Vegan review: Rachel’s Cafe

I’ve been catching coaches to London from the bus stop on St Clements in Oxford for eight years now. I remember when Rachel’s, the little independent Malaysian Chinese cafe, first appeared among the row of shops, and while waiting for the coach thinking to myself ‘I must go in and try it’. I also remember noticing, since moving to veganism, that they had a sign outside mentioning their vegan options. Yet here we are in 2020 and I’m only just getting round to trying what Rachel’s has to offer!

white spherical steamed bun with half tofu baguette in the background.

During the lockdown I was browsing Deliveroo earlier during the day than I usually would, and I noticed a bunch of places that aren’t open in the evenings that I’d been missing out on, Rachel’s being one of them. It’s a little independent Malaysian Chinese cafe right by the Oxford Tube coach stop, which I’ve eyed up many times but never got round to visiting. Seeing it online available for delivery, instead of the Friday night takeaway we’d planned, we opted for a Saturday lunch instead. Rachel’s is one of the lovely places that actually clearly label their vegan options on the delivery platform, which is the sort of place I’m always going to gravitate towards. Not only that, but they had lots of options to choose from! They specialise in Dim Sum and steamed buns, as well as serving freshly prepared Vietnamese Bánh Mì. Of course, I had to try a selection of everything.

crusty white baguette sliced in half with tofu slices drenched in peanut sauce

I ordered both of the vegan Bánh Mì, filled with tofu and different flavoured sauces. The baguettes were huge, and reasonably priced for the size. They did look a little bit destroyed when we opened up our bag – one of the (numerous) downsides of ordering via Deliveroo, and one of the reasons why I would much prefer to order via another service when available! However, not the fault of the cafe. Jamie and I shared half each, and tried the satay baguette first. I wasn’t expecting it but the peanut sauce had a real kick to it! The bread was absolutely packed full with a generous helping of the sauce, which was deliciously nutty, creamy and a little sweet. I couldn’t even really tell there was tofu in there (though on sight there was plenty) because the flavours were so strong, in a good way. Paired with the satay was a crunchy, fresh aromatic salad. This was my kind of sandwich.

crusty white baguette with tofu slices poking out, with a sprinkling of sesame seeds

Next we tried the hoisin tofu baguette, which comes with toasted sesame seeds. The thinly sliced tofu was chewy, and in comparison to the first Bánh Mì it was a bit plain as the hoisin sauce looked like it had been squeezed on after, rather than the slices being marinated in it. The sandwich was also a bit soggy from the salad in this one, but that’s what you get for ordering a baguette via a delivery service really, and I’m sure it would’ve been perfect if eaten straight after being prepared. If you’re not a fan of spice, I’d opt for this out of the two as a tasty and filling lunch option.

shiny white pyramid of rice with black eyed beans dispersed unevenly throughout

I’d also ordered a sticky rice parcel, with black eyed beans and mushroom. My only experience of plain sticky rice in the past meant I wasn’t the biggest fan, but I was interested to see what this was like with the veggie additions. I should’ve trusted my gut – sticky rice just isn’t for me. The addition of the beans did actually make it a lot more palatable as they added some kind of texture. The mushroom in the middle was kind of chewy and didn’t taste of too much. The rice was just so gummy that I couldn’t enjoy it. On the other hand, Jamie really liked it! So this is probably going to come down to personal preference. Maybe give it a go and let me know your verdict below in the comments!

half eaten steamed bun filled with vegetables - mushroom, carrot and cabbage visible.

Finally, I had to try their homemade steamed buns – one savoury filled with vegetables, and one sweet with red beans. The buns were the most fluffy, delicious things. The dough was soft with a hint of sweetness, which worked so well in the savoury bun with the salty, slightly crunchy veggie filling flavoured with mushrooms. I was so full by this point, that I had to save my sweeter steamed bun for later, and naturally they are best eaten fresh so the bun had lost some of its fluffiness, but it was still tasty. The creamy red bean paste had an almost earthy sweetness and this little pouch made for great comfort food on a chilly winter’s day.

I’d love to pop by Rachel’s in person and try the food freshly made. However, the meal delivered to our door was very enjoyable and I can only say I’m sad it took me quite so long to try it! Have you eaten the vegan food at Rachel’s cafe before? Am I the last one to the party here? Would love to hear from you!

Author: Heather Grace

Eating my way through all the vegan food, one restaurant at a time.

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