Terre à Terre – Vegetarian Restaurant, Brighton

Review by Patricia and Dennis Cleveland-Peck

We had previously popped into this restaurant for a cup of coffee and  found everyone so friendly and welcoming that although we are not vegetarians ( although we do eat a couple of vegetable-only meals a week) we felt we’d like to sample what it has to offer. So, with the promise of ‘a culinary experience like no other, with intense flavours, sublime textures and a combination of ingredients that few have the imagination or daring to put together,’ we battled through the rain and wind the other day anticipating something rather special.

Sussex Tipple

Sussex Tipple

Fritter Zaatar

Fritter Zaatar

Brulee Vous

Brulee Vous

Rosti Revisited

Rosti Revisited

Run Rabbit Run

Run Rabbit Run

Miss Marble

Miss Marble

In need of a warm-up we ordered a cocktail called Sussex Tipple which was described as containing  ‘Sussex Blackdown vermouth, elderberry wine, organic orange liqueur, winter spices and added fizz’. It was a pretty and quite enjoyable drink but lacked any kick or wow factor. Still. the restaurant’s interior is spacious and comfortable and we enjoyed nibbling the wasabi-encrusted cashew nuts and olives while studying the menu – which did take a bit of studying. The dishes have odd catchy titles which gave little indication of what to expect and these are followed by descriptions sometimes running to four lines. These, rather than clarifying, can simply added to the confusion. It was a bit like ordering from a menu in an unfamiliar language when all you can do is to seize on the few words you recognise and hope for the best.

For example as a starter Dennis  chose Fritter Zatar, and this is described as ‘courgette, lemon zest,  parsley, fennel seed zaatar dusted fritter, aubergine zhuganoush, pomegranate molasses and seeds with a salad of preserved lemon, pine nut and sweet currants and a cardamom tomato consommé on the side…”

With the fritter in mind  he was expecting something crispy, instead thin slices of courgette were contained within two rather soggy ‘fritters’ made possibly from cornbread – this was the one thing not specified.  The little glass of consommé looked pretty but the clear contents didn’t have much flavour of cardamom or tomato about them.  Unsure what zhuganosh was he asked the waitress who, also looking rather confused, went to the kitchen and returned with a sample – it turned out to be a rather bitter-tasting  purée. The remainder of the ingredients were assembled into the accompanying salad. ‘Stodgy fritters and far too many conflicting elements, no real flavour getting through’ was Dennis’s verdict.

Patricia did better with her Brûlée Vous, a cheesy take on crème brûlée served in a glass which was enjoyable – but once again the there was an element of over-egging the dish with “ gingerbread crumbs, pickled Jerusalem artichokes, grilled shallots and Poire William and raisin relish” which tended to detract rather than add to the flavour of the Grana Padano.

Sipping a delicious organic albariño from the Corsica cellar which we had chosen from the very good wine list, we both commented on how filling the starters had been and when our main courses arrived we regretted the nuts we had nibbled.

Dennis chose the Rosti Revisited which was actually described as ‘a crispy friend potato, onion and garlic rosti.’  The topping of ‘sautéed buttered spinach, finished with cream, garlic, parsley and nutmeg and topped with a soft poached egg and melted cheese’ however, effectively transformed the texture from crispy into soggy once again. The very ample portion could in Dennis’s view have been improved by separation of the elements.

Patricia opted for Run Rarebit Run which turned out to be a very large and very deconstructed rarebit indeed. The ‘toasty Sussex Cheddar laced with Sheep’s Nose Cider and mustard grains,’ together with ‘ hotpot spiced cornbread’ come crammed into a tiny flower pot topped and with smoked yoghurt – but the predominate element in this dish is carrot. The little pot was surrounded by large pieces of very al dente and strangely flavourless salt-baked carrot plus some tiny raw carrots and carrot purée all dusted with pumpkin seeds, cake crumbs (why?) and olive oil. The anticipated taste of the cheese was unfortunately swamped by the other ingredients .

We couldn’t finish our main courses and should obviously not have ordered both main and starter but having decided to sample the 3-course set menu (at £26.00) we shared a pudding – and thankfully the oddly named Miss Marble was delicious!  Four little chilled balls: a snow ball, a Kalamansi clementine spice ice ball, almond amaretto freeze and coconut rum ball with some sugary ‘sparkles’ and little pieces of fruit, served with a crispy pistachio wafer both looked good and tasted fresh and full of flavour.

So in summary: on the plus side this is a dedicated and reliable vegetarian restaurant with plenty of gluten-free and vegan options clearly marked on the menu; the portions are very ample; the wine list very good; the service friendly, the interior of the restaurant  pleasant and the prices not overly high. On the minus side: we hated the twee names of the dishes and the lengthy confusing descriptions; the melange of flavours we found at times self-defeating and although nuts and seeds are healthy, too much ‘topping’ and ‘dusting’  and ‘sparkling’ can distract from the overall flavour.

This restaurant has won awards. Could it be that as non-vegetarians we are missing the point? That vegetarians, when they go out to eat, find this mish- mash of ingredients and tastes exciting?

The jury is out – it’s for you to decide.

Terre à Terre
71 East Street,
Brighton BN11HG
01273 729051

www.terreaterre.co.uk

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