Southend and the surrounding towns are really busting at the edges with vegan food choices and I am forever grateful for that. One of these places that sticks out above the rest for me is The Oak Tree in Leigh-on-Sea. When I decided to initially go vegetarian this was the first place I went to and I've been going ever since. This restaurant has recently undergone a refurbishment and its looking fantastic and only this week they have unveiled a new garden to the restaurant - bring on summer food in the sun! They have expanded the restaurant to cater for their ever growing customer demands, every time I go in here it's always busy - it's so nice to see so much demand for vegetarian and vegan food. With the new refurbishments there is a really nice fresh feel to the restaurant as well as brand spanking new items on the menu. The restaurant put out a call to action for bloggers to see who would be up for doing an honest review of their place so naturally, I leaped at the chance.
I decided to go at a busy time, a Saturday lunch time and as I suspected there were a lot of lovely customers already in there. It is worth noting you can message The Oak Tree on Facebook or give them a call to reserve a table if you want, for any day. I often do this over Facebook and someone is always super quick to get back to me. We were shown to table by a very smartly dressed and polite waitress. With the new look I have noticed all the staff at the restaurant now have a uniform feel to them, they all look very professional and smart and all the staff that I have come into contact with since the new look of the restaurant have been extremely polite and on top of the service - truly service with a smile.
So - the important part - the FOOD!
On this trip to The Oak Tree I decided to try something new but light (to leave room for some delicious desert - yes, I always think ahead!) I decided to try one of their new salads. I went for the Butternut Squash salad. In this salad were roasted butternut squash, sweet potato, cashews, quinoa, tomatoes, salad leaves, pomegranate and pumpkin seeds, cucumber and dressing. This salad is vegan, gluten free and (obviously) contains nuts. As you can see from the above pictures this salad was simply bursting with colour, and it was presented beautifully - all the ingredients really complimented each other. Looking at the pictures now I wish I had a bowl of this in front of me! As I tucked in I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked it, I'm not usually a pomegranate seed fan but these totally worked in this salad. There were huge amounts of textures and flavours in this salad, which I really enjoyed (and I must have done because I hardly said a word to my boyfriend - I mean, come on - FOOD FIRST). Needless to say I nearly licked the plate clean, I felt full (but not too full for desert of course) but really satisfied after such a yummy lunch.
So after a truly scrumptious lunch what could possibly follow and be fantastic? well a Chocolate & Strawberry Ice Cream Sundae that's what! This is another new addition to the menu so naturally I felt it was my duty to test this out, for the vegan population of Southend of course.... This delicious looking Sundae consisted of fresh strawberries, chocolate mousse, ice cream, oreos, chocolate wafers, crushed hazelnuts, strawberry sauces and whipped cream. Once I took a few pictures I delved right in, it was nice to see lots of different yummy layers of chocolatey, biscuity, creamy goodness! This desert = REALLY GOOD! It suitably hit every chocolatey taste bud I had, I will definitely be back to have another one of these on an afternoon when walking in Leigh and probably with a lunch again, or dinner, in fact surly any time is acceptable for a Sundae?
So - how was my experience? In all honesty, it was great - perfect in fact. I was really happy to look over The Oak Tree's new menu to see all the options they've added (you can see the menu here) but it was also really good to see a separate (and very full) Gluten Free menu. Usually GF options are very few but it's nice to see that The Oak Tree have seen that there is a demand for it - I know my mum will be pleased! If you're interested in the GF options just ask the waitress for the menu when you go in. It's really nice to see such a variety of quality delicious food on offer at a reasonable price, for example my meal - the salad costs £9 and the Sundae costs £7, I think that's extremely reasonable for the quality and amount of food you get.
The Oak Tree isn't just for vegetarians and vegans, obviously ANYONE can eat the food. I think it's important to get people to try really good veggie and vegan food to show them that we don't just eat cardboard flavoured foods. I often suggest to friends and family we go there when choosing where to eat and they've always been extremely pleased we've gone. I cannot recommend this place enough and that is my honest recommendation. It has a really nice friendly atmosphere, the food is delicious and whats more, I'm so happy to support a local business like this that cares about what its putting out there.
This Saturday (17th June) The Oak Tree have a BBQ event on from 12-4pm so make sure you pop along to get some yummy veggie and vegan BBQ food. I do want to mention their Wednesday deal, they do buy one meal get one free so if you're looking to test out the food this is a perfect time to go but make sure your pre book. If you wanted to ask any questions or find out about opening times you can find The Oak Tree on Facebook and Twitter as well as being able to contact them through their website.
GO EAT AND ENJOY - You won't regret it!
*PR - I have collaborated with this restaurant but as always, I have given my honest opinion. See my disclaimer here.