Friday, 16 September 2011

The Nosebag

If you want to grab something to eat on the go in central Oxford, your options are almost limitless. Gourmet sandwich chains, supermarkets and independent coffee shops all cater to our hurried needs. But what if you're looking for a quick sit-down lunch or even (gasp) a rapid bite to eat in the evening? There are times when we just don't want the rigmarole of restaurant dining: being seated by a waiter, perusing the menu, ordering, waiting. At The Nosebag, there's none of that: just hearty, home-cooked food served up quickly without any fuss.

As that description suggests, there aren't any frills and fripperies involved in dining at The Nosebag. An inviting if old-fashioned wood-pannelled cafe on St Michael's Street, it's located above the Makan La Malaysian restaurant and run by the same owners. Offering a wide selection of reasonably-priced salads, baked potatoes and soups, The Nosebag also has lunch and evening menus of more substantial fare. Options are chalked-up above the salad bar and orders are placed and paid for at the counter.

A Friday evening may not be the most typical time to visit, but there were a few other customers enjoying main courses, soups or just cups of tea during the evening. With 5 meat and 5 vegetarian dishes on offer as well as the lighter options, both carnivores and herbivores are well catered for. After some debate (quite a novel experience for me, having 5 choices), I plumped for the green vegetable and taleggio risotto with rocket, while M chose the massaman curry (both £9.40).

After a short wait, two laden plates appeared in front of us: the rumours of stomach-defeating portions seemed to be true. For less hungry customers, one meal between two would suffice.

Green vegetable and taleggio risotto

The advertised 'green vegetables' in my risotto were asparagus, courgette and peas, but there was no rocket to be seen. The rice was unusual, thick and soft, quite unlike normal risotto rice. I have to say there wasn't really much flavour until I prodded at the chunks of cheese to melt them into the rice: without the addition of some tasty dairy, the risotto was rather bland. Add in the taleggio however, and it was goregously creamy. Ah, the powers of cheese.

Massaman curry
M's massaman curry definitely wasn't lacking in flavour: featuring sweet potato, cauliflower and chickpeas, it was well-seasoned, hearty and full of cardamom. So full, in fact, that a bit of pod-dodging was required. A minor gripe though: it was tasty and filling.

Apparently The Nosebag's cakes are delicious (and also served in gigantic portions), but for the sake of my waistline I abstained, although a mere £1.90 for their famed pear crumble cake was certainly tempting.

If you're looking for unfussy, quick and filling food in the town centre at any time of day, The Nosebag is well worth considering. It may not have the fanciest setting or the most elaborate of menus, but it will have something to satisfy most appetites and budgets. The main courses are perhaps a little on the steep side, but I suppose that's what comes of having such a prime location.

Verdict: 6/10

I'll be discussing more vegetarian-friendly places to eat on BBC Radio Oxford on 23 September from 1pm.

The Nosebag is at 6-8 St Michael's Street, OX1 2DU. Tel: 01865 721033.

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