To open a new vegetarian restaurant in Brighton is not like doing so in other areas of the country. Brighton has more than its fair share of high quality vegetarian and vegan eateries that are well established. Despite this there is a new player in town called 1847 – named after the year the vegetarian society was established in the UK. The restaurant itself is part of a national chain – rare in vegetarian dining – with others in Manchester, Birmingham and Bristol.
Situated in North road 1847 has found its home in what has historically been a slightly cursed building – a trend that they are hoping to break. The concept behind 1847 is to bring a contemporary twist on vegetarian cuisine and challenge the stereotypical view of vegetarian cooking. This also extends to the décor which is modern and clean with bold bright colours throughout. There is a rather nice spiral staircase that takes you from the ground floor dining area to either the additional upstairs dining room or basement cocktail bar.
I was lucky enough to attend the launch party and sampled a number of their botanical based cocktails. The botanical twist resulted in some very refreshing and interesting flavour combinations using herbs and aromatics such as dill, cloves and chilli. This is a great addition to the restaurant and customers can either just come along for a few drinks or an aperitif before heading upstairs.
On our visit there was an option to either order from the extensive a la carte menu or try a five course taster menu for £35. There are vegetarian, vegan and gluten free options throughout and so plenty of options to choose from. We opted to choose from the menu where you can have two courses for £19.50 or three for £25.
To start I had the “Crispy egg” and my friend went for the “Onion bhajji”. The starters arrived promptly and were nicely presented. My egg was still runny and nice and crisp without becoming greasy. The accompanying pearl barley could have done with a bit more punch but the radicchio and herbs gave a pleasant bitterness and peppery bite. The onion bhajji was crisp and sweet as you would hope and the accompanying salad and raita was fresh and bright.
For my main I ordered the “Beet bourguignon” and my friend opted for the “Winter veggies & coconut”. Other options include a cabbage based dish and a vegetarian take on “Fish and chips” using battered halloumi. We also ordered a bottle of Da Luca wine from their vegan only wine list.
Much like the starters the main dishes were visually striking with very vibrant colours and interesting garnishes. My beetroot dish had an underlying earthy flavour with bitesize chunks of vegetables throughout. The dish lacked real oomph for me and the saving grace was the crumbled goats cheese which added a much needed tangy hit.
My friend’s winter vegetable dish consisted of a sweet potato soup-like base with a selection of roasted veg and black beans. Texture was provided by crisp slithers of parsnip. Much like my main it was a competent dish but lacked a real wow factor. We shared a side of crisp cauliflower with a harissa yoghurt dressing which was we both really enjoyed.
To finish we went for “Chocolate and pear” and “Cranberry”. I was really hoping for a big end to the meal with my pear dish consisting of poached pears, chocolate ganache, gingerbread and mulled wine jelly. Despite all of these elements the dessert was disappointing. There was no stand out flavour and the gingerbread was very dry. The cranberry dish was much better with the sharp cranberry tempered by a creamy white chocolate truffle yoghurt.
Before I went to 1847 I had never been to a purely vegetarian restaurant before. Despite this I went with an open mind and was interested in seeing what would be on offer. My overall impression of 1847 was that of a restaurant that is still trying to find its feet. Speaking to the restaurant manager there are still further development plans for the premises and the menu is constantly being tweaked and worked on. I am a fan of food with big bold flavours and that was what I felt was lacking here. There is the potential for 1847 to be a success in Brighton and they clearly know what has worked elsewhere. Brighton already has a strong vegetarian restaurant scene and so 1847 will have to up its game in order to compete.
North Road,Brighton,BN1 1YW