Being vegan before it was cool meant hard work. I am not suggesting that being at the coal front of this particular zeitgeist was akin to say the New York scene in the 80’s, or indeed the heroic efforts of Wiley carrying the full weight of Grime on his shoulders for a decade whilst waiting for everyone else to catch up. But, at least I was there ‘man’. Besides neither of these movements existence depended on you putting various concoctions of last-night's brown rice and vegetables into clip-lock boxes just so you could eat followed by miserable lunchtimes forking it cold into your mouth, while watching others chomp down on whatever Pret was knocking out that day. Eating away from home essentially involved Olympic Opening Ceremony levels of production and preparation and eating out? forget it. You oat-milk drinkers don’t even know you are born
Meals at people’s house either meant dialing in a Mariah Carey-level list of demands before turning up and then upon arriving dusting off a well prepared speech about how Quorn has egg-whites in it, and no I couldn’t eat it just this once. Restaurants that served vegan food were few and far between, instantly granted an almost mythical status amongst vegans and usually only offered some kind of ‘burger’ (more often than not, a miserable variation on chickpeas in a bap). If you were vegan you were both the spectre at the feast and at the Pizza Hut buffet (I was once told that not having cheese on a pizza was “not possible” and went along with it, thus proving that possibility really does only exist for those that perceive it) And so, much of the time I didn’t bother eating out, after all what was the point when there was simply no joy in it? Nothing. Not a sausage… which if the wholly vegetarian Terre a Terre (71, East Street, Brighton) ever considers a name change, should definitely put that into the mix.
Whilst my own vegan-ism has now subsided to the point of non-existence (I ate a chicken nugget a few weeks ago, sue me) I would have carried that flag a little longer if there was an option available that was even half as well, delightful as this restaurant.
The owner is a hoot (“you simply must have a cocktail”) , the staff are all so amiable and charming to the point that you almost want to swap numbers and more importantly, the food is incredible.
The starter of Korean fried cauliflower (cheekily named KFC, Suck it up Colonel!) in chestnut puree was sublime and came with a ball of rice with a pink dot on the top, and looking as it did like a single, joyous, gelatinous (there is no other way to say this) boob provided the ridiculousness. Steamed rice buns, so light they must have been made out of ghosts and air were stuffed to the brim with Szechuan marinated halloumi and ginger bok choy and topped off with lapsang souchong watermelon and cucumber followed, lending an air of what would have been sophistication if myself and my partner weren’t so eager to shovel them down. And Terre a Terre’s famous buttermilk soaked halloumi with Yemeni relish barely had a chance to get to know its sea salad tartar before we wolfed that down with accompanying ooh’s and aaah’s, besmirching the good name of both gastronomy and the considerable effort used in it’s construction. Desserts here are correctly and fantastically named ‘puddings’ and are excellent. The lemon and lime tart was essentially large amounts of all the delicious bits you want stick your finger in and lick when nobody was looking (sadly, people on the table near us were within sight-line else I would have gladly french-kissed the plate clean).
How often have you eaten vegetarian food and felt satisfied? Terre a Terre will satisfy you in ways you didn't’ know were possible.
It is food made with love by people who give a damn and more importantly enjoy what they do.
And in the current veg-enaissance when any Joe Tofu or Rita Nut Roast can cobble together something and charge you a tenner, twenty years after its opening Terre a Terre continues to shine like a beacon of decency for those who just want to eat well without meat.