The Vaults is beloved by tourists and visitors, but also by the working residents of Oxford popping out for their lunch hours. It's rare to walk into a cafe and find two such distinct groups of clientele, often sharing the same table. But with its atmospheric rafters and good cooking, it's easy to see why it's a favourite.
Perhaps it's Brexit's effect on food prices, but V&G has definitely got more expensive - most main courses are now £9.50-£10.50, and that's no matter whether they're meaty, veggie or vegan, which seems a little unfair. But there are cheaper options, like soup or rarebit, and their rarebits (gruyere on artisanal bread) are huge.
Menus are very clearly marked with gluten-free, dairy-free and veggie options. They do vegan options too. But beware: the extras (eg all the salads) do not tend to be marked and it can be hard to know what's in them. Are the crunchy seeds covered in soya sauce? It is disconcerting to choose a dish that is marked gluten-free and then for someone to attempt to give you a lot of pasta salad on top!
Asking questions can be quite hard - the service is breakneck speed! This is a blessing given the queues which can build up fast. But it's so fast that when my friend asked what the soup was they skipped over him to the next guy assuming he was still making up his mind. That's not efficient so much as rushed.
But... the food is delicious, there's free artisanal bread if you can eat that kind of thing, once you've got food it's pretty relaxed, and the long refectory-style tables mean you might meet strangers and strike up a conversation (I'd describe it as posh canteen-chic). If you're after afternoon tea, there are some delicious looking cakes, including vegan and gluten-free options. Altogether it's a really nice vibe, and a world away from the bustle of the city, while being right in the centre.