IT WAS a challenge I couldn’t ignore, snatching up the Nando’s gauntlet immediately, unable to resist such a foolhardy idea.

So what was I asked to do? Eat chicken until I burst, try the hottest sauce going, pluck the beast and cook it myself?

No, none of the above, the notion was even more foolhardy, to dine as a vegetarian at the famous chicken fast food restaurant. An impossible feat surely. One cannot live on a salad garnish alone.

Unperturbed, my vegetarian daughter and I raced off to the new Nando’s in the Westgate, next to the cinema, expecting very little.

I had sworn never to venture into a Nando’s again, after a trip to the George Street branch visibly aged me. The hybrid notion of a part DIY restaurant was a stretch too far, even if the younger generation don’t bat an eyelid at being seated, ordering their own food, serving their own drinks, picking up their own cutlery, serviettes and sauces, yet waiting for their food to be served and cleared. I found it exhausting. Pick a side, don’t sit on the fence.

But this new Nando’s, while working on the same format, was chic enough to make it that bit easier. The decor is snappy, the room airy, none of that formica, crowding and sticky floors.

So we ordered, and there was choice, even for starters: halloumi fries, superfood salads, olives, red pepper dip, houmous with peri-peri drizzle or spicy nuts, hardly a banquet but a step in the right direction.

Mains included the new veggie cataplans stew with veg, chickpeas and beans in a spicy tomoato and coconut sauce, but we opted for the choice of four veggie offerings which could be eaten as a wrap, burger or pitta.

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I tried the sweet potato and butternut burger with lettuce and tomato (£8.20 with a salad side), adding extras of cheese, pineapple and chilli jam (60p each), while my daughter picked a wrap of cheddar cheese, chickpeas and sweetcorn with lentils peas and pumpkin seeds which came with a lime yoghurt sauce, declining the chilli jam and a side of chips for the same price.

Service was rather haphazard, some starters arriving, and then some mains. The halloumi came after all of them and we had to send back our wrap because they served it with the chilli jam, which was annoying. but the man was very apologetic. Not apologetic enough to give us our desserts for free, but I have to say whoever decided to put the tiny Portugese custard tarts on the menu should get a medal, because they were delicious.

Overall then, a fun, funky, easy take on eating out, full of teenagers and young people unselfconsciously enjoying the whole experience and quite possible as a vegetarian as it turns out. Who knew?

Which takes me on to my second vegetarian inspired review at another bastion of carniverous enterprise Byron Burger. Is nothing sacred I hear you meat-eaters uttering in disgust. It would appear not.

Because while Byron Burger offers two vegetarian burgers at present, it is about to introduce a further four vegan and veggie offerings next month, a massive turnaround and sign of the times.

A mauling in the press recently saw branches closing in droves, although not in Oxford. 

The black and white tiled interior is as charming as ever, the stacked white crockery, low lights, booths and benches, creating a fun atmosphere.

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I hadn’t been since it first opened, when paying for a burger and sides separately annoyed me, and still does actually, although it’s now de rigeur. Neither is it a cheap option with burgers ranging between £7.50-£13 and chips at £3.

That aside the burgers are good. The men loved their Byron burgers with bacon, mature cheddar, shredded iceberg, tomato, red onion and a delicious Byron sauce (£10).

The newer Bourbon King (£11) with Bulleit bourbon BBQ glazed beef patty, Monterey Jack, bacon fat onions, crispy onions, lettuce, mustard mayonnaise, and a frickle on the side was a bit hit and miss; the frickle (a deep fried pickle) was hard rather than hot and crispy and the combo of the onions didn’t work, rather over-powering everything else, but the burger was cooked beautifully and the BBQ sauce unmissable.

The veggie burger was a rather old-fashioned choice of either a portobello mushroom, which is literally that, a giant wedge of funghi served with goats cheese, roasted red pepper, baby spinach, tomato, red onion and aioli (£8) or the bean patty, with the same accoutrements, but soft, so hard to eat in a bun.

Starters were good – the nachos massive and fresh, the halloumi fries a big hit and the mac and cheese balls deserve a prize, covered in Byron sauce and crispy onions. My children also swear by the milkshakes – Oreo, Reese, and salted caramel with or without malt, to name but a few.

So yes, the future is bright and veggie, and rightly so.