This place is not only inexpensive, but it has great hot food when you get tired of sandwiches/wraps/salads. Honestly, it sounds so Asian of me, but when the weather gets cold, I just crave hot soup, rice, just something WARM. Today's vegan hot plate was the chickpea tagine with sweet potato and your choice of rice or potatoes, plus a salad. They top it off with some roasted sunflower and pumpkin seeds which really gives the whole dish a nice consistency. This place reminds me of the salad bar at Whole Foods! The staff is really helpful and friendly, the service is also pretty quick, which is great since it was packed when I got there.
There is a small seating area in front, but most people take their food to go in their containers. Don't forget to grab some cute utensils! (And a loyalty card, too; buy 8 hot meals over 3.30 pounds and get the next one for free!)
Singsong voice: Covered Market is AMAAAAAZING!!! So many places to check out. Easily one of the best places to go for a healthier lunch in Oxford!
With that said, if you can manage to keep yourself from going into complete sensory overload, be sure to stop by Alpha Bar! It is even the self-proclaimed "hottest spot in Oxford!"
The salad boxes are the greatest inventions ever. Basically it's 3.30 pounds for 3 choices of salad and 1 "main." If you are one of those people that don't like it when their food touches others (believe me, I didn't know there was those kinds of people out there either), then you may be freaked out because all your entrees go into the same container. I like it though because all of the flavors actually go well when mixed together.
My salad recommendations: (I guess I haven't been too adventurous, my apologies, chap)
FAVA BEANS: never heard of fava beans before but they are a huge meaty bean with huge flavor. The tomato sauce (?) that they use makes these beans irresistable... i can't really describe to you what the sauce is, you'll just have to try it for yourself! WIN
COUS COUS: a bit mushy but love this! fine grained cous cous for fine people. Definitely goes well being mixed with everything else.
CHICK PEAS: i LOVE CHICK PEAS. the end.
For the mains:
ROASTED VEGGIES: okay so it's basically just sweet potatoes, butternut squash and onions but THOSE ARE SOME OF MY FAVORITE "VEGGIES" and they are so soft and tender... delicious
TOFU: marinated in a shoyu/ginger sauce. Nothing special but hey it's tofu, which I love.
HALUMI: cheeeeeeeese, I love thee. Get it grilled!
According to Angela W: Coleslaw, meh
Lentils, good. A little bit vinegary but still tasty nonetheless.
Definitely come early because one time I got there around 1:45 and there weren't many options left. The line gets CRAZY long at peak hours!
So basically, when I stare into the glass window separating me from all these tasties, I want to sample everything. I drool. But I refrain because we're in the UK, Oxford to be exact, and everyone is proper. But Alpha Bar, you're the best! Thanks.
Man, you Brits need to learn how to spice. I've ventured here a couple times now and while the food is A+ Healthy Fare, my taste buds wish there was more.
First ingredient priority to ANY chili should be chili powder, yeah? I could barely detect any in the vegetarian chili. Once I doctored my greens, chili and rice back at my desk, definitely a satisfying and hearty lunch.
Sandwiches here are HUGE. Take a salad, dump it on some bread, panini-atize it and add falafel. It's pretty amazing.
Oh, and their carrot and parsnip soup is the perfect way to warm up on a chilly winter day (make sure to add seeds).
Aside from meal suggestions, I guess my two pence would have to include mentioning that their salad variations don't get old. If you're on a health kick to welcome Year 2K13, this is the place to swing by and not have to pay a lot to come away with a pretty excellent lunch.
Alpha bar, alpha bar, love of my life alpha bar!
As someone who has always been dismissive of a 'salad' as an ACTUAL meal, alpha bar has been something of a revelation. Banish those thoughts of limp lettuce leaves and tinned sweetcorn and let 'em be replaced with roasted vegetables, mayo free coleslaw (yesss!) goats cheese, falafel and just about anything else you could ever fancy. it truly is a feast for the senses - best part being, you tailor make your own salad by choosing whichever you like the look of, so the options are endless.
The portion sizes are moreover a glutton's dream and, speaking as someone with something of an overactive appetite do actually keep you full for the whole afternoon. all this at a fixed price of £3.50! not a whole lot not to love.
They have also introduced a coupla hot dishes a day which from my experience are an unbridled delight... boeuf bourguignon and venison stew particular highlights! Free range meat as standard, and served with brown rice and a salad of your choice.
I guess the only criticism would be the scarcity of seats and tables.. but for these prices and this quality, i sure ain't one to complain... way to go alpha! you make my lunchtimes sweet!
