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Friday, 17 June 2016

Plant-Based Tapas - Rootcandi Restaurant Review

I'm lucky enough to live very close to Brighton & Hove, a city in the South East of England that's always buzzing, full of interesting shops and there's always something fun going on. Brighton has also got a large vegan community which makes it a great place to go for plant-based meals.
One of the newest vegan restaurants in Brighton is Rootcandi, a plant-based tapas restaurant on Western Road, that only opened as a full-time restaurant in March of this year. I'd been dying to try their tapas from the moment I heard about the restaurant so when they kindly invited me down for a meal I was so excited....and my goodness it didn't disappoint!

Rootcandi is situated on Western Road which is away from the hustle and bustle of the main town centre but only a short walk from the Churchill Square. The restaurant is on a corner of a road and has glass windows the whole way around which gives a lovely feel of openness and light which is especially nice as the downstairs of the restaurant isn't very big. Although not the largest restaurant it's beautifully set out with wooden furniture, a solid dark wooden bar at one end, plenty of plants that add a nice touch and a smart looking grey staircase that leads to the upstairs of the restaurant. We were taken to a two seat table next to the window and immediately brought over some water and the tapas menu which was clearly explained to us. There are four tapas sets - Preston (South-American inspired), Brunswick (Indian inspired), Stanmer (Modern European inspired) and Queens (Pan-Asian inspired) and they're all carefully crafted for complementary tastes and textures. Each set is for two people and priced per person (ranging from £16-£22). It's advised to pick a ready-designed set but alternatively you can pick, choose your favourite dishes and build your own tapas meal, which is what I did!

Before getting on to the main meal we ordered some cocktails and a starter to share. I had the Apple, Elderflower & Mint Sparkle which is apple juice, elderflower, mint and soda water. The drink came in a very tumblr-esc mason jar glass decorated with fresh apple balls and mint - it was so refreshing and delicious! I'd highly recommend trying that drink, but if it doesn't take your fancy there are loads more cocktails, mocktails, wine, fizz and juices.

When I looked at the starter & nibbles menu I was happy to see they had a selection of gluten free breads, so of course I had to get some! It was a tough choice between the Fresh Mint, Broad Bean & Cashew Pâté on toasted sourdough or the Classic Tomato Barca Bread with seasoned beef tomatoes, poached and skinned with fresh basil and garlic but I went with the latter. It arrived at the table and has bread ever looked so good? I don't think so! It was hard to believe the bread was gluten free - everything from the crunch, the texture and the seasoning was utterly perfect and the beef tomatoes on top were wonderfully juicy and flavoursome. I devoured the starter quite quickly and we didn't have long to wait until our main course arrived!

As I said above, we decided to make our own tapas set and we chose the following dishes (everything vegan & gluten free) -
• Zucchini Fries - tempura-fried with a garlic and parsley mayonnaise.
• Porcini Mushroom Risotto - arborio rice with porcini mushroom, shallots, mushroom stock, garlic, oregano, thyme and parsley. Topped with a quenelle of cream.
• Sushi - quinoa with courgette, bamboo shoots, avocado. Sticky rice, avocado, carrot and butternut squash. Served with a tamari and wasabi dipping pot.
• Crispy Tofu - marinated in a sweet Japanese sauce, with a broccoli and sesame stir-fry.
• Bok Choy - served with Chinese mustard and picked ginger.
• Black Bean Fritters - served on a bed of black bean, saffron and coconut sauce with a celeriac remoulade.

The food was brought to our table on a tiered plate rack and everything just looked phenomenally delicious! Our waiter went through each dish and then left us to enjoy the beautiful food. I didn't really know where to start but went with the zucchini fries with garlic & parsley mayonnaise, as I took my first bite I felt like I'd gone to food heaven...the crispiness of the fry with the creamy, garlicky dip was the best combination!
I then went for the sushi which I was so excited about because ever since I was diagnosed with coeliac disease I haven't found gluten free sushi anywhere, so something that I used to love I hadn't had in over a year. The Rootcandi sushi didn't disappoint!
The black bean fritters were a dish I was curious about, they came on what was like a bed of mashed beans and herbs (totally scrumptious!) and when you cut into the crispy, warm fritters inside was full of black beans, sweetcorn and other delights. It was one of my favourite dishes!
Another favourite dish was the crispy tofu...I promise you won't have had tofu quite like this, it's just so crispy yet melts in your mouth and the Japanese flavouring was dreamy. I feel like tofu is something that has to be cooked right to be good and this tofu was cooked to perfection!
Every dish we had was mouth-wateringly delicious, packed full of flavour, really fresh and was clearly made with love. After we'd gobbled up all the tapas our waiter came over to take away our plates and ask how our meal was, he then proceeded to bring us a dessert menu. My stomach was happy and full but I couldn't resist picking a sweet indulgent treat from the menu!

After all the food I was craving a fresh mint tea so I ordered one along with the Coffee & Hazelnut Pavlova, I know....vegan pavlova, I was intrigued too! I asked how they made it and our waiter told us it's made using chickpea water, pretty amazing right? Anything can be made vegan!
My mum (whom I went with) chose the Chocolate Ganache Tart that came with vanilla ice-cream, I was super pleased about this because I'd been eyeing that dessert up too.
We didn't have to wait long until our incredible looking desserts were brought over to us, decorated as beautifully as everything else. I got my spoon and dug straight in to the meringue, making sure I got a good amount of coffee & hazelnut cream on the spoon too, and as soon as I popped it into my mouth I was blown away - it was just like normal meringue! It still had that light texture and sweet taste that melted in your mouth, the coffee cream was so smooth and accompanying berries worked so well with the dessert. I also had some of the chocolate ganache tart (duh!) and my goodness, it may have been one of the best things I've ever eaten in my life; the crust was nutty and sweet, the chocolate filling was super creamy and it was rich without being sickly - spot on, well done Rootcandi!

After we'd finished this feast it's safe to say I was extremely full; my stomach felt happy, my taste-buds were dancing and although I was full I didn't feel uncomfortable or sluggish - probably because all the food was plant-based and so fresh!

Our waiter came over to ask how we'd found our meal and I replied "It was one of the best meals out I've ever had", which I completely stand by. Rootcandi blew me away with their impeccable service, fantastic staff, beautiful presentation, delicious food, attention to detail and everything about the meal seemed top quality. The prices are higher than the average price you'd pay for a meal but you certainly get what you pay for! I also think the fact it's tapas makes it more special, it's such a sociable way of eating and makes dining out even more fun as you get to try loads of different dishes and share the experience with friends and/or family. I know I'll be going back soon with a group of my friends and I can't wait to try more dishes and work my way through the entire menu!

- This was a free of charge meal provided in exchange for a review, however this has not affected the content of this post which is an honest reflection of my experience - 

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