Tuesday 24 May 2011

Gourmet Girls Secret Restaurant.

Last weekend one of my favourite dining buddies & I headed out to eat at Brighton's first vegan underground supper club. The secret restaurant is the brainchild of the Gourmet Girls, Sammy & Paula, who also run local vegan catering company Titbits.

The Gourmet Girls announce the menu on facebook & their website & once you book they'll tell you the location. I loved the excitement of not knowing where we were going to be heading until 24 hours before dinner.

Upon arrival we were greeted by the lovely owner of the house we were dining in & we were quickly handed a delicious virgin Pimms welcome drink by the girls. As is often the case in Brighton, it is a very small city, it turned out that I already knew three of the other diners but we also sat with some lovely people we'd never met before. I really liked the communal dining experience & it was great fun to chat to other foodies over dinner.

It wasn't long before the starters were served & I was excited to try some of this years first in season asparagus prepared by professional chefs.

This delicious asparagus came wrapped in an almond filo pastry & was served with a lemon scented butter bean puree & rocket oil. Everything about this dish was melt in your mouth delicious, I don't think I've ever liked asparagus this much before!

Next up was the main of Smoked Garlic & Mushroom Arancini. The arancini came nestled upon a bed of wilted spinach & they were served with a pine nut truffle cream, watercress, pomegranate & rawmesan salad & steamed broccoli.

I actually didn't know what arancini were until they arrived but I was very pleased to discover that they're a fried risotto ball, only in this case I believe they were baked not fried. I love risotto & covering it in bread crumbs only seems to be a winning idea in my book! I'm also a huge lover of broccoli, spinach & watercress - it was like they'd designed this dish with my taste buds in mind! I was also very impressed with their rawmesan - a vegan parmesan. It was excellent, one of the best I've tried for sure.

Last up was a Divine Chocolate Marbled Cheesecake with a chocolate, maca & orange sauce.

If you're a regular reader of the blog you might know that I actually don't like cheesecake, at all, but the rest of the menu looked so great that I decided I'd give cheesecake another try just this once. I loved the biscuit base & the chocolate orange sauce & whilst I didn't love the cheesecake it was certainly the best I've ever tried. All of the other diners were ooohing & aaahing over how delicious it was so if you have a normal taste in desserts I'll bet you'd have loved this.

After the meal everyone was served teas & coffees alongside some delicious handmade heart shaped raspberry truffles. I did snap some pictures but sadly it had gotten quite dark by that point & my photos are too terrible to post here. I can assure you that they were perfect, a lovely end to the meal.

If you're a Brighton local or if you're ever in Brighton & you want to take part in this new dining phenomenon then I would highly recommend the Gourmet Girls Secret Restaurant. They've just announced the menu for the next dinner which will take place on June 24th so why don't you head over to their facebook site to check it out?

In other local news Brighton's first all vegan charity bake sale is taking place this Saturday, check out the details here.

Monday 16 May 2011

Brighton Vegan Bakesale.

We're puttin' on a bake sale! It's Brighton's first time taking part in the WWVBS & our stall will be located outside the WaiKikaMooKau cafe on Kensington Gardens. The sale takes place on Saturday May 28th, which is just under two weeks away people! We'll be there from 10am & we're not going home until we sell out.

Here are the details on a fancy poster...

The money we're raising will be split between Sea Shepherd & one of my favourite local charities the East Sussex Wildlife Rescue & Ambulance Service.

We're still looking for people to contribute baked goods to the sale so please leave me a comment or e-mail me at jojo . huxster (@) me . com if you can help. If not, no worries, I'm sure we'll see you there!

So far we have had donations pledged by the lovely people at Ms Cupcake, The Home Cakery & Titbits Catering as well as this list of baked goods made by our individual supporters:

Sweetie Cupcakes
Double Chocolate Cupcakes (featured on the poster)
Candy Cane Joe Joe Cupcakes
Peanut Butter Swirl Brownies
Chocolate Cheesecake
Gluten Free Banana Bread
Zuccini Spelt Muffins

I'm really excited, I've organised a gig for charity before but never a bake sale so I hope it goes well. Wish us luck!

Wednesday 11 May 2011

Gent Part II.

