Fresh Flavours, Fresh Decor
Brighton Food Reviewer, Isabella Cipirska, July 2016
You would never guess that Café Plenty is only three months old. Confidently decked out in a distinctive décor and with an impressively wide menu, it already has a strong personality and- as immediately apparent from its bustling atmosphere- a loyal customer following.
Located round the corner from Preston Circus, or ‘Brighton’s answer to silicon roundabout’ as I’m told, the café is part of Circus Parade, an area comprising of a set of retail spaces and office blocks. The buildings in the area are a unique and important example of 1960s design, according to Mitch, the cafe’s friendly co-owner and architecture enthusiast. They are so important that Mitch was among those who successfully campaigned against their conversion into a Tesco in 2012.
Just four months ago, the large, airy space was a dis-used launderette and a yoga studio. Now, its been transformed into a large open and airy café with a pared back style. It evokes the style of an industrial warehouse space, with exposed pipes, orange brick walls and light bulbs that dangle from the high ceilings at the end of knotted ropes. There are comfy leather sofas to sink into or a long bar table with high stools to perch at with a laptop, as many students and young tech types seem to have come in to do.
The counter is host to an abundance of treats piled up in tiers. There are a big selection of pies, including beef and ale or spinach and sweet potato, and Jamaican patties- which, I’m warned, are incredibly spicy. There are vegan sausage rolls, scones, croissants and an outrageous sounding special bread and butter pudding made with French pastries.
I was wondering where on earth to start when Mitch recommended choosing one of the three specials of the day, which alternate daily between vegan, vegetarian and meat options. We returned to our table with tea and a particularly great coffee to wait.
And when our food arrived, we couldn’t have been happier. The portions were enormous; the taste was sensational. For a café, I was stunned by the incredibly high quality of the food.
Fresh Local Produce
I had opted for the three-cheese macaroni cheese, which included squares of bacon, chunks of broccoli and shavings of celery and leek. All, of course, caked in a generously thick layer of cheese. There’s nothing in the world quite as comforting as a hot macaroni cheese and this was by far the most exciting tasting and unusual version I’d ever experienced.
It was complemented by a salad that was equally intriguing. Among the green leaves were pea shoots, thin, tangy strips of yellow courgette and strawberries, all drizzled in balsamic vinegar. Mitch explained that everyday they go to the nearby allotments to pick fresh produce, in return for contributing the left-over grind from their coffee machines to fertilise the soil. The daily menu will depend on what has been picked the night before, which is why everything tastes so deliciously fresh.
My boyfriend chose the spicy chicken burger, which came with the same salad. The chicken was perfectly moist, covered in crunchy breadcrumbs and nestled inside a fresh bun. The accompanying coleslaw of red cabbage and carrot complemented it well.
After such substantial meals, the thought of a dessert wasn’t as appealing as it usually is. But after taking one glance at what was on offer, there was no way I could have left without sampling anything at all.
Pressed up against the windows to tempt passers-by is a large glass cabinet filled with all sorts of neatly arranged chocolate wonders, from cheesecake berry brownies to gooey chocolate bombs. Every weekend a different elaborate celebration cake is made and put out on display, too.
Between us, we managed a salted caramel brownie. It had an extravagantly rich layer of smooth dark chocolate laid on top of a block of caramel, with biscuit bubbles underneath. It was the luxurious kind of treat you savour every single mouthful of and won’t stop thinking about for days.
If the extraordinary food wasn’t enough, the café is a wonderfully relaxed and welcoming space, which succeeds in its efforts to be community minded. Big colourful canvases currently hang on the wall, the work of a local artist. A different person’s work will be showcased each month.
Mitch has big plans to start growing herbs and other food in the little patch of land at the back of the kitchen, bringing the source of the food even closer to the customer’s plates. The paved area outside the café, currently rather overgrown and neglected, will soon hold it’s own weekly market.
Café plenty has clearly made it first to a burgeoning new spot and is singlehandedly carving out a reputation for the zone as a trendy destination for wholesome and top quality food.