I have to admit that I don't often venture much further than the centre of town to hunt for vegan food, Brighton's so small that I'm usually overwhelmed with options within a 5 minute walk of my front door so a 15 minute walk suddenly seems like crazy talk. I know, I know, I'm ridiculously lazy & I'm totally okay with that! My friend Justine actually gave me the tip off about this newly opened independent vegetarian cafe nestled in a cosy space on dyke road and as soon as she mentioned that they make their own vegan cheeses I couldn't wait to visit.
I checked out The Almond Tree with a small group of friends on Saturday afternoon and I was immediately drawn to the Homemade Vegan Soft Cheese & Salad Sandwich, £3.95, from the specials board. Sadly they were almost out of the herby version so I passed on that and picked something else. They still brought us samples of what was left of both the herby and spicy cheeses and we were all super impressed. As far as I know this is the first place in Brighton making their own vegan cheese and we definitely appreciate the effort. These cashew and nutritional yeast based cheeses are soft, spreadable, delicately flavoured and delicious.
Alongside the regular menu there are specials which rotate rotate daily. They can be found right on the deli counter as you go in the door and there are more vegan options than were marked. In fact my only suggestion for the owners is to start labelling V for vegan or VO for vegan option so that it's a little easier to work out what to order.
I decided on the Toasted Polenta with Mixed Mushrooms and Parsley and Garlic Pesto and picked a main sized portion for £4.50.
This was a really light, fresh meal full of punchy flavours, from the garlic in the pesto to the peppery rocket this was a beautiful, well rounded, Mediterranean dish. I loved the toasted polenta and it made me wonder why I never cook polenta at home.
My friend James ordered the vegan Full English which was adapted from the veggie version on the menu to include baked tofu rather than egg, personally I'd love to see a tofu scramble on here someday but I may just be a little obsessed with scrambles.
This looked, and apparently tasted, like a top notch full English breakfast, I loved that they'd included polenta here too and I was very impressed with their toast. I wish more places would use thick sliced, homemade bread like this.
For dessert there were two vegan and gluten free cakes to choose from, one banana and one chocolate, obviously I picked chocolate and I got a large slice for my £2.50. Unexpectedly underneath the buttercream frosting there wasn't sponge cake as I'd assumed but an almost gelatinous cake, similar to a hard set pudding or cheesecake.
Whatever kind of cake they're aiming for this was definitely delicious and not too sweet which I enjoyed. I also thought it was wonderful that they're making their own cakes, almost every other veggie place in the city orders from the same place and whilst their cakes are good it can get a little repetitive when they're all over the place!
Just before we left the lovely couple running the cafe brought us a jar of their homemade Hazelnut Spread to try, how nice is that? It must be because Justine's such a regular!
It was really, really, great and it was hard not to keep the little pot of delicious chocolate all to myself! (Possible new years resolution: Learn to share.) They sell these in the refrigerator alongside the cold drinks and I think they'd make a great little gift for the chocolate lover in your life.
The Almond Tree also make a vegan Sunday Roast, which I'm looking forward to trying, along with the many other delicious specials including Mixed Veg Cous Cous Bake and Mushroom & Ale Stew. The Almond Tree is only a 10 minute walk from Churchill Square or Brighton Station so if you're visiting you should definitely check out this cute new veggie spot.