New veggie/vegan falafel cafe Chickpea has opened its doors, just off Oxford High Street, and is already doing a roaring trade.
Students, locals, academics and tourists alike were queueing up for a taste of the delicious new plant based offerings at the new cafe on King Edward Street.
The brainchild of Oxford foodie Will Pouget, who also runs Vaults and Garden Cafe, the Alpha Bar in the Covered Market, and the cafe in the Oxford University Museum of Natural History, as well as a big catering arm, he wanted to provide for the increasing number of vegetarians and vegans in Oxford, particularly young people and students.
And if the happy faces of those munching away contentedly at the wooden sharing tables, or taking their food away, is anything to go by, it’s already working.
“We really wanted to encourage people to eat less meat by opening Chickpea and giving people some great Middle Eastern food with some really punchy flavours,” Will says.
“And Oxford is such a melting pot of cultures and people from all over the world. Lots of them do not eat meat or dairy but what we have also increasingly noticed in our other hospitality businesses is that this is massively reflected in the young people here – 50% of whom now opt for plant based options.
Oxford just needs more places like this. New, relevant, contemporary, vibrant, fun, interesting, environmental and tasty. Food for the future!
“That is also very much true of our team. So we thought we should reflect by opening Chickpea to give out staff the opportunity to work in an environment that reflects their own ethos and moral code.|
With the company offices below, it was an obvious site for Will once the last pizza restaurant there closed down recently. Before that it was the Swedish Skogen Kitchen and the second Mission Burrito branch.
“It is a tricky site,” Will acknowledges. “It’s on the edge of town so is a challenging venue, but we hope it will become a destination cafe for Oxford’s foodies.
“It’s got tables inside for up to 30 people and seating outside for the summer, so we expect people will come and buy their food here and then take it to the meadows for a picnic.”
The dishes being served at Chickpea come from all over the Middle-East – from Iran and Morocco to Isreal and Egypt. For example, the Amba mango pickle is from Iraq and the zhoug green herb sauce from the Yemen.
Either way, everything is home-made and take it from me, absolutely delicious.
Choose from pittas or bowls, with falafel, halloumi, salads and tangines thrown into the mix. Then add a choice of salads and deli toppings from tabbouleh and roasted veg to sweet potato, tsatsiki, pickles and an avocado dip. The pricing is also really affordable.
So how does Will view the current climate in hospitality “Well we had to close Will’s Deli in St Giles after lockdown because the rents were just so high, and all the students had gone home so it was I possible to continue really.
“But this is the first time I’ve felt ready to pop my head above the parapet and launch a new business. So yes, we have gone out on a limb opening Chickpea but Oriel College has been very supportive and there is a current reduction in business rates, supported by Oxford City Council.
“Don’t get me wrong it’s still tough out there, but Oxford is changing and the students and young people want veggie and vegan, or plant based food. We just hope people will come down and try Chickpea out.
I will definitely be there on a regular basis. Oxford just needs more places like this. New, relevant, contemporary, vibrant, fun, interesting, environmental and tasty. Food for the future.
Chickpea is at 2 King Edward Street, Oxford just down from Shepherd and Woodward on the corner of the Oxford High Street. You can find them on instagram at @lovechickpeaoxford