Breakfast at Grow 40
‘Early morning Saturday’ in almost any other town or city is probably around 8am, the North Laine however has it’s own opinion on that, a slow start at 10am seems the standard, with 11am feeling a little over zealous on weekdays. So it was that at an ‘early by Brighton standards’ 9am we found ourselves at the south end of Kensington Gardens weighing up the pros and cons of breakfasting outdoors or indoors at Grow40.
Decision making before food is always hard, before coffee impossible, my synapses simply do not fire until that first sweet hit of hot black Joe. But, as it was a gloriously warm summer’s morning and the Laine was still blurry eyed and quiet, outside seemed just right for a gentle launch into a busy day.
Can we resist a boozy breakfast?
Seated and presented with menus, drinks were first on the agenda. I am not averse, in any way, to a boozy brunch, but this was definitely breakfast, an ‘early by Brighton standards’ breakfast at that.
Still, it was good to know that you can pimp brunch with bubbles or a Bloody Mary, and even better to know that, yes, they did indeed have vegan Worcester Sauce.
A boozy brunch will set you back £13.95, not bad since the average breakfast is around the £9 mark, and as Brighton’s best stocked wine and champagne bar you know these guys don’t mix with Spumante. As it was we settled for the ‘poor man’s mimosa’, or otherwise the, ‘grown up’s Fanta’; fresh orange juice with sparkling water. And coffee, always coffee.
The Vegan Full English
Thankfully for me the decision on breakfast was blessedly simple as there is one vegan breakfast option, the full English (I really, really struggle with small decisions and, also, see above about pre-coffee brain). For Mr P. there was a little more choice, a full English, baked omelette or poached organic eggs with hollandaise both with extras such as spinach, asparagus and avocado, all supplied locally and fresh. In the end it was two for the full English.
The North Laine really is a charming place, but Kensington Gardens is often so busy I’ll pick an alternative route rather than go through it, and if I have to go through it it’s normally in the style of a bulldozer. So whilst switching my brain on it was a real pleasure to watch the street slowly limber up, the vendors starting their day and the first of the morning’s explorers head out in search of sustenance.
My poetic musings were interrupted by the swift arrival of breakfast – the perks of being first in.
Vegan breakfast has until recently been a disappointment everywhere except for in devoted vegan venues, and still even then it can be hit and miss. Gladly our quest for TOTAL AND UTTER WORLD DOMINATION has not gone unnoticed, and mainstream cafes and restaurants are upping their game. My breakfast consisted of sourdough from Infinity Foods just next door, a lentil sausage made in the Grow40 kitchen, scrambled tofu, roast tomato, field mushroom, fresh avocado and home smoked baked beans presented separately in a little casserole dish. Mr P’s was exactly the same except he had ‘probably the best scrambled eggs ever’ and no mushroom, because Mr P is a freak and a fungiphobe.
The finest scrambled tofu
My hat is tipped to Grow40 on their scrambled tofu, genuinely the finest I think I’ve had. So often when served as a breakfast thing tofu is treated apologetically, even by vegans, even by me when I’m feeding myself. It is spiced, squished and mixed with so many other ingredients you could conceivably remove the tofu and not notice, but not this. In a left field move Grow40 have opted for a firm tofu (a scramble is normally made with a silken tofu to better affect the consistency of Mr P’s perfectly done eggs), slightly charred with a little seasoning, some parsley and spring onion seemed to be all that was added. It’s a bold ‘less is more’ move, in an area of Brighton already fervent with veganism and it makes it home.
Full on flavour
If the tofu was the star of this show, which surely it was, the sausage and beans were fine supporting leads. The smokey baked beans had a paprika kick and a richer than standard sauce giving depth and making them a great body to the rest of the flavours that were simple and fresh. The sausage, for one terrifying moment, looked like it might be some kind of curried affair (a ‘go to’ for chefs who don’t know how to handle non meat eaters), but it wasn’t. Lentils, beans, sweet potato and a touch of seasoning seemed to be the bulk of it, again it was simple and allowed the inherent flavour of the ingredients to shine.
I am so glad about this breakfast. I am glad because the vegan breakfast option in a venue that isn’t focussed on veganism is no longer a reductive thing. I am glad because here is a chef who has taken time to meet a growing demand and in so doing has delivered something surprising. I am glad because this is a vegan breakfast that isn’t trying to pretend to be a meat eater’s breakfast. And I am glad that when my capacity for decision making is limited, Grow40 will manage to stick in my mind.