Let's Cook with Meg and Ted

Vegetarian

Terre a Terre - so as far as I can tell from reading other reviews and talking to people about it, the long-term argument is whether this place is an overdone wank, or vegetarian perfection on earth. I prefer to see these not as opposite ends of a continuum, but as two axes in theoretical restaurant space. And sure, Terre a Terre scores about 5 or 6 out of 10 on the wankery axis, but it also ranks about 8 on the good food axis, which puts it easily into "great restaurant" territory. So, where does the wankiness come in? The menu is wildly overwritten (surely this is deliberate? No one could take it that seriously - I hope.) A few of the waiters need to pull their heads out of their arses. The food is nouvelle-influenced, which doesn't bother me, but which seems to be anathema to some. That's about it as far as I can see. On the plus side of the ledger, the rest of the waitstaff are lovely, the atmosphere is very pleasant, and lots of the food is great. The tapas plate is absolutely brilliant. As well as lovely olives and nuts and so on, it has tiny portions of lots of the salads and main meals. I'd happily have this as a main when it's too hard to decide what to choose. If the pate a brik is on the menu, definitely give it a go - it's a delicious little parcel of lemon and mint and spiced burgul. Most other dishes are also good, but I have reservations about two which have been on the menu for a while, the soba noodle salad and the jerusalem artichoke souffle. Both taste fine, but suffer from being the food equivalent of a huge wall painted one colour - too much of one flavour, nothing to break it up. Flavour exaustion sets in. Still, this is almost quibbling, given how good most of the menu is. Do go, and remember to book, they get very busy. 71 East St Brighton. 01273 729051 (June 2002)

Waikikamookau - The only reason I can come up with for having gone here several times is that I just get sucked in by vegetarian restaurants. It's the excitement of having a full menu to choose from, rather than tossing up between the vegetable lasagne (again) and the spinach and ricotta pasta (again again). Anyway, I guess I did once have a good meal here - the pastry crowns are pretty fine on a chilly winter day. However, that has to be balanced against the overcooked pasta, the boring curries, and the inappropriate use of naan bread (with Thai curry? with pasta stirfry(a bizarre concept in itself)?). But what really tipped me over the edge into a permanent refusal to ever cross their doorstep again was a Greek salad. A pretty simple thing, you'd think. Difficult to screw it up too badly. Ha. OK, imagine first a small pile of chopped iceberg lettuce, with a few wisps of mizuna doing a bad job of hiding it on top. Next to this, place a few unripe cherry tomatoes, and some small, tinned, pre-pitted, bitter, lye-cured olives. Now, there are three more ingredients to this salad and I'm wanting to build up to the worst one, but I just can't decide which is the worst. So our finalists, in arbitrarily chosen order, are: a semicircle of "feta" - a white, rubbery, tasteless, perfectly geometrically shaped piece which bears the clear imprint of the pattern on the bottom of the can it obviously came from; a mound of glutinous, again tasteless, coleslaw; and another mound (what is it with the mounding?) of .......... wait for it .............. tinned sweetcorn!!! Oh yes, that's just what a Greek salad should be. Nothing could convince me to ever go here again. I value my happiness too dearly. 11a Kensington Gardens North Laine 01273 671117, and another in the Lanes. (July 2002)

Food for Friends - this restaurant is a Brighton institution, but has changed its style in the last year from 'queue at the door, order at the counter' to menu service. The menu includes a wide range of meals, always some vegan, including both Asian and European dishes. The western food is fine - not innovative, but quite tasty. The two Asian things I've tried there, a stirfry and a curry, were both fairly bland, and very overcooked. It's a great place to relax though, at an old wooden table in one of the many rambling rooms, with a glass of (organic) wine. 18 Prince Albert Street, The Lanes. 01273 202310 (November 2003)

The Sanctuary - it's the atmosphere here I like more than the food, although perhaps I just hit them on a bad day, because others have recommended it. It's very relaxed and welcoming, and I can imagine spending a couple of hours reading there. The mixed salad plate is pretty good, with interesting combinations, but the one soup I tried (parsnip) was watery and bland. But it's all vegetarian (actually, a bit of fish too I think) so I'll be going back to try again. And the cake cabinet looked very nice indeed -although huge servings meant that we waddled away without trying anything from it, unfortunately. Brunswick St East, Hove. 01273 770002. (March 2002)

Bombay Aloo - aka Infinite Indian, this is a smorgasboard vegetarian Indian restaurant in the Lanes. It was a big relief to us to find somewhere you could get an Indian meal for two for under the equivalent of about A$75. 4.95 will get you each unlimited vegetarian curry, bread, rice, salads, pickles, bahjis and pakoras, and coconut rice pudding. The bajhis and pakoras are really only worth eating if you see them brought out and know that they are fresh and hot, but the rest is good. Some of the curries are a bit odd (one with brussel sprouts, for example - I spent ages going 'Are they dumplings of some kind? Paneer balls? Perhaps very soft small potatoes? Oh my god, they're overcooked brussel sprouts!'), and all are very mild, although you can spice them up a bit with the pickles. The korma is way sweet (but this seems to be a UK thing (?)), but the dahl is fantastic, and there's a good chickpea and spinach curry too. We have always got in without a booking, but it would probably be wise to book if you have a large group or it's Friday or Saturday night. Ship St, Brighton. (December 2001)

RedVeg - I have been hanging out for some good noodles for so long. When will the noodle-bar trend hit Brighton? Not soon enough! So when I saw people leaving RedVeg with takeaway noodle boxes, I was seriously excited. Unfortunately I was in a rush and couldn't satisfy my craving right then, so I had to wait for a week or so, fantasizing about the good noodles I would soon be eating. Finally we made it back...... Oh my god. These noodles were so bad. I can count on the fingers of one hand the number of times I have bought a meal, tasted it, then got up and left and gone to buy another meal somewhere else. RedVeg joins this elite group. I knew we were in trouble when I opened up the noodle box and got a noseful of that Heinz tomato smell, like opening a tin of baked beans. I poked around with my fork - yes, underneath the cunningly placed half-dozen mange tout was a steaming pile of noodles seemingly slathered in thin tomato sauce. With a few strands of slivered carrot. It tasted just as bad as it looked. Why, god, why?? Anyway, they also sell veggie burgers and nuggets, which may not be as horrific - but someone else will have to find out, I can't face the scene of this trauma again, not just yet. 21 Gardner St North Laine. 01273 679910. (August 2002)

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