Dining out as a vegan without prior research can prove a dangerous and unreliable venture met with confused looks and cop-out meals.

Middle Eastern cuisine is famous for having a wide variety of plant-based dishes, so as a safe bet I booked a table at the Oxford branch of Comptoir Libanais.

A large sign outside the Westgate that advertised their Veganuary offers also boosted my confidence.

Upon entering the eatery I was greeted by a friendly hostess, who showed me to a table in a quiet area of the restaurant.

While waiting for my partner, who was stuck on a delayed train from London, I had time to explore the colourful surroundings so typical to the chain.

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The decorations mostly consisted of hundreds of bags that looked like fake souvenirs sold at Camden market, which were placed on long shelves across the restaurant and sold at prices ranging from £19.95 and £44.50.

The walls, covered in wildly-patterned tiles, were dressed with sizeable posters of celebrities including Winston Churchill, Marilyn Monroe, Princess Diana and Mohamed Ali photoshopped to be wearing traditional fez hats.

Though it was Friday, the restaurant was not bubbling with hungry guests – there were only about 15 full tables out of probably 50 – but many of them seemed to be excited about the Veganuary specials.

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The menu listed a hummus and falafel starter with harissa sauce at £4.95, a baked aubergine starter with coriander dressing at £5.25 and a slow cooked vegetable tagine as a main at £11.45.

When my partner finally arrived, we got a bowl of olives covered in spices, garlic and chillies – they were nice but too salty for out taste, which prompted us to order some sparkling water that was annoyingly in a plastic bottle.

I ordered a glass of house white wine, while my partner – on a steep health journey – ordered a fresh rose mint tea poured from a silver pot which tasted like liquid Turkish delight.

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We ordered the two Veganuary starters and while our hostess recommended we get one main each, we wanted to try as much food as possible, so we asked for the slow cooked vegetable tagine with rice and a fattoush salad.

I smelled the dishes before they arrived to us - served in pots so large that required an extra table.

My partner, who usually does not like aubergine, said the starter was delicious.

The thick chargrilled slices topped with pomegranate seeds, fresh chillies, pistachios and molasses dressing had a smoky flavour and the right amount of spices.

The hummus, accompanied by pipping-hot pitta bread, was nice but was not a step up from an M&S pot.

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The starter would have been perfectly acceptable was the restaurant not Lebanese – it seemed to me like the classic cop-out served by restaurants who want to appear vegan-friendly.

Another great disappointment was the fattoush starter which my partner described as "cheap lettuce salad with slices of pitta in".

The vegetable tagine, however, is what saved the main meal.

Its lovely thick sauce coated a pile of crunchy chickpeas, tomatoes, peppers and aubergines, topped with spicy herbs and juicy pomegranate seeds.

The flavours were well balanced and the rose tea seemed to be the perfect drink of choice to have with the dish.

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Upon the recommendation of the hostess, me and my partner shared the orange and almond cake served with sultana marmalade – an act of great self-restraint if you ask me as the dessert was the real star of the evening at Comptoir.

The generous slice was light but moist with sweet trickle, and certainly had me and my partner arguing over the last bite.

Though some of the dishes were below par, I was pleased to see that the chefs had not attempted to recreate their popular meat dishes using soya-based substitutes that could be so dry and flavourless.

As a fan of Middle Eastern cuisine I had high expectations of Comptoir and even though I would visit again, it would be for the dessert.