. A few weeks ago, when things were somehow normal, I was very happy to be invited back to try some of their new menu items. Sadly they’ve had to close their doors for now but they’re still offering takeaway on Deliveroo, Just Eat, or directly from the restaurant. I wanted to share with you all of the amazing food we got to try, and hope you’ll be inspired to support them during this challenging time and place an order! If you fancy your chances at winning a £20 voucher as well, head over to my Instagram @VeganEatsOxford and enter the competition in my latest post.
On arrival we were greeted by an enthusiastic Buddha, HFK’s resident pup. There’s always a friendly welcome when you enter the restaurant, and the chilled decor makes you feel right at home. We were so hungry by the time we arrived, though it was taking us a while to decide what to eat, so we were happy to take Happy Friday Kitchen owner Lola’s recommendations on some of their most dishes. While we waited for the food, we enjoyed a strawberry milkshake. It was so creamy and thick you could get away with ordering one of these for dessert. The strawberry flavour was lovely and fresh, and it was far too easy to gulp down quickly!
On Lola’s advice, we ordered the side dish of a quesadilla, which seemed a really reasonable price for the size, as it could’ve easily made for a light lunch. A lovely fresh salsa with mild melty mozzarella was sandwiched between two crisp tortillas, then a sprinkling of jalapeños inside added bursts of chilli heat. They also serve a jackfruit version, but I loved it just as it was! We’d also heard from a friend that the buffalo cauliflower was one to try, so we ordered a portion of that, and we weren’t disappointed. The vegetable melts in the mouth, it’s so nicely cooked. It was drizzled with hot sauce for a little bit of a kick, and served with a tangy bleu cheese dip which added a nice contrasting flavour.
Keeping going with the cheesy deliciousness, we also had to try their mozzarella doughballs, apparently the best-seller of their sides menu. When they arrived, they weren’t what I expected at all – I was thinking Pizza Express style bread doughballs with cheese, but it was more of a deep fried pastry shell. They summed up what’s great about vegan junk food, generously filled with the same cheese as the quesadillas for the most comforting eating experience.
We had to try their award winning seitan too. The seitan tenders don’t pretend to be meat too much in the sense that they come as little triangles, and the texture was a little softer than a lot of the seitan I’ve eaten, not as chewy or ‘meat’-like. The spicy seasoning in the coating gave them a nice crisp outside. Dunked in plenty of housemade garlic mayo, they’re very tasty – though I don’t know I’d enjoy a big slab of it in a burger as much.
With that said, for our mains we went for one of the options using the Moving Mountains patty rather than seitan, one of my favourite burgers out there. The nacho burger was fully loaded with queso-style cheese, tortilla chips and avocado, as well as pico de gallo and more jalapeños to bring the spice. All the elements came together so perfectly, with the crunch from the nachos, salty and spicy bursts of flavour from the sauces, and then the star of that super realistic Moving Mountains burger. It was deliciously moist, all sandwiched between a soft bun. Vegan burgers at their best!
Alongside the burger, we upgraded our regular fries to ‘loaded fries, and were shocked to see what was surely another standalone meal in itself arrive at the table. Satisfyingly crisp and salty thin fries were topped with tender jackfruit, and a generous smothering of oozy melty cheeze. The sweet from the jackfruit and tang from the cheeze went perfect together, and then you had a real kick from jalapenos, and a few slivers of raw red onion for a sweet heat. Absolutely delicious on it’s own and well worth the price of the upgrade to enjoy alongside the burger.
Torturing ourselves between the choice of buddha bowl, pizza, and dog, we landed on the ‘Buddha dog’, named after Happy Friday Kitchen’s resident fluffy friend and apparently inspired by his favourite snack. I decided I don’t love the Moving Mountains hot dog as much as I love the burger, though again it’s a really accurate representation – and I was also less of a fan of a hot dog than a burger before going vegan anyway. We were enticed in by the sound of the toppings though, very sweet and sticky barbecue sauce with nicely cooked mushrooms and caramelised onion. The hot dog bun itself was a bit tough to eat and we ended up leaving some of it, and that mushroomy sauce was delicious so we would’ve loved a little more which might have made the whole thing a bit less dry. Next time I’m eyeing up the Shroom Burger, which combines the topping from this with the Moving Mountains burger patty. The hot dog would usually be served with fries on the side, but we’d had our fill from the loaded fries that came with the burger.
Somehow (and please know we did end up taking some takeaway boxes home!) we managed to find room for pudding. I had to order from the pancakes menu, with a number of delicious sounding options, but landed on the apple cinnamon combination. The plate comes with three beautiful light and fluffy American style pancakes, stacked with all the toppings. The stewed apples were just the right texture for me, soft but still with a bit. They weren’t overly sweet, which was good, because the sauce certainly was. The Christmassy spices in there were a bit too aromatic for us. I would happily order the pancakes again to try some of the other toppings!
Last up was the ice cream sundae, and at £5.50 when it was brought out I was super impressed. The glass was filled with a huge tower of vanilla ice cream, overflowing with whipped cream, toppied with a generous handful of mini marshmallows and crunchy hundreds and thousands. We got to choose which brownie we wanted inside, so we opted for the cookie dough, and the large fudgy chunks mixed in with the ice cream were so good. Mixed with ample rich chocolate sauce flowing through the dessert, even though I was feeling full to burst, we easily managed to polish it off. So indulgent, so delicious.
I left the restaurant already planning for my next visit, and although the coronavirus pandemic has put a spanner in the works there, I wasn’t going to let that stop me – you’ll see on Instagram that we’ve already placed a takeaway order! I’m grateful to be able to work from home and to continue to have a steady income so I feel it’s important to support small business at this time. I completely appreciate that not everyone is in that position, but if you are, please do consider putting some of your money back into the vegan community 🙂
Our meal was complimentary but this is an honest account of the food and experience.