I love it when somewhere surprises me. I love it when you have hopes of how something will be, and then it exceeds those hopes. Well, walking out into the fairy light strewn garden of the Oak Tree vegan restaurant in Leigh on Sea, we were given a little glimpse of how our expectations were going to be met. A courtyard style garden, dotted with well spaced tables and framed with planted greenery was where our table of choice was situated. Sitting down, Nik and I looked around and really felt we had found a little pocket of calm in the busy Essex seaside town. Sipping the ice cold wine that we had chosen on arrival, we began to relax and picked up the menu to choose. Let me tell you all…
The Oak Tree had been a place that Nik and I had wanted to try for a while. Well, when I say Nik as well, what I really mean is that Nik, my non-vegan husband was willing to accompany me there to try. Although Essex has an amazing amount of fantastic restaurants on offer, (Iv told you previously about my plant based Breakfast at Tiffany’s afternoon tea) it hasn’t as yet, got a huge choice in totally plant based places to eat. It is getting better, but there are still not loads. The Oak tree was the vision of committed vegan husband and wife team, Samantha and Jim, and all of the staff are also vegan or vegetarian. We had driven past the Oak tree many times and it not only looked like it had an amazing menu, (think Katsu curry, vegan pad Thai, hot dogs with mac ‘N cheese) but it is in one of our favourite places local-ish to us, Leigh On Sea.
Well, how delighted was I when Nik suggested that we go there to celebrate our 22nd anniversary earlier this month! We booked a table for mid afternoon on a Thursday, (you can often just walk in too) and as we were lucky with a beautiful sunny day, chose to sit in the newly opened garden. Now, vegans/vegetarians of Essex, (or any visiting vegans) I promise you, this menu will blow your mind! As you could perhaps understand, when your plant based or vegetarian, it is an absolute pleasure to go to a restaurant where we can have ANYTHING that is on offer on the menu. It’s flipping fantastic. But….it does leave you with the dilemma of what the heck to choose!
The list of starters had things on offer like cheese nachos, “chicken” drumsticks, garlic and chilli “prawns” and shared mezze. After taking a gazillion hours to choose, Nik chose the nachos and I chose the chicken drumsticks. We also requested our mains at this time. My choice was the “chicken and bacon” burger, Nik opted for the Pad Thai. Decisions made, we relaxed back, enjoyed our wine and the quiet that the chilled little oasis gave us.
Our choices were amazing! As is normal with anyone I share a vegan meal with, we had to try each others choices. It is the law right? Both were delicious, and a generous portion! The nachos had a creamy, citrusy guacamole, re-fried beans, zingy salsa and vegan cheese.
My drumsticks were coated in a rich coating, incredibly tasty and served with an Oak Tree dip. It was a strange concept to eat something “meat like” but trust me, once that seitan drumstick hit my tastebuds I was all over it like a vegan in a vegan restaurant…..
When the mains arrived, we were sat there thinking maybe we didnt need a starter…..The portions were again generous and just looked blooming gorgeous. My burger was served in a black brioche bun, loaded and fully stacked. Alongside the burger was a mini skillet of mac n cheese, and a serving of seasoned fries. Oh. My. God.
Nik’s pad thai arrived and smelt like heaven. Fresh rice noodles, tofu in a rich peanut and citrus sauce and plenty of vegetables made for one of the best pad thai’s he has had (apparently). Just as a little side note, Nik is a huge fan of Wulf and Lamb vegan restaurant in London, but he reckons this meal rivals it!
It is probably at this stage that I should mention that we were full. Literally, sat back in the chair, “I need a lie down” full. So when our fabulous waitress came over to ask if we would like to see the desert menu, we of course replied with……….. “chocolate ferrero rocher cake? Get in my belly” Deserts were chosen, deserts were eaten, roley poley people were rolled out of The Oak Tree….
I know that if you are not local to Essex, then this might be tempting you for no reason! However, I really hope that it shows you that fully vegan restaurants are certainly not boring or limited in their menu on offer. With the current research showing that people should be eating less meat in their diets anyway, maybe giving a vegan or vegetarian restaurant a go is a great choice anyway! I would love to hear if you do.
I cannot recommend this restaurant enough to my Essex readers. In fact, I have been back twice since. So yeah, that does mean I have been three times in three weeks. Don’t judge me. (My friend and I went and had the hot dogs, I say again, Oh My. God.) We didn’t find it overly expensive, and it really is an amazing menu. If you are in Essex, or even just having a day down at the coast, I really don’t think you can go far wrong with a meal here.
Also, on a Wednesday, The Oak Tree has a two for one evening. Guess who is booking a Wednesday night a week off from work……..
So, what do you think? Do you think you would be tempted to try a vegan restaurant? Have you already tried one and been surprised? Do you know any Essex vegan places that I must try? As ever, tell me your thoughts xx