This review of a Brighton restaurant is a break from The Picky Glutton’s usual London-based coverage
Brighton has more than its fair share of vegetarian restaurants and I had the opportunity to try out Terre a Terre, one of its most well-regarded, with the help of Wicket, Kangaroo Face, The Youngling and Sue-Ellen.
Actually, Sue-Ellen wasn’t of much help this time around. Not only was she nursing a brutal hangover, she scoffed a Burger King Whopper almost immediately beforehand and therefore skipped food entirely settling on a pot of Earl Grey – if that doesn’t tell you all you need to know about her feelings towards vegetarian food then nothing will. Perhaps next time she should have some low-alcohol beer like Kangaroo Face’s lunch time tipple of Riedenburger. He greatly enjoyed the light, yeasty and marmite-like taste.
The décor at Terre a Terre is nothing to write home about, but the bright lighting and deep red walls are at least inoffensive. Service was friendly and efficient, but pacing turned out to be an issue – our starters arrived incredibly quickly after ordering, but there was then a long lull before our main courses finally appeared.
The massive menu immediately gave me cause for concern. The confusingly arranged sections left much of my party baffled and the excessively florid and intricate, but ultimately unhelpful descriptions are like nothing I have ever seen before.
Wicket isn’t usually a fan of tsatziki and tapenade, but he decided to give both a chance. Here they were served with two triangular chunks of focaccia. While the bread was fluffy and blessed with rosemary, Wicket wasn’t won over by either the yogurt or the caper-olive mixture which both turned out to be rather forgettable.
Kangaroo Face chose the intriguingly named Chilli Candy for his starter, but he was unimpressed with the blandness of what turned out to be fried potato cakes. The zesty topping made up for the unremarkable chilli sauce, but overall he was left wanting.
Youngling decided to skip starters, while I went for the mai fun salad. I was pleasantly surprised by the firm, smoky cubes of tofu which went down well with the roasted peanuts and pickled ginger. I was unimpressed with the characterless noodles which had also been given a misguided coleslaw-like makeover with the addition of carrots and other root vegetables in a cream-like sauce. Such a disappointing finish for a dish that had started out so well.
Wicket’s main course, the Terre a Tiffin, was confusing smorgasbord of Indian-derived foodstuffs crammed onto a plate. Although he enjoyed most of it, overall he thought the selection was a bit too stodgy for its own good. The cumin flecked cauliflower bhaji-like cakes for example, while tasty, were too heavy especially when consumed in such quantities. He would also have appreciated a sharp and refreshing cucumber raita instead of the dense, sweet coconut dressing which he found too cloying and heavy on the palate.
Kangaroo Face was baffled by his main course, the simply name Jerusalem which was anything but simple with numerous ingredients on the plate vying for his attention. Kangaroo Face enjoyed some of the individual elements, such as the goat’s cheese, the pickled red cabbage, the seasoned artichokes and the smoked spring greens. However, the textures were all too soft with nothing providing some firmness for contrast. The lack of a unifying element to tie everything together was also a drawback.
Both The Youngling and I opted for the Better Batter which consists of battered, deep fried halloumi cheese. The butteriness of the batter complimented the denseness of the cheese well, but the batter’s doughy chewiness felt all wrong. The quail egg felt like a last minute addition that added little to the dish, but the firm and fresh peas made the pea terrine surprisingly enjoyable while the chunky chips were crisp and thankfully oil free. Overall, despite some pleasing elements the Better Batter felt like a ragbag collection of ingredients thrown together on a plate rather than a carefully conceived dish.
Wicket skipped dessert, but Kangaroo Face made up for this omission by effectively having two. His first was an affogato – ice cream served in coffee. Terre a Terre’s version usually has a shot of alcohol in it, but Kangaroo Face decided to have his virgin which is just as well given how alcohol quickly exposes his short fused anger management issues.
Anyway, he enjoyed the dense creaminess of the ice cream which was counterbalanced nicely by the bitter espresso. He also enjoyed the well-judged balance of sweetness and saltiness in his salt caramel truffle.
I wasn’t expecting to find churros on the menu and since churros are one of my culinary obsessions I had to have it. Each individual doughnut stick was dense, chewy, thankfully unoily and dusted with cinnamon. While I usually prefer my churros to be fluffier, Terre a Terre’s chewier version was still quite enjoyable in spite of the rather bland, insipid chocolate sauce. Oddly and rather untraditionally, there was another accompaniment in the form of cherries soaked in vodka. The cherries hadn’t been soaked in the booze for that long though as I was able to eat the soft, squidgy fruit without any ill-effect. Overall the churros themselves are reasonably good, but the kitchen should really get rid of the cherries, which feel like a tacked on afterthought, and concentrate instead on making a better chocolate dipping sauce.
At the risk of seeming like a massive snob from The Big Smoke, I really hope Terre a Terre isn’t typical of Brighton’s restaurants. Although there are occasional glimpses of competency, the kitchen would be better served by focussing on dishes with one or two key, quality ingredients rather then their current habit of throwing a heap of stuff onto a plate and seeing what sticks. Would I eat at Terre a Terre again? No, at least not in its current form.
Name: Terre a Terre
Address: 71 East Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1HQ
Phone: 01273 729051
Opening Hours: Monday-Friday noon-22.30, Saturday 11.00-23.00 and Sunday 11.00-22.00.
Total cost for one person including soft drinks: £25-30 approx.