The Covered Market in Oxford is filled with many magical things. Alpha Bar is one of them. Alpha Bar is a salad bar in the loosest sense of that phrase.
Rather than combining individual ingredients into one salad (like you would at a salad bar in the US), Alpha Bar offers up premixed salads that customers can mix and match into unique and delicious concoctions. And, the best part, is that salad boxes are fixed priced -- they used to be priced by weight, which was problematic for salad fiends like myself.
As far as ordering goes, you can either order a small box or a large box. A small box is a little bit more than £3 and includes 3 salads and 1 main. But adding extra is only 70p more.
The salad offerings at Alpha Bar (this is off the top of my head and basically describes what I had for lunch today) include couscous salads, lentil salads, and a brown rice mixed with caramelized onions. The mains include items like smoked mackerel (my favorite), goats cheese, roasted squash (absolutely delicious).
Overall, Alpha Bar is one of my favorite options for a cheap, healthy, and filling meal. But if I were to give some advice it'd be this:
1) Get there early. Food starts to run out around 1:30 PM on most days.
2) At the end when they ask if you'd like seeds on your salad box, the answer is, unfailingly, yes.
Enjoy! (And check out the website if you want to preorder or check out the options!)
One of my Oxford hosts recommended I check out Alpha Bar inside the Covered Market. Word on the street - they make good salads. They offer small and large sizes and you have a selection of ingredients behind the bar that you can haphazardly (or well-planned) mix together. If you're like me, you'd appreciate set options and they have those written on a board above you.
When you read the sign, my first reaction was "boring! and how does that work?". Lentils are just lentils. They're lentils and beetroot. Gotcha! I enjoyed the #1 which had goat cheese (offered it grilled, I accepted), lentils, brown rice (such large puffy kernels), and chutney. It was supremely delicious and a great meal on a rainy day. Also, kudos for the silverware. I think it's compostable, not sure.
I know lots of people who used to swear by this place, and rightfully so: friendly service, tasty food and it's good for you. You can choose what goes in the box, and the size of the box, and it's all healthy, simple ingredients so you feel all healthy. It's a great chance to try out lots of yummy salad ingredients that you might not be sure you like. My favourites: the olive tapanade and tofu, which is unusual considering I don't like olives and I normally find tofu quite repulsive.
A word of warning, though: I say lots of people used to swear by it because over the past year or so they bumped up their prices, so they charge by weight. They also seem to have changed some of the salad options so some of the ingredients are already mixed together. I don't like not knowing how much my meal will cost until the end, especially when a small box can easily end up over a fiver. It's hardly justifiable when you can eat a nice salad in a cafe for that much. If you can accept that, then go for it! It's worth trying anyway, because it really is delicious, and at least it's better for you than most other lunches for a fiver.
I'm not a health food nut (sorry) but if there's a picnic needed for a day out in Oxford, this is the only place to come. Whatever you opt to order - salad box (mixed salads in a box with toppings, mains, extras) or sandwiches (fresh artisan bread) - you won't be hungry at the end.
You'll have gone a long way towards your five a day without even noticing it too.
And you won't break the bank here either: they even give student discounts on top of their very reasonable prices. This place will suit a vegetarian or vegan but offers meaty options too. The hallmark of it though is fresh, fabulous flavours and a lovely smug feeling after you've eaten.
Absolutely the best salads in Oxford. They are really imaginative and delicious. Healthy and vegeterian but definately not the usual.
Noodles, miso, black bean salad, couscous, puy lentils, red and green pesto. All fab.
Lovely staff too.
The boxes of food here are absolutely delicious, fresh and customisable. Lashings of vegetarian options; in fact there's almost no meat or fish. For sheer taste, Alpha Bar is one of the best lunch options in central Oxford, especially to take away and eat on some grass in the summer. It also used to be a major bargain but prices went up a little while ago. Cans of drink are significantly overpriced; just pick one up at the newsagent in the market! Judging by the queue of over-supported students with massive posh hair who accumulate there at lunchtime, prices aren't deterring their core crowd. It is a bit bloody tasty so I'm not too surprised, and to be honest the volume of food you get still makes it good value.
I was more of a 5-star fan when the portions were larger, the forks and containers plastic and the salad combos not so dictatorial. Notwithstanding, this place will really hit you with the freshness of its produce. Chicken salad is amazing and their pesto, humus and olive spreads are out of this world. OK, it is not cheap, but if a salad is what you want you will find no better place in Oxford!
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