‘Bleeding’ meats, steak bakes and finger-licking good chicken burgers… the plant-based revolution is taking off in full force this year. Vegan diets now reap huge influence over the food and drink industry with hundreds of thousands pledging to join the Veganuary campaign this month. Dominant food chains are continuing to seek out new ways to make their menus more inclusive for plant-based diets. Most notably, Greggs, KFC and Subway are now big players in this conversation.
Brighton & Hove has been a hub of dozens of exclusively vegetarian and vegan sites for years, but now lots of restaurants are beginning to diversify the types of dishes they serve. If you’re looking to dine out this month and want to escape the weekend crowds in the city centre, Brighton Marina is a short bus ride or a scenic seafront walk away with ample choice. Hotel and brasserie Malmaison are one of the contenders who has introduced a completely separate vegan menu.
Chez Mal brasserie overlooks the Marina Waterfront with beautiful vistas stretching out to sea. With beautiful weather on the day of our lunch, the terrace is a sun trap for the restaurant’s conservatory, making a mild January lunchtime seem like a warm day in Spring. The cheerful restaurant staff were on hand to help us with any questions about their winter vegan menu, and the manager tells me the dishes change seasonally to ensure they use sustainable ingredients.
As a lover of starters, I always struggle to decide on just one plate of food. Using my persuasive skills to the best of my ability, I convince my dining partner to agree to a 50/50 split of two of their starters. We begin with a hugely generous portion of tempura of seasonal vegetables (£7.50). The pepper, courgette, onion and carrot are deep-fried in a thick, crisp batter, which generally holds very well around the different slices of vegetables. I normally prefer tempura with a much thinner batter, but each piece is delightful dipped in the sweet chilli sauce.
Our second starter is the field mushroom and red onion crostini (£7.50). I really like how the crostini is thin and crisp, providing a great base for the fresh mushrooms to flavour each bite. Although the truffle is slightly lost in the dish, the mushrooms paired with the tarragon is a classic, strong flavour. I would suggest this starter for those who are looking for a light start to their meal.
For the main event, I choose the roast cauliflower and almond korma served with rice and flatbread (£13). Cauliflower is great for absorbing Indian spices, and the korma-style curry makes for a light lunchtime course. The saffron-infused rice is perfect for soaking up the thin, delicious sauce.
Their vegan burger is quite convincingly meat-like in appearance, with the pinkness of the patty coming from beetroot. However, it tastes fresher than your usual beef burger. Malmaison’s beetroot and chickpea burger is yours for £14, a thin patty layered with tomato, lettuce, tahini sauce and slices of avocado. It comes with a substantial portion of fries and a tahini (not-quite-hummus-but-very-similar) dip. If you have the appetite, accompany your meal with one of their freshly prepared vegetable side dishes.
If unlike me, you have a sweeter tooth and room for dessert, I should draw your attention to Chez Mal’s banana and pecan brownie (£6.50). This indulgent dish says it is served with salted caramel ice cream, one of many flavours to choose from. Their vegan ice creams and sorbets also come prepared with fresh fruit or seasonal berries (£6.50) or are priced individually at £2 per scoop.
It’s also worth noting that the restaurant has created vast breakfast and evening menus, inspired by cuisines from all over the world. Malmaison caters to gluten-free diets as well, offering a separate menu packed with specially-adapted dishes, helping to satisfy every diner in your party.
Waterfront, Brighton Marina Villiage, Brighton, BN2 5WA,
Featured photograph by Lauren Williamson.