On our way home from Groezrock Nick & I managed to find the time to pop into Gent to grab some food. We visited Gent last year & had a delicious lunch at Avalon so we were excited to get to go back & see what other foodie delights the city had to offer. As it was Easter Sunday we were very happy that Lekker GEK was open but we arrived a bit too early & spent a lovely morning wandering around the park before lunch.

Can you spot me hidden amongst the trees?

Lekker GEC is located just opposite the train station in Gent & it is an all vegan cafe. They have a cafeteria style buffet option as well as menu items to choose from. The lady working that day was really helpful and happily translated the menu options to us and after a lot of um-ing & ah-ing we both went for the Seitan Stew with Chips because we love seitan & it's not something you often see on menu's in the UK.

This came with loads of delicious sides my favourite being the cous cous, almond & sultana salad which I think ended up being my favourite part of the meal, it was so delicious. The chips were good & the vegan mayo was great but we found the stew a little bland & thought that the seitan seemed a little too soggy & almost tvp like in texture. It was a huge plate of food though & we left stuffed & with dessert to take away.

The slice of cake was huge & the cake itself had a dense but moist crumb and a deep chocolatey flavour. The real star here was the rich fudgey icing - I could happily have just eaten a huge tub of that!

Hopefully I'll be back in Gent again one day, it's surprisingly close to Brighton & I really need to visit Komkommertijd next so that I will have been to all of Gent's totally vegan establishments!

Monday 2 May 2011

On the road again & headed for Groezrock.

A couple of weeks ago Nick & I headed off to Belgium in the van we took on our honeymoon. It was great being reunited with the van & getting back into road tripping again. We were on our way to Groezrock festival to watch a whole load of our favourite bands but we left a day early so that we could re-visit a lovely little campsite we discovered last summer.

One of the things I love about travelling in the van is having a fridge which meant that I could make & bring some delicious food with us so we didn't have to do too much cooking at the end of our long day of driving.

I made a simple potato salad using Plamil mayonnaise, Alpro soya cream, salt, pepper & lemon juice as my dressing. I also brought a quinoa salad made with everything that would have gone to waste if we hadn't been able to clear out the fridge, it had kidney beans, courgette, cherry tomatoes, peas, sweetcorn & cubed tofu - yum. All we needed to do to get this meal ready was to fry up one of my favourite burgers, slap in on a bun & eat. Here I am looking quite happy about eating!

I tried to do some research into eating vegan at Groezrock festival before we left but I could find nothing about the food there at all, once we arrived the reason for this soon became clear. There is no vegan food at Groezrock. Okay, that's not strictly true, you can get chips and some pretty uninspiring fruit. I still call this a fail.

Here's a selection of quick snacks we knocked up in the van...

A fishfinger sandwich! Sausage & Baked Beans on toast...

...and Alpro soya schnitzel with brown rice pasta & the nooch sauce from AFR.

That was definitely my favourite meal at the festival, I wish we could get the Alpro schnitzels in the UK, Belgium seems to have a much wider range of Alpro products than anywhere else in the EU, I wonder why that is?

I loved how easy it was to throw together the nooch sauce, I just made the dry mix at home, took it with us in a 1 cup sized tub & used that to measure out the correct amount of water when we were ready to get cooking. Perfect. I've done the dry mix & just add water thing with pancakes when I've been camping in the past, it's a great way to eat fancyish camping meals.

Having seen the awesome offerings from festivals like Coachella I think it's pretty lame that the festival organisers couldn't even sort out some falafel or something. If we hadn't have gone in our trusty van with a fridge full of food we'd have been screwed. I'm trying to forget about how annoying it was having to do the 45 min round trip back to the van every time we wanted something to eat because of course you weren't allowed to take any kind of food into the arena AND the fact that ALL the non-alcoholic drinks were made by Coca Cola & cost the same as a beer. I've been boycotting Coca Cola for years and it drove me crazy to have to pay the same price as a beer for a tiny 300ml bottle of Coca Cola water - I was under the impression I was going to a punk festival. The bands we went to see really were were amazing but I'm going to be thinking twice about going back there however good next years line up is.

I'll end this post on a positive note, here's a picture of me with a couple of dudes from one of my favourite bands in the world, Goldfinger.

