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Plant-based dining options go from strength-to-strength in Brighton

Terre à Terre in East Street, Brighton

What with it being January, I guess we’re all attempting to be ‘on best behaviour’ – or at least as much as we can – when it comes to what we’re both putting into our mouths and extracting from our bank accounts.

Whether for health, wealth or ethical reasons, if you’re trying to reduce the meat and dairy in your diet – perhaps this January you’re trying out a plant-based diet – Brighton and Hove offers a vast number of eateries where you can enjoy great value dining without feeling you’re missing out.

Whilst – compared to much of the UK – the city is now at the fore of ‘alternative’ diets, if I put my mind back 20 years or so, it was less so. Sure we had the always amazing Terre à Terre in East Street – that celebrated 30 years in business at the end of 2023 – and the likes of Food for Friends in Prince Albert Street and Iydea in Kensington Gardens, vegetarian options in regular restaurants were still somewhat limited and mediocre.

Single vegetarian menu options such as aubergine pasta bake – a hearty but truly unadventurous dish that pretty much every restaurant would offer as a nod to the awkward squad aka veggies but could be rustled up at home – hardly catered to wider wants-and-needs.

Unfortunately vegans would truly struggle. In the 2010, Aloka – a truly vegan restaurant and wider three-floor holistic centre on East Street – was way, way ahead of its time. If a bit nut protein and perhaps nutty heavy, I think the food was very good but it pitched itself too high in terms of price point, plus there was a bit of a holier-than-though ethos about it which I found grating.

It’s successor in the same property, Heather Mills’ V-Bites was somewhat more successful with a more accessibly priced café-style menu but a focus on ‘meat alternatives’ – aka plant-based meat substitutes – meant it failed to hit the sweet-spot with the vegetarian and vegan consumers at the time. Looking at the very same consumer market in Brighton now with The Vurger Co and Oowee just around the corner on Market Street, V-Bites today would likely be a roaring success.

How things have changed, and for the better. No doubt heavily influenced by the behavioural patterns of Generation Z – born between 1995-200 – a recent poll by YouGov showed around 3% of the wider UK population identified as vegan whilst 6-7% identified as vegetarian. Add to that occasional meat-eaters and pescatarians and you’ve got millions of Brits foregoing meat. I dare say we can all agree that percentage-wise, the plant-eating citizens of Brighton and Hove are somewhat higher than the national numbers reflect.

In 2024, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single eatery in city that doesn’t cater at the very least to vegetarians, if not vegans. From local chippies to fine dining restaurants, plant-based options are thankfully now ten-to-the-penny.

For some restaurateurs, catering for the vegan and vegetarian diet is a purely commercial decision. As alluded to above, an entirely new – and ever-growing – demographic now exists and is hungry for dining-out options. Without sounding too cynical, although plant-based dishes may take more physical effort to transform into exciting dishes, on-the-whole the ingredients are considerably cheaper than meat, fish and dairy and have less wastage so improve that all-important bottom line.

Always ahead of the curve, Moshimo in Bartholomew Square identified plant-based trends well over a decade ago. Still the city’s busiest, most well-known and – I dare say – well-loved Japanese restaurant, owners Karl and Nicky have always kept a close eye on not only their menu offering and diner experience but also on sustainable sourcing and ethical practices. Their seafood is all MSC-certified and around half of their dishes are vegan.

In terms of plant-based restaurants inspired by the kitchen of the Land of the Rising Sun, biting at their heels are the likes of the always creative and pocket-friendly Bonsai Plant Kitchen in Baker Street, and the rather fancy but still accessibly priced Kusaki on Circus Parade.

The UK’s very first vegan pizza restaurant was born – yep, you guessed it – right here in Brighton and has since opened branches in London and Manchester. Located on St James Street, they serve up both sourdough and gluten-free base pizzas with not a sausage to be seen.

For those looking for a pub that serves up only vegan dishes, then The Roundhill on Ditchling Road is renowned. Possibly the longest established veggie pub however is The George on the bottom of Trafalgar Street; this much-loved Brighton institution has a fantastic atmosphere and I reckon the best tasting and quality nacho sharing plate in town.

For those with a sweet-tooth – or simply have kids – then Boho Gelato in Pool Valley and Ship Street has always had an extensive selection of creamy and dreamy vegan ices available in the cabinet that are guaranteed to tickle the tastebuds.

In 2024, you’d be hard-pressed to find a single eatery in the city that doesn’t cater at the very least to vegetarians, if not vegans. From local chippies to fine dining restaurants, plant-based options are thankfully now ten-to-the-penny. So if you do find aubergine pasta bake on the menu then head to the door!

Nick Mosley


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