After bumbling around east Asia, Australia and New Zealand for over a year, Nate and I decided to head back to our home country for a much-needed reunion with friends and family.
Rather than returning to camp out in our respective home counties of Dorset and Nottinghamshire, fate (and well-timed phone conversations) led us to the city of Brighton, where we discovered a place that perfectly suited our neo-hippie ways.
Put yourself in the shoes of two health-food obsessed, gluten and dairy intolerant, salad-munching hobos (fear not, these hobos have shoes with the original number of holes in them and high standards of hygiene).
Picture their adventures over the last year, wandering from country to country and revelling in the experiences that come with a life on the road. Now imagine yourself stepping along with them on their quest for breakfast, lunch and dinner. You might notice these nomads were having a bit of bother finding a place to eat.
Some days were spent shuffling in a state of hunger-induced catatonia as they tried to locate a café or restaurant that served things other than wheat noodles, wheat pasta, wheat bread and cheese with everything.
Of course, if you’re lucky enough to be able to stomach gluten or dairy, and you have no qualms chowing down on anything that came from an animal, you’d be inclined to say “Come on! Life’s too short! Just enjoy that food while you travel!”
And we’d love to agree with you on that.
But you’d be shouting it at us from behind a toilet door, because that’s where we’d be for the next three days after caving in and ignoring our body’s intolerances.
So, imagine our delight at finding a city that offers healthy, local, ethically-sourced and ecologically-cultivated food and drink at every turn.
Brighton has a wonderful array of eateries, cafes and food stores that cater to people who just can’t stomach standard sh*t.
And the number is growing.
To quote the “Thug Kitchen” cookbook (http://www.thugkitchen.com/), if you want to eat like you give a f*ck, Brighton is the place to go.
Whether you follow a plant-based diet, need to eat gluten-free, prefer vegetarian food or you’re heading down the vegan route, this city is full of places you can actually eat at.
Here, we present (in no particular order) some of places that we found while staying in Britain’s most liberal, lefty city:
This Italian pizzeria is an absolute gem and has been a regular haunt for us in Brighton. Its name means “purity” and we think it’s a fairly accurate moniker for somewhere that dishes up plant-based pizzas that are loaded with fresh vegetables and dairy-free cheese. We took a carnivorous friend to this joint and even he was sold on the concept. With an imaginative menu and spectacular-looking food, this place is a treat to eat at.
Another pizzeria we fell in love with, this company has a joint is tucked away from Brighton town centre (as well as others in nearby Hove and Worthing) and does takeaway only, but hey, the beach is only a 2-minute stroll away and you can munch your vegan-friendly, gluten-free goodies on the strand. We rate this one highly for the particularly tasty options: the “Thom Yorke” and the “Ozzy” pizzas are two of our faves.
Located on the quaint North Laines, Iydea is a perfect place for a vegetarian lunch or smoothie hit. With luscious salads and veggie lasagnes, curries and quiches, vegetarians will find an excellent selection, although vegans might have to make do with more leaf and cous cous than they were expecting. A few more dairy-free options and this place would get an even bigger thumbs up from us.
The Prince George (http://www.princegeorge.pub/)
This pub has won awards for its vegetarian menu, and we can completely understand why. We’ve sampled the baked burritos and veggie nachos (there are so many vegan options here). I even caved and tried the battered halloumi and chips with mushy peas on one visit; such an imaginative alternative to fish and chips and was truly divine. Vegan beers are also on tap here. Huzzah!
Wai Kika Moo Kau (https://www.facebook.com/Wai-Kika-Moo-Kau-135143213241209/)
Although it features in our list, we have to say this place was a little underwhelming and a tad annoying. Despite being served an incredibly tasty and generously-portioned vegan burrito with heaps of salsa, hummus and guacamole (result!), Nate got a poor excuse for a vegan ‘wrap’, mostly filled with iceberg lettuce and spinach. Not impressed. To add insult, it transpired the gluten free wraps were not available, so the staff took it upon themselves to replace his tortilla with a GF pitta bread, which would have been fine if they’d asked him if he’d like the replacement! My nachos and dips were also added to my order by a waitress who figured I’d want them because “the wrap didn’t seem enough”. Thanks for choosing our food, guys. We saw plenty of yummy vegan meals and cake heading to tables in this cute café, but the staff could do with refresher course on customer service.
We were greeted by the friendly faces of Idy and Hannah at this cute little vegan cafe in the Laines. Vegan food is freshly made and served on-site daily, with a super selection of healthy wholefoods and grains served as “Buddha-bowls”. Try their white bean dip with homemade tortilla chips.
Loving Hut (http://lovinghut.co.uk/)
We’ve stuck this place on the list because the Loving Hut chain has been a saving grace on our journey. With branches worldwide, this place has saved us from meat-hell in places like Taiwan or Thailand, where finding vegan restaurants was often comparable with a search for the Dead Sea Scrolls. That said, the restaurant in the north Laines of Brighton was something of a let-down, with bland, tired-looking food on offer and stereotypically “gloomy vegan” vibe reminiscent of the lentil-advocates of the 70s. Come on, Loving Hut, it’s the 21st century. Vegans are hip now, remember?
Black Mocha (https://www.facebook.com/blackmochaBN1/)
Vegan AND gluten-free chocolate cakes? Vegan hot chocolate? Homemade vegan frittatas? What sorcery was this?! With most places serving either vegan or gluten free and never normally a combination of the two, this North Laines café certainly grabbed our attention. The raw Snickers cakes were especially yummy.
We included this café not just because they do incredible vegan and gluten free cakes (more options at the weekend!) but for the awesome atmosphere and sweet service we always get from Sol, Zephyr and crew. It’s cafes like this that make us sad that we only stay in places temporarily. Amazingly fresh coffee (try the cold brew!) and divine vegan lemon drizzle cake. Pelicano, we will be back!
Standing for “How it Should Be”, this supermarket focuses on health, sustainability and fair trade, with a superb range of quality produce that doesn’t cost the earth (in every sense of the phrase) and supports the local community. It stands to reason that this is where we did our weekly shop for groceries. Maca powder; hemp protein; at least four types of dairy-free cheese; row upon row of whole foods… We were in hippie food heaven.