The Punter may have bucked the trend back in 2020 by announcing that its traditional canalside pub was becoming a vegan/vegetarian kitchen, but it’s certainly reaping the rewards now. read about it here
Plant based food has not only come into its own, but become a mainstream way of eating. Those who don’t cater seriously for herbivores are suffering, our non-carnivorous friends no longer amenable to being palmed off with a mushroom risotto or a goat’s cheese salad.
So while it was a risk for owner Tom Rainey to change the status quo, once he’d secured head chef Anthony Skeats of The Sir Charles Napier in Chinnor fame read about it here, alongside the equally inventive Max Cooper in the kitchen, there was no holding back.
Which is why all-and-sundry are now flocking there on a regular basis to sample the stunning food, and why The Punter won the Ox In A Box Food Awards Best veggie/vegan category earlier this year and continues to impress.
So when your vegetarian best friend pops into town for a few days, where do you take them to really show off? The Punter it is then…..
The perfect daytime and summer pub, its al fresco dining area attracts locals, and tourists alike to sun themselves in the garden overlooking the river and soak up the picturesque scene.
But come an autumnal evening and the interior is just as enticing. Simple in decor, it has a lovely homely feel, drinkers and diners alike sharing the welcoming space.
And once again The Punter didn’t disappoint. The menus are so carefully constructed, the experimentation and passion evident in every entry, that it’s impossible to choose, but choose you must.
Ordering a lovely bottle of rose we then deliberated hard while enjoying a shallot bhaji with lime pickle (4.50) from the snack menu, which was crispy without being greasy, tangy and sharp, really waking up the taste buds.
Then came the novel sounding whipped goats cheese (or vegan feta) with pineapple, chilli & coriander salsa, red endive and crispy shallots (£7.50), which was another major highlight, the tartness of the goats cheese lessened so it was gentler and creamier, matching the zesty, juicy pineapple and chilli which we scooped up with the delicious crisp bread, the textures equally as satisfying.
I could have ordered another portion had I not been sneakily sampling my friend’s miso glazed aubergines with crispy and spiced tofu with date and tamarind puree (£7). Aubergines can so often be a disappointment, but here the softness and the depth of flavour was just right, matched by the sticky Middle-Eastern fruit and the tofu lifted with spice.
The menu has changed in the past few weeks but my favourite classic – the Thai green vegetable broth with a bean spout salad, Nam Jim dressing and roasted peanuts (£14) was luckily still featured.
It’s hard to find good Thai green curry replicated authentically but The Punter manages it brilliantly – the simple Asian flavours allowed to dominate, the sheer colour of the dish replicating its fresh, tropical flavours.
We also shared the Ponzu marinated paneer (or tofu), and asian hispi cabbage with udon noodles & pickled ginger (£15). Just look at it! The fried paneer was crispy and light, the veg soft, the sauce dark and succulent, the thick noodles bringing it all together.
Full to the brim, we still managed to hastily consume the chocolate mousse tart with raspberry & thyme compote in an indecent amount of time – rich, tangy, refreshing, moreish, it was everything you ever wanted in a pud.
In short, the Punter is championing Oxford’s plant-based foodie obsession by cooking with imagination and flair! It has set the trend, the standard and the vibe while we just sit back and enjoy the ride. Meat who?
The Punter is at 7 South Street, Osney Island, Oxford, OX2 0BE https://www.thepunteroxford.co.uk