Hassocks’ new veggie cafe – Mama Ghanoushe
Local comedian Stephen Grant has described a journey through Hassocks as: “hairdresser, coffee shop, hairdresser, coffee shop, hairdresser, coffee shop, hairdresser, coffee shop, Keymer.” He’s not wrong. On my last count there were a staggering EIGHT cafes in the village if you include the kiosk in the station.
Somehow they all manage to rub along and some of them thrive on doing things a little differently. Off the station car park The Purple Carrot is something of a mini community hub – open many evenings and hosting Wine Wars tasting events and quizzes and more recently organising the very popular Ha Ha Hassocks comedy nights. Proper Cycling & Coffee has a long name but a great concept – making the most of Hassocks’ location at the foot of the South Downs it sells bikes and associated gear and services cyclists’ trusty two-wheelers. It has also started live music nights.
When a bank on a corner closed, what else could it become but another café? The Forgetful Cat lasted under a year, now Mama Ghanoushe has taken its place and this has another niche – it’s vegetarian.
There’s no shortage of veggie cafes in Brighton of course but further out they’re scarcer. Mama Ghanoushe (run by a Cordon Bleu trained chef who was once head chef at Virgin Record HQ) had a popular following but a small premises in Hurstpierpoint so it moved to the neighbouring village. It isn’t just meat free, many of it dishes can be vegan. Its menu is also 99% gluten free (celiacs can check which dishes are entirely GF).
I’ve never needed prodding towards healthy food – the colour, the texture, the taste are just all better, aswell as better for you. So I went with my mum to check it out one lunchtime. It was very busy and they were also handling takeaways so we had a half hour wait (which we were warned about in advance) not helped by a queue-jumper from a large table who made a pincer movement on the counter (don’t you just hate people who do that?).
We both plumped for the spinach pancakes mum’s with goats’ cheese, mine with halloumi, which also came with avocado, roasted tomatoes and a sprinkling of seeds (£7.50). It tasted great, really zingy fresh, though being a bit of an unfashionable carb-lover myself I could have done with more of the pancake itself.
I reckon even veggie-hating children could get stuck into this pretty plateful (in fact I saw a baby pulling at the veg spirals on her mum’s plate in delight).
I’m not fussed about carrots but transform then into carrot and ginger juice and I love it. Mama Ghanoushe’s version didn’t disappoint and came with more of the healthy seed sprinkles.
Other things that drew my eye on the menu for another time included baked sweet potato with black bean ragu. There are also cumin wraps with various filling. Most dishes cost £7.50. Breakfast with porridge and toast with various accompaniments is £6.50. Fresh blends and juices are £3.50 and don’t worry, you can still get your caffeine fix with regular tea and coffee as well as herbal versions. There’s even wine.
There’s a good range of cakes including ‘raw’ (uncooked) versions and you can get gluten-free pancakes with maple syrup, honey or Nutella. My mum was intrigued by the Bliss Balls which contain cocoa and tahini if I remember rightly, so we took some home and they were lovely and rich.
The café itself is colourful and cheery with striking pomegranate pictures and I’ve noticed the outside has gained larger, more colourful signs since I took the pictures. I’ve heard parents in the village bemoaning the lack of space in the many cafes but Mama Ganoush at least has a bit more room for fidgety youngsters and there are bits and bobs to amuse them, plus highchairs and baby changing.
The café has all sorts of New Agey sounding things planned and there are already activities on some evenings. Oh, and if you visit, do pop to the loo and clock the old bank vault door to what is now a store room!
So what will the next empty premises in the village become? A nice little wine bar? Italian deli? …or another café? Place your bets.
Mama Ghanoushe, 31 Keymer Road, Hassocks, BN6 8AH, 07821 604198, mamaghanoushe.co.uk