With its cosy Nordic decor and noughties throwback playlist, Happy Friday Kitchen immediately creates a genuine sense of hygge. If the low hanging lights and little, potted cacti weren’t welcoming enough, this new addition to Oxford’s vegan food scene is also home to the most adorable little dog (named Buddha, we’re told). Sitting down felt somewhat like an achievement. This is not at all because of its Cowley location, which many students may already begrudge, but because previous attempts to visit had been scuppered by a peculiarly early closing time of 8pm. ‘Happy Friday’ is definitely an apt name, as it is only from Friday to Saturday that the restaurant extends its opening hours to close at the far more convenient time of 10pm. However, our perseverance certainly paid off in the end.
The owners have heard the cries of every Oxford vegan seeking authentic comfort food. We all like a falafel wrap as much as the next person, but even we can’t deny those greasy carb cravings that creep up post-Bridge (and let’s be honest, sometimes even before). Happy Friday Kitchen has it all: the feel-good food that is so easily available to meat-eaters (burgers, pizza, fries, wings…), but sadly evades our grasp. The menu doesn’t once list the word vegan, but welcomes anyone and everyone to eat there without feeling singled out over their dietary requirements. While the drinks menu does include a choice of plant milks, even the hot chocolate with whipped cream and marshmallows(!) is listed simply as that, and it is the perfect pick-me-up after a particularly bad tute if you ask me.
However, Happy Friday Kitchen’s star attraction is undoubtedly its cheese fries. This is the kind of smoky, nacho-style queso that vegans only dare to dream about, although the Pinterest recipes make it look so easy. Their fries come smothered in heavenly, stretchy, melted goodness, and is maximum level comfort food that erases any lingering jealousy over your mates’ cheesy chips. The quality does not slip, from the cleverly-named, ‘Meat Loathers Pizza’ featuring a ‘mozzarella’ stuffed crust and sweet BBQ sauce, down to the seitan chicken wings coated in the type of hot, sticky marinade you would hope to get from American-style food.
At Happy Friday Kitchen, there is no more need for vegans to settle. Mushrooms and bean burgers are pushed aside in favour of flavourful soy patties and seitan with great texture, and a variety of fillings from traditional mayo to the more adventurous mac ‘n’ cheese. It’s probably worth noting that there are Buddha bowls available for the more health-conscious among us, but who can resist a slice of thin crust? A burger for £12 is not unheard of in Oxford, and when it’s vegan you can’t argue with these prices.
All in all, Happy Friday Kitchen is more than worth venturing outside of the city center. When you have food like this only a bus trip away, how can you say no?