Kang’s Note: Jude and Rosie are the London Brighton eating duo defined by the distance between the two places. The Fiftyfourfoodmiles are a road less travelled and Jude has brought back the spirit of blogging with a write-up of Brighton’s Food for Friends with nothing but the power of prose to paint you a picture of the meal they’ve had. Ah yes, some good old fashion writing to stimulate those brain cells. -Kang.
Review: Food for Friends
17-18 Prince Albert Street, Brighton, BN1 1HF, 01273 202 310.
Brighton is an undeniably good place to be a vegetarian: it doesn’t make you a social leper; in fact as a meat eater you often find yourself in the minority in pub-table conversation.
Not surprising then, that Brighton (which now boasts nationally acclaimed veggie spots such as Terre à Terre, for example) was a suitable place to open Food for Friends – the city’s first vegetarian eatery – in 1981; a time when ‘I’m vegetarian’ provoked ‘a what?’ rather than ‘what kind?’ from people. Lactose / gluten-intolerant weren’t common phrases in those days of yore.
But, Food for Friends, as a restaurant name? For an old cynic like me it forces an eyebrow skywards. Its name is telling me that my experience will be joyous, wholesome, filled with laughter as my close-knit group of friends and I (yes we’ve had our downtimes! Yes, we’ve had our clashes and rivalries and love-disasters! But we’re through that!) raise a toast to our little cluster of amicable and honest companionship.
Yup. But what if one (hypothetically speaking) comes to FfF with a soon-to-be ex boyfriend, in a last ditch attempt to rescue the relationship? What if one comes to FfF with one’s estranged father who has never expressed any attempt to be involved in one’s life until now? It wouldn’t so much be Food for Friends then, would it?
I like the restaurant to provide good food, good service and good atmosphere but not to dictate my good experience in terms of the company I choose to keep. Nonetheless, I’d heard good things from my colleagues and friends about the place so I decided to take (well, be taken by) my parents (the estranged father thing was hypothetical – my own life ain’t half so interesting) on their recent visit to Brighton.
So, one point down for the name. But on picking up the phone, that’s when the plus points starting stacking up in FfF’s favour. First point: person-on-other-end is chatty and friendly on the phone, despite the last minute booking on a Friday evening. No Beatles references when I give my first name. My cynical eyebrow starts drooping.
Second point: the restaurant exudes warmth. As we pull up to its doors (in a taxi! It’s with my parents and the walk Hove-to-Brighton was a bit much to subject them to after a long day at work and an hour and half drive, complete with traffic jam) the logic behind its corner location in the Lanes is clear. Inviting light spills out from the windows and we want to be inside. So in we go.
Coats helpfully taken, we peruse the menu and time is given as we make slow choices. I remember that it’s from my parents I learnt the habit of ordering something different from the other diners – we hastily changes choices as we discover that someone else is going for the original selection.
For my mum, vegetarian eating can be tricky. While she often cooks vegetarian (Moosewood is her bible) she doesn’t like detests mushrooms, and doesn’t much care for tomato dominated dishes. But she’s getting extremely excited by her choice of butternut squash filo parcel.
Meanwhile, I’m getting excited by both mine and my dad’s choices. His – sweet potato and coconut curry and mine – a stuffed portobello mushroom.
Given we’ve splurged on a taxi (parking in Brighton is impossible) we share abottle of red – details of which get forgotten as we gasp at our food – apologies. Point down for reviewer.
We skipped starters and desserts but opted for a basket of perfectly oiled focaccia: eaten to last crumb after my mum meticulously divided the last two pieces – it didn’t come divisible by three.
The mains come well-presented and generous, and in true family tradition we all try each others (my mum shunning my mushroom of course). Her filo crisp on the fork, kissing the juicy squash and crunchy cashews (pronounced csh-sew rhyming with the sneeze-sound, in our family).
Meanwhile my dad’s curry is creamy on its bed of pilaf rice, cooled by the cucumber riata. And me… I slowly and delicately select pieces of meaty mushroom and rich feta and dip them in nutty pesto. I’m savouring.
Wine finished, and meals devoured, I’m losing count of all those positive points. FfF has delivered some truly culinary joy – ‘vegetarian’ as an adjective is redundant. The food is fine food. Enough said.
A couple of gripes – my dad’s glass of wine is poured with sediment; and the waiter seems a little eager to fill our glasses when we’ve only had a few sips and to press another bottle on us (declined). But on the whole, service is good.
So, well-fed, we tumble back out into the cold – my initial scepticism at FfF’s name long forgotten. It’s just as much food for families (and I suppose we are friends too), including those like mine, who like to spend ages choosing, eat each other’s food, pronounce cashew in a weird way, and divide the bread up very very fairly.
(to start) a daily selection of breads served with extra virgin olive oil and balsamic vinegar: £3.45
(her) filo parcel with roasted butternut, cashew nuts, spinach and caramelised onion on a mandarin and mango salad with mirin and chilli dressing: £10.95
(him) roasted sweet potato, butternut squash, cashew and coconut curry with herbed spinach brown basmati pilaf, cucumber riata and spicy vegetable crisps: £10.95
(me) portobello mushroom stuffed with feta, sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts with sweet potato wedges, fine beans with a pesto sauce topped with creme fraiche: £11.95
I really appreciated this one especially when it came to the description of creamy curry, yummy… if you loved this guest post, do come back here on the 11th of March and vote vote vote. Fiftyfourfoodmiles is now serving here.