Having opened back in 1993, Terre à Terre can quite rightly claim to be a Brighton institution. Founded by chefs Amanda Powley and Philip Taylor, the East Street restaurant is renowned for creative vegetarian cooking that’s packed with fusion flavours and colourful, layered plating that is always visually spectacular.
I have to admit that it’s been a while since I’ve dined there. What with the pandemic followed by the opening of so many new eateries in the city, Terre à Terre had somehow dropped off my radar which now I think about it is a bit weird as I’ve always loved the place.
So I suggested to my colleague Nathalie that we pop by for a quick midweek lunch to refresh our minds and tums. As I’m keeping a close eye on set menus and offers at the moment, the new ‘Plantiful’ promotion stood out: “more veg for less wedge” as they quirkily term it.
On arrival we were greeted by manager Vanessa, who I think I’ve known now for a good 15 years and hasn’t changed a bit; it must be down to eating great vegetarian food. The restaurant interior hasn’t really changed – its not posh but neither is it cheap looking. Red walls with simple wooden tables and chairs all felt reassuringly familiar and comfy.
As we’re greedy, we ordered all three of the main options. The sweetcorn cakes are an old favourite of mine but the accompaniments have been refreshed with a punchy oregano, coriander and lime pesto and spicy jalapeño. The seared oyster mushroom offered up deep umami flavours with a fresh-tasting sauce of pea, lemon and barley.
The star of the show however was the Karekatsu smoked tofu: deep fried chunks of tofu smothered in teriyaki sauce paired with a zingy ginger and sesame dressed salad of carrot and kohlrabi. Nathalie quite literally licked this plate clean, which is high praise indeed.
To follow, we ordered a trio of puddings including the ever-popular cinnamon sugared churros – a well-loved Terre à Terre dessert – with vodka soaked cherries and warm chocolate dipping sauce.
The Terry Berry Brûlée is soya based but you’d never know it – its so smooth and creamy that you’d genuinely think it was dairy custard. It certainly didn’t have that ‘beany’ earthy taste that can come with soya dishes.
For lovers of a refreshing sorbet to finish their meal then the homemade mango and clementine margarita flavours are a must.
The entire ‘Plantiful’ menu is totally vegan, which comes as a bit of a surprise as there is so much depth to the dishes. Its testament to the skill and knowledge of the kitchen team that simple vegetables can be transformed into such exciting and moreish dishes.
Priced at £18.85 for two courses and available daily from 12-6pm, you’d struggle to find dining of this quality at this pocket-friendly price anywhere else.
The drinks list is comprehensive and its good to see local spirits featured including from Brighton Gin and Ditchling Spirits. All the wines are organic and there are a multitude of biodynamic and vegan wines on the menu too. A half litre carafe – perfect for to share with lunch – is £22.50 meaning a hearty meal with drinks can be had for £30 per person.
The service team really know their stuff and are clearly passionate about the restaurant so don’t be afraid to ask for advice and recommendations, particularly as dishes on the main menu can be confusing to visualise as they feature so many ingredients, many of which you may not be familiar with.
One of the joys of a visit to the restaurant is stocking up on Terre à Terre goodies on the way out. There are oodles of packaged chutneys, jams and snacks to buy and take home. Let’s just say that a box of boozy rum truffles found its way back to Hove that day but didn’t see the sunset.
My long-overdue visit to Terre à Terre was a welcome reminder that Terre à Terre isn’t just the best vegetarian restaurant in Brighton. It’s quite simply the best restaurant in Brighton.
Nick Mosley (this review first appeared in The Argus, 26 August 2022)
Terre à Terre, 71 East Street, Brighton BN1 1HQ