Unless you’ve been living under a large slab of tofu for several weeks, you’ll have noticed a fairly hefty increase in the profile of veganism.
In Brighton, and all over Blighty, vegan activists, high street pastry purveyors and mega-mouth media commentators, have helped to contribute to discussions on the pros and cons of a plant-based diet.
The exponential rise of vegan dishes in supermarkets and restaurants has been topped by Veganuary (although I’m not entirely sure that scans) a month-long charity drive to encourage more people to try some vegan victuals.
Sussex success story Bill’s has always had a reputation for super-fresh produce (founder Bill Collison began his career as a greengrocer in Lewes) and seems a good place to start. The restaurant group has launched its own Veganuary menu and a range of vegan dishes which will be a permanent fixture on the menu.
The Veganuary set menu at Bill’s is available Monday to Friday until 7pm and is good value at two courses for £11.95 or three courses for £14.95.
The excellent starter of vegan duck salad falls very much into the category of the wonders of modern food science and providing something with a meat-like texture rather than a bean or vegetable alternative.
The ‘duck’ in question is made from seitan, a vegan protein which has a firm texture which makes it an ideal substitute for existing meat and fish recipes.
In this case it takes on a strong Peking Duck style-marinade and is a lively fresh dish, with chunks of cucumber providing welcome relief to rings of fiery red chilli.
The pick of the main courses was a nicely-spiced aubergine, lentil and chick pea dhal which eschewed a meat or fish substitute in favour of a well-balanced combination of beautiful fresh veg and herbs, including some lush cherry toms and fresh coriander.
A simple pudding of coconut ice cream with mango sauce and coconut flakes was a fair end to the three course menu which Bill’s have pitched as ‘accessible and affordable’.
Obviously in 2019 few Brightonians and Hoverians would be shocked at a couple of plates of meat and diary-free food, but their relative familiarity will give them wider appeal to wavering carnivores and those looking to reduce the amount of meat in their diets.
By Steve Holloway