A tremendous lunch spot is strangely tough to find, even in this foodie mecca. More so, if you seek somewhere which is inexpensive, comfortable and tasty. On first impression, Foodilic’s Western Road location is curious for an eatery. It’s far from the depressingly hip kitchens of North Laine, and a disinclining walk from Brighton’s tourist traps. But if you work in the city centre, or find yourself ravenous during solid shopping sessions, its geographical choice makes plenty of sense. It helps Foodilic do what it intends. This place is all about getting you fed well and conveniently.
Presenting a light, fresh and funky interior, this bustling café is unfussy and furnished with a contemporary take on rustic chic. It’s lunchtime, so covers are cycling constantly, but there’s no pressure to speed through your meal. Tables are compact, which is no problem for an hour when you’re unlikely to be cramming every inch with dishes. The big pull is the extensive buffet sitting beguiling in the window. A mere £7.50 will get you a plate and freedom to load up on its temptations. There’s a solid range of vegan, vegetarian and omnivorous dishes. No matter the fussy palates in your group, they’ll be treated here. There’s a smorgasbord of healthy options, with a particular focus on their extensive range of salads. Difficult as always, I select an Eggs Royale (£6.50) from the Brunch Menu – often a tough dish to whip up both well and quickly. A toasted split muffin, loaded with smoked salmon, poached eggs and hollandaise, it all came together beautifully. The eggs offered a forgiving consistency, not too runny and far from rubbery, and the salmon lending just enough saltiness to complement its surrounding flavours.
My companion, the Burger Queen, moonlights as a lasagne expert in her spare time. If it sticks minced beef between some sheets, she’ll have an opinion on it. The Foodilic buffet’s version was perfectly layered, with a great meat to pasta ratio and satisfying sauces. It easily challenges fare you’d find in fine ‘authentic’ places around the city.
The star of the show, and this isn’t something I’d think of saying about anywhere, was the salads. As varied as they were numerous, we found a sensational range of flavours and colours. A Cauliflower and Turmeric example was delightful, packed with roasted firm florets bathed in a beautiful rich dressing. Offering various shades of purple, the Vegan Coleslaw was perhaps a little dominated by the vinegar for our unsophisticated tastes, but worked well when matched against the other dishes. The Roasted Vegetable was the epitome of the care and attention which Foodilic puts into its menu. The components were crisp without being dominated by the oil they were cooked in. The buffet works to make the ordinary more interesting. Its Crushed Potatoes are smothered with capers, which make them lively, and tomato to make them fruiter. If you fancied increasing your iron intake, there are also the delicate flavours of the Spinach and Button Mushrooms. As anyone knows, everything’s great when spinach is involved, and it didn’t disappoint.
The most valuable player today is, without doubt, the Smart Salad. A blend of raw broccoli, cracked wheat, sweetcorn, cucumber, physalis and tomato, it showed off selection of fresh flavours, all boosted by some gentle ginger and cleansing mint. I certainly hadn’t woken up foreseeing I’d be enthusing about a dish with raw broccoli today. It was ambitious, crunchy and fabulous in every bite. We should also give an honourable mention to the Roasted Sweet Potatoes. With kale, tofu and a balsamic vinegar glaze, they’d given a pleasing and consistent texture to a tuber which can be troublesome. Instead of being soggy, these were tender and roundly flavoursome. Luckily, there was a chance to sample their soup of the day. A lively lentil prospect, it triumphantly veers away from the stodgy disasters cooked up by my more enthusiastic hippy friends. Foodilic’s version is enticingly thinner, whilst packing in an earthy rich tone. It’s a perfect example of a favourite winter warmer.
If you are really in a hurry, then a paltry £5 will sort you outwith a sizeable lunchbox to pack with the buffet’s goodies. At just £10, you can fill an epically sized box, which might well sort you out for dinner as well. Foodilic manages to provide choices which are both filling and good for you. With friendly food and a welcoming environment, it not only serves as an invaluable lunch-hour option, but also makes you think about food in new and exciting ways – and that’s the benchmark for any great restaurant.