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Muddy Eats: 1847, Brighton

Brighton has more veggie cafes than you can shake a breadstick at but when it comes to restaurants for a full evening meal, old favourites Terre a Terre (a Muddy Awards finalist) and Food for Friends have pretty much got things sewn up.

So when 1847 opened a few months back, very centrally in North Laine on North Road just down from Waggamama, I was keen to check it out.

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My husband’s vegetarian (I’m about 70% there myself) but as he’ll scoff pretty much anything meat-free so long as it doesn’t contain cinnamon (the weirdo) we never have much trouble eating out. Asian restaurants of all kinds, Italian and tapas are always safe bets and decent pubs now often offer something beyond than clichéd goats’ cheese tart and risotto.

It’s always good however to find out what a veggie specialist using seasonal British ingredients can pull out of the bag.

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1847 first opened in Manchester and has added other branches in Birmingham and Bristol. It gets its name from the year the Vegetarian Society was founded but it’s far from evangelical about it.

The first thing I liked from peeping in was that they hadn’t gone the hippie route, nor did they shout their veggie credentials loud on the exterior. It’s just a smart pared back Bistro with some minimalist plant arrangements on the wall and an attractive spiral staircase in the middle.

The staircase leads up to a second restaurant floor and down to its Dandelion Bar, from which – first tick point from me – they can bring cocktails up to diners

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The staff were friendly and patient with my cocktail deliberations (hey, these things are important to me) checking with the bar staff that the ones on my shortlist weren’t too sweet for my liking.

The a la carte menu is arranged as a set menu with two courses for £19.75, three for £25.50 My husband started with pakora with coriander yoghurt and shaved fennel and went onto to herb breadcrumb oyster mushrooms with asparagus  and roasted garlic sauce.

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My own starter of spring pie with smoked cheddar, marrow, beetroot and spring greens came like giant vol au vent and was accompanied by cress and majoram pesto.

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I determined to avoid cheese (too easy in veggie cooking) and plumped for a tongue in cheek ‘Surf and Turf’ – not in this case steak and seafood but an aubergine steak with seaweed butter, kohl rabi coleslaw and Jersey royal potatoes. (‘Fish’ and chips with cider battered halloumi was another pun-based choice).

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I love aubergine and can never cook it right at home. This didn’t have quite the creamy melt-in-the-mouth texture of the heavenly grilled aubergine steaks I once had in Marrakech but it was much better than my own efforts and I could see how this would form a good basis for the restaurant’s Sunday roasts.

Puddings are obviously easy vegetarian territory so long as any jelly is the right kind . The whisky trifle sounded good but instead we shared the chocolate brownies with chilli, and pistachio ‘soil’.

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The menu, though not extensive, offered a good variety and little fall-back on dairy, so many dishes would also suit vegans. Though I noticed both our mains were lacking in protein – it would have been be good to have accompaniment of beans or pulses.

I can see it’s the kind of smart place a vegetarian may tempt meat-loving friends and family – and face it, anyone can survive with out meat for lunch – and there’s a bonus – even my carnivorous brother said he might be tempted to give it a whirl when he heard that kids eat free on Sundays.

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The Muddy Verdict:

Good for: well, vegetarians, obviously, vegans too and the gluten intolerant (most dishes were gluten free or could be made so): mixed parties of veggies and non-veggies; families on Sundays in particular (a children’s menu is also available on other days); trying something different; cocktails in the stand-alone basement bar.

Not so good for: die-hard carnivores, obviously; those who prefer extensive menus; comfy lounging – it’s more smart bistro.

££ I felt the £19.75/ £25.50 set menu was priced a shade too high but if you sign up to the 1847 newsletter you’ll get frequent deals (like £40 off food for £20 for this month). The good Sunday roast deal – three courses for £17 and children free looks permanent however. There’s even a membership option for regular diners with permanent discounts, birthday cocktails, exclusive events and the like.

1847, 103 North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YW, 01273 677 776, by1847.com/Brighton

 

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