Brighton. By the sea.
Brighton has a fantastic food scene. Period. It has totally embraced the veggie/vegan lifestyle and it is thriving on it.
We travelled down from Norwich last week to visit some friends and to … eat. And eat we did. Brighton is one of my favourite places in the world, it has it all. The sea crashing against the shore, the winding laines full of history, a lively atmosphere and friendly locals; but most importantly at every turn, on every corner there is a veggie/vegan café, restaurant or food hot spot. So little time, so many options.
Before we even left Norwich, I had made two restaurant reservations at a couple of favourites we just couldn’t miss- Food For Friends and our dream restaurant Terre A Terre.
We saved the best for last. Terre A Terre has been flying the flag for quality vegetarian and vegan food since it opened its doors in 1993.
After an aperitif at The Mesmerist we arrived promptly at 7.30pm for our reservation. We were met with a queue at the door and a busy bustling restaurant floor. The gentlemen in front of us, seemed to be a newcomer to Terre A Terre and was a little surprised at the bursting restaurant, commenting to his partner, ‘it’s Thursday night, what are they giving away ten-pound notes!’. Nearly two years after our last visit- it was so good to see, literally as soon as we walked in, this beautiful place was as busy as ever.
I am guilty of studying a menu online (at length!) before arriving at a restaurant, but not this time. I wanted the surprise and I wasn’t disappointed. We quickly ordered some wine and then spent an age perusing and devouring every choice on offer. The menu inspires and makes your choice as a diner deliciously difficult…
Syrah, Bodegas Mureda, Tierra de Castilla, Spain, 2017
Intense fruitiness with subtle wood notes. Juicy, well structured with a hint of pepper. Vegan. 25.95
DEEP FRIED STICKY PLUMMY HOI SIN MARINATED SESAME TOFU served with pickled ginger and wasabi. Vegan. 9.65
FANCY ONIGIRI DEARY fried sushi rice ball, a gobsmacking gobstopper of flavour crammed with punchy doenjang, rolled in toasted seeds and Sichuan chilli flake Nori dust. Served with walnut butter and rice malt kombu congee risotto, kohlrabi and red cabbage slaw, aduki red kraut, sesame hummus. Finished with yuzu Korean red pepper ginger dressing served with nori tapioca snap. Vegan. 9.95
The main event…
HOW’S YOUR VADA pokey potato vada stuffed with ginger turmeric curry leaf and cumin, all encased in almond and rice flakes, fried and rolled in black salt chaat served with dark dahl, paneer tikka, lime pickle shallot, mango puree, chia almond and maple granola, Kerala cardamom carrots and juice. With calvocutta nero, fennel seed coconut butter finished with carrot top green chilli coriander almond pesto. Vegan. 16.75
CRISPY FRIED POTATO, ONION AND GARLIC ROSTI WITH LEAFY SALAD OF HERBY ROCKET smoked tomatoes, lemon oil and roast tamari pumpkin and sunflower seeds. Vegan. 8.75
With a side of-
Hoisin Tofu Vegan. 3.95
And to finish (to share)-
CHURROSIMO Cinnamon sugar spice dusted doughnut straws served with Vodka cherries, salt caramel sticky dunker, warm dark chocolate dipper and finished with raspberry freeze dried crumble and extra brute cocoa powder. Vegan. 9.50
I love those seconds just before your plate hits the table in front of you. That first glimpse, as you see those words from the menu jump off the page – take form and create art and depth right before you. The joy as a diner and lover of vegetarian/vegan food to see a chefs’ imagination rule the plate, to allow these gorgeous foods to dance on the plate is a privilege and the best fun. Terre A Terre excels with its handling of food, its inventive and creative presentation bringing you works of art with each course. Each dish is a show stopper with no exceptions, even the sides are dressed to the nines and I am only sorry we can’t visit weekly!
Our starters set the scene beautifully and made me instantly relax, when those memories of our previous two visits were not wrong and this food was indeed special. Bear had his (remembered) favourite ‘hoi sin marinated sesame tofu’ and I had the exquisite and uniquely named ‘fancy onigiri deary’. How I will ever be able to adequately share with you how amazing this dish was is totally beyond my talents, so you will have to trust me – it was simply brilliant cooking and the best handling of some wonderful ingredients. But my food envy still got to me, and I just had to order some of the ‘hoi sin tofu’ to accompany my main. Who says you can’t have it all!?
I do enjoy visiting restaurants that serve food, you could not (in a million years!) replicate but sometimes it is nice to have an awakening – and that is what I got with my main. A simple, but perfectly formed rosti, a dish I’ve made a few times but had all-but forgotten about. Now, I want to bring the rosti back with me to Norwich! It was a reminder that this seemingly simple dish properly executed can really pack a punch, and for me it had the added benefit of feeling wholesome and satisfying in the midst of an inspiring vegan fine dining experience.
It felt rude not to finish our evening with a dessert, so we opted to share the ‘churrosimo’ and what a sweet way to conclude our meal. The chocolate and salted caramel sauces were silky smooth and extremely rich and the churro sticks were divine.
We have proudly owned the Terre A Terre cookbook from our very first visit around five years ago, and if we could bring even a quarter of the vivacious, daring and exciting food to our meals at home in Norwich – I’d be thrilled, and I will certainly try. Although, I think we may have to own up to our limits here with the standard on offer in house and just keep letting Terre A Terre treat us to an unrivalled dining experience.
For us Terre A Terre is an absolute must if you are in Brighton or anywhere near. Whether you are a meat eater or not this place is so impressive, I am willing to bet a ten-pound note that my gentlemen friend we overheard as we arrived had an equally fantastic meal and I only hope Terre A Terre keeps on bustling all the week long.
Food, what a gift!