I fell in love with Brighton when I first visited back in 2006. At the time I was completely bowled over by the indie scene and vast vegetarian and vegan cuisine – not to mention the Vegetarian Shoes shop! Despite living in Glasgow at the time, home to the UK’s highest number of vegan pubs (cause us Scots love food and booze!), Brighton was like veggie mecca. Every trip since I’ve fallen even more for this seaside gem and discovered even more places that reignite my long-term dream of one day moving into the food business scene. But less about that, more about the food and drink!
The Lion and Lobster (pub)
If you’re looking for a cosy, welcoming pub on a chilly evening, look no further than The Lion and Lobster. You can get lost in the various nooks and crannies over three floors or warm yourself in front of the fire. We only stopped in for a pre-dinner drink but the food there looked and smelt amazing. I was tempted to order some breads to tide us over (they have a whole section on the back of the menu dedicated just to bread!) but I’m glad I waited for dinner at Rootcandi. With such a lovely setting, great drinks, food, board games and loads of regulars with dogs, I could imagine easily losing a whole Sunday in this pub!
Rootcandi (International tapas restaurant)
I was in Brighton with three meat-eaters so didn’t push for eating at veggie vegan haunts however my pal Fi – who’s birthday it was – suggested having dinner at the UK’s first 100% plant-based tapas restaurant, Rootcandi. I wasn’t going to say no! Looking at the menu in advance I was already excited, but on arrival seeing what other diners were feasting on, I couldn’t wait to get eating. We ordered a couple of bruschettas to tide us over, alongside cocktails – of course, whilst we checked out the rest of the menu. The caviared aubergine bruschetta was quite fiery with a hit of green chilligarlic, and thankfully didn’t look like actual caviar! The poached tomato one looked like salmon which even made the meat-eaters squirm, but it was totally divine. We then ordered two of the tapas sets between 4 – one Queens (Pan-Asian) and one Preston (South American) swapping out the melon dish for gnocchi from the European set. Having such flexibility in options means you can really build a meal that suits your tastes, and the tapas are also orderable individually if you want to go completely off-piste. These were delightfully presented on turnable towers meaning no awkward leaning across the table. It’s hard to choose a favourite but my top three were the steamed carrot dumplings, the hot noodle salad and the oozingly creamy cassava pot. I could have eaten a whole dish of that! We were too stuffed for dessert although the chocolate and beetroot pot was tempting… It’s really reasonably priced (£19.95 for a tapas set for 2 people and £5.95 average for starters and desserts) and you definitely feel like you’re dining somewhere high end. I will most definitely be heading back there on my next trip to try out the rest of the menu!
Fortune of War (pub)
One of Brighton’s most famous and historic pubs, due to being the oldest seafront pub in the town (dating back to 1882) and it’s unique design as an upside down boat, this is an ideal spot for a couple of pints and some people watching along the seafront, either from the outdoor seating or the windows upstairs. Packed full of board games, you can easily wile away a few hours, and in the evening there are different DJs and club nights.
Kensingtons The Balcony Cafe (cafe)
A regular haunt of Tristan’s when he lived in Brighton back in the hazy days of his youth, we had to check this place out for it’s legendary breakfasts. Tucked away upstairs off North Laine, this cafe could easily be missed. It’s not huge – maybe 10 tables/booths and small balcony, so we were lucky to get a table. I’m an absolute sucker for a vegan breakfast, so as soon as I saw that on the board I ordered. Then I saw everything else on offer – burgers, sandwiches, nachos, jacket potatoes, all with veggie and vegan options – and almost had ordering regret. Until the food arrived anyway! I was not disappointed. Perfectly prepared tofu scramble, homemade vegan sausages, DOUBLE hash brown, mouth-watering mushrooms, tomatoes and bread, all washed down with complimentary tea or coffee, made for an exceptionally hearty meal. Perfect for soaking up the excesses of the previous night! The only problem was feeling too full ahead of an afternoon at VegFest… A long walk round town sorted that out and got our appetites back in time!
St James Tavern (pub and Thai kitchen)
We tried to get a table in Purezza, the UK’s first plant-based pizza place (again, not my suggestion but was totally excited that my mates were so into vegan eating!), but unsurprisingly it was full. So we kept wandering through Kemp Town and stumbled across St James Tavern. It looks like it should just serve regular pub grub so we were excited to see Thai food on offer. With hunger in our bellies and fuelled by a few glasses of red, we wanted everything but drew the line at vegetable tempura and spring rolls to share, and a dish each. I opted for the vegetable kaeng pa (jungle curry) which was scorchio! Proper Thai heat, which I love. I hate seeing hot or very hot listed on a menu then it turning out average heat. The flavours were just like the food I’ve had in Thailand – totally authenic and even nicer when it was served direct from the kitchen by the Thai chef! There were loads of veggie/vegan options on the menu, the only disappointing thing is that they were veg only, no tofu, but with cheap prices and loads of flavour I definitely am not complaining!
