Food For Friends is somewhat of a Brighton institution. As the first vegetarian restaurant in what is now a haven for gourmet vegetarian eateries, Food For Friends has always been at the cutting edge of plant-based eating experiences. For me, it is always a pleasure to eat out somewhere that doesn’t have a vegetarian ‘option’ but a menu dedicated to exciting, innovative, meatless meals. It is a great place to get some inspiration for creating new dishes at home and trying new flavour combinations.Luke and I booked a table for Valentines night (I know, I know it’s sickening) because we really enjoyed our evening there last year and went away feeling full, happy and fairly drunk – always the sign of a night well spent. Last year there was a great selection on the menu and there was also a live band playing which gave the place a really lively atmosphere.
This year the set menu was priced at £35 per head including a glass of ‘gold rush’ prosecco and amuse-bouche, which is expensive but acceptable for a special occasion. We were a little disappointed to discover that there were only two options available for the main course: One a truffle ravioli with egg yolk centre (I love truffle but hate the taste of egg!) and the other an imam bayildi style stuffed aubergine with goat’s cheese crumb. I am always wary of ordering goats cheese because I don’t enjoy if it’s too strong so if I’m honest, I wouldn’t have rushed to choose either of these options had their been a bigger selection available.
One diner sitting near us was extremely vocal about her annoyance at the limited choice and spent about an hour complaining loudly to staff, her fellow diners and her dinner companion about this fact before leaving the restaurant without eating- as entertaining as this was I wouldn’t say it added positively to the atmosphere.
The food itself I can’t fault though. The entrée of walnut and treacle spelt loaf with trio of olive spreads and radish selection was really tasty. I have never tried the large black edged radish before; it had a really earthy, peppery flavour which complimented the walnut bread perfectly.
Our starter of mezze to share was beautifully presented and included quinoa stuffed baby pepper, hazelnut and lentil dumplings, herby falafels, pickled mushrooms (sounds odd- tasted fab!), spanakopita, sweet tofu pockets with shitake rice and pine nuts all served with a trio of dips. Everything on the platter was delicious and I love ‘pick and mix’ type food so this was perfect for me. I do think this should have come with more bread though because there was only one slice to share between us (we ordered extra) and it would have been a crime to let those dips go to waste!
Next up was the (slightly) dreaded aubergine with goats cheese crumb. It was served with saffron, barberries and pistachio rice with a sumac yoghurt sauce. To my relief the cheese wasn’t too ‘goaty’ and the dish was really tasty, if a little small- Luke and I both like our food and have healthy appetites so could certainly have polished off a larger portion.
To finish we had a scrumptious assiette of chocolate desserts to share which included molten chocolate pudding, chocolate brownies, mousse, white chocolate ice-cream, chocolate meringue and chilli chocolate crisps. Regrettably there is no photo of this dish because we polished it off before I remembered to take one but this is only testament to how good it was. You will just have to take my word for it that it looked as stunning as it reads.
Overall we had a lovely evening (all this food was washed down with a smooth, fruity bottle of red) and the staff who served us were friendly and accommodating. I do feel however that the atmosphere was a little lacking compared with last year without the band, and that the menu was also too restrictive so I am not sure we will be returning for Valentines night a third time. I would however certainly return to Food For Friends for another meal in a flash – if only to discover new foods like the black edged radish and hazelnut and lentil dumplings, which I am going to try and recreate at home.