INDIAN cooking is so much more than just curry, so why is it taking so long for the message to get through?

Chefs from the Subcontinent are constantly battling against entrenched attitudes formed by decades of beery late night lamb madras and chicken tikka masala.

No one has done more to rewrite the rules of Indian cooking than chef Vivek Singh, whose small group of Cinnamon Kitchen restaurants boasts a branch in Oxford’s Westgate – arguably, the smartest place there.

Having re-educated us on the finer points of Indian cuisine, Vivek has now taken it upon himself to do the same for vegan food.

Unless you jumped into Veganuary (and full points if you made it to February without a snifter of meat or dairy), you don’t need to hear about it again. Yes,it’s wholesome, but can veers towards being sanctimonious.

Having written about curries in this newspaper for more years than I care to recall, my photographer friend Ed and I had as much sensitivity for our plant-munching chums as that of Piers Morgan being served a vegan sausage roll in a Brazilian steak house.

It was, quite simply, not for us.

So when invited to try Cinnamon Kitchen’s new vegan menu we were hardly enamoured..

Oh, how wrong we were.

Consisting of five small, but tasty, courses, the repast opened our minds as much as our taste buds.

We started, reassuringly with pints of lager, but instead of the traditional popadoms came beautiful little parcels of chutney potatoes in semolina shells, with tangy mint water on the side.

Then crispy puffs topped with pomegranate, mine was eaten in one satisfying bite – a thermonuclear explosion of flavour.

It was spicy but not hot… delicate but complex, an enjoyable contrast of crunch and soft vegetable. Clearly great efforts had gone into their construction and it felt wrong to devour it in one munch.

But I was right. Ed attempted a few nibbles and lost the contents on the table.

The amuse-bouche was followed by starters of grilled aubergine with sesame, tamarind and peanut or chargrilled fruit chaat in gem lettuce cups.

Again, both plates were beautifully presented. The fruit cups were a riot of colour – as well as fresh, sweet, juicy and refreshing – almost dessert like.

The aubergine was sublime. Perfectly cooked, its texture and bite was more than a match for any piece of meat, and the combination of sweet and sour tamarind and rich peanut was so mouth watering.

So far, so flipping amazing – and we were still only on starters.

Main courses were a choice of tandoori mushroom, green mango and coriander sauce with steamed rice, or garlic tempered green pea ‘kichri’ with broccoli and cauliflower floret pickle. We tried one of each.

The clear winner was the mushroom – each cap the size of a hand, gently cooked to keep its firm bite yet also juicy, with an irresistible tandoori kick. The coriander sauce was fresh and vibrant and tickled the tastebuds rather than bludgeoning them.

I would happily trade my traditional chicken or lamb curry house staples for this piece of exotic loveliness any day. And yes you can quote me on that.

The kichri was also fine. While obviously lacked the pleasing texture of the mushroom, it was gently spiced and bursting with flavour.

These were served with sides of chickpea curry and a tandoori roti. That smooth creamy chickpea curry was, despite its gentle simplicity, perhaps the loveliest dish of the night – with a naughty kick. I could have devoured bucket-loads of the stuff.

Then, a palate-cleansing dessert of ever-so delicate saffron-poached pear filled with dried fruit (a feat of culinary engineering) and a tangy refreshing lemon-thandai sorbet.

We emerged, not bloated and burpy as usual, but bouncing with health and a missionary zeal of the life-enhancing benefits of a vegan lifestyle, which lasted right up until the bacon sandwiches the next morning.

Coming in at £35 a head, you are paying for true quality and imaginative fusion dining at the hands of top level chefs. Meat or no meat.

So for a taste of the future Vivek’s vegan menu is the way to go.

Cinnamon Kitchen, Roof Terrace, Westgate Oxford