Terre a Terre, Brighton vegetarian restaurant
03 October 2017
I recently went on a flying visit to Brighton. I remember exactly how long it’s been since the last time, since August 1999 - eighteen years. I can place the exact time because we went there to view the eclipse. The total eclipse in that year was viewable from Cornwall, but most of the country’s inhabitants were blocking every road into the place, and we thought it would be 99% as good to see it from the south coast nearby. We were wrong, in the event. You don’t get much at all unless you’re somewhere that gets the total effect.
There were three consolations to our error in judgement. 1. We stayed at Paskins Hotel which did the most fabulous breakfasts of any B&B-type hotel I’d ever stayed in. At the time of our visit I was a vegetarian, and they did a full veggie breakfast every bit as good as the meaty equivalent. Which is to say very good indeed. 2. We went to see the movie The Matrix. We’d seen no reviews, had no preconceptions about it, so it successfully blew our minds. 3. We went to eat at Terre a Terre, the already-famous vegetarian restaurant that had been opened six years previously by Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor.
It made a huge impression, not just on me but also my avowedly carnivorous companion at the time. In fact, I recall we booked to go eat there the very next day. And as testament to the impressions from 18 years ago, when I returned this time I found that Paskins Hotel is still in business (and I can report still does fantastic breakfasts) and once again I booked in to eat at Terre a Terre.
The thing that people note about Terre a Terre is its creativity in coming up with dishes that use flavours and techniques from across the world, its dishes that are so distinctive and colourful, and the fantastic meal that - by the end of it - has been all about amazing food whether you’re a vegetarian or not.
Indeed, I stopped being vegetarian something like ten years ago (I had a 23-year run - not too shabby in terms of consistency). But I was quite clear where I wanted to eat.
And Terre a Terre was exactly how I remembered it. Packed with happy diners. Served by people who were friendly and enthusiastic about the food. And the venue for serving some of the most creatively imagined food I’ve had anywhere. And in generous portions. No dainty little taster menus here.
For instance, for my starter I went for KFC, which here stands for Korean Fried Cauliflower. It’s served with sweet and sour sesame, onigiri rice, soused shiso dikon and khol rabi, picked mirin ginger jelly and green leaf salt dried chips finished with a chestnut purée. Did you get all that? I remain in the dark about some of the component parts (what is shiso dikon? Googling the term and insisting on keeping the spelling brings up reviews of Terre a Terre) but what was very clear was that this was a fantastic rendition of Korean flavours which I found much more to my taste than I had when I was actually in Korea some time ago. It is certainly no homage to the other KFC!
For the main course I had the whimsically titled ‘Aloo Sailor’, a plate-sized piece of potato rosti flavoured with turmeric, ginger, coriander and black mustard seeds. It’s served with a colourful array of various textures and flavours, podi toor spice paste, pachadi pickle of preserved garlic tamarind tomato, picked pink onion, green chilli slivers, and a good helping of coconut yogurt raita. There’s a huge amount going on when it comes to these dishes. And yet, unlike some restaurants where having lots of the plate results in too much, possibly even conflicting or weird matches, everything here works as one integral dish. The flavours are great together. The dish would be diminished if one of them was missing.
For dessert, I opted for the ‘More Heart than Tart’. Intensely zesty flavours of lemon and lime with meringue shards, a crumble and sticky summer berries. It was a fantastic way to finish the meal.
I can’t think of any other occasion where I’ve returned to something after so long and found that it has neither stood still nor has it deteriorated or deviated from the original experience. Terre a Terre is quite simply a fantastic and unique restaurant that, whatever your dietary preferences, should be experienced.
Terre à Terre
71 East Street