Review of the Vegans & Violets evening at Oxford Brookes Restaurant, 24/2/2015

The evening was organised by five students studying International Hospitality Management at Oxford Brookes University, and featured a 4-course raw vegan meal and a welcoming drink. Although only one member of the event team is actually vegan they “had identified a major gap in the market and decided that a vegan themed event would offer people a unique and rare opportunity to experience some of the delights that this cuisine has to offer.”

The team worked closely with Oxford Brookes restaurant, and the meticulous planning definitely worked as all the dishes were a double delight, visually and gastronomically. The starter was a small but exquisite cup of wild mushroom and hazelnut soup, and this set the standard for the whole evening. The second course (‘beetroot rawvioli’) consisted of four parcels of red and yellow beetroot, filled with vegan cheese (cashews blended with coconut milk and oil). Apart from the glorious aesthetic display, this was delicious and included fried slivers of beetroot and dressed bucksum leaves. The main course (‘chickpea & peanut curry’) was served with a topping of roasted sweet potato and a combination of quinoa and bulgar wheat. The flavours were rich and subtle, and the plate was decorated with char-grilled cauliflower and red peppers. Finally, the pudding (‘lime cheesecake’) and it’s a rare treat to have a proper dessert when eating out. The base was made with crushed almonds and dates, topped with a nut cheese and drizzled with agave syrup. I ate this slowly, and savoured every mouthful. Later I spoke to another guest, and she stated that she had enjoyed all of the first three courses but “the pudding was awful, it was like porridge covered in honey”. So three out of four is pretty good, and when I pointed out that it was agave syrup not honey she responded: “Never heard of it, but it was disgusting.”

It’s very difficult to know if the event will have any short or long term effects on the eating habits of the non-vegetarians and non-vegans who attended. However, as a showcase for vegan cuisine the evening was an overwhelming success. The Vegans & Violets evening was reviewed in The Oxford Times by their food critic and he was “pleasantly surprised by a cruelty free feast”. In fact, he enthused about all the dishes except the dessert and would have preferred a fresh fruit salad. He also felt that the guest speaker presented his viewpoint “persuasively”, so well done him!

Paul Freestone


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