Down an unassuming driveway, off the beaten track in Wheatley, lies a ground-breaking new culinary experience set to open next month, with bookings opening today.
There to test drive it, my inner herbivore relished the thought of the high-end menu at the new plant-based social dining experience, without the compromise of eating from a meat-centric menu.
Table 13 is the brainchild of Georgia Gallacher, former general manager of Michelin starred restaurant ‘Pidgin’ in London, who begin experimenting with food at home during lockdown.
Fortunately for us, she not only excelled at it, but loved every moment, and Table 13 is the result, enabling Georgia to show off her creative talents without turning her back on her hospitality roots for up to 10 people at a time.
“Upon arriving at Table 13, it was immediately obvious that this was going to be a truly unique experience”
As for the menu, set firmly within a plant-based realm rather than the more stigmatised ‘vegan’ label, Georgia wants to innovate, improve the sustainability of the food we eat by using local suppliers and a seasonally changing menu where possible, and dispel the myths of plant-based cookery, without compromising on taste.
And she did just that with astonishing alacrity.
Upon arriving at Table 13, it was immediately obvious that this was going to be a truly unique experience focused around vegan food and drink.
Georgia’s first foray into the culinary world is a triumph
Antonio, our co-host and in-house mixologist, made us feel immediately welcome, offering us the first aperitif of the night, a tomato negroni cocktail, showing us that Antonio knew exactly what he was doing when it came to all things in a glass.
Chatting to our fellow table-goers at the very first session of this unique supper club, it was refreshing to strike up and sustain conversations with people from all walks of life after a socially restrictive 18 months, with Georgie and Antonio just metres away.
However, given the closeness of the kitchen, the enticing smells and sounds were hard to ignore, and it was with relish that we laid eyes on the first dish of the night: a falafel cracker topped with hummus and lemon marmalade, sprinkled with a homemade Japanese togarashi seasoning, using tomatoes from a neighbouring garden. The dish provided the perfect insight into how Georgia producis and balances flavours so expertly.
Next came a plant-based version of a notoriously carnivorous ingredient, the rib, which involved a section of corn-on-the cob covered with a tongue-numbing Szechuan seasoning, not dissimilar to popping candy.
IT WAS WITH EXCITEMENT, AND MILD TREPIDATION FOR OUR STOMACHS, THAT WE REALISED NOT ONE, BUT THREE PUDDING COURSES WERE TO FOLLOW
Coupled with a blackberry and elderflower ketchup (forget food miles, this was sourced within a few yards of the kitchen), and had us all exclaiming in amazement.
In line with conventional dinners, a bread course followed, involving a hearty Guinness, whisky and treacle slice with a gorgeous fermented-blackberry topped butter, served alongside a rare Catalonian orange wine, one of just 1600 bottles produced every year.
Full-bodied and dry, I was thankful it was my partner driving, and was more then happy to commandeer her glass too.
my favourite dish of the night was a spongy bao bun filled with meaty oyster mushrooms, crunchy peanuts and chilli
Now for the first of the big hitters, a beetroot and pearl barley risotto, hiding a bed of whipped ‘feta’. Toasted almond slivers topped it off, literally and figuratively, and set my tastebuds cavorting, enlivened by a subtle blend of Indian spices.
Upon enquiry, I was impressed to learn that the feta wasn’t a slip-up on her part, but actually formed from a vegan feta combined with a mock cream cheese that, when whipped together, created this delicious paste.
This was followed by our favourite dish of the night, a spongy bao bun filled with meaty oyster mushrooms, crunchy peanuts and chilli. Not only was it so moreish that I wanted more, but Georgia even managed to cater for the gluten-free member of our party, although you’d have never known the difference.
The salt-baked celeriac with truffle puree completed the main course offerings, the earthiness of the much-underrated vegetable coupled with the chewy sweetness of the dates, leaving me more than content. A red Spanish wine was served alongside, to match the bold flavours of the dish.
iIT WAS REVOLUTIONARY; THE UMAMI FUNGI CUTTING THROUGH THE TRADITIONALLY RICH INDULGENT FLAVOURS OF THE ITALIAN CLASSIC, ACCOMPANIED BY A WELL-CHOSEN SWEET RED DESSERT WINE
It was with excitement, and mild trepidation for our stomachs, that we realised not one but three pudding courses were to follow. A palate cleansing yoghurt ice cream with apple granita (picked from a tree overhanging the street a few doors down) and basil oil paved the way for Georgia’s triumph: a tiramisu infused with subtle but unmistakable porcini mushroom, which she had been yearning to create for some time.
It was revolutionary; the umami fungi cutting through the traditionally rich indulgent flavours of the Italian classic, accompanied by a well-chosen sweet red dessert wine. For a man previously not keen on mushrooms, I was a big convert to Georgia’s style of cooking.
As the meal came to an end, the final course was a more low-key affair; a small glass of limoncello partnered with a soft, salty miso fudge. Both Antonio’s concoction, they were the perfect end to a faultless and highly ful(filling) evening.
For a person untrained in the art of cheffing, Georgia’s first foray into the culinary world is a triumph, and her control of the flavours and textures a testament to her self-acquired knowledge and enthusiasm.
Not only were our smell and tastebuds entertained, but the sound of good conversation alongside the sight of her seamless food preparation made for a compulsive, multi-sensory experience.
This was certainly the best ‘vegan meal’ we have ever had.
If plant-based food can taste this good then let vegetables have the starring role more often. And with a monthly changing menu, Table 13 offers the perfect excuse to book in multiple times a year.
I’d strongly suggest you do. This was certainly the best ‘vegan meal’ we have ever had.
Booking opens today at https://table13oxford.uk for Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights every week. Nine courses for £69 which includes a welcome drink, matching beverages and petit fours at the end. Max people 10.
Alister Henderson & Anna Seal