The Rusty Bicycle sits in pride of place on the corner of the best two streets in Oxford (Magdalen and Hurst). It holds claim to potentially the best outdoor seating in the city, and certainly the best outdoor sheds.
Perennially busy, even early on a Tuesday, we are confined to the garden. But as I mentioned before, shed.
We peruse the menu. 50% off pizzas on Tuesday - Friday lunchtimes. But it is not just pizza. We have options. Burgers; chicken, mushroom, Angry Texan. Salads. Many a selection of sides. Truffle and cheese chips. Rosemary chips. Flatbreads. Wings.
I order my classic: vegan Mary, with cheese (and olives, chillies and capers). My familial friends get a Mr Melanzane (aubergine) and Yard Bird Burger (fried chicken with pickled red onion). Sides are discussed and discarded, but we do order rosemary chips just to be safe. And the house craft lager, because a review that ignores the reviewees' trademark is really not a review at all.
The food takes around forty minutes to arrive, but that's okay because it's warm and nice company. And when it does, it is aesthetically very exciting. Food on a tray on a wooden table always looks nice. There's been a recent revolt against tray food recently (www.wewantplates.com/) but you know what, I've read the arguments for both sides and I just don't really mind.
My non-vegan-Mary is very good, olive it. And my friends, notoriously picky, are pleased. The chicken burger in particular holds its own. Chipotle, pickled red onion, gherkin. It all works. Food. Even the fact that you can't really taste the rosemary in the chips is accepted. Because, as we note, sometimes too much rosemary makes food taste like lamb. And the Rusty lager is a great success. On the other hand, the Mr Melanzane has the right proportion of aubergine to pizza, but perhaps lacking in other toppings.
But in reality we're really scraping the barrel to try and find a negative.
In terms of value, it's pretty remarkable. In fact, the only disappointing experiences I've had concerning the food has been when the kitchen is closed. Though they do sell cakes, sausages, and scotch eggs on the side. Also massive share bags of Tyrell's crisps. I've yet to buy one but there is still time.
I can't finish my pizza because I'm weak, and so am given a box so I can take it home. I wonder whether the wewantplates brigade are also anti-box? And also - in terms of dining taxonomy - when does a plate stop being a plate? These are the type of questions that follow a successful lunch. Highly recommend.