Terre à Terre have been challenging common perceptions of vegetarian cuisine since 1993 winning numerous accolades along the way.
They have been at the forefront of vegetarian cuisine for the past twenty years and show no signs of slowing down. With that in mind I had very high expectations as I walked into the restaurant on a sunny Wednesday evening.
I am greeted by the extremely friendly and welcoming staff and shown to my table at the back of the deceptively large restaurant. The staff are already busy with a large group taking up a lot of their attention but they still have time to check on the other tables. As per usual I am left waiting for my photographer to show up and order a gin martini whilst I wait for him to appear, poor me. I am currently in the throes of a minor martini addiction and it doesn’t look like ending after this one.
Whilst I peruse the menu, taking in the unfeasibly long list of ingredients in each dish, I am also handed a copy of the Terre à Terre cookbook to leaf through. Never before have I read a book with such complex recipes and numbers of ingredients. I am starting to understand the amount of work and expertise that does into every dish. I order some crispy fried lavash bread (£9.50) whilst I wait and am presented with some rather delicious morsels of spiced bread with North African inspired dips. As pre-dinner nibbles go they keep me occupied and I nibble contentedly.
Ali arrives and we decide to go for the Terre à Tapas sharing plate (£15pp) to start. As the large table break into a rendition of happy birthday, we decide on our mains. With playfully named dishes and the aforementioned ingredient list, which suits a restaurant that appeals to those with specific dining requirements, the menu is not one to scan through. We eventually settle on “Cinders Will Go to the Ball” (£15.95) for me and Ali picks the “Sneaky Peeking Steamers” (£15.50) with a little assistance from our waiter.
We settle into our surroundings and I am impressed to see how busy the restaurant is on a normal midweek evening. Even with a pretty full restaurant the staff are very attentive and the place does not feel cramped or too loud. We sip our Riesling from the 100% organic wine list, many of which are also biodynamic, and wait for our food to arrive.
When the tapas plate arrives I can see why many people choose it as a group starter. There is a lovely selection of dishes from across the menu and it is difficult to remember everything the waitress tells us. I am pleased to get a taste of their signature halloumi in chip shop batter which is exceptionally good. The rest of the platter starts to mix into one huge plate of food although the KFC (Korean fried cauliflower) is another stand out element. It’s a good start but I found that a few of the elements could have offered more to be memorable.
My main, as the name suggests, contains pine cinders with the main focal point of the dish being a goat’s cheese soufflé. Visually the dish is very impressive with vibrant colours and exceptional plating. I tuck in and there is a lot going on in the dish with different textures and flavours all sitting happily together. I feel that the texture of the soufflé could be a little lighter and it could have a more prominent goats cheese tang, but I am being hyper critical. The “Sneaking Peeking Steamers” are a take on Chinese steamed rice buns with Szechuan marinated halloumi at its centre and a plethora of paraphernalia to play with. Served in a traditional steamer basket they certainly look the part and with two layers of buns the portions are certainly not stingy. The halloumi has been transformed into Chinese style pork with consummate skill and is almost indistinguishable from the real thing – almost. There is an overriding sweetness to the dish but this does not detract from the fact it is an incredibly accomplished piece of cookery.
Feeling somewhat full we back out on dessert and share a plate of Frisky Fives (£6.70) which is a small selection of bite size puds. We also cannot resist the Salted Caramel Appletini and Chocolate Orange Martini (both £8.50). The selection of petit fours is perfect and make me wish I’d left room for a larger dessert. Of the liquid desserts the Appletini is an absolute stunner and highly recommended.
Terre à Terre is not so much a vegetarian restaurant, it is a fine dining restaurant that happens to also be vegetarian. Unlike other vegetarian restaurants in the city, Terre à Terre is the full package in terms of providing the total restaurant experience. It is indulgent, exciting and the service is second to none. I had extremely high expectations before the visit, and whilst I feel there could have been some improvements in terms of punchier flavours and the texture of the soufflé, the overall experience lived up to them.
Terre à Terre
71 East Street
This review first appeared in the September 2nd edition of the Brighton and Hove Independent. The food was complementary and I had been invited to review. This in no way influenced my opinions of the food.