*NB* This blog post was written pre-COVID-19 and I put the publication on pause, so the experience you have at Bicester Village might be a little different now! But I took the time to write it so I wanted to share it 🙂 Please do consider supporting small, local businesses where you can, but if you do take a trip to Bicester Village and you’re getting hungry, here’s the sort of thing you might be able to expect…
I’ve been meaning to write a round-up of the vegan offerings at Bicester village designer shopping outlet for a while. It’s only a short train ride away from Oxford for around £3 return, and I know it’s a popular day trip for many visiting our city, as well as students and locals. Much of the food and drink available is provided by pop-up outlets scattered around the village, and many with vegan-friendly offerings have come and gone in a fairly regular rotation, so (budget willing) you’ll never have to pack a homemade lunch to take with you on this particular day out.
EL&N, the perfectly Instagrammable cafe in London, opened a pop-up in Bicester Village, bringing their iconic pink vibes to Oxfordshire. I’d had a little look at their menu online and they had a few tasty sounding options, so we decided to make the cafe our first stop. Sadly as it was pouring it down with rain, we couldn’t enjoy a leisurely lunch outdoors, and we certainly couldn’t make the most of the pretty setting. I was also disappointed that the things I’d most wanted to try from their menu didn’t seem to be being served (maybe they stop serving the bowls at breakfast)? Instead, we opted to try the ‘vegan warrior toast’, a toasted sandwich made with two slices of pink sourdough bread. There was a lot going on in this toastie, filled with avocado, tenderstem broccoli, falafel, and a sprinkling of seeds. Despite this, no overwhelming flavour prevailed, and it was a bit of a bland sandwich. The seeds added a nice texture but for the most part the fillings had gone mushy, and in turn that had bled into the bread which was really soggy towards the bottom of the sandwich. We were much more impressed with the second thing we brought from the EL&N stand, a square of carrot and coconut cake. It was wonderfully moist, with piles of decadent creamy frosting. We shared the slice between us and I certainly don’t think I could eat a whole one to myself. The flavours were delicate but delicious and I enjoyed the cake a lot more. The sting however was the price tag, and at £5.50 for a small piece of cake, I wouldn’t buy this a second time either.
I’d spied the vegan crepes on offer at Crêperie Angélie via Instagram and had been dreaming of them for some time, so this was a must-visit. Their matcha vegan crepes come with classic lemon and sugar, or vegan ‘milk’ chocolate and various different fruit toppings. Me and my sister decided to share half and half so we could try a couple of the different flavours. I wouldn’t eat here if I had an allergy because I can see the contamination risk is high, but the staff cleaned the hot plate and changed gloves before prepping our crepes, which was good to see. There’s something so satisfying about watching the pancakes being freshly cooked in front of you! At £4.50, I thought the lemon and sugar crepe was reasonable, particularly for the size of them as they made a very filling snack. The pancake batter itself was a little sweet, and I couldn’t really detect any flavour from the matcha (a good thing from my point of view). The chocolate and strawberries came in at a much pricier £7.50, not great value but considering it’s Bicester Village I didn’t expect much else. Regardless of price, both crepes were absolutely delicious. The ‘milk’ chocolate looked and tasted more like dark chocolate to me, but with the sweetness of the pancake and strawberries, that didn’t matter at all. It was a super rich and decadent sweet treat, and I couldn’t even finish off my half of that one, so one between two would probably have been fine.
It was an utterly miserable day, and Pret became a life saver for ducking out of the storm, where the other outlets offering vegan options were pop-ups without any rain cover. It’s possibly the biggest Pret I’ve been in, and as such, it was quite easy to find a seat despite seemingly 75% of Bicester Village visitors congregating in there. Because of it’s size, they stocked a really good variety of the vegan range, and we took this as an opportunity to try some of the newer options. I finally tried the jam-filled vegan ‘croissant’, which is crisp on the outside due to a generous sugar coating, with flaky inner layers of pastry. It annoys me that they called it a croissant, when it is a completely different shape, but looking past that, it was really tasty and I’ll definitely pick one up again. We also had to pick up a classic dark chocolate and almond cookie, which I’ve had many a time before, as its gooey centre and rich chocolate flavour is a firm favourite. Lastly we tried a mushroom risotto pot, which I’d not seen before and had a really meaty mushroomy flavour which was absolutely delicious. It warmed and filled us up on such a cold and wet day, and I’d happily tuck into this as a quick grab and go lunch if I find it again at other Pret branches.
Taking a look at the more formal restaurant-style options for food, vegan choices at Bicester Village are definitely limited. I couldn’t see anything on their menus, and while they might be willing to adapt something for you, I feel like it’s the sort of place they wouldn’t look too kindly on you for asking them do so. Visiting the Village in summer and enjoying food from one of the pop-up cafes out on the patio seems like a much better bet, and if in doubt, Pret and Itsu are there to stop you from going hungry if you fancy a trip to get some designer bargains.