Brighton is one of the most vegan–friendly cities in the UK, with plant–based eateries on what feels like every corner. Many of the restaurants – for example pizzeria Purezza and tapas place Rootcandi – are gaining plaudits for their delicious food and innovative approach to meat–free cooking. It is an exciting and vibrant city for any vegan to visit.
What’s also very interesting is seeing the number of omnivorous restaurants who are looking to embrace their plant–based diners with delicious meat–free meals. Indian Summer is such an establishment. This eatery, which is celebrating its 15th year, offers a good selection of plant–based meals. Indian Summer has won a clutch of awards, including best place to eat and drink in the Brighton & Hove Independent Business Awards 2016, as well as a number of accolades for serving the best curry – both on the south coast and in the UK.
One thing vegan diners may note is the menu comes in a small wallet which looks suspiciously like leather. Once you get inside it though, there is a really impressive proportion of vegan plates, or dishes that can be made vegan if you tell your waiter. At least half the starters are totally animal–product free. It’s also worth noting the excellent wine list. The attentive staff will be happy to point out the wines that are SFV – including a very good Montepulciano.
For starters, we had the onion aubergine pakoda and the trio of idli. The pakoda is a delicious, hearty mix of veg and gram flour, fried in individual balls, and served with a zesty coriander, ginger and lime dressing, which cuts perfectly through the spices. This is a very generous portion, and could easily be shared.
The trio is a south Indian speciality – different flavoured idli (these are small savoury cakes, and came in tomato, spinach and plain varieties) served in a lentil–based stew with roasted peanut chutney. It was another hearty plate just bursting with different flavours.
When it comes to the main courses it’s worth mentioning how knowledgeable the staff are about vegan ingredients. The dishes which can be made vegan are marked on the menu, and they are able to explain in detail what is substituted to make it animal–product free. For example, a raita may be switched with a chutney. It’s reassuring to see how well they know their stuff.
We had the vegetable galouti and the thali. The galouti was a superb dish: a mixed butter bean and butternut squash curry and rice, served with a real show–stopper: an oven–baked layered medley of vegetables, which is absolutely delicious. This plate is highly recommended.
The thali was also very tasty – and again, served in a very generous portion size. A selection of vaal subzi, sev tomato paneer, aloo subzi and dal. These are served with pickle, papad, roti, and rice. Everything was tasty, but the standout was the dal – with an elegant depth of flavour it was an excellent version of this staple.
For dessert (as much as we could manage) there was a refreshing coconut sorbet sitting on top of Malibu–grilled pineapple. It was the perfect, light, ending to a flavourful meal.
If you find yourself looking for award–winning curry with lots of vegan options, or you’re in a group with inflexible omnivores, Indian Summer is a great option. The service we experienced throughout the meal was attentive, friendly and knowledgeable. The staff understand what vegans do and don’t eat, and are able to advise accordingly. The kitchen staff are also very flexible. I was eating with someone who hates coriander, so the chef made sure all traces were removed from his order. If you have more specific requests and let the kitchen know a day or two in advance, they will be happy to cater for this.
Indian Summer in Brighton was printed in issue 19 of Vegan Life.