Restaurant review: Terre à Terre, Brighton

Jenny Mark-Bell has not eaten meat for 16 years but still hankers after something proper to go with her veg. In Brighton's award-winning vegetarian restaurant Terre �  Terre, she finds it

Terre � Terre’s founders, Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor, state on their website that eating at the restaurant will “stimulate your mind as well as your taste buds”. This is no idle boast. This year alone, the restaurant made the best 100 UK Restaurants on The Sunday Times & Hardens Food List, Best Restaurant in Brighton and Hove at the Foodies awards, and was runner up Best UK Restaurant at the Observer Food Awards. It also has two AA Rosettes and the Michelin Bib Gourmand.  The food is complex and thoughtful, and the menu is a dizzying inventory of exotic ingredients. It’s a rare treat for herbivores, usually compelled to choose between two dishes at most.     For starters, my better half Carl and I chose Terre � Tapas, a comprehensive selection of dishes from around the menu presented in miniature. Our waiter very sweetly offered to run through what everything was before we got started. He introduced us to each of the seven dishes in turn, with so much ceremony that I fear I may actually have greeted some of them. The presentation was beautiful but not, alas, for long: we gleefully disposed of most of the plate within five minutes. Particularly noteworthy were the Arepas Corn Cakes: creamy corn with a crisp exterior, complemented by piquant, garlicky avocado and a fiery kick of chilli. The Baby Batters were also delicious – I sometimes find halloumi a bit hard-going, but this was soaked in buttermilk to eliminate any squeak, dipped in batter and served alongside a Bloody Mary shot, which did it no end of good. We also enjoyed a Soba noodle salad with finely sliced vegetables, a spicy Indian crumpet, and a salad of flavoursome smoked, sun-dried tomatoes, parmesan and rocket.   In all honesty, this would have been enough for two moderately hungry people, especially if augmented by one or more of the individual starters or side dishes. However, gluttony won the day and we decided to press on with our tireless investigation of the menu. I ordered the Sussex Souffl� and Ploughman’s Picklewitch and Carl had the hearty Hellofa Halloumi Rosti. My souffl� was delicious: light and fluffy, but cheesy enough to satisfy even my gargantuan appetite for dairy. The parsley and watercress cream it came served with was vibrant and fresh, while the accompaniment of bread and butter pickle pudding was a characteristically quirky twist on the standard ploughman’s lunch.   While I murmured hyperbolic praise, Carl was getting to grips with his own main. He’s a big fan of the Cypriot cheese that embellishes so many vegetarian dishes: this time, it was grilled and perched atop potato, onion and garlic rosti, with vodka infused tomatoes, stewed shallots and a pea and mint sauce. He was delighted with his choice, but had to loosen his belt a couple of notches when he’d finished – it was a meal fit for a very hungry king.  We visited on a Sunday evening and the restaurant wasn’t packed, but the atmosphere was convivial. We chose a table at the back, overlooking a terrace that would be delightful in summer and still afforded a pleasant view. My only quibble would be that the tables are very close together – testament to the popularity of the place, I suppose –  but so much so that just before we left a gentleman sitting down at the next table knocked over the vase on ours. Every cloud has a silver lining, though, and our proximity to our neighbours allowed us to eavesdrop with impunity.   Although we shouldn’t really have ordered dessert, Spaghetti Sweetie, billed on the menu as dark chocolate spaghetti with salted caramel ice cream, seemed too exciting to pass up: when we ordered we received an earnest warning from our waitress: “You realise that it is actually spaghetti, in chocolate sauce, don’t you?” Er, yes, and we felt like foodie pioneers, which doesn’t happen very often when you don’t eat meat. We are clearly not quite ready for chocolate spaghetti, but the ice cream was truly fantastic.   Terre a Terre is not particularly cheap (our meal for two came to around �70), but it is a Brighton institution and more than worthy of the many accolades it has received. For carnivores and committed salad-botherers alike, it is a revelation.

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