Restaurants/ Travel

Brighton’s Thriving Vegan Scene

Having been vegan for some 20 years now I can’t help but notice the rapidly growing trend of vegan friendly places to visit in Britain today. Gone are the days when we had to seriously stock pile our travel bags with goodies so that we didn’t go hungry (or resort to less compassionate eating choices) when on the road. These days it seems that we can venture just about anywhere and find tasty vegetarian and vegan food; especially with a quick browse on the internet ahead of time.
Brighton's Thriving Vegan Scene

Some of the many stalls at Vegfest. Photo credit: Alan Lee

If I am looking for vegan friendly restaurants, shops and stores then one of my favourite places to visit is Brighton in East Sussex, about an hour south of London. With over 15 vegetarian restaurants and cafes to choose from (all within walking distance of each other) and and endless streets of non-vegetarian (but veggie friendly) places, there is something to satisfy just about every taste and budget.

After a recent trip to Vegfest in Brighton (VestfestUK host some of the largest exclusively vegan festivals in the world), I felt that this vegan friendly city deserves attention. Over the years, I’ve explored Brighton in depth and in this article I share some of the most noteworthy places worth checking out.
Great lunches
Brighton's Thriving Vegan Scene

Serving lots of tasty, well labelled dishes at Iydea Vegetarian Kitchen in the Laines.

One of my favourite places to eat a healthy vegan lunch is Iydea Vegetarian Kitchen in Kensington Gardens in the infamous North Laines area. It’s a small little cafe in this quirky, colourful part of the city. The Laines in Brighton are overflowing with little independent and arty shops, lending themselves perfectly to ethical fare.  Iydea is laden with delicious, healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes, salads and desserts. Everything is labelled clearly, so as a vegan, you immediately know what you are getting, taking the stress out of ordering lunch. It’s a lively place… a little short on space perhaps, but they do a take out option, so that you needn’t miss out if they are full. I’m amazed at what you get for such a reasonable price. They now have a sister restaurant on Western Road  (open in the evenings too), which I’d love to check out next time I’m in town.

Wai Kika Moo Kau is just across the street. It is the ‘home of healthy indulgence’ and well worth checking out, offering a great good selection of tasty morsels with loads of vegan options, including cake, fresh juices, smoothies and alcoholic beverages. 
Infinity Foods Cafe is a popular organic, vegetarian lunch stop, a little further along on Gardner Street. They serve good range of quality organic dishes, seasonal salads, soups and cakes. Their baked goods (mostly vegan) are created in their own bakery daily.
I stopped off in Loving Hut last year when I was visiting Brighton with my ‘skateboard-kid-teenage-son’. It was getting rave reviews on Happy Cow and as a bonus it was near to an enormous playground perfect for the littlies (and brilliant skateboard park for my son). We arrived just in time. They were clearly closing shop, but were still more than happy to serve us, without making us feel rushed. Very friendly! They offered a lovely range of quick, tasty Western and Chinese vegan food. We both loved it. It’s a fabulous place for a quick, ‘all vegan’, inexpensive bite to eat during the day.
Something a bit more posh
Brighton's Thriving Vegan Scene

Delicious curry at ‘Food for Friends’ with sesame dumplings and gently spiced rice.

If you are looking for something a bit more special and aren’t short of cash, then Terre A Terre and Food For Friends are popular options for lunch or dinner, right in the city centre. They have both been tried, tested and well loved over many years and have loyal customers who return time and time again for their delicious quality dishes, treats and fine wines. My husband and I plumped for Food for Friends during our latest visit. It’s very reasonably priced for the quality, which suited us well. Tucked away in the heart of the city, close to the seafront it is Brighton’s original vegetarian restaurant, having served the community since 1981! Food For Friend’s is the perfect choice after a leisurely walk along the promenade. We were greeted by friendly, but busy staff, who were happy to answer my questions (always a good sign, and handy when as curious about what’s in everything as I am). There were plenty of vegan options, clearly labelled. We both chose the Coconut curry with fried aubergine, not quite sure what to expect. It was served on a rather artful slate along with the most tasteful spiced rice, sesame dumplings and a crunchy fresh papaya, mango and cashew salad. In all honesty, it was the best curry dish I’ve tasted in a long time – deliciously inspiring. We sat there marvelling at every bite, taste buds totally tantalised whilst we soaked up the divine fusion of flavours. 

Brighton dinner on a budget
Splashing out is not always an option. So, if you are on a real budget, then Bombay Aloo is the perfect place to eat dinner. This is an Indian, all vegetarian (mostly vegan) restaurant where you pay £4.95 for all you can eat! If you go during the happy hour the cost is something crazy like £3.50! I really have to mention this one, because I know how it can get when you just want to eat out when the purse strings are tight. This place is pretty amazing for the price to be honest (if you want something upmarket, then there are plenty of other options). I’ve eaten in here quite a few times over the years and the staff have always been helpful and happy to let me know which items aren’t vegan. It’s ideal for inexpensive dining, although they do still make the effort to make it feel a little bit special too. 
Vegan shopping
Brighton is the home of Infinity Foods Co-operative, the oldest and largest independent health food store in the area. They have excellent ethics and have been around since 1971, stocking just about everything that a discerning vegan or vegetarian could need. If I am in town for a while it is sometimes impractical to eat out all the time, so I head straight for Infinity Foods and stock up on fresh food, dried food and goodies. They even have an extensive selection of vegan and vegetarian body care products too and an on site bakery serving delicious, organic baked goods.

If you are in the top end of the city then there’s always Sunny Foods; a smaller independent health food shop, with a good selection of foods. It’s ideal if you want to pull up in the car right outside, avoiding city centre traffic.
If you want Vegan shoes, then try Vegetarian Shoes on Gardener Street. This is a steadfast company that have been around for ages. I remember buying my first ever pair of vegan sandals from this company by mail order about 15 years ago! They are reliable, with commendable ethics. Certainly worth popping in when you browse the fascinating fare along Brighton’s Laines.
Brighton’s annual vegan festival
Brighton's Thriving Vegan Scene

Healthy yummy Tapas from Cashew Catering at Brighton’s VegFest 2014. Photo credit: Alan Lee

Last but by no means least, remembering the reason for our latest visit! Over the past few years, once a year, in March, Brighton’s Vegan scene is infused, with a massive, all vegan festival. This year it decked an impressive 4 floors of stalls, food, cinema, workshops, talks, new ideas, products, speed-dating, freebies and a plethora of positively buzzing vegan delights, Brighton & Hove Town Hall was transformed into a vegan paradise for two full days. The event is held by VegfestUK . It’s awesome to see the vegan scene thriving so abundantly in this southern, seaside city. Bring it on!

So much more to discover
I can’t help but feel I am only scratching the surface here with the vegan friendly scene in Brighton. I’d love to leave no stone unturned as I am certain there are plenty more vegan gems waiting to be discovered there. I can’t wait to return! If you feel the pull to visit, I do hope that you have as much fun as I did.
Happy Travels

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