Food for Friends with good friends.
by Beena Nadeem - Sunday May 14, 2017 2:05 pm
Restaurants have really flourished here over the past few years, yet one old timer, self-billed as ‘Brighton’s original veggie restaurant’, has thrived – having gone through a metamorphosis from its birth in the early eighties when it appealed to students and hippies on a budget to an altogether more gourmet and grown-up offering.
Food for Friends transformed under the guise of former head chef Michael Bremner (formerly trained under Marco Pierre White). Food for Friends is exceptional among steep competition in the UK’s vegetarian capital, yet this place consistently performs well.
And here, from my corner seat that I gaze at what a Saturday night in Brighton brings: from guided historical tours to bride-to-be, gesticulating with a giant blow-up appendage at her clucking hens. It’s the perfect spot to enjoy a few audacious pre-dinner cocktails. The place is wonderful. It serves gourmet standard food – yet it’s incredibly good value – a main costing around £14, which, considering the standard of food, is wonderfully reasonable.
It’s a warm, elevating environment, with subdued lighting and really happy, bubbly staff who provide just the right amount of attention to each table, while it’s clear the pennies are spent not on white linen and silverware, but on quality ingredients and talent.
Starters are beautifully done. Presented like small works in themselves deeply seasoned tastes which make me reassess the humble vegetable forever.
Dining partner, Mr F has goats’ curd, with onion gel and shards of tanned parsnip chips and roasted walnuts, which, make for a happy playful relationship. The added pear takes away any potential tartness of the albeit creamy goats’ cheese. I have golden parcels of sweet tofu, with stir-fried shitake mushrooms, marinated pak choi and pickled ginger and wakabe – and I could have eaten this as a main: wonderfully crispy, moreish, with nods of Japanese cuisine.
For mains, Mr F has herb roasted Ravioli, with beetroot and butternut squash in Brighton-produced blue cheese sauce. I’ve only ever tried something this good once before and that was in Italy a few years back. We were both convinced at the time we'd never find something quite so utopian again.
This is, in fact, so nice, that it's convincing my I like my arch nemosis: blue cheese. I have a playful dish of halloumi, with avocado, slabs of mango, baby leaves, with the hit of wasabi-roasted cashews, which adds a punch to the sweetness.
Dessert is clementine ice cream – with cardamom, which, reminds me mother’s spicy Pakistani cooking. Mr F has chocolate and coconut with his too, though I did have to remind him of that after further cocktails (tequila muddled avocado, organic pear, fresh juice, and agave syrup or try the Lychee rose, vodka, lychee liquor, rose syrup lychee juice, agave, lime juice), which he opines (can't take him anywhere) are all very good.
This place should be tried. Vegetarians will love the variety and imagination of the menus - it's a place where the boundaries of good taste (in the best possible way) as being refined because of the stuff competiton here, while meat lovers will question the need for meat in a three-course meal at all.
Quality, taste and creativity presents something which, in my mind, has elevated itself above the many other offerings in this crowded market. And the entertainment outside is wonderfully gratis.