Sunday, June 25, 2006

Terre a Terre, Brighton

Terre a Terre
71 East Street, Brighton, East Sussex BN1 1HQ
Tel: 01273 729051

So, Terre a Terre - another mungbean and lentil hippy café in the veggie capital of England, Brighton you say? Well, you couldn't be more wrong. Terre a Terre will blow away any preconceptions you may have of vegetarian cuisine being lentil and nut based - this is veggie fine dining of the like I've not had since Il Margutto in Rome.

The restaurant itself is easy to find, being up one of the roads that leads directly from the seafront. From the outside it looks pretty small and unassuming, but it stretches back quite a way, and also has a small garden area.

We arrived early but seating us was no issue (there was an England game on, so it was fairly quiet) and we were presented with the menu and wine list.

Before the starters arrived, we decided on having some Wasabi Cashews to nibble. Wow! You have to try these, if you visit. They taste much as they sound - and they sound great.

The menu is very wordy, and this makes it a little confusing as, unless you've eaten here before give you little idea of what you're going to get. To give you an idea, I have stated below what the menu stated, followed by my report of the dish. I tried a mouthful of everything my wife had and I've included her comments on the food too.

For starters we had Truly Truffly Risotto - served with set cep consomme and fresh chestnut parmesan milk foam, with virgin oil and organic aged balsamic green tops, toasted barley and scrunched fried sage and Miso Pretty - Sweet ginger sushi reverse roll in Szechwan chilli flakes, served with roast yellow pepper and white miso dressing, soused Enoki mushrooms, lime and tamari ketchup, cashew and coriander salad gaspacho, served with hot and sour soup and dry miso powder.

The risotto on its own was lovely, nice lemony tang and a spinkle of truffle shavings but when combined with the cep consomme and foam (served in a small 'shot glass') it was great. The balsamic green tops were nice, but my fave was the risotto.
I tried a little bit of the Miso Pretty and it was very tasty. My wife said it was really delicious.

Next up was the main course. I had Ravioli Butter Cookie Crumble and White Asparagus Milk Shake - Fava and pea farci ravioli crammed with tarragon, flat leaf parsley and lemon thyme, topped with butter cookie crumble, served with parmesan ice, fresh ricotta wild garlic pressé and just-cut pea shoot tangle, with wet garlic and salt lemon confit pastry shards. My wife chose Wotzyuzu Ithai Gnocchi - Potato gnocchi poached in Asian citrus liquor and wokked with bok choy, choi sum and star shitaki, doused with mushroom ketchup, served with smudges of soy pea miso sake blitz and roast cashew satay, tempura Sechuan spice cress and ginger hair, accompanied by a green tea and thai basil shooter with wotzyuzu dressed micro leaves.

The presentation was amazing. The ravioli (looking like a pie made of pasta) was perched on top of half a dozen asparagus spears. On top of the ravioli was the butter cookie crumble - rather like a very thin biscuit. The rest of the plate consisted of some pea puree in which was placed the parmesan ice (more of that later) a small jug of what I can only describe as pea soup (which was to pour over the ravioli), a small green pyramid of the ricotta and garlic presse and the garlic confit pastry shards. So, what about the taste? On first taste, I immediately thought of mushy peas, but there were a lot of more subtle flavours , the more I ate. The parmesan ice was like an inch high ice cream cone with a small round frozen sorbet on the top - very surpising, but refreshing. The garlic confit and the ricotta presse were both very nice, but seemed to be more for decoration, as they didn't add that much to the dish as a whole.

As for my wife's dish, she overlooked the tempura part of this, which unfortunately doesn't agree with her, but she said it was nice, but not as nice as the starter. Presentation was 'stack-style' - again, very impressive.

We also ordered a portion of Smokey Scrunch Chips loaded with bang bang salt served with chilli spiked avocado mayonnaise to share which were nice, but we didn't finish them, as the mains were quite filling.

The pudding menu looked amazing. Luckily Terre a Terre do a dish that contains a selection of the sweets on the menu which they call Tapas Sweety? - pudding miniatures - for two. This consisted of small portions of the following sweets: Peachy Cheeks - Roasted Amaretto peaches with set 'Calabrian' cream, orange and thyme shortbread, blood orange and Campari granita and an Amaretto syrup. I'm gonna have a full portion of his next time I go. The 'Calabrian' cream is basically a crème brulee tipped out of its pot. Apart from being a bit runnier than I like - it was perfect. A definite 9! The peaches were gorgeous too. Coconut Cupcake Crumble - crammed with banana curd and topped with sweet toasted coconut crumb, served with maple citrus syrup, palm cream, banana ice and sugar snap. Yum! The banana ice was superb! Jasmine Nashi - Warm Nashi pear poached with plum and mirin liqueur, sitting in Asian apricot citrus puree, served with scented sushi and poached apricot, liquorice nori roll and deep-fried pureed anise rice pattie served with sweet jasmine tea. The pear was beautiful, the 'sushi' was apricot wrapped in rice pudding then wrapped in licorice - amazing. Chocolate Brownie in Chocolate sauce. Poor chocolate brownie - it was never gonna compete with the others, nice though it was.

The service was great - the waiters were very knowledgable about the ingredients of each dish.
The overall impression was of excellent food imaginatively (if sometimes a little over-ostentatiously) presented and excellent service.

Will I go back? You bet.

1 comment:

Dick said...

Gaz, I've enjoyed reading your blog. There's a place you might like try when you get around to it in Torroella de Fluvià, a village where I spend some time when not in Barcelona, near the Spanish coast about 30 kilometers south of France. The restaurant in the village social center is called L'Esportiu, but most people locally call it Cala Neu, in any case there's no sign, but people frequently comment that they serve the best crema catalana, which is what the dish is called in Spain, generally considered around here better than the French creme brulée version because it's more likely to have have had the sugar on top burnt with a hot iron rather than a gratinée oven or blowtorch. (Although they use and electric iron these days instead of the one you hold over a fire.)The lunch is around €9.50 including salad, 2 more courses desert and wine or other drink. Another good desert is "grana", usually called "musico" in Spanish, which is mixed dried fruits and nuts served with a glass of muscatel, but if they like you they might ask if you want garnatxa instead. Here's a link to a house we rent there, but its usually only by the week, perhaps too long just to try a desert, but there are a couple of rural guesthouses in the village too.

I'd be curious to see how the crema rates on your scale.
I have also written about the Cafe Paradiso. If you want to read it, it's here.