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Brighton is pretty much the veggie capital of Britain, if not the world! Not only are there several excellent vegetarian restaurants and cafes, but it is also home to Vegetarian Shoes, a must-visit shop for anyone who doesn’t wear leather. So when I visited the city last week I bought some veggie boots and had a slap-up veggie meal.
Food For Friends has been a popular spot for nearly 30 years and shamefully I had never been. So I was delighted to finally put that right last week. Over the years the restaurant has progressed from a hippyish counter service cafe to a more sophisticated and contemporary table service affair. It remains friendly and relaxed however, catering for vegan and gluten free diets with the same passion and flair as all the other dishes. The style is light and healthy with a good range of local food and a fusion of flavours. Their main influences are Middle Eastern, North African and Mediterranean.
To start we had the Mediterranean sharing Mezze, which included a couple of shot glasses of chilled gazpacho soup, spinach, caramelised onion and feta rolls, a stack of char-grilled aubergine, courgette and peppers, served with a fennel and carrot salad. The spinach, onion and feta rolls were a perfect combination of a light crisp pastry with a creamy, flavourful filling. The remainder of the dish seemed to complement the rolls rather than stand out on their own, although I enjoyed the unusual touch of the gazpacho.
For a main course we both had the Spicy Rosti, a lovely carrot and parsnip cake spiced with Piri Piri, or bird’s eye chilli, which was served on a bed of roasted vegetables, spiced hummus, Greek feta and rocket with a fresh avocado and tomato salsa. The fusion of flavours really worked here, with the rosti nicely spiced rather than searingly hot, but cooled down beautifully by the hummous and feta. The salsa was also an excellent addition.
This was one of those meals which left you feeling full, but lightly and healthily so, as though the combinations had all been just right. We moved on the shopping for those veggie boots without trying dessert, but I’m plotting to return as I spied on the menu the wonderful-sounding gluten-free Molten Chocolate Pudding…
Food for Friends
17-18 Prince Albert Street
The Lanes, Brighton BN1 1HF
Tel: 01273 202310
One thing you can say about Sheffield is that they love water there. From the stuff gushing down walls and cascades at the train station to the city centre gardens above, there seem to be fountains and water features everywhere. As I was in the city to attend a film festival, I didn’t get to see much of it, mostly dashing between the same few venues. But I felt right at home and kept forgetting I was ‘away’ for a few days – the fact that it’s only 2 hours by train from London helped.
So I can’t offer much in the way of a tour guide, but we did have to eat while we were there and I found a couple of gems that are worth mentioning.
First of all is the Blue Moon Cafe, a vegetarian place open until 8pm 6 days a week. The Blue Moon had that old fashioned feel to it of veggie cafes of my youth – a self service selection of hot dishes all served with salad, a notice board covered in theatre and yoga ads and a range of local art on the walls. It is housed in a fabulous building, apparently a former auction rooms, with a beautiful high ceiling. Again I felt like I belonged and went twice and ate a homity pie (yes, they’re still out there!) and a sweet potato curry, which seemed more twenty first century. The cafe was slightly hard to find (or I was being particularly thick), but it’s right by the Cathedral on a corner. The bad news is that the cafe was put up for sale in June, so if you’re interested in running a veggie cafe, be quick…
Blue Moon Cafe: 2 St James Street, Sheffield. 0114 276 3443
I also lunched a couple of times in Zooby’s in the Winter Gardens. To be sure, this wasn’t the cosiest venue in winter, but the cafe was very good value with jacket spuds less than £3 and veggie sausages available on their breakfast menu. The Winter Gardens is a bit like the temperate house in a botanical gardens with huge jungly plants weaving their way down the middle of the high-ceilinged building, a pathway amongst them if you’re feeling adventurous. The building isn’t kept very warm, but is nonetheless a welcome respite on a cold windy day!
Zooby’s: Winter Gardens, Surrey Street, Sheffield 01142 788639
Other than that we ate in chains, the way you do in a new city without much time to explore and found ourselves in Pizza Express and Wagamama, which both have good veggie options, and Wagamama even has veggie wheat-free options if you can avoid the soy sauce!