The Marlborough Pub and Theatre (plus Thai kitchen)
This great pub, attached to a small theatre that specialises in LGBT and Queer productions, was our final stop on Saturday night. Known for being one of Brighton’s top LGBT pubs, it has an inclusive and welcoming feel with a really nice crowd and bar staff. There’s a few different rooms, all decorated with posters for the shows upstairs and other events. Really good music was playing when we were there and there’s also free pool in the back room. They also serve Thai food and the menu looked really good (including tofu options) – if we’d known that we might have gone straight there but it was nice to try out different places.
Rock*Ola (American diner and coffee bar)
Situated at the top of Tidy Street, just beyond lots of other cafes and bars, Rock*Ola could easily be missed. I’d read about it in advance, famed for their American style breakfasts. Knowing though that a roast was on the cards for later in the day I just opted for a vegan sausage sandwich. Avril went for one of a couple of the veggie burgers which was stacked to the brim and Tristan had waffles with yoghurt, fruit and syrup. If they had a vegan version of that I would most definitely have been tempted to get involved! Vegan options included a vegan breakfast, jacket potatoes, chilli, four different burgers, ‘chicken’ dippers and falafel and hummus salad. There’s also a free old-school jukebox, with tunes from the ’50s to ’80s giving it a real Amercian diner feel.
Earth and Stars (pub and great spot for Sunday roasts)
One of the most popular pubs in Brighton and renowned for being eco-friendly (including solar panels on the roof), this place is famed for their Sunday roasts, always including two vegan options. We were only in for a drink but enquired about getting a table for a roast later, but they were already completely booked out for the whole afternoon! We saw quite a few of the roasts being served as we sat at the bar and they did look superb! They also list which beers and ciders are vegan.The wines weren’t marked as vegan but not sure if that’s because they only stock vegan wine? I didn’t think to ask as it was a Sunday cider kind of afternoon. I’ll most definitely be back so will research the wine, and hopefully sample the food, then!
Cowley Club (cooperative space and vegan cafe)
The Cowley Club is a cooperative space that hosts meetings and events of several social interest groups in the evenings including Brighton Animal Action, Greenpeace, Migrant English Project and several anarchist groups. Whilst it’s general a members space, it also operates as a public cafe at certain times, including Sundays where they dish up an exceptionally hearty vegan roast for just £5. By far the best value roast I’ve ever had, I was surprised at the massive portion. The nut roast could have done with a bit more flavour, but some pepper and chilli flakes sorted that out. The herby potatoes and the greens were totally lush. When we visited they also had a vegan beer festival on, loosely associated to VegFest.
By sheer coincidence (honest ‘guv!) we were visiting on the same weekend as VegFest UK. I went to VegFest in Bristol in May 2015 whilst on my ’30 day vegan challenge’ which I forgot to stop… 😉 Going to VegFest is a must for any foodie – vegan or not, but I think especially for non-vegans as it not only opens up their eyes to the incredible and delicious food available, but also provides opportunities to find out about animal welfare, environmental issues and campaigns that vegans are involved in. Brighton VegFest is absolutely massive, over two floors, but we did our best to get round all the stalls and sample various freebies. My top stalls were Vegusto where we sampled all the cheese, VBites for fake meat, Pana Chocolate (it melts in your mouth), the chia and hemp bread fold and the guy who was super passionate about his pumpkin oil! I wasn’t so keen on the vegan caviar (I wouldn’t enjoy real caviar so not sure why I even tried it!) or Mr Hugh’s oils – quite bland compared to many of the others. I was also puzzled by the overpriced ‘sizzling minerals’ but each to their own, eh?! I’m already looking forward to VegFest London in October!
Infinity Foods has two spaces in Brighton – one cafe and bakery and one shop specialising in organic, vegetarian and vegan foodstuffs. We stopped by the latter where I stocked up on tofu, tempeh, grains, dairy-free cheese and snacks, for a fraciton of the price of Whole Foods or Planet Organic back in London. I could have spent hours, and a lot more money, in there!
So that was Brighton… There were so many other places I spied but didn’t have time to check out, including VBites (famed for their burgers and fake meats), Purezza (vegan pizza) and Cloud 9 (vegan waffles and ice cream!) as well as favourites that I’ve visited before like Terre a Terre and Idyea. Looks like another trip will have to happen soon!