Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome
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Jake Bugg at Brighton Dome

Matthew Nicholls - April 19, 2018
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Brighton’s flourishing vegan culture

We’ve heard it all. It has been all over the news for the last couple of days.

Processed meats such as bacon, sausages and ham might be just as dangerous and harmful as cigarettes by considerably increasing your risk of cancer.

To upset you even further, cheese is supposedly just as addictive as “crack”, at least according to the new World Health Organization report.

While the meat industry and our excessive meat consumption take once again centre stage as the baddies, your veggie friends probably rejoice at their victory by showing off their I-told-you-so faces.

However, it is not just the heated discussions around the health risks of a carnivorous diet that make vegetarianism, and particularly veganism, new points of interest.

On the contrary, we have to admit that there has been a lot of social media attention over the last few years around the subject of plant-based diets.

Recent campaigns such as ‘Meatless Monday’ and the growing popularity of veganism among celebrities make its most ardent proponents strongly believe that the movement is coming of age.

For Beyoncé it was simply a 22-days cleanse, for the eco-conscious Joaquin Phoenix veganism is a moral obligation and even the ever-so young Jared Leto abandoned the old-fashioned sex, drugs and rock n ’roll lifestyle for a refreshing cup of almond milk.

No longer chastised to the edge of culinary culture, both vegetarianism and veganism are finally coming out of the closet.

Luckily enough then, we live in one of the most veggie-friendly cities in the UK. Although in 2013 Brighton lost its title as the mecca of veganism to Glasgow (I know…I couldn’t believe it myself) the city is still regarded as the shining star in Britain’s veggie culture.

Spiritual home of the mod movement and of great interest to the LGBT community, Brighton is widely known for its high level of tolerance and acceptance. Situated one- hour train journey away from London, the seaside resort has established over the last centuries a reputation of openness to anything deemed alternative. It thus seems legitimate that vegetarianism/veganism are deeply ingrained within the city’s community.

What is more, as a place with highly developed eco-friendly sensibilities and strong affinities for the Green Party, Brighton was from the very beginning at the forefront of the veggie cult with the establishment in 1981 of one of the most famous vegetarian restaurants in the UK; Food For Friends.

Since then, the city has come a long way and the number of eateries with vegetarian/ vegan-friendly options has impressively increased. Gone are the days when veggies had to bring their own food to parties or turn down dinner invitations because the chosen restaurants wouldn’t take into account different dietary choices.

Brighton’s veggie places clearly cover the whole spectrum of different food tastes and cater for all budgets.

Whether you desire a rather fancy dinner at its most gourmet places such as Food For Friends or Terre a Terre, a rich afternoon tea with delicious vegan cakes at Cakes The Difference and Vbites or a nicely filled plate of natural goodness at Iydea, the city has got it all.

The most recent and probably most innovative vegan hotspot is the new tapas bar Rootcandi. Working in collaboration with Iydea, the concept of the restaurant is to explore the excitement and opportunities that a plant-based diet offers, while bringing high quality to an upcoming market.

When asked about the appeal of veggie restaurants in Brighton, Rob Trounce from Rootcandi enthusiastically answered that the city has got an interestingly dense number of restaurants, which means that it naturally fascinates food fanatics.

Brighton “is a great place to run a restaurant, even more so for doing something different. Plant-based tapas is an adventurous endeavour, but Brighton is the place to find adventurous foodies”. While other cities such as Bristol and Glasgow are trying to catch up by following similar trends, Rootcandi’s strongly believes that “Brighton does it best”.

The green wave seems to rule the city and even traditional dishes such as pizza have been altered to please the town’s tree-huggers.

The Italian eatery Morelli Zorelli is convinced that “great pizza should be available to everyone, regardless of dietary choices or restrictions”. Offering both gluten-free and vegan options to their customers, the concept of the pizzeria, situated on Western Road, brings to light the diversity and thrilling novelty of plant-based dishes.

Its smoked tofu and asparagus pizza clearly demonstrates that veganism is more than just “some bread with vegetables on it”.

Yet, vegetarianism and veganism are more than just dietary choices. They both embrace a particular lifestyle, a full-hearted commitment to a fair and compassionate world. Brighton’s veggie cult seems to flourish particularly because it goes beyond the culinary aspect of the movement.

Home to Vegetarian Shoes, a store that sells a wide range of non-leather accessories, the charming seaside resort is evidently keeping up with Britain’s capital.

Seriously, who needs London’s Whole Foods if you can have Brighton’s Infinity Foods, the oldest and largest health store in the area, which offers anything a veggie heart desires? Besides fresh local food and dried goods, cruelty-free cosmetics are offered to you by smiling faces at the tills.

If that is not convincing enough to convert the most stubborn carnivore and convince you that vegetarianism/veganism can be easily integrated within a larger community, the city’s annual veggie blowout, the famous Vegfest, will do the rest.

The food and lifestyle event attracts more and more people every year by raising awareness about the devastating repercussions of animal agriculture, while simultaneously making your taste buds cry out in pure enjoyment.

Even the University of Sussex is largely contributing to the construction of the image of Brighton as UK’s veggie paradise. Besides East Slope’s and Falmer Bar’s delicious vegan nachos, SussexFood have recently reacted to student and staff feedback demanding more plant- based options on campus by introducing the new food concept called On The Pulse. The project consists of a variety of pulse-based dishes, which are available every day at Eat Central and other cafes.

Student societies such as VegSoc, Vegbox and Sussex Food Scoop significantly help to re- invent the image of the traditionally unbalanced and unsustainable student diet by promoting primarily whole plant-based foods and making veggies more accessible.

Going cruelty-free is not simply a popular and ever-increasing trend that dominates campus; it is above all an inspiring movement that spurs an interest within the student body for more conscious ways of living.

It appears that particularly living in Brighton turns your life into a never-ending treasure hunt. At least it did so for me since I constantly stumble upon new culinary and other gems that make my life as a vegan much easier and more thrilling.

Laure Schlink

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