Restaurants: Making waves

Terre a Terre is a veggie restaurant with universal appeal, says Siobhan Dolan
IT MUST be the sea air which transforms normally restrained individuals into habitual grazers when they come to Brighton. We'd slipped up badly on our previous trip to Terre a Terre, arguably one of Britain's finest vegetarian restaurants, when we'd struggled to get beyond the starters, after a day spent devouring fish and chips on the seafront, donuts on the pier and Jelly Bellys in the North Laine. Suitably chastened by the experience, we'd been, for the most part, abstemious before this visit.

The restaurant has relocated to larger premises since we were last there. First impressions are of an unpretentious decor - warm orange walls with a smattering of contemporary art, polished floors and beech veneer - giving way to a relaxed atmosphere. There's no requirement to look any particular part - just as well since your best efforts are needed to get to grips with the intriguing menu and the equally challenging wine list (organic, vegan and biodynamic offerings from around the world).

Terre a Terre's global vegetarian theme really comes into its own with the Terre a Tapas, fast becoming the restaurant's signature dish and a must for those keen to appreciate the kitchen's broad repertoire of tastes and techniques. Suggested as a starter for two (it could actually be quite comfortably shared between three or four if you're not ravenous), this magnificent pile of contrasting flavours and textures encourages diners to taste their way around the menu.

We were treated, amongst other things, to sushi, sin-sin noodles, coconut and sweet potato beignets served on a roast chilli spiked gazpacho; and Lancashire sausages. In fact, trying to remember the full line-up is a bit like that moment at the end of The Generation Game when contestants have to recall the items on the conveyor belt.

For the main course, I was torn between the smoked paprika and ricotta souffle and the walnut ravioli frisbee. Our waitress (service is prompt yet unintrusive) impressed upon me that the souffle was "quite eggy," so I plumped for the frisbee. An inspired choice: robust goat's cheese - offset by crunchy red chard - nestled in the lightest of ravioli cases, which floated in an improbably rich ("I-can't-believe-it's-not-meat") porcini mushroom, balsamic vinegar sauce.

Meanwhile, my companion's scorched rice paper lumpia potsticker, comprising citrus and soy oyster mushrooms and

cellophane noodles, seemed, for the first few mouthfuls, to sum up all that was best about Terre a Terre's cuisine: a subtle layering of flavours with cumin yielding to chilli, which in turn gave way to the merest hint of kaffir lime. Yet ultimately, all these tastes were drowned in a sea of mango. According to the menu, it was just a splash - a bit like saying that Gordon Ramsay is prone to the occasional mood swing.

The puddings set us back on course, and once we'd consumed a delectable, steamed quince and mace pudding and a suitably gooey chocolate parkin, we decided to continue our debate on the merits of biodynamic wine down at the seafront - over a cappuccino Jelly Belly, or two.

71 East St, Brighton (01273 729051) Approx pounds 25-pounds 30 a head


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