I must admit I don’t venture over to Headington that often, as aside from Heavenly Desserts, I felt there wasn’t that much going on for vegans in that part of Oxford. However, it looked like that could be set to change when I spotted a new Indian restaurant opening up on London Road, Bhoomi Kitchen. They were offering 50% off food during their opening week, and the menu looked delicious, with lots of vegan options available, so my boyfriend and I took the hour’s stroll across town to try it out.
We were given a really warm welcome when we entered the restaurant, with our waitress taking my jacket, offering us water for the table straight away and some poppadoms and chutney to nibble on while we decided. The poppadoms aren’t labelled vegan, but the waitress was happy to check with the chef about which of the homemade chutneys contained animal products (only one, which my boyfriend had) and I felt confident that the people in the kitchen knew what they were doing.
We decided to order a couple of the small plates to share as starters, and there were ample more that I made a note to come back and try at some point. The staff were very attentive (at some points perhaps a little too attentive) and the last piece of poppadom had barely reached our mouths when the starters arrived. In keeping with the luxury feel of the decor, both were presented very nicely on the plate, and I couldn’t wait to tuck in. The masala dosa was lovely and crisp on the outside, with fluffy mashed potato within, and with a hint of coconut from the chutney on the side. The acidic sambar had a real kick to it, and within the small bowl floated soft mixed veggies. Our other starter, uttapam, a soft ground rice and lentil pancake, was equally delicious. Being topped with red onion and pepper, it was a little sweeter, but still nice and spicy. Both made for a really tasty start to the meal.
My main course, the vegan thali, was honestly one of the nicest things I’ve eaten in a long time. As the menu explains, ‘according to Indian food custom, a proper meal is a perfect balance of all the six flavours sweet, salt, bitter, sour, astringent and spicy‘ and this meal really did deliver on that! Every element of the plate was a delight to tuck into. The main aubergine and pea curry had an intense, smoky flavour, with the creamy aubergine complimented by the just-cooked and slightly sweeter peas, also adding a bit of texture. Alongside the perfectly cooked fluffy rice, I could happily enjoy bowls full of this.
Accompanying that, a mild and creamy smaller dish of Bhoomi Kitchen’s kadala masala, a black chickpea curry. It brought the sweeter element to the overall dish with its tomato, ginger and garlic notes. Mopping up the sauce with soft chapati felt like a treat. This curry was also available to order as a large plate on its own, which I’d be tempted to order next time as it was just so good. Then there were the masala potatoes, lightly spiced, salty and immensely comforting. As with all of the food, they were cooked just how I’d like them. With the thali, you also receive the thoran of the day, a vegetable side – when we visited, it was a thinly shredded cabbage dish. It added a slight bitterness, and was really nicely cooked which brought in an enjoyable contrasting texture to some of the softer elements of the meal. Lastly, another bowl of the sambar we’d enjoyed at the beginning of our meal, which we could dip the kerala-style poppadoms into that also came with the meal.
The thali is only available as a ‘pre-theatre’ menu option, i.e. before 6.45pm. I really would urge you to take an early dinner and try it out, at such fantastic value for £10. Appreciating that I’d had quite a heavy starter, I struggled to finish my main course, and wouldn’t order anything else next time, as it really was the perfectly balanced meal.
Beyond the food, the service was overall great, though we did experience a couple of weird things which I put down to the place being new and the staff probably still finding their feet. As an example, one of the waiters kindly asked if we wanted our jug of tap water to be refilled, which we were grateful for. He went away and came back quite quickly, not with a filled jug of water, but with a damp cloth, and proceeded to painstakingly slowly and carefully wipe down our table of the crumbs we’d left from our starters, which definitely made us feel like naughty school children and highlighted the already embarrassing fact that we’d dropped food on our table. At another point, we were asked whether we were ready for our desserts, when we hadn’t yet been served our mains. Like I said, almost too attentive!
However, this didn’t really take away from our experience eating there, as we both agreed we’d had a lovely evening, and with so many vegan options on the menu, I’m already planning my next visit to Bhoomi Kitchen. I think this restaurant is such a great addition to Headington. Whether it’s a date night, meal out with friends, or having family to visit while you’re at university, this spot feels just right for any occasion, with a reasonably priced menu but high quality food and ambience. Have you had a chance to visit Bhoomi Kitchen yet?