As no meat has crossed my lips since a steamy weekend in Sitges, I’m probably not the best person to review anywhere serving animal tissue. Of course I’d jump at the chance to try out a new vegetarian restaurant, especially one inexplicably named after my Amex PIN. Spread out over three floors in a relaxed corner of North Laine, 1847 (named after the formative year of The Vegetarian Society) aims to change people’s perceptions of meat-free dining. It takes a special type of business to thrive down North Road, but this one could be a contender.
Inside, it’s cool, minimal and utterly devoid of pretence or food-fascism. Most veggie restaurants struggle to escape the shackles of a frail-looking clientele dejectedly pacing mung beans around their plates, or charge the earth for over-flavoured chunks of carbohydrate. Not the case here, my fellow diners were animated and cheerful, and with good reason. At £19.50 for two tasty courses and £25 for three, it wouldn’t be bankrupting them either.
On the understanding a house wine represents the standard of the list; we opt for their recommended white. The Condesa De Leganza (£18) that turns up is vibrant and fruity. Light and apple-like, it was possibly a bit too easy to drink, and I generally need little excuse. The starters menu was packed with temptation and options. For the starters, I had to try the Onion Bhajji, with its mint & cucumber salad and coriander and garlic raita. The bhajji itself would make my local Indian restaurateur cry: “Haww!?” There was no sign of greasiness in the light crispy batter, with lush translucent onion strips within and the slightest kick. The raita alongside was a firm, yoghurt-based blob of heaven. Like all good accompaniments, it brought out the flavours in the dish and left me wanting more. My companion the Burger Queen, now fully understanding the nature of her situation, took everything in good humour and ordered the Squash & Feta. Alongside the whipped cheese and roasted butternut squash sat wilted kale and a hearty helping of pumpkin seeds. Whilst the cheese wasn’t too sour, the kale had none of the bitterness it often suffers from.
Moving to the mains, the dish that sprang out for me was the Cabbages. Before you confirmed carnivores start snorting with derision, it takes true strength of character to admit a fondness for greens, so there… This medley brought brussel sprout frittata, sautéed savoy, vadouvan and cauliflower velouté. The assembled brassicas gently sweet and bitter tones were beautifully offset by the sourness of the frittata. The slowly evolving flavours were just irresistible. Also in the frame was 1847’s take on fish and chips. While minced cow in a bun might be the Burger Queen’s core interest, she certainly knows her way round fish and chips. The chips were soft on the inside with a steadying crunch, the peas and soft ginger ale-battered halloumi ‘fish’ being set off by a delicate lemon sauce.
At this point, we were actually too full to contemplate dessert, which is probably not a common occurrence in most vegetarian restaurants. The pull of the Cranberry dessert (£5.50) pulled me back to the feats though. Yoghurt and white chocolate truffles lay next to cranberry dressing, garnished with edible flowers.
Although the fourth part of a UK chain, there’s a conscious decision to work with local suppliers. Each 1847 branch is different, with separate taster menus and drink ranges. By taking time to listen their diners and the community, they’re confident a positive impact can be made on the thriving Brighton food scene. Whilst some diehard meat-eaters might throw up their hands in dismay at the thought of flesh-free fare, real foodies looking for a range of balanced dishes capitalising on each ingredients distinct flavours would discover plenty to thrill and fill at 1847.
1847 is at 103 North Road, Brighton, BN1 1YW