The weekend before Christmas VBites invited me to come and try, review and give them feedback on their Sunday roasts. Super exciting! And, even better, they gave me a plus three so I could bring some friends along for a Christmassy meal. If you've been paying attention you'll know that I've been on a quest to find Brighton's best vegan Sunday roast for a while now and I couldn't wait to try another.
So far in The Quest the top spot is taken by the Earth & Stars followed by The West Hill. Don't even get me started on the disappointing roast at The Sussex Yeoman or The Royal Sovereign and for reasons I have mentioned previously I won't be reviewing the roast at The Prince George.
We were all surprised by the effort VBites had put into our table for lunch, it was set up with about a million glasses, christmassy napkins and even christmas crackers! When they offered us a jug of cocktail on the house we realised this wasn't going to be your regular roast review, they were planning on taking us through the whole Christmas menu including their roast.
To begin with we could choose between Ducky and Cranberry Pâté or Roasted Butternut and Thyme Soup. I went with the pâté because I wanted to compare it to the kind they sell as part of their packaged food range and also because I love a good pâté!
I loved the presentation of this dish, each diner got an individual jar which meant that you could eat as much or as little as you wanted and then take the rest home. As well as being beautifully presented it was totally delicious, just the right balance of pâté and cranberry and very different to the duck and orange pâté sold as part of the VBites range.
As one of the friends I brought along is gluten free the kitchen quickly whipped up some garlic bread which we were all luck enough to try. Sarah was rightly worried that if she ate it all there'd be no room for a roast!
We were all in agreement that this was some of the best garlic bread we've ever eaten, gluten free or not. VBites really seem to be on top of their gluten free game and I'd love to find out if this base was homemade or bought in - mainly because if it's bought in I want to find it, buy it and use it to make my own garlic bread!
After this course came a pallet cleansing sorbet made in conjunction with Boho Gelato. I took such a horrible picture of it that there's no way I can post it here! The Mulled Wine Sorbet with Star Anise and Cinnamon was interestingly flavoured and personally I think I'd have preferred it as a dessert option.
Next up came the roast and I can honestly say we were all completely overwhelmed by the size of it! Without starters or the expectation of dessert I probably could have finished this whole plate of food but I'm not 100% sure. I ordered my roast from the regular Sunday menu so that it would be more useful as a reference point for vegans going to eat there throughout the year but it did come with some extras, like the rasher wrapped sausage and the mustard mash, from the festive menu.
First things first, this roast comes with a vegan Yorkshire pudding, the holy grail of vegan roast dinners. The West Hill claim to have one but nobody I know's ever seen nor eaten it and every time I've called I've been told they sold none last week so aren't making them this week.
As a lover of mock meat and a longtime fan of VBites turkey celebration roast I picked the Turkey / Beef / Gammon combo over the nut roast. I'm unsure if you'd normally have to choose one of the three but I think getting to try all of these roasts adds a lot of extra value to the meal - how often would you cook all three roasts at home?! I really hope the triple meat combo is a permanent menu item.
Another often criticised part of any pub-style roast are the roast potatoes, these can make or break the meal. I make a pretty great roastie at home and I have to say that these came closest to the crispy on the outside, fluffy on the inside, roast potatoes I know and love out of any I've tried during The Quest.
My next favourite part of the meal was the cauliflower cheese. I assume these are one of the seasonal vegetables mentioned on the regular menu and I really hope they stick around. Cauliflower cheese, or even cheesy leeks, were one of my favourite parts of sunday lunch and I can never be bothered to make them when I'm cooking a roast at home. As well as loving the delicious turkey/gammon/beef combo, roast potatoes and cauliflower cheese I really enjoyed the crisp roasted parsnips. I also liked that they kept the carrots, broccoli and peas simple just like I choose to do at home, I like veg in almost all incarnations - no silly mint sauce needed! I liked that this roast came with a classic gravy too.
If you're either gluten free or just not a fake meat fan VBites also make a nut roast on a sunday. This slab of nut roast was huge and chock full of chestnuts and veg.
I tried a tiny piece and definitely enjoyed it, if for some reason I don't fancy fake meat I'd definitely order it.
After our truly massive meal none of us thought we could manage dessert but when this plate appeared in front of each of us nobody could resist. At the back is a Chocolate Chestnut Torte with soya cream chantilly and in front an Amaretto and Raisin Iced Parfait with sticky apple.
These were so great and our table was split equally on which was best. My favourite was of course the chocolate torte, it was creamy and light and I loved the chestnut flavour. As I'm not a huge amaretto fan the iced parfait wasn't for me but my friends thought it was excellent.
Overall I was super impressed by this meal but let's focus on the part you can get your hands on this weekend, the roast. It's totally jumped to the top of the Sunday Roast Quest league table! VBites does lose points on the lack of a pub atmosphere, but it's not a pub so...! If a pub is what you want The Earth & Stars is the top choice. If you're looking for a delicious fake meat (or nut) roast, great veggies, classic gravy and a freaking Yorkshire pudding VBites is the place for you.
Now I also have to be completely honest here and say that I was considering visiting VBites for their Christmas set menu with three friends paid for myself but at £24.95pp, only £2 cheaper than Terre à Terre's festive menu, we decided to pool our cash and cook a roast together at home instead. Now that I've eaten it I totally think that this amount of food is worth £24.95, especially with the little touches like crackers on the table and the take-home jar of pâté. On the other hand this was a tonne of food and VBites might get more Christmas bookings by scaling the menu back a touch and dropping the price. What do you think?
The next place I'm planning on visiting on my great Sunday Roast Quest is The Almond Tree, this new veggie cafe is at Seven Dials and their Sunday Roasts sound delicious.