The Vegetarian Capital of the UK

Brighton has long been dubbed the “Vegetarian Capital of the UK” and, while other cities are catching up, we still like the think it has the best array of veggie bars, cafes and restaurants in the country. And, with newly opened 1847 joining the myriad of meat free joints (excuse the meaty pun) it seemed like a good time to chart the history of Brighton’s veggie eating scene.

1847, vegetarian restaurant in Brighton, vegan, gluten free dining
Mushroom Pate at 1847

Brighton’s First Vegetarian Restaurant

Brighton’s first vegetarian restaurant, Food for Friends, opened in 1981. I was then a young teenager and remember it mainly for the fact it totally perplexed my Hove dwelling Irish grandparents. To them, a meal was meat and potatoes. Without meat, well, it was just potatoes and, much as the Irish love potatoes, potatoes on their own are not a meal.

They were mystified by my tales of queuing up with a tray for a bowl of lentil soup or slab of veggie lasagne (the menu’s much more sophisticated these days). But Food for Friends was onto something and punters poured in.

Food For Friends, Brighton, vegetarian restaurant
Aubergine Dish at Food For Friends

Starting Trends

Twelve years later Terre à Terre was born with an ethos that was as indulgent as it was ethical and its own unique blend of fusion vegetarianism, incorporating dishes from around the globe.

Fast-forward and Brighton has at least fifteen veggie diners and counting.

Wai Kika Moo Kau  in Kensington Gardens – say the name out loud and don’t be fooled (as a friend of mine was) into thinking it’s Hawaiian, offers global inspired breakfast and lunches with speciality coffees and vegan cakes.

Terre à Terre, vegetarian restaurant, Brighton, award winning
Terre a Terre Brighton

Plenty of Choice

Nearby, Iydea is a popular award winning veggie café and Infinity Foods Kitchen offers a seasonally and culturally varied menu of fresh organic food at its premises in Gardner Street. With the emphasis on “nutritious and delicious,”  Foodilic is a fairly recent addition to the Brighton veggie scene, with outlets on Western Road and North Street and Eat Naked in the Lanes (don’t worry it’s the food that’s uncovered not the punters) brings you veggie, vegan and gluten free food courtesy of a previous Masterchef finalist.

Eat Naked, East Street Arcade, The Lanes, Brighton. Deli/ Coffee Shop/ Cafe, Stacie Stewart
Eat Naked

Unique Offerings

Go to India and the food will mostly be vegetarian but Indian restaurants here tend to cater to our carnivorous tastes. Not so Bombay Aloo on Ship street with its eat as much as you like vegetarian buffet or evocative Planet India on Richmond Parade .

Planet India, Indian restaurant, vegetarian, Brighton
Bhel Puri at Planet India

While plenty of pubs have token veggie options, The Prince George on Trafalgar Street is totally vegetarian, with an award winning menu and robust Sunday lunches. My favorite is the imaginative sweet potato, peanut, lime and coriander Wellington, which gives beef a good run for its money.

Food For Friends, Vegetarian Restaurant, Brighton
Food For Friends Starter

Vegan Options Too

We Love Falafel on Sydney street serves a range of what it says on the tin, while Almond Tree at Seven Dials offers a variety of soups, sandwiches and specials.

Hardcore vegans should head for VBites on East Street, where you can also shop for vegan meats, fish and cheeses, after you’ve finished your hickory chick burger (and resisted the temptation to burst into nursery rhyme).

1847 – The year the Vegetarian Society was formed (now closed)

It’s a far cry from the early days when Food For Friends ploughed a single veggie furrow but, if you think it was ahead of it’s time, it’s worth considering the origins of the name of Brighton’s newest veggie restaurant, 1847.

1847, vegetarian restaurant in Brighton, vegan, gluten free dining
1847 Winter Veg

This is the year when the Vegetarian Society was formed against a backdrop of the Industrial Revolution and the associated social and health problems, to which a “vegetable diet” was seen as a solution to many.

Only the new 1847’s name is historic – it’s all contemporary wood flooring, spiral staircase and a live herb wall, plus a menu offering locally produced vegetarian, vegan & gluten free options.

Terre A Terre, Vegetarian Restaurant, Brighton, East Street, Gluten Free
Gluten free Tasting Plate – Terre a Terre

And, with this latest addition to the pantheon of eating establishments, Brighton and Hove can still justifiably call itself veggie capital of Britain.