As an individual that categorises themselves as 78% vegetarian I am always keen to experience the ever-changing culinary delights that Brighton has to offer the vegetarian and vegan market. Enter Rootcandi – much-loved sister restaurant of Kensington Gardens institution Iydea. Rootcandi originally opened in August 2015 occupying the first floor of Iydea on Brighton and Hove’s Western Road, becoming a full restaurant in March 2016. Though still in its infancy, by promising street food inspired by Pan-Asian cuisine from a 100% plant-based menu which is cruelty-free, ethical and vegan – it has established itself as THE go-to vegan restaurant in the city.
We arrive on a Tuesday evening. It is still early but already the restaurant is full and buzzing. My dining partner of choice is a meat-loving man with a big appetite – an utterly calculated food review move to truly bust the myth that vegetarian food is unfulfilling. I want to see just how satisfying Rootcandi could be to a carnivore. As we gaze over at the other diners tables with complete and utter FOMO our server greets us with menus and a gigantic smile. We could instantly tell she loves working here and is bursting with pride in the food we are about to devour. The menu here offers a variety of ways to sample the flavour-packed dishes. There’s an option to select various tasting plates or alternatively opt for one of four set menus. Each of the set menus are named after areas of Brighton and Hove, playfully nodding to a love of the city.On the assumption that the staff know their stuff, we place our faith in our server’s extensive knowledge of the menu, which she takes great care in explaining. We take her recommendation of Thai Pani Puri as a starter priced at £4.95 and ‘The Queens’ priced at £15.95 per person. ‘The Queens’ includes, miso Soup, Peking pancakes, roasted shiitake bao buns, kimchi gyoza, laksa curry, broccoli stalk salad, coconut rice and kimchi.
First to arrive are our Thai Pani Puri and miso soup. Thai Pani Puri are pastry shells served with potato and chickpea masala, coconut and coriander dip, plum, ginger and lemongrass jelly. The miso soup, whilst delicious, was unable to compete with the excitement bought on by the Thai Pani Puri, an interactive dish which require assembly, created fun, innuendo and most importantly were full of flavour with well-balanced textures. The rest of our food arrives beautifully and extravagantly presented. Our excitement to explore the big flavours before us is evident in the silence that falls upon the table. We dive in immediately, exchanging smiles of delight as the flavours hit our taste buds. ‘The Queens’ is delicately balanced and authentic. Its standout dish for me (because I am a curry woman at heart) had to be the laksa, packing enough of a punch to leave me wanting more. The spicy curry delivered moreish heat without overshadowing the coconut and cauliflower.
Not naturally a sharer of food, I was quietly conscientious that there may not be enough to go around. This concern was unsubstantiated – these portions have been designed with sharing and a hearty appetite in mind. To quench our thirst we opted for an organic Merlot for £21, which over the course of our meal proved to be the perfect accompaniment, going down very well and complementing each dish.
After finishing our sharing plates we ordered dessert, opting for roasted baby pineapple served with coconut ice cream and a cream pudding. Both desserts are uber indulgent and decorate the plates beautifully. The roasted baby pineapple was a delight – take note that to experience this as intended and enjoy its deliciousness to the max it is vital to take each of the components (coconut, ice cream and biscuit) at the same time.
We loved Rootcandi. The menu here is inclusive and relevant, and they excel in serving complex flavours with style and flair in a non-pretentious setting. The staff at Rootcandi are clearly proud to work here and be a part of such a dynamic and forward-thinking restaurant concept, and this is reflected in the restaurant’s atmosphere and vibe. There is a personal touch to the service which is not commonplace in restaurants, and there is a quality of care to ensure that the experience as a whole is perfect. Subsequently, they’re well placed to create a dining experience with wow factor and excitement.