Where shall we meet ... in Brighton?

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The Independent Culture
It seems to me that governments could save a lot of money on half- baked urban-regeneration schemes by harnessing the pink pound a bit more. Look at Brighton: a sad sort of run-down place full of gangsters and warring teenagers until gay men in their droves decided to settle there in the early Eighties. Women may be said to be the civilising sex, but gay men have potentially an even stronger capacity to change the face of a place. Where the pink pound goes tends to follow decent eateries, pavement cafes, bar decor that doesn't involve patterned carpet, and a general trend in the population simply to be out at night a bit more.

Brighton now has more meeting-places per square inch than pretty much anywhere in England apart from Soho, and, with the new Oliver Peyton-linked redevelopment of the crumbling West Pier fast approaching, it has comfortably settled into its new incarnation as cutting-edge capital of the southern provinces. Tony Blair would love it for its concatenation of cool clubs, cool bars, cool restaurants, its thriving bohemian businesses in the North Laines. And, what's more, it offers vegetarianism without earnestness. Kensington Gardens houses a popular veggie restaurant, Wai Kika Moo Kau, whose gentle modernist interior draws crowds. And, just off the seafront, is the terrific Terre a Terre. Having moved from smaller premises last year, this grown- up beanfeast has been doing grand business; it's essential to book in the evenings. And, not surprisingly, it's wonderfully unwholesome: orange walls, bright-blue bar, in-your-face oil paintings and ceiling fans rather than atmosphere-killing air-conditioning. Staff tend to chat and call you "sweetie" - none of the pallid sincerity usually associated with meat-free environments - and their wine list is lengthy.

And the food: wow. I would defy a meat-eater to be dissatisfied here. We shared a Terre a tapas at pounds 9.75, a selection from the the menu served with garlic focaccia, and one of many vegan options - choosing between poached goat's cheese mouse with saffron butter and tapenade, sushi, twice-baked smoked cheddar souffle and artichoke rotollo was beyond us. Our plate heaved with good things; salads with wildly different dressings, fat olives, split-pea pikelets, couscous, sushi, dips and sauces. Lunch for two, with a bottle of fizzy water, came to pounds 12.50. Well worth the wait for a booking.

Terre a Terre, 71 East St, Brighton (01273-729051).

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