The First Floor multi-cuisine restaurant on Cowley Road is somewhere I visited a couple of times before I went vegan, but since then always assumed it was out of bounds for me. I used to love an all you can eat buffet when I was younger, but they are definitely not the place for a vegan (or someone who is particularly worried about hygiene either) with their questionable dish labelling and cross-contamination risk everywhere. So the First Floor had sort of passed me by for a good few years now.
It was New Year’s Eve and we hadn’t ordered Chinese in ages so we decided on that for our obligatory takeaway. I was surprised to see First Floor have a clearly labelled ‘vegan dishes’ section on their Just Eat menu, with allergens labelled (though of course you should still double check with the restaurant if you are actually allergic to anything). With it coming from a place that serves Indian, Chinese and Thai, there are probably better quality takeaways available in Oxford but First Floor made the ordering process easy, so they won our custom. We ordered when we were already starting to feel a bit peckish, and considering it was New Year’s, the food arrived in good time, well before my hanger had started to kick in, so that was another plus.
I’d gone for tofu in black bean sauce with boiled rice, which is my staple order so I’ve tried a fair few. The tofu was more similar to stuff I’d cook at home, rather than the puffed tofu pieces you often get, though the texture was still satisfyingly chewy on the outside (maybe they used this freezer shortcut?) and it had absorbed plenty of flavour from the sauce. There were big chunks of crunchy bell peppers in the dish too, enough that I actually thought I might reach one of my five a day, which is fairly unheard of when we order a takeaway. The sauce didn’t pack a huge punch in term of flavour but it was still tasty, not too greasy, and the fluffy rice soaked it all up nicely.
I also ordered the Manchurian vegetable balls, little veggie dumplings in gravy. They were very soft when you bit into them, with less texture than a falafel. Along with the thick gravy, which had lots of salt and ginger running through it, there was a sweetness to this dish that was also great paired with the rice. Because we love carbs, we’d also ordered a side of salt and pepper chips. With a sprinkling of five spice, spring onion and chilli, and just the right amount of salt, they were possibly my favourite part of the meal.
I thought the meals were very reasonably priced for Oxford. I know that delivery services charge restaurants a hefty service charge, but this definitely hadn’t been passed onto the customer here, and including delivery our generously sized order for two came to only £30, with enough leftover for my lunch the next day too. While I won’t say it was the most delicious Chinese takeaway I’ve ever eaten, the overall experience was good and unless someone can recommend me somewhere better, this’ll probably be my go-to for future too.