27 September 2010
REVIEW: Terre a Terre pop up restaurant on Brighton Pier
It's always good to see a well-loved local restaurant taking part in a few extra curricular activities and adding to the increasingly interesting Brighton dining scene. As part of the fantastic Brighton and Hove Food and Drink Festival, Terre a Terre, a bit of a Brighton institution, hosted a pop up restaurant for one night only in the quintessential Brighton venue, the pier!
After a few goes on the 2p machines on the way through (I LOVE 2p machines*) we prepped our stomachs for a tongue-in-cheek menu of alternative seaside fayre. The thing is, with Terre a Terre being a vegetarian/vegan restaurant, there was no fish to be found on the menu. But in the typical fashion we have come to expect of them, twists, tweaks and play on words delivered an intriguing, inventive and camp menu.
We were greeted by a rum based cocktail with a stick of rock swizzler. This set the tone perfectly, bringing back the classic smells and treats of the seaside; candy floss, sweeties and tropical sun tan lotion.
As there were two starter and main options, one vegetarian, one vegan, Mr Graphic Foodie and I took one each to try the whole offering. The vegetarian Porn Cocktail (a take on the retro-classic prawn cocktail) arrived as buttery Seared Palm hearts with miso salt and picked quails eggs on top of a crunchy shredded salad with their "kicking ketchup". The texture of the Palm hearts was similar to very soft crustacean flesh and was rather nice indeed, with miso playing the fishy part. The kicking ketchup certainly delivered a welcome and promised acidic kick.
The vegan Pier Plate was less successful in texture, the lukewarm temperature not helping matters either. The mushroom marinière was a little grey and gloopy and the softness of the borlotti and artichoke bouillabaisse and saffron brandade with smoked tomato tapenade not offering enough of a contrast. The soda nori bread with samphire was delicious and I expect the idea was to eat all of this together but to me it all seemed very confused.
A TaT signature dish, Better Batter and Lemony Yemeni Relish, is a take on the Friday favourite battered fish and chips, the fish being replaced by halloumi. This was served with vodka-spiked plum tomatoes, bright fresh pea mint hash with pickled quails egg, sea salad tartar and chubby chips. This was a successful and obviously well practiced dish. The crisp batter does work really well with the teeth sinking, salty and moorish halloumi.
I did notice that most people had wisely opted for this choice but in the name of experimentation I ordered the vegan option, Eely Good, a jellied eel dish replaced with jellied aubergines (pic shown at the top). The crunchy salsify goujons were fantastic and I would have been more than happy with a plate of these with a pot of the Kicking Ketchup along for the ride. Unfortunately, this plate arrived practically cold and imagination doesn't have to run too deep to know that chilly jelly, squishy aubergines, near-liquid mash and cold green parsley liquor is not going to be a winning formula.
The wine options on the night was good and the £40/pp menu included a shared carafe of one of three choices. Chieti, being down the road from my family in Italy, made it a must and we were rewarded with a Sangiovese by the Terre di Chieti cellar. They also do a Gran Sasso Pecorino wine that is worth hunting out if you get a chance.
As with all good nights, the evening ended with Two Fat Tarts, one of which was a bolshy boozy cherry chocolate and the other a cheeky almond and apricot with a vanilla and chestnut honey syrup. We were back on track with pudding and both of these were divine.
Talking of divine, I appreciated the sack of Divine chocolate coins on the table which were a lovely touch.
Walking arm in arm along the pier and seafront home, this was a really fun and pleasant evening. Despite the little disappointments in some of the dishes which was made up by the dining experience, atmosphere and unique nature of the venue.
*The Graphic Foodie does not condone gambling in any way *cough*.