Suddenly it was time for my friend to return to Oxford, and we needed a suitable lunch place on one rainy Monday. We found our refuge in the lovely and cheerful Café Nom de Plume on Broughton Street.
I’ve been here before, but neglected to write about it. This visit, however, I really hoped they were on their game because I wanted all of us to enjoy ourselves.
I really shouldn’t have been worried, of course they were!
Café Nom de Plume is one of those rare breeds of place that defies categorisation. I love it because it keeps the friendly café ambiance and stays open late into the evening, while serving excellent food (vegan and veggie friendly), great coffee, and a variety of beers and rotating selection of ciders.
We sat at a table by the window that Blythe had staked out and we ordered coffees (very good, I should say), while we looked over the menu that is a reflection of what the café/restaurant/pubby/hangout spot is: a bit eclectic, fabulous, and caters to all.
Eventually, we decided on food. There was some debate over how French Onion soup could be made vegan by removing the cheese, and it was decided that it must be due to the lack of beef stock as a base, which didn’t bother me in the least when I last had it here, but seemed to lower K’s expectation a bit.
For myself, having only had snack-like items here, I opted to order the shepherd’s pie, while K went for the soup (cheese included) and Rachel ordered the fish pie.
It didn’t take long for our food to arrive, and across the board it was hot and fresh. My pie was the perfect mix of lamb and potato topping. The salad that came alongside was fresh and really very good, with the extra attention to detail (each salad had a few olives, tomatoes, etc… as well as the mixed leaves) that I love about this place.
Rachel thoroughly enjoyed her fish pie, and Blythe looked to quite like his soup followed by a Moroccan stew, which was fragrant and lovely and gave me a bit of food envy.
We followed the mains with a carrot cake and cranachan, mainly so that Kathryn could repeatedly say cranachan. I had a thought that since the breads came from Manna House on Easter Road, perhaps the desserts did as well? No matter where they came from, they disappeared quickly to the sound of me reading selections from one of the (almost erotic) novels that sat on a bookshelf by the door.
After a few more hot drinks, we finished our leisurely lunch at the café, and I walked out into the rain satisfied that it was as good as ever and that everyone should visit.
With a Monday holiday to aid with the recovery from a hectic weekend, we took ourselves off to Broughton Street, for an early lunch, in preparation for an afternoon of shopping for a few final bits and pieces for our upcoming 100km walk.
We were joined by Kathryn, who was soon to leave on the long drive south the Oxford, and MJ’s flatmate Rachel, who comes questing whenever we can tempt her.
MJ had mentioned that she’d popped in to Cafe Nom de Plume a few times, but I hadn’t entirely got the message about what type of place this was. The first point that I hadn’t taken in was that it sells booze. The second was that the menu is heavy on vegetarian options. And the third was that the place was quite so incredibly charming, with a really quirky choice in background music. I should pay attention more.
We agonised over menu choices. Seriously, I could have ordered a six course banquet from the vast array of options on offer. Of course, having settled upon things, when it came time to ordering, one of my choices was unavailable, today. But our helpful waiter let me know that it was replaced by a special of the day, which turned out to be a North African chick pea stew. That sounded good to me, so I plumped for that to follow my broccoli and cauliflower soup.
MJ opted for the shepherd’s pie and Rachel went for fish pie. Kathryn chose the French onion soup, after a little pondering around whether it was worth the gamble given that it was made with vegetable stock, rather than the traditional beef stock (served without the cheese crouton, the soup is a vegan option).
Given that we’d ordered a mix of starter and main course options, we were somewhat intrigued to see in what order dishes would be served. We needn’t have worried, as the chap simply brought everyone their first dish, whether it was a starter or a main, and when they’d finished with one, another was brought. It was a very simple and effective method that suited our needs very nicely.
My soup was really very good. It was of the hearty variety, with oodles of vegetable goodness. It was lightly seasoned which allowed the lovely light flavours shine through.
MJ made extremely short work of her pie, Rachel seemed happy with hers, too, and while confirmed carnivore Kathryn missed a beefy bass-note in her soup, she was pretty pleased with the dish.
My main was good, too. The seasoning was again light, meaning a touch of salt needed to be added, but it was another hearty dish that made me happy. I polished it off smartly, tidying up the remnants of the stew with the warm pitta with which it was served.
We supped a range of their teas and coffees, and in a rarity for us, we also looked at some desserts, as Kathryn and Rachel were all for sampling from their tempting range. I was roped in to assist with any items left of Kathryn’s plate. Rachel’s carrot cake looked very good, and I can confirm that the cranachan was extremely tasty.
So overall, I was very impressed with Cafe Nom de Plume. It serves an excellent range of dishes, caters well for vegans and vegetarians, and has a warm and welcoming feel to the place. I’ll be back, and I have a feeling I’ll be back often, not least to catch up on all the latest goings-on in The Spurtle. And there are so many other dishes on their menu that I want to give a whirl.
MJ scores Nom de Plume:
4/5 for food
4/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4/5 for setting
giving an overall 16/20
Blythe scores Nom de Plume:
3.5/5 for food
3/5 for presentation
4/5 for service
4.5/5 for setting
giving an overall 15/20
Today’s questers were: Miriam, Kathryn, Rachel, Blythe
We ate: broccoli and cauliflower soup, onion soup, fish pie, shepherd’s pie, chickpea stew, carrot cake, cranachan
We drank: teas, coffees, water
We wore: blue jeans, purple dress, exceptional spectacles (fleetingly), action footwear
Total bill: c.£50