It was actually the lyrics to the Goldfinger song Open Your Eyes that made me go vegetarian & soon after that, vegan. I fucking love them! In fact I've now been watching video's of their live shows for over an hour, I should stop & hit publish...


I last visited VBites in April last year and said that I thought it would be a great place to hang out in the summer months. Last year I was too busy in summer to find the time to head back there & by the time I really wanted to go back in September I realised that they had closed for winter. They finally re-opened a few weeks ago & I headed down there on a lovely sunny day last week.

VBites have re-invented themselves over the winter months & are now more of a takeaway with seats inside & out rather than a restaurant-style cafe. I think this change works for the style of food they're serving & I liked the new even more casual atmosphere.

I was very excited to see a Tuna Style Sandwich with Sweetcorn on the new menu. Tuna & sweetcorn was a pre-vegan favourite of mine so of course I had to order it.

Redwood Foods used to make a vegan tuna which I loved & I was pretty upset when it was taken off the shelves a couple of years ago with no explanation. It seems like this is it but changed up a bit to make it even more realistic. It seems more fishy now & it has chunks in it to replicate real tuna. The sandwich comes on delicious wholewheat granary bread & was filled with slices of cucumber & lots of mayo alongside the tuna. It was a really great sandwich, I'll definitely be going back to order it again & I'l probably buy some of the tuna from the Redwood Foods website.

I followed my sandwich with some Chicken Style Nuggets.

I wasn't overly impressed with these, they're the Redwood Foods chicken style pieces breaded & oven baked but as I'm a huge lover of the Fry's chicken nuggets nothing's ever going to live up to those, they're the best. I also had an ice cream which I wasn't in love with, I wasn't planning on having any dessert but as soon as the lady behind the counter informed me that they had my very favourite ice cream flavour, pistachio, I knew I had to try it.

Now the main problem with the ice cream was that it had been in much too cold a freezer meaning that it broke the cone when it was being scooped in there and that it was full of ice crystals; it also seemed quite watery. I'll give their chocolate ice cream a try next time I'm there though because I'm a big ice cream fan & the cone was very good.

Now VBites isn't exactly located IN Brighton, more on the outskirts of Hove just before you get to Portslade so if you're coming down to Brighton for the day maybe bring your bike or consider hopping on a bus if you're starving as it's quite a long walk from the centre of town.

Sunday 1 May 2011

The West Hill Pub

At the beginning of the month I headed to local vegetarian pub The George to check out their Sunday roast, sadly it didn't go so well. Between the below par food & the terrible customer service I decided I definitely wouldn't be going back. Something good came out of it though because someone left me a comment tipping me off about a new place to get a vegan Sunday roast in Brighton, The West Hill, thanks Becca!

The West Hill Pub's just up the hill behind Brighton station & whilst it's not a vegetarian pub they serve food with vegan options Tuesday - Saturday with a roast dinner on Sunday, check out their website for details.

I was so excited when I saw that they not only make all of the usual roast accompaniments vegan but that they hit the holy grail of veganness by serving vegan yorkshire puddings. Amazing!

As you can see there's no yorkshire pudding here, I'll get to that in a bit! The lentil, tomato & nut roast came with sides of roasted butternut squash, sweet potato mash, roast potatoes, broccoli, peas, two kinds of braised cabbage & gravy. I loved the nut roast, it came packed full of cashews and roasted vegetables. The roast potatoes were also really great, perfectly cooked & still crispy on the outside. I enjoyed the cabbage, the gravy was the perfect consistency, the only thing I'd have changed would have been to have had more broccoli because it was really well cooked & I am a huge broccoli fan.

So, about that yorkshire pudding. When we got to the pub we were told that whilst they do usually do a vegan yorkshire pudding they didn't make any today because they didn't sell any last week. Unlike at The George the lovely staff were really apologetic & felt bad that they couldn't offer us vegans the full Sunday roast experience, they were so awesome about it that they even gave us a buy one get one free voucher for our next Sunday roast. How nice is that? Seriously, I haven't had such great customer service anywhere in a long time & I will definitely be heading back there soon for more of their delicious food. If you're in Brighton on a Sunday & in need of a roast dinner you should definitely head to The West